A price tag edging toward $300,000 is daunting, but Aston Martin has not shied away from climbing into the thin air at the top end of the automotive market. The DBS Volante is as dramatic and high-tech a car as the company has ever launched, but it is also a lot more expensive than the substantially similar V8 Vantage Roadster.
Based on the longer version of Aston’s aluminum VH platform, the DBS Volante gets a number of (much needed) technical improvements over its DB9 Volante sister car. Clearly disappointed by the DB9’s flexible open-top body, Aston engineers have moved to make the DBS much more rigid.
Like the DBS coupe the Volante gets a carbon fiber hood, wings and trunk lid and a new design of carbon fiber rear deck. The hood has also been improved over the DB9’s, with an extra layer of Thinsulate (for better insulation and sound deadening) and it can now be operated at speeds up to 30mph. It folds in just 14sec, three seconds quicker than that of the DB9.
The styling is much the same as the coupe’s, although the DBS gets the same “speed humps” as the Vantage Roadster, which actually cover the pyrotechnic rollover bars. The Volante comes only as a 2+2, although the beautifully trimmed rear “seats” are only good for holding a shopping bag.
The DBS Volante excels in two areas: the detailing and ambience of the interior and in its effectiveness as a high-performance GT car. Really, this is one of the finest automotive cabins yet conceived. Aside from the especially fine, boldly stitched leather, the cabin is a riot of jewel-like details. For example, the hollow carbon fiber door pulls are padded out with suede, the sun visor hinges are polished blocks of aluminum and even the ashtray is made from shot-blasted glass.
It’s all so well judged – from the excellent “comfort” sports seats to the exact thickness of the steering wheel rim and the superb fonts used for the instruments and trip computer.
More important is the fact that the DBS is really first class on nearly all roads. It is only really handicapped when it runs out of road because of its prodigious width. But this car does not intimidate the driver. The engine is smooth and tractable, even in heavy traffic, while the shift action is very clean and the clutch well weighted. The fly-off handbrake is tricky on hill starts, though.
The only options on this test car were the lightweight 20in. wheels, which save a total of 22 lbs in unsprung weight. They surely contribute to the superb ride quality, even on inner-city roads. Only on the worst roads was there some trim twittering where the roof met the interior; with the hood down, body stiffness deteriorates very slightly. Certain rough surfaces can also send a gritty roar into the cabin, but it happens only occasionally.
Given encouragement (tempting with such an exhaust note), the rear wheels can let go relatively easily, although the traction control clips the loss of grip very subtly. Fine steering and excellent brakes easily exceeded the performance of the dipped headlamps on country roads, though.
On highways, it runs very straight and true and has excellent cabin refinement, easily living up to its GT billing. Only the tiny trunk hampers long-distance travel.
Truth is, this car has the sense of occasion and exquisite mechanical feel that is right up there with Ferrari’s finest.Hilton Holloway/Autocar