Aston Martin is a company on the move. It has ambitious plans for the future as a global luxury brand and the first all-new model for several years appeared in 2016, the DB11 coupe. It was only a matter of time before a convertible version appeared and so now we have the stylish DB11 Volante.
What is it?
The DB11 sits on an all-new bonded aluminium structure that combines rigidity with lightness. Extra strengthening for the convertible body and roll-over capabilities adds 110kg.
The Volante is only available with the AMG-derived 510bhp 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 that is also offered in the Coupe as an alternative to the 600bhp 5.2 litre V12.
What defines the Volante, of course, is the roof. The eight-layered fabric structure gives all the weather and acoustic protection you could ask for. It can drop in 14 seconds and raise in 16 seconds up to a road speed of 31 mph. Boot space is a useful 206 litres with the hood raised, 20% more than the DB9 Volante it replaces.
The engine sits at the front, but nicely behind the front axle-line to give a 47/53 per cent front/rear weight distribution. There is an eight speed ZF automatic gearbox transmitting the power to the rear wheels with steering-wheel paddles for when you fancy manual mode.
There are three selectable drive modes: GT, Sport and Sport +. Each one ramps up the sportiness with a combination of damper stiffening, gearbox responsiveness and exhaust sound.
Like with all cars at this level, the £159,900 list price is only a starting figure. Aston is proud of the potential individuality available with specifications. Exterior colour, seat type, leather type and colour, wheel design and various extra comfort and electronic options are available. But it does not take much to bump up the price significantly (my test car had a ticket price of £191,085).
It is impossible not to be excited to be climbing behind the wheel of an Aston Martin. All of us petrolheads have been influenced by the iconic DB5 in several James Bond movies ever since it first appeared in Goldfinger in 1964. It helps that the DB11 Volante looks a million dollars.
The pearl blonde bodywork of my test car exudes style from any angle, hood up or down. My overnight bag fitted easily into the boot, but owners will be glad of the occasional rear seats; perfect for small children (Isofix fittings are standard) and they are very useful for extra luggage space when touring.
You sit low and the driver controls have a wrap-around feel as in most good sports cars. The drive selector buttons are set out similarly to those in a McLaren but the infotainment screen and controls are recognisable as Mercedes-Benz parts. This detracts from the individuality you expect at this price point and competitors like Bentley do a better job. Having said that, you cannot fail to feel pretty special, sitting behind the wheel.
How does it drive?
It was raining heavily as I set off so the hood remained up. Pressing the clear-glass Start/Stop button, I expected the exhaust to bark loudly as the 4.0-litre V8 woke up, just like a Maserati, Ferrari, Porsche or Jaguar F-type. But no, this DB11 is a more refined beast than that – your neighbours can sleep on if you have an early morning start.
Setting of in default GT mode, the Volante immediately impressed with its ease of use. The primary ride is particularly remarkable; firm but comfortable.
The steering is perfectly weighted and very direct. There is a great feeling of structural solidity with no vibrations or rattles to upset the sense of engineering excellence.
As I picked up the pace, the reactive gearbox with ultra-smooth changes linked to the plentiful torque from the twin-turbo engine allowed effortless progress. The DB11 is physically a big car but, with such tight dynamics, shrinks around you.
Road and wind noise are suppressed to executive saloon levels and you are just aware of a lovely V8 thrum when you push on. You could cover big distances in this mode in great comfort without a second thought.
A cross-country route in the Cotswolds allowed me to play with the Sport and Sport+ modes. Each is a step towards releasing the inner beast. The revs are held longer before change-up, the dampers firm up and the exhaust is allowed to sing without restraint.
A swift drive on a clear B-road in Sport+ manual mode using the paddles to change gear brought a wide grin to my face, helped by the pops and bangs from the exhaust on the over-run.
Make no mistake; the DB11 is a proper sports car. Corners can be attacked with great confidence and great satisfaction (when you get it right); more in the style of a Porsche 911 than the bigger Bentley Continental. The fact that this dynamic playfulness is in a car that can also play the top-down cruiser role when the sun shines only enhances the appeal.
Aston has done a great job with the new Volante. It looks fantastic hood up or hood down. The V8 engine suits it perfectly and build quality is top-notch. It oozes character that is missing from many rivals. It is priced at a level that ensures exclusivity and fulfills the brand ethos. It is a confident, athletic sports car dressed in a Savile Row suit. Mr Bond would approve.
Aston Martin DB11 Volante: specification
Body: 2+2 convertible
Engine: 4.0 litre V8 twin turbo
Power: 503 bhp
Torque: 675 Nm
Top Speed: 187 mph
Acceleration: 0-62 mph in 4.1 seconds
Economy: 28.3 mpg combined cycle
CO2 emissions: 230 g/km
On the road price: from £159,900