Aston Martin DBS Volante Review & Road Test

Rating: 8.0
$495,351 Mrlp
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Sun-loving perfection

Model Tested:

  • 2009 Aston Martin DBS Volante; 6.0-litre V12 petrol; six-speed automatic; convertible - $535,350*

Options fitted:

  • Piano Black Facia Trim $2648; 10 Spoke Graphite & Diamond Turned Wheels $6620

CarAdvice Rating:

Words by Karl Peskett Pics by

When I mentioned to some friends that I’d be spending some time with a gorgeous model who goes topless, I don’t think they knew how to take it. But the car you’re looking at fits that description perfectly. It has an exquisite cabriolet profile that surpasses any other drop-top for eye-candy value. Yes, the Aston Martin DBS Volante is, naturally, the best looking hair dryer ever produced – it’s an Aston Martin after all.

The already gorgeous DBS Coupe has undergone extensive modification to include the fabric folding top, but none of it takes away from the streamlined beauty of the Volante. Smooth, flowing lines and sharp creases are further enhanced with a strong tail, but it’s how the cabin opening around the rear uses the chrome accent to mark the transition from exterior to interior that really impresses.

There’s a distinct shoulder line which kicks up into the integrated spoiler - the DBS coupe misses out on this - which, combined with the prominent carbon-fibre diffuser, makes the DBS Volante completely aggressive from any angle. In fact, there is not a single bad way to look at this car.

An ancient text states that love covers a multitude of sins. In this case, it wouldn’t matter how many issues the DBS Volante has, you will love one thing that more than makes up for them: the sound.

Fortunately for the buyers of this car, there are hardly any sins at all, which means the balance is all skewed toward greatness. But the sound is what begins and ends the experience, with the driving involvement only adding to what is definitely the world’s best convertible.

All you need is a single run through a tunnel, or between buildings, and the rorty, bellowing, yet symphonic V12 makes you want to sacrifice your eardrums on the altar of aural pleasure.

It begins as an other-wordly growl on startup, and settles into a bassy rhythm. Then as the revs rise it turns into a choir of tenors belting out a raspy shout, culminating in a cacophonic yowl to the heavens, like it’s imploring the god of acceleration to deliver more impetual force. And that’s exactly what happens, gear after gear.

How do these figures sound: 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds. 307km/h top speed. 380kW and 570Nm from six litres and twelve cylinders. The real turning point is at 4000rpm, where a bypass valve in the exhaust opens, and the resonance combines to open its lungs further, and power increases noticeably.

Of course, being a drop-top, the divine engine note is amplified further, so if there was any reason to need a convertible, that is it. However, you are blessed with much more than that.

The interior quality is truly impressive. On our test car, silver stitching contrasts beautifully with the soft, Obsidian black leather. Even the piano black trim, of which I’m not usually a fan, doesn’t look cheap, or out of place. The sat-nav is still frustrating to use, as well as being low resolution, however the rest of the menus are easily accessed via the stubby joystick on the console.

The Bang & Olufsen stereo is simply first class, with super crisp treble, plenty of bass, and complete equaliser control. There’s also that theatrical spectacle when the stereo is switched on and the tweeters rise out of the dash. To be honest, though, we spent a few minutes investigating the stereo’s capabilities, realised it was excellent, and then turned it off. There’s an Aston Martin V12 sitting up front – why spoil its astonishing acoustics?

The plus-two rear seats are redundant - our photographer could not fit without moving the front seats to an awkward position - but the front buckets are unbelievably supportive. You melt into the leather and with hip-holding bolstering, but enough room to move your arms about, the front pews could very well be the world’s best car seats.

Instrumentation is typical Aston Martin - there's a distinct emphasis on beauty. With Australia's horse-and-cart-like speed limits, it can be a bit tricky to read between notches on the speedo, so thankfully there's a digital inset screen which displays larger numbers and other information as required.

The handbrake is still placed in between the driver’s door and seat, freeing up room on the centre console without having to resort to a foot-operated unit. But the storage spaces in the console aren’t exactly massive; there’s room for your iPhone, a few cards and a drink or two. Still, the boot space is quite good with a few soft bags easily fitting, and the real beauty is you get the same room whether the top is up or down.

On some convertibles with the roof up, there’s plenty of room in the boot. So you load it up only to find that, despite it being a perfect day for losing the lid, you have to keep the roof up, lest everything stored would get squashed by the roof when packed away. The DBS Volante is predictable – you know what you’re going to get in any situation – the amount of space doesn’t alter.

Once you’ve packed all your gear in, you then find the Volante is not just a boulevard cruiser. There’s some serious ability tucked up under that body. The chassis holds a couple of secrets as to why this car is melting hearts wherever it travels: the ride and the brakes.

Sitting on 20-inch wheels and a sports suspension, you’d expect the DBS Volante to be rather harsh. But it’s the complete opposite. Somehow, Aston’s engineers have managed to build in a suppleness that belies its aggressive looks. It absorbs harsh ridges and cracked bitumen way better than some luxury cars, yet hit the “track” button and the whole affair sharpens and stiffens up. The front then bites effectively, and while it will never quite match the ultimate dartability of the DBS coupe, it holds its line and holds its own in the cornering game. It completely defies its 1810kg kerb weight.

All the while you’re feeling every squirming block of tread through the tiller, with instant steering reactivity from dead centre. Yes, directness and feel are some of the steering highlights in the Volante – it’s very much a driver’s car.

But the carbon-ceramic brakes are also worthy of singling out for a medal of greatness. Earlier in the year in Europe, we drove several cars fitted with carbon-ceramics. All of them, without exception, were extremely hard to modulate, with almost an on-and-off feel, keeping passengers reaching for their sick-bags. The Lamborghinis were the worst culprits.

However the DBS’s brakes have so much progression and feel that you’d swear they are cast iron. You know they aren’t of course, due to the lack of fade, not to mention also, that their absolute stopping power is immense – the fronts are nearly 400mm in diameter, with six-piston callipers no less. These are among the best units on the market.

As is the automatic. ZF’s renowned six-speed auto, named Touchtronic 2 in the DBS Volante, transforms from soft, slow shifts while cruising, to short, sharp blasts between gears, dependent on whether you’ve tapped the “Sport” button on the dash. You can let the auto choose for you, or you can pull on the paddles behind the wheel. Both work equally well, so it’s completely mood dependent, but it must be said that despite not being a dual-clutch setup, the auto shifts almost as quick (albeit a lot smoother) if you’re using the paddles combined with Sport mode.

This setting also sharpens up throttle response, which brings on that guttural growl that happens at 4000rpm a lot earlier. Needless to say, you’ll have it switched on, all the time.

The DBS Volante is also happy ambling along in start-stop situations, and despite its speed potential, you can carry on conversations with the roof down, and not have to worry about fitting a wind-deflector. Then, while the canvas roof is up, it’s ridiculously quiet inside.

Yes, the DBS Volante fulfils just about any role you throw at it. Its depth of capability is truly amazing, and it never feels like its uncomfortable being pushed hard, or chafing at the bit when driving in a more subdued manner.

Excuse the cliche, but if ever there was one car that did it all, this would be the one. It looks stunning roof up or down, has a world-class chassis, a compliant ride, brilliant steering, luxurious appointments and sound to die for. The DBS Volante was truly built for all seasons.

The hardest thing about buying this car is choosing the colour - I’ll take mine in Quantum Silver, thank you.


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