1 December 2003

Aston Martin is to price its stunning new soft-top DB9 Volante at the same level as a hard-top Bentley Continental GT, further enhancing the choice for luxury sports car buyers.

The 2+2 DB9 Volante, revealed this week ahead of its debut at January's Detroit Motor Show, will throw down the gauntlet to Bentley, whose soft-top Continental GT is at least two years from production.

The price will be finalised closer to launch, but expect it to be around £110,000 - a 10 per cent premium over the coupé.

And the DB9 Volante is shaping up to be a class above the soft-top Astons of recent history.

Underpinned by a stiff, bonded aluminium structure, it promises better ride and handling, while its clean-sheet design means that its roof folds flush with the boot under a hard cover, a big improvement over the 'pram' design of the DB7 Volante.

'We planned a convertible from the beginning,' said Aston boss Uli Bez, 'so the Volante has been thoroughly designed and engineered from the outset.'

Performance hasn't been finalised, but power will come from the 450bhp 6.0-litre V12 used in the coupé and, despite a slight rise in the kerbweight, Aston is expecting a top speed of 'more than' 180mph and 0-62mph in 'under five seconds.'

Two transmissions will offered - a six-speed Graziano manual or six-speed ZF auto.

The extra bulk of the electro-hydraulic hood, bulkhead stiffening and safety equipment adds up to 80kg, depending on the version, to the DB9 coupé's kerbweight.

That takes a manual Volante to 1760kg and an automatic to 1820kg, up to 115kg lighter than the outgoing DB7 Volante, thanks to the light aluminium chassis of the new car.

The better-packaged DB9 design also means that boot space is increased over the DB7 cabrio's, from 170 litres to 197 litres, despite the extra stowage space allowed for the hood.

There's also state-of-the-art rollover protection in the form of pop-up hoops that deploy from behind the rear headrests, while the strengthened windscreen surround can support twice the sports car's body weight.

The DB9 Volante will go on sale in the UK next October, just six months after the coupé DB9, and is expected to make up around 50 per cent of sales, mirroring the popularity of the DB7 Volante.

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