Aston Martin DB11 Volante – Review

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By Liam Bird

Reading back over what I initially wrote about Aston Martin’s DB11, after I drove it last year, it would appear that I was a little indifferent. Maybe, subconsciously, the colour didn’t help. Launch edition DB11s were a very vivid purple. Or was it the roads I chose? Some were a bit narrow. But then they all are out here in the sticks. And to be honest, the DB11 is a bit of a whopper in the metal – bigger even than the DB9 it replaced. In V12 form it’s very much a GT first and foremost too; it needs an open, and preferably wide, road.

“Its real raison d’être”, I wrote, “is to cover big mileages at similarly-sized speeds”, before adding “And what a lovely thing it is in which to do such things”. Anyway, that’s what I said of the V12 Coupe…

You may have noticed that what we have here, although clearly a DB11, is clearly not a Coupe. This is what Aston Martin call a Volante. It is very much a soft top. What might not be quite so obvious however, is that all Aston Martin DB11 Volantes are in fact V8 powered.

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“All very clever”

What that means is, should you so desire – and if you just happen to have a spare £159,900 – is that you can now you buy a DB11 that’s slower, heavier, has less rear-seat space (something that unless you’re a toddler was pretty stingy already) and less boot-space. That roof has to go somewhere, y’know. Oh – and a smaller engine.

So why then am I about to tell you that I preferred the Volante?

Well, for a start, just look at it. Aston Martin deserve all the credit they can get for making the DB11 Volante look even more elegant – roof up, or down – than the hard-top upon which it’s based. And it’s a proper old-school fabric too. An eight layer K-fold one in fact, complete with flush fitting glass rear window, and available in either red, blue, black, or grey. A folding had-top apparently, would’ve spoilt the lines.

Press the little button on the key-fob, or the one on the centre console, and all that fabric – eight layers of it in fact – will fold back in a mere 14 seconds, and at speeds of up to 31mph, before storing itself neatly, discreetly, and near silently, under a metal tonneau behind those tiny rear seats. It’s all very clever. And it also makes for hushed and very cosy, hood-up, travelling too. But that’s probably not quite what Aston Martin had in mind.

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“Feels more alert”

The Volante still yearns for a wide open road, but because it’s got four fewer cylinders it’s got less weight over the front end – or at least that’s how it feels. Apparently Aston Martin added another 110kg of bracing to stop any soft-top shimmy. Nevertheless in doing so they stiffened the rear subframe bushes in the process, which in turn (pardon the pun) helped sharpen up the steering. As a result you just feel, well, a little more in control somehow.

Maybe it’s because that when you put the roof down your senses are naturally heightened; you can feel the wind when you accelerate, and you can hear the exhausts all the more – not that there’s any harm in that I hasten to add – Astons always sound lovely. But I swear the Volante feels more alert.

I know I said it was slower, but adding 0.1 seconds to the coupe’s 4.0 second 0-62mph time is not something you’re actually likely to notice. Performance feels just effortless, the 8 speed auto ’box finding the right ratio seamlessly time and time-again. Honestly, I preferred driving the Volante to the Coupe.

But, there are of course niggles. Initial purchase costs aside, fuel consumption in the region of 20 ish mpg – and that’s if you’re careful – means that even if the DB11 looks like a long legged GT you’ll be stopping for fill-ups every 300 miles or so. You’ll need to travel light too. As mentioned the Volante’s boot space limits you little more than a couple of overnight bags. And then there’s the interior.

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“Looks fantastic”

I’ll concede the Mercedes-sourced digital instrument cluster is far clearer than Aston’s all but illegible dials of old, but oh boy does it lack their charm. So too do the rectangular and all-too cheap feeling plastic air vents – they simply shouldn’t be in anything costing this much. The seats too are pretty hard, despite their soft brogued leather covering.

Once upon a time climbing into an Aston Martin felt special. Were it not for the brilliant low-slung driving position and the superb view down that enormous bonnet, it now feels similar to climbing into an upmarket A-Class; same sat-nav; same single column stalk for wipers and indicators; same radio and heater controls. Still, at least everything’s all far more reliable than it once was.

So then, the Volante is a car of compromises. It drives superbly, it looks fantastic, and it sounds magnificent. But, it’s got a smaller boot, the rear seats are little more than a token gesture, and if you put the hood down everyone will see those Mercedes instruments, and the awful air vents.

Maybe, there’s a solution. Aston Martin’s V8 powered DB11 coupe costs a whole £15,000 less. You get the same engine, you get almost the same looks, you get a bigger boot… And you still get an Aston Martin.

Do you really need the wind in your hair as well?

Aston Martin DB11 Volante
Engine: 3,982cc, 32Valve, twin-turbo V8, petrol
Transmission: 8 speed automatic with manual mode, rear wheel drive.
Power: 503bhp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 513 lb ft at 2,000 rpm
0-62MPH: 4.1 Sec
Max Speed: 187 mph
CO2: 230 g/km
MPG: 28.3
Price: from £159,900


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