Having flown half-way round the world, courtesy of an Airbus A380 superliner, I’m sitting in a slightly grey and damp London town, pondering the prospect of a quick dash across France in the latest fabulous offering from Aston Martin.
Volante is pretty much Aston Martin speak for drop-top, convertible or high-speed open air motoring, and I’m here to join what should be the ultimate launch of Aston Martin’s latest dream machine.
In a couple of days, London weather permitting, I’ll be on my way to Le Mans, with the roof down and the B&O audio dialled up, in what could quickly become the world’s most desirable convertible, Aston Martin’s spanking new DBS Volante.
I doubt there is anybody in the civilised world that hasn’t heard of Le Mans but like me, you probably haven’t been there, much less raced there.
Drivers have been testing themselves and their glorious machines at this most hallowed track for the past 87 years and make no mistake; this is the Holy Grail of motor sport.
I first heard about the place after watching Hollywood actor and part time race driver Steve McQueen, behind the wheel of a Le Mans racer in the extraordinarily realistic 1971 movie entitled, Le Mans.
He was driving a Porsche 917 with the familiar powder blue and orange Gulf Oil livery, at least that’s what I remember most, apart from the said 300km/h plus speeds as the cars flew down the infamous Mulsanne Straight.
This year Gulf Oil is back, but this time its backing Aston Martin Racing, which has entered no less than three Lola-Aston Martin LMP1 cars, all wearing that Gulf blue and orange livery, ready for a fight.
Aston is also partnering another three private teams at Le Mans in Drayson Racing (driven by Lord Paul Drayson in a GT2, Jet Alliance in a GT1 class car and another LMP1 Lola-Aston Martin, which will see Nicolas Prost steering.
Its not that this bespoke English sports car company hasn’t won at Le Mans before, they have, but that was 50 years ago in a DBR1/2 with the English/American combination of Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori.
You might say it’s been a long time between drinks, (that’ll be Moet et Chandon of course) but they have had back-to-back wins in the GT1 class, for the past two years running.
It s a decent old drive from London to Le Mans, and one that will see a convoy of DBS Volantes pass through the Channel tunnel and into the heart of the Champagne region, complete with a private tour of the revered Louis Roederer cellars.
Many manufacturers get it all wrong when it comes to drop tops, just look at Porsche’s Carrera Cabriolet, in my opinion the design doesn’t work in any way, shape, or form.
On the other hand, there’s Aston Martin, these guys have always built beautiful looking cars and their drop tops are the supermodels of the automotive world.
The term Volante is a comparatively recent thing and first surfaced in 1965 with the Short Chassis Volante, based on the famous DB5, James Bond’s company car in the movie Goldfinger.
It was a superb looking car, which wasn’t really a short chassis at all, but identical to the DB5 coupe.
Just as the world news reports the global economy is on the bounce back, Aston Martin are on a roll.
Two weeks ago it launched its blisteringly quick V12 Vantage and now comes the car that James Bond wishes the British Secret Service would throw him the keys to.
If there was ever any car that personified the company’s DNA, ‘Power Beauty Soul’ that would be the DBS Volante.
It’s breathtakingly beautiful in the metal, and it doesn’t matter whether the soft-top roof is up or down, it all looks good to the naked eye.
We haven’t driven it yet, but after a quick walk around this afternoon with Chief Platform Engineer David Doody, I’m now more than anxious to get behind the wheel and see if it drives as good as it looks.
It ought to; it’s only 45 kilograms heavier than the DBS coupe and will hit 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds and reach speeds of 307km/h, which are precisely the same specifications as the Coupe.
He said the roof would drop in precisely 14 seconds, so I timed his demonstration and got 13 seconds!
There isn’t a lot of luggage space in the boot, just 186 litres but that’s enough for a couple of soft bags or a set of golf clubs, but it is a 2+2 so there is that convenience of collecting your (very) young children from school or using the space for more storage.
I’ll let you know how the car performs and my take on Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne on our way to Le Mans tomorrow night.