Few, if any, car marques understand their customers better than does Aston Martin. As the iconic British marque closes on its 100th anniversary, the enthusiasts who run the company are extremely aware of the rising heat in the competition at the top end of the sportscar market. So they’re doing everything possible to run at the front of the automotive pack comprised of Italian, German and British sportscar builders.
That was amply brought home to us after a few hundred fascinating kilometres in an Aston that’s the subject of this week’s road test – the gorgeous looking DBS Volante V12 convertible.
Following our attendance at a glittering social function to celebrate the launch of the new four-door Aston Martin Rapide, we were invited to spend a few of days in the Volante. Needless to say, we grabbed the chance, picked up the DBS from Sunshine Aston Martin on the Gold Coast, powered down the folding soft-top and set off on some of our favourite driving roads.
Incidentally, the roof mechanism only requires 14 seconds to go from fully open to fully closed, and can be operated at speeds of up to 48 km/h. So it’s possible to enjoy the Volante with an open top even when the weather looks threatening, knowing you can have a closed car at a moment’s notice.
We couldn’t resist the chance to cruise the Aston up and down he upmarket cafe/boutique Tedder Avenue strip as we showed off the roof. But this Aston– any Aston – is far more than an eye-catching cruiser. There’s plenty of brutal sports machine under your control when the need for speed takes your fancy.
Speed that is provided by 12 cylinders producing some 510 horsepower at 6500 rpm. Torque is there the moment you touch the throttle, peaking at 570 Newton metres, but there at virtually any revs and offering instant response. The sort of response guaranteed to satisfy the most demanding of drivers.
Then there’s the sound of the V12 engine when you demand everything from it. The muffler system that had previously kept the engine’s sound to politically correct levels is suddenly bypassed and the full noise from the big 6.0-litre powerplant blasts into the air. To get the best effect power down the soft-top, drive into a nice long tunnel, slow to let the traffic in front clear, then thump that right pedal right to the metal. You will still be smiling this time next week!
Of course, there’s more to high performance than simply the engine. The six-speed automatic transmission offers super-sharp shifts and is chiefly controlled by F1 style paddles behind the steering wheel. Interestingly, the everyday shift controls – Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive – are operated by push buttons on the centre section of the dashboard, where they flank the ignition key.
Which brings us to the superb cabin of the DBS Volante; mixing pure elegance and hard-edged performance is an all but almost impossible task, yet the engineers and stylists at Aston Martin have executed it perfectly.
The quality of design and materials is simply stunning. The leathers look right, feel soft and inviting, which is hardly a surprise when you learn the interior is carefully crafted by Scottish automotive specialist Bridge of Weir Leather. The cows that will one day become leather are carefully tended so their hides are unmarked. Nine hides are required for the complete DBS Volante trim. Craftsmen and women do all the cutting by hand and their hand-done stitching is to the highest standard.
And another thing – if something inside an Aston Martin looks like wood, it is wood; if it has the appearance of metal, then it is metal. Too many other marques trims costs by using plastic with a thin timber or metal veneer, or even use plastic dummied up to look like the real thing.
Entertainment comes from a stunning Bang & Olufsen audio system that costs more than some complete new cars… It sounds as good as a high-quality home system and we were impressed that the B&O acoustics, complemented by the aerodynamic body shape of the Volante, let us enjoy our favourite CDs with the roof down when the speedo was registering on the high side of 100 km/h.
Accommodation is provided for two pampered occupants in the front, with a pair of rather small occasional seats in the back. Boot space isn’t particularly generous, though that’s only to be expected in a low-slung car with a complex folding roof that has to be stowed somewhere.
On the downside (crook pun intended!), ‘our’ low-slung DBS Volante rubbed the underside of its long, sleek nose on a gutter crossing that happily accommodated a Jaguar XK R we road tested a couple of weeks back. This could cause problems if you want to use the Aston as everyday transport. Then again, those with around $570,000 to put an Aston Martin on the road are likely to own another car (or three) for mundane daily driving.
All-in-all we had a delightful couple of days experiencing life behind the wheel of a purebred British sportscar. And were most disappointed when we took it back to discover that it had just been sold and was about to be trucked south to its fortunate new owner.
AT A GLANCE
FEATURES ABS Brakes: Standard Air Conditioning: Standard Automatic Transmission: CD Player: Standard Central Locking: Standard Cruise Control: Standard Dual Front Airbags: Standard Front Side Airbags: Standard Stability Control: Standard Traction Control: Standard
SPECIFICATIONS (Aston Martin DBS Volante 5.9-litre two-door convertible)
ENGINE: Capacity: 5.935 litres Configuration: V12 Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder Compression Ratio: 10.9:1 Bore/Stroke: 89.0 mm x 79.5 mm Maximum Power: 380 kW @ 6500 rpm Maximum Torque: 570 Nm @ 5750 rpm
DRIVELINE: Driven Wheels: Rear Manual Transmission: Six-speed Automatic Transmission: Six-speed Final Drive Ratio: 3.71:1
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES: Length: 4721 mm Wheelbase: 2740 mm Width: 1280 mm Height: 1520 mm Turning Circle: Not available Kerb Mass: 1810 kg Fuel Tank Capacity: 78 litres Towing Ability: Not available
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES: Front Suspension: Independent, double wishbone, anti-dive, coil springs, anti-roll bar Rear Suspension: Independent, double wishbone, anti-squat, anti-lift, coil springs, anti-roll bar Front Brakes: Ventilated disc Rear Brakes: Ventilated disc
PERFORMANCE: 0-100 km/h: 4.3 seconds
FUEL CONSUMPTION: Type: Petrol 95RON Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 15.5 L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS: Greenhouse Rating: 2/10 Air Pollution Rating: 6.5/10
STANDARD WARRANTY: Three years/unlimited km