What is it?
£170,000 is a hell of a lot of money but Aston Martin has not shied away from climbing into the thin air of at the top-end of the automotive market. The DBS Volante is as dramatic and hi-tech a production car as the company has ever launched, but it’s also £80k more than the Vantage and £50k more than the DB9 Volante.
Based on the longer version of Aston’s aluminium VH platform, the DBS Volante gets a number of – much needed – technical improvements over its DB9 Volante sister car. A new six-point subframe and extra ‘sheer plate’ bolted to the chassis mean the Volante is only 25 percent less rigid than the coupe.
Like the coupe, the Volante gets a carbonfibre bonnet, wings and boot lid and new design of carbon rear deck. The hood has also been improved over the DB9, with extra layer of (insulative and sound deadening) Thinsulate and it can now be operated at speeds up to 30mph. It also folds in just 14sec, three seconds quicker than the DB9.
The styling is much the same as the coupe, though the DBS gets the same ‘speed humps’ as the Vantage Roadster, which actually cover the pyrotechnic rollover bars. The Volante only comes as ‘2+2’, though the beautifully trimmed rear ‘seats’ are only good for holding a shopping bag.
What’s it like?
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.
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. Some might complain, though, about the well-shaped, but bulky and high-set, gearlever getting in the way of the centre console.
More importantly, 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. This car does not intimidate the driver.
The engine is smooth and tractable, even in heavy traffic, the shift action very clean and the clutch well weighted and controllable. (The right-hand fly-off handbrake is tricky on hill starts, however).
The only options on this test car were the £500-per corner wheels which save a total of 10kg in unsprung weigh. They surely must have contributed to the superb ride quality, which, even on inner-city roads and despite the 30-profile tyres, was extremely impressive.
This is a very quick car indeed, but again it feels very controllable and does not remotely unnerve the driver. Personally, I found it too wide and physically bulky to really extend with confidence on typical English country roads, but it is a very satisfying machine to row along briskly.
Only on the worst roads was there some trim twittering where the roof met the interior. With the roof down body stiffness deteriorates very slightly, but noticeably.
Given encouragement (tempting with such an exhaust note), the rear wheels will let go relatively easily, although the traction control clips the loss of grip very subtly. Fine steering and excellent brakes easily out-ran the poor dipped-lamps on the West Sussex B-roads, however.
On motorways, it runs very straight and true and has excellent cabin refinement, easily living up to its GT billing. Only the tiny boot hampers long-distance travel.
Should I buy one?
It’s a little brash on the outside, but the DBS Volante is special enough - in execution and ability - to almost justify the price tag. Truth is, this car has the sense of occasion and exquisite mechanical feel that is right up there with Ferrari’s finest. However, once it gets the same structural updates, the DB9 Volante will probably deliver close to the same experience for £50k less.