The open-top version of the Vanquish coupé, the car certainly has the looks to back up the price tag. And it’s a price tag that shows the confidence Aston has in its decade-old and still evolving vertical-horizontal (VH) architecture philosophy and 5.9-litre V12 engine.
The trouble is, in conversion from coupé to convertible, big sporting GTs like the Vanquish Volante typically suffer somewhere and typically lack the base coat, let alone the final level of polish, to really warrant such a price tag.
They lose stiffness to the detriment of ride and handling, gain weight to blunt the performance, and lose practicality, as that retractable roof has to be stored somewhere.
These were issues – particularly chassis flex – that plagued the Vanquish Volante’s immediate predecessor, the DBS Volante. With all these gremlins, it’s fair to say the DBS Volante was not our favourite Aston from recent history, despite its billing as the firm’s range topper before the Vanquish coupé arrived late last year at least.
Don’t expect such compromises with the Vanquish Volante, Aston claims. Its latest fourth-generation VH architecture makes it the stiffest open-top car Aston has ever produced, and with some fine-tuning to the suspension is said to offer the same handling characteristics as the Vanquish coupé. Indeed, Aston’s most recent convertible, DB9 Volante, was greatly improved in the stiffness stakes, boding well for the Vanquish.
The addition of a multi-layer fabric lightweight roof adds just 9kg at the kerb, a figure that’s said to lead to no performance penalty to the Volante next to the Vanquish coupé, the two sharing the same 0-62mph time of 4.1sec and 183mph top speed.
The clever construction and storage of the roof means boot space is reduced by 89 litres of the Vanquish coupé in the Volante, and its 279-litre figure is the same with the roof up or down. That figure is also 50 percent greater than the DBS Volante.
Once you’ve stopped admiring the looks outside, head inside to push that still gorgeous glass key into the centre console and enjoy the deep, bassy growl of the V12 starting up; a noise best enjoyed, of course, with the roof down.
The glass key is one of the highlights of the interior, which mirrors that of the Vanquish. The design of the centre console mimics a waterfall; it’s certainly attractive, but it doesn’t quite scream two hundred thousand pounds and is one area where criticism of this current generation of Astons starting to feel their age is valid.
Still, the controls are nicely laid out on the centre console and a touch of drama comes from the infotainment screen coming out of the top of it. Here’s where you’ll find the nav, audio controls and phone connectivity in a system that gets the basics right rather than leaves you with an upmarket Apple-style experience.
As for the rest of the standard equipment, the Vanquish Volante gets parking sensors, a reversing camera, cruise control, heated and electrically adjustable front seats, climate control, a Cobra tracking system and a 1000W Bang & Olufsen stereo system included, alongside swathes of leather and chrome, and an Alcantara roof headlining.
You sit low to the ground and feel wrapped into the car with the high beltline and high centre stack. Visibility all-round is good for a car of its size and bodystyle, something obviously improved with the roof down.
Out on the road, and it’s immediately obvious how much stiffness has improved, particularly at higher speeds on the wide, smooth Californian roads we tested the Vanquish Volante on. That 14 percent increase in torsional rigidity over the DBS Volante is partly down to carbonfibre being bonded into the rear section of the VH architecture, and aerospace technology being used in bonding techniques.
Around town on more broken, higher-frequency surfaces, the tell-tale signs of scuttle shake are there with a wobbly rear-view mirror, for example. You’d never describe it as uncomfortable, but knowing the state of Britain’s roads then you do wonder if the problem will be amplified here.
While the ride is good, the handling doesn’t reach the same heights. It’s a very neutral-handling car that’s wholly predictable. But that’s where the issue lies; these traits make it lack any real involvement, in the steering as well as the handling.
The level of involvement only really comes when you’re driving at nine or ten tenths. At that point, with the adaptive damping set to Sport or Track (Normal being the default setting, and the hydraulically assisted Servotronic steering system also switching to the firmer of two settings in Sport and Track), your smile becomes bigger, and it becomes more supercar than GT (with the detriment to ride quality marginal in Sport mode).
It’s possible to find an extra level of play in the chassis, breaking out of the vast amounts of grip into oversteer with the traction control setting to Track mode, or even easier with it off completely, but we don’t expect many Vanquish Volante owners to be reaching for that button.
The real problem with the handling comes back to the price and positioning of the car – this is a range-topping Aston Martin with a £200,000 price. Predictable handling shouldn’t be the case in a range-topping Aston; it should make you feel as involved in the experience driving to the shops at one tenth as it should when pushing on your favourite B-road, or a track.
Is it better news for the engine? For the most part. The sound is truly epic, and its cruising ability is peerless. At 100mph, the rev counter will still be displaying a number with a two at the start. I could have driven across the US and back again in it, neither of us breaking sweat.
While it sounds like a supercar, it doesn’t really go like one. Aston says the only difference between the V12 under the Vanquish Volante's bonnet and the one found in an Aston Martin V12 Vantage S in the engine management system, but it feels like more than that.
It certainly doesn’t feel as quick as the 4.1 second 0-60mph time (the same as the coupé, no less) suggests, even with the Sport setting turned on (separate to the one for the adaptive damping) that improves throttle response, gear shifts from the six-speed automatic transmission and allows the engine to rev higher. The linear performance delivery never deviates from very brisk into seriously rapid.
The auto’ gearbox, a conventional automatic rather than the automated manual from the Vantage, offers seamless shifts in auto mode or manual, which is controlled with steering column-mounted paddles. It feels as though an extra cog is needed though to broaden the car’s abilities; the driveability of second is absent in third, which is too tall and can sap momentum if you shift too early. Effortless cruising is definitely the strong point of the engine and transmission.
Perhaps the biggest problem of the Aston Martin Vanquish Volante though, successful a conversion from coupé to convertible as it is, is the presence of other exceptional models in the Aston Martin range below it. The Vanquish Volante is a very fine car indeed, but then so is the DB9 Volante immediately below it in the range, a car available for almost £60,000 less.
Over and above that DB9 Volante the Vanquish Volante gets an even more show-stopping exterior with a carbonfibre body and the same material in its underpinnings, a vastly improved interior, and more power and performance.
For those who must have the most powerful, most expensive and best-looking Aston Martin, then the Vanquish Volante will satisfy. But for the more discerning buyer who looks deeper, having parts of the Vanquish Volante that are good enough will not be good enough.
They’ll instead buy an Aston Martin DB9 Volante or hold on for the DB11 Volante, which offers much of the same for much less at a price point where minor issues aren’t the major ones they’d be at £200k, and plot what other kinds of fun they can have with all that leftover money.