Some cars you simply drive. Point A to point B conveyances that do little to elicit much in the way of emotion. Others make a mid-level statement – a four-wheeled extension of personality and standing.
And then there’s this, the 2020 Aston Martin DB11 Volante, which doesn’t so much make a statement as bellow it from the rooftops in a thunderous howl that makes the hairs on the back of your neck tingle with electricity. This is not a car you merely drive; this is a car you experience, with every moment spent behind the wheel an occasion.
‘Volante’, for those who are curious, is Aston Martin-speak for convertible, although why the British brand chose the Italian word for ‘flying’ to describe its drop-top grand tourers remains a bit of a mystery. But, it’s been doing so since 1965, the Aston Martin Short Chassis Volante the first roadster to wear the Italian honorific. In the intervening 55 years, more than a handful, but less than two handfuls, have carried the nameplate – a rare and distinguished roll call of Aston Martins past and present.
It’s a short and exclusive list of models, and that exclusivity comes at a price. Starting at $406,130 before on-road costs and options isn’t for the faint of heart. Still, buyers at this upper reach of the market are unlikely to bat an eyelid at the price.
Nor will they think twice about the myriad options available to truly personalise your DB11 Volante. We won’t even bother listing them here, such is the extent of the list. But, as a teaser, the DB11 Volante palette runs to 62 available colours, some a no-cost option, while others will add up to $31,900 to the bottom line. Our test car was finished in Magnetic Silver, a no-cost coat of paint.
Other options fitted to our test car run to a total of $38,900 – or, slightly more than the price of an entry-level Mazda MX-5 – bringing the as-tested price to $445,030 plus on-road costs. It’s a lot of money, but then what price exclusivity?
|2020 Aston Martin DB11 Volante|
|Engine||4.0-litre twin-turbo V8|
|Power and torque||375kW at 6000rpm, 675Nm at 2000–5000rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||10.0L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||13.2L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||N/A|
|ANCAP safety rating||Untested|
|Warranty||3 years / 100,000km|
|Main competitors||Ferrari Portofino, Bentley Continental GT Convertible|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$445,030|
Inside, the DB11 is all Aston Martin, except for the bits that are obviously Mercedes. There are plenty of three-pointed-star cues inside, with switchgear and the infotainment system straight out of Stuttgart. Anyone familiar with Merc’s old operating system will feel right at home using the DB11’s.
Don’t look to mirror your smartphone, though. There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, not even as an option. Instead, Bluetooth connectivity and native satellite navigation do the heavy lifting through the DB11’s 8.0-inch screen.
That Merc gear does cheapen what is otherwise an excellent cabin, with sumptuous materials throughout. The attention to detail is evident, too, with contrast stitching that is millimetre perfect surrounded by swathes of soft-touch materials. It simply feels special to sit in, exactly as it should.
Forget the second row, however. It is, in a word, useless. The only way an average-sized person could use that second row is by lying across it, or by sitting behind an impossibly short driver. This is not a grand tourer for four.
Under that gorgeous single-piece clamshell bonnet lies the beating heart of a… Mercedes. Yep, the DB11, when it launched in 2016, was the first car to benefit from Aston Martin’s collaboration with Mercedes-AMG. And that means a Merc-AMG 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 making an astonishing 375kW at 6000prm and 675Nm from 2000 to 5000rpm lives under the bonnet.
Channelling those outputs to the rear wheels is an eight-speed automatic transmission helping to propel the 1870kg (kerb) soft-top from 0–100km/h in 4.1 seconds. That’s just 0.2sec slower than the coupe, despite the convertible giving away a 110kg weight advantage to the hardtop.
It matters little, though, the DB11 Volante roaring into life and assaulting the senses. This is a car you feel inside you, the bellowing roar of the V8 felt in your chest.
At low city speeds, the Volante remains unusually calm, almost serene even. Yes, the dull rumble of the V8 is noticeable, but it remains civil.
That all changes out on the open road, though, the V8 bellowing into life – a raucous, mean, nasty and fun soundtrack to complement the savage performance available under your right foot.
Acceleration is simply phenomenal, the big convertible hunkering down and hurtling towards the horizon at a rate that leaves you breathless. Yes, there are faster cars out there, but the sense of piling on speed while the wind rushes through your hair and nothing but blue sky above is, frankly, intoxicating.
And that’s before you dial up Sport+ on the drive-mode selector, which adds a whole other dimension to the Aston’s theatre. A crescendo of sound and performance that simply takes your breath away.
The eight-speed auto does a good job of holding onto revs, allowing that stonking V8 to rev freely as it piles on speed. Or, if you prefer, you can use paddle-shifters to select your ratios. It's worth it for the tremendous thunderclaps on upshifts and delicious pops and crackles on downshifts – a symphony of the world’s oil reserves depleting underneath you in real time.
Its real party trick, though, is as an effortless grand tourer. Cruising at freeway speeds feels relaxed and serene, almost too relaxed, the DB11 nowhere near the upper reaches of its performance envelope, certainly not in Australia.
The ride is surprisingly supple, too, the DB11 Volante swallowing up scrappy and crappy roads with ease. It’s firm, yes, but not to the point of jarring your bones. The trade-off comes when attacking some rural back roads with vigour, the DB11 remaining level and planted, as well as comfortable.
The steering, too, remains nice and direct, nicely weighted, and offering decent feedback from the road.
The DB11 surprises with its ability to hustle some tighter sections of rural back roads. While not exactly agile – its 1870kg makes its presence felt – there’s still an inherent stability to the big rag top. Getting on the power too early out of corners, though, can elicit some tail wagging, but it’s telegraphed nicely through the wheel and the chassis and doesn’t catch you by surprise.
As an open-top tourer, the DB11 Volante delivers on its promise. The roof itself can be lowered or raised at speeds of up to 50km/h and it does so quickly – 14 seconds to lower and 16 seconds to raise. With the roof down, the cabin remains unflustered. Yes, there’s a bit more wind noise, but you’re not getting battered by Mother Nature, as you would expect in a convertible costing over half-a-million dollars on the road.
And with the roof up, you soon forget you’re in a convertible at all. The DB11 feels like its hardtop sibling inside, such is the insulation and solidity of the convertible top made of eight layers and garnished with Alcantara headlining.
Still, it’s hard not to drop the roof at every opportunity, the DB11 Volante demanding to be enjoyed as designed, all while that thunderclap of a soundtrack shocks the senses, not just of the occupants in the car, but also innocent bystanders. This is not a car for those who like to be discreet. But then, Aston Martin buyers aren’t exactly shrinking violets.
You'd expect a car costing close to $500,000 to be brimming with advanced safety tech, like lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. And you'd be wrong. Cruise control is of the standard type, and the only advanced safety feature that can be optioned is blind-spot monitoring for a lazy $1440.
It seems almost incongruous to discuss fuel consumption numbers. For its part, Aston claims the DB11 Volante requires 10.0L of premium unleaded (98RON) for every 100km of motoring. Our time with the big drop-top saw an indicated 13.2L/100km. That's a respectable number considering just how eager the right foot becomes, if only to elicit that raucous engine and exhaust sound.
It’s all part of the DB11 Volante experience – a marriage of sound and fury with prodigious performance. It’s automotive theatre wrapped in metal and leather, and a glorious open-top grand tourer in every sense. It’s not a car that demands to be merely driven; the Aston Martin DB11 Volante is a car to be experienced. Shrinking violets need not apply.