What is it?
The Aston Martin Vanquish Volante, the range-topping cabriolet we tried in California last year. That means we get the same 6.0-litre V12 engine and the same carbonfibre-skinned body and triple-skinned hood, only now they're under the battleship grey skies of home.
Don't underestimate the effect of a change in backdrop. This is an extravagantly styled and proportioned car. Under the high contrast daylight of the US's west coast, one would imagine practically any paint scheme working; on a wet weekday in Warwickshire, it's a different story.
Tonsil-red bodywork and white leather are a rather more brazen mix than feels appropriate in between the skip lorries on the Fosse Way. Clearly, when shelling out almost £200k on a convertible Aston Martin, there is an element of 'look at me' about the purchase, but we'd advise caution when playing with colour samples – the Volante's many ducts, vents, spoilers and chins leave it susceptible to obvious gaudiness.
Trimmed more tastefully, the cabin is a predictably superior environment. The new centre stack – derived from the One-77's – is a significant step up from the Vantage's version, both in form and function. Technically, the car is a 2+2, but the tiny rear seats aren't going to permit you to enjoy the full-grain leather with more more than one companion. There ought to be enough room for a weekend's worth of luggage, though. Aston says the 279-litre boot has expanded by 50 per cent over the previous DBS.
What's it like?
An incredibly expensive oversize watch: big to look at, consider and weigh in your hand, but not necessarily to wear. Aston's unmistakably sturdy control weights suit the Volante well and don't necessarily make it cumbersome to shunt about.
The steering is meaty and moderately quick, the adaptive ride adamantly firm without being insistent and it takes huge portions of the accelerator’s travel before the languorous V12’s funny bone is finally tickled. There's no brain scrambling rapidity to the engine's 565bhp delivery, underpinned as it is by nearly two tonnes of Aston. Instead, the rate of knots builds handsomely with an ever-deepening low growl.
Sport mode, pinged into action with some button pushing, ups the responsiveness and the volume, but the smooth-shifting six-speed Touchtronic – a proper automatic in place of the Vantage S's frustrating Sportshift – still appeals most when held at a lusty canter and tapping a rich seam of burble that masquerades as a midrange.
That attitude plays to the car’s strengths. Truth be told, the Vanquish isn’t the most compelling car in Aston’s line-up. Its capabilities are more than a match for most prudent road speeds, but the playful limit of the riotous V12 Vantage S is swapped for a broader stability in this bigger GT.
Perhaps most Volante buyers won’t mind that. They might, however, take issue with the gentle fidget around the fringes of the newly topless shell. Aston has made much of its first fully carbonfibre-skinned car, but one only has to look at the quivering rear-view mirror to get a sense of the torsional stresses being displaced.
Sympathetic damping prevents this upgrading to actual annoyance, however, and beneath its triple-skin fabric roof the Volante feels like an entirely usable prospect – were any buyer actually interested in using it every day. Most won’t be, though, and therein lies the niggle.
Should I buy one?
The problem – and, granted, it's a shamefully subjective one – is that £200k of anyone's money ought to be invested in an automotive specimen of extraordinary specialness. Perfection is unfeasible, of course, but at the very least it should feel like its groping in that general direction. The Volante, though, as likeable as it is, underwhelms too often.
Instead of being the pinnacle of the Aston line-up, it just feels like the pinup. We'll grant you that the super-GT class isn't an expansive one, and there's more than enough pace and pomp to fill out the Volante's endless posing if you really need something to fit the bill. But if it's the ultimate Aston you're after, save yourself £50k and buy the Vantage S. That's what we'd do.
Aston Martin Vanquish Volante
Price £199,995; 0-62mph 4.1sec; Top speed 183mph; Economy 19.6mpg (combined); CO2 335g/km; Kerb weight 1844kg; Engine V12, 5935cc, petrol; Power 565bhp at 6750rpm; Torque 457lb ft at 5500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic