Aston Martin DB11 Volante: Versatile and Visceral

Aston Martin has delivered a truly elegant convertible grand tourer which can comfortably soak up the miles and impress on the track.

By Ghaith Madadha

The Aston Martin DB11 Volante, which was launched earlier this year, is an elegantly sporting two-door 2+2 grand touring convertible. Combining stylish design, indulgent interior and smooth ride, it is part of a brand-wide product revamp incorporating electronics and power plants from 5 percent German shareholder, Mercedes-AMG.

It is built on a lightened all-new bonded aluminum platform and its AMG-sourced 4-liter twin-turbocharged engine almost exactly offsets its additional 110kg of body stiffening, necessary for a convertible.

The Volante is less aggressive than its sportier and lighter fixed-head DB11 coupe sister, and its low-slung profile—especially with top down—emphasizes its length and shapely rear haunches, juxtaposed with jutting and gaping wide grille, and slim U-shaped rear lights. Driven in champagne launch color with contrasting blue fabric roof, the DB11 Volante’s aggressive and arrogant side seems to be further downplayed, but nonetheless little disguises its stylish exoticism or the universally positive reactions and comments it drew on the road from other motorists.

Powered by a Mercedes-AMG twin-turbo direct injection 4-liter V8 engine, the DB11 Volante is tuned to deliver 503 BHP at 6000 rpm, 513 lb/ft torque throughout 2000-5000 rpm, a bass-laden burbling engine and an exhaust note brimming with languid potency. Its ‘hot-V’ turbocharger position, between cylinder banks for short gasflow paths, much reduces turbo lag.

The Volante, which is viciously swift despite its 1870kg, accelerates through 0-100 km/h in 4.1 seconds and 0-200 km/h in 8.8 seconds on its way to a 300 km/h maximum. Relentlessly eager through revs, its engine does not harden to pounding mid-range staccato and full-throated wail as it reaches for its 7200 rpm limit, yet is smooth, refined and accessibly flexible for daily driving. Its engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox (rather than Mercedes’ 9-speed) with quick and slick auto or manual paddle-shift modes.

Riding on adaptive Skyhook damping, the DB11’s escalating driving modes increase suspension stiffness, throttle response and steering weighting. The ride was firm over sudden low speed bumps and cracks given its vast 20-inch alloys and low profile tires when driven in default comfort mode. As speed picks up through flowing and textured rural roads, the Volante becomes unexpectedly supple and fluent, even on more punishing sections. Meanwhile, its added body stiffening seemed to well compensate for the inevitable rigidity losses of convertibles compared to fixed-head vehicles.

The Volante is flat and controlled through twists and turns even in comfort setting, and is eager and nimble into corners. Agility is aided by a limited slip rear differential distributing power to the rear wheel best able to put it down to tarmac, while a torque vectoring system applies light selective braking for further manoeuvrability and stability.

Settled on rebound and imperfect road textures, the Volante also remains stable at speed. And with little wind buffeting and powerful heating it allows for top-down driving even in cold weather, where its well-insulated electrically-operated 8-layer fabric roof closes in just 16 seconds. It also offers improved luggage than its DB9 predecessor, and while not huge, it easily takes weekend luggage for two. It is unexpectedly practical and its small rear seats can nonetheless accommodate two average sized adults.

aston martinWith its Mercedes-AMG engine, infotainment system and other electronics, the Volante’s sense of familiarity for drivers well-acquainted with Mercedes’ cars even extends to its well-adjustable driving position and steering weighting. Inside, the Volante’s well-equipped cabin has its own ambiance, with soft two-tone blue and cream leather, metal accents and wood accents, lending a distinct sense of occasion and upmarket elegance.