What is it?
The Aston Martin DB11 Volante is the open-top version of the luxury brand’s grand tourer.
Electric folding fabric roof, quality exterior and interior, impressive GT performance
The Aston Martin DB11 Volante combines the pleasures of a top-down convertible with the practicality of a long-distance cruiser, making it a strong contender in the luxury market.
It offers an attractive combination of visual appeal, quality and performance to produce an evocative but relaxing driving experience.
Aston Martin is in a good place right now. Reinvented under its new petrolhead CEO Andy Palmer, the brand has left its reputation as a perennial loss-maker behind and enters 2019 with exciting plans, including an SUV, built in an all-new Welsh factory.
The turnaround, however, has been built on two pillars – the hardcore sports car Vantage, which we tested a few weeks ago, and the DB11 grand tourer.
The DB11 was the first car launched under Palmer’s ‘Second Century’ development plan, announced virtually as he arranged the furniture in his new office. Unveiled in 2016, it was designed, Aston Martin tells us, to follow the brand’s tradition of offering performance, refinement and comfort. It had to be a car very suited to very long journeys, with the driver enjoying the experience and not feeling exhausted at the end of it.
Buyers seemed to agree – the DB11 has proved a hit, and now it has gained a sister, the Volante. In Aston speak, Volante effectively means drop-top.
The newcomer boasts the same Mercedes-AMG-sourced 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine as is available in the coupé, although the soft-top is not offered with the flagship 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 that you can choose in its hard-top sister.
Also similar to the DB11 coupé is the 2+2 (two people and two very little people) seating arrangement. But it adds a folding fabric roof for a true wind-in-the-hair driving experience. Fabric? Don’t worry, this is no ordinary cloth cover…
Buying and owning an Aston Martin DB11 Volante
For those seriously interested in buying at this end of the market price will not be such an important factor, but in bald figures the Aston Martin DB11 Volante starts from just under £160,000, which is around £15,000 more than the coupé but also saving £6,000- over its perceived direct rival, the Ferrari Portofino.
Another contender, the soon-to-be-replaced Bentley Continental GTC, comes in at £15,000 more than the Aston, while McLaren’s 570S Spider is also worthy of consideration at around £165,000.
Not surprisingly the V8 Volante is very closely related to its coupé sister, using the same bonded aluminium body structure. This makes the car both lighter than its predecessor DB9 Volante, which is good for handling prowess and efficiency, and significantly more rigid, which is well-nigh essential for convertible cars.
Of course, specific measures have to be undertaken to compensate for chopping off the roof. Compared to the coupé the Volante gains stiffer sills, a bespoke front crossmember and Active Roll Protection – two individual roll hoops that fire up through the rear screen to protect the heads of occupants if they are unfortunate enough to invert the car.
All this adds weight, of course, the Volante tipping the scale at around 110kg more than its hard-top sister (though again, it’s 25kg lighter than the DB9 Volante). It could have been heavier had Aston chosen to go the folding hard-top roof, like Ferrari with the Portofino.
Instead, we have a fabric top – but as mentioned, ‘fabric’ does not do it justice. There are some eight layers, with the result that with the roof up noise and chills will be kept out and occupants will feel as cosy as in a coupé.
The roof folds and raises electrically, 14 seconds to open up and 16 seconds to close. This can be done at speeds up to 31mph should one be threatened, as we were on our test drive, by a sudden rain shower. When reclined it sits out of sight in the boot to maintain the visuals.
And what visuals – while its younger sister the Vantage presents the aggressive look of a sports car, the DB11 is all sweeps and curves befitting a grand tourer. Yet it also manages to appear lithe and purposeful – while this is a big car, it does not offer the visual bulk of the Bentley Continental.
The Volante also differs in details to the coupé – notably, it doesn’t have the distinctive (and not universally popular) channels in the rear pillars to bleed air over the rear flanks. Some argue these look like over-large panel gaps. There’s an active rear spoiler, popping up at speed to help keep the rear on the road, but it’s a delicate item not distracting from what overall is a thing of beauty to look at.
A word on safety – exclusive luxury cars such as these are yet to undergo the destructive trial of a Euro NCAP crash test, but the DB11 standard specification does include, in addition to the Rollover Protection System, emergency braking assistance. Extra aids, including a blind-spot warning system, are on the extensive options list.
Next page: Step inside and take a drive