► First drive of drop-top DBS
► £250k, 715bhp and looks to die for
► Plump poser or backroad weapon?
If you’ve lost track of Aston Martin’s V12-engined line-up, first off, don’t feel bad – you’re not alone. So quickly has the Gaydon-based marque rejuvenated its line-up, and so ambitious is it under Andy Palmer, that you’re forgiven for slipping into bafflement.
So, Valkyrie aside (that’s a V12, but without turbos and with the engine behind the occupants), Aston offers three strengths of DB11. It launched as a V12 but that car was almost immediately superseded by the V8 with its sharper, more nimble chassis. The base V12 was dumped, and the V8’s chassis upgrades added to the V12 to create the very fine DB11 AMR. And, at the top of the tree, there’s the DBS Superleggera, now available in soft-top Volante guise.
The Volante’s heavier than coupe, itself no lightweight, and its boot is heavily compromised by the folding roof mechanism. But the convertible promises sensory overload, with a stonking engine, drop-dead style and the wind in your Ray Bans.
How can it be worth £250k?
Wow, okay, so let’s take a look at what you get for your money. In most regards the DBS feels every inch as special as a car this expensive should. (Price is comparable to Ferrari’s 812 Superfast, and not far behind Lamborghini’s ageing Aventador.) The structure’s aluminium, not carbon, but the suspension is proper – double wishbone front, multi-link rear, adaptive dampers – and the V12 is a hand-finished masterpiece: twin-turbos, 5.2 litres and power and torque enough to take the near future and make it the distant past in impressively short order. The only transmission is an eight-speed ZF auto with paddleshift, driving the rear wheels via a mechanical limited-slip diff.
Together, engine and gearbox are a mighty pairing. Leave the DBS in GT mode and it’s demure, civilised and easy-going. Hell, you’ll even see mid-20s mpg on a cruise. Try a little harder though and, even short-shifting at 4000rpm, the potent powertrain means you’re almost embarrassingly faster than everything else on the road. Spin the V12 to the 7100rpm redline, preferably with the car in Sport or Sport+ modes, and the fury of its acceleration and aural barrage are breathtaking. The DBS not only runs the twin-turbo V12 in its most powerful guise, it also uses the shortest final drive ratio, boosting acceleration still further.
And then there’s the body. From its Zagato-esque grille all the way back to its infuriating bootlid, with its hidden release button, the DBS Superleggera Volante is a ravishingly beautiful car. The bodywork is in carbonfibre, which doesn’t do much for the car’s elitist pricing, and the detailing’s sublime, from the elegant cut-outs and fins aft of the front wheels to the badging, which looks like marble but is in fact neatly machined carbonfibre.
Ready, now, to hand over the money? Don’t blame you.
Will I regret it?
You might have a pang of regret when you slide into the intricately-upholstered seat. It doesn’t feel cheap in here, far from it, and the fundamentals – clear instruments, great driving position, good seats – but material quality is inconsistent and the previous-gen Merc infotainment, on its budget-looking fixed screen, doesn’t sit right in a quarter-of-a-million-pound car.
Still, you’re not here to fiddle about in infotainment menus. Fire the engine, drop the roof and head out of town. Aston refers to the DBS Volante as a ‘Super GT’, and it’s awesomely capable in that role. Ride is pliant, refinement enviable – conversation’s possible with the roof down and windows up at 90mph – and the engine’s so under-stressed in this kind of scenario that miles just melt away. The steering too is sharp and devoid of slack, building confidence as you slalom across the landscape at the kind of speeds that slash predicted journey times.
And when the going gets interesting?
Impressively, the Volante isn’t the kind of convertible that struggles on proper roads. Grip is mighty but this isn’t a blunt instrument. The steering’s taut, the front axle steadfast in the face of ever more optimistic corner-entry speeds and body control is first rate in the feistier drive modes.
You needn’t go easy on the V12 on corner exit either, the DBS driving cleanly off corners before slaughtering the next straight with its combination of awesome motive power and tireless carbon-ceramic brakes.
Aston DBS Superleggera Volante: verdict
It’s cramped (think of the +2 rear seating as an extension of the boot…), thirsty (we saw lows of 12mpg and averaged 15), indulgent, heavy and curiously unintuitive in some of its ergonomics. The 812 Superfast is far lighter, sharper and more powerful, but perhaps a little much as a GT – you’d trailer the Ferrari to a trackday at Paul Ricard, where as you’d drive the DBS. And Bentley’s Continental GTC is more practical, far nicer inside, almost as fast and brings all-wheel-drive peace of mind.
But the DBS Superleggera Volante sits between the two, systematically demolishing your misgivings with its heady combination of speed, style and not insignificant driver appeal. Aston’s drop-top flagship is both a bellowing statement of intent from the marque and a hugely impressive car in its own right.
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