Aston Martin's luxury GT get's a haircut. We drive the new DB11 Volante to see whether's it's more suited to Monaco or Margate
What do we have here?
Aston Martin is a company on the move. It has ambitious plans for the future as a Global Luxury brand and the first all-new model for several years appeared in 2016, the DB11 Coupe. It was only a matter of time before a convertible version appeared and now, with winter looming, we have the stylish DB11 Volante.
The DB11 sits on an all-new bonded aluminium structure that combines rigidity with lightness. Extra strengthening for the convertible body and roll-over capabilities adds 110kg. The Volante is only available with the AMG derived 503bhp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine, that is also offered in the Coupe as an alternative to the 600bhp 5.2-litre V12.
What defines the Volante, of course, is the roof, or lack of. The eight-layered fabric structure gives all the weather and acoustic protection you could ask for and expect at this price tag. It can drop in 14 seconds and raise in 16 seconds up to speeds of 31 mph. Boot space is a useful 206 litres with the hood raised, 20% more than the DB9 Volante it replaces, that's an extra piece of Louis Vuitton carry on.
The engine sits at the front but nicely behind the front axle-line to give a 47/53 per cent front/rear weight distribution. There is an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox transmitting the power to the rear wheels with steering-wheel paddles for when you fancy manual mode. There are three selectable driving modes: GT, Sport and Sport +. Each one ramps up the sportiness with a combination of damper stiffening, gearbox responsiveness and exhaust pitch.
Like with all cars at this level, the £159,900 list price is only a starting figure. Aston is proud of the potential individuality available with specifications. Exterior colour, seat type, leather type and colour, wheel design and various extra comfort and electronic options are available. But it does not take much to bump up the price significantly; our test car had a ticket price of £191,085.
How does it drive?
It was raining heavily as we set off so the hood remained up. Pressing the clear-glass Start/Stop button, you'd expect the exhaust to bark loudly as the 4.0-litre V8 woke, just as happens with Maseratis, Ferraris, Jaguar’s F-Type and any Porsche. But no, this DB11 is a more refined beast than that; your neighbours can sleep on if you have an early morning start.
Setting off and left in default GT mode, the Volante immediately impressed with its ease of use. The primary ride is particularly remarkable; firm but comfortable. The steering is perfectly weighted and very direct. There is a great feeling of structural solidity with no vibrations or rattles to upset the sense of engineering excellence.
The DB11 is physically a big car but, with such tight dynamics, shrinks around you. Road and wind noise are suppressed to executive saloon levels and you are just aware of a lovely V8 thrum when you push on. You could cover big distances in this mode in great comfort with not a second thought.
As the pace picked up, the reactive gearbox with ultra-smooth changes linked to the plentiful torque from the twin-turbo engine allowed effortless progress.
A cross-country route in the Cotswolds allowed us to play with the Sport and Sport+ modes. Each is a step towards releasing the inner beast. The revs are held longer before change-up, the dampers firm up and the exhaust is allowed to sing without restraint. A swift drive on a clear B-road in Sport+ manual mode using the paddles to change gear brought a wide grin to most reviewer's face, helped by the pops and bangs from the exhaust on the over-run.
Make no mistake; the DB11 is a proper sports car. Corners can be attacked with great confidence and great satisfaction (when you get it right); more in the style of a Porsche 911 than the bigger Bentley Continental. The fact that this dynamic playfulness is in a car that can also play the top-down cruiser role when the sun shines only enhances the appeal.
What's it like inside?
It is impossible not to be excited when climbing behind the wheel of an Aston Martin.
So many petrolheads have been influenced by the iconic DB5 in several James Bond movies ever since it first appeared in Goldfinger in 1964. It helps that the DB11 Volante looks a million dollars, too.
The pearl blonde bodywork of the test car exudes style from any angle, hood up or down. An overnight bag fitted easily into the boot but owners will be glad of the occasional rear seats; perfect for small children, Isofix fittings are standard, and they are very useful for extra luggage space when touring.
You sit low and the driver controls have a wrap around feel as in most good sports cars. The drive selector buttons are set out similarly to those in a McLaren but the infotainment screen and controls are recognizable as Mercedes parts. This detracts from the individuality you expect at this price point and competitors like Bentley do a better job. Having said that, you cannot fail to feel pretty special, sitting behind the wheel.
Aston Martin has done a great job with the new DB11 Volante. It looks fantastic hood up or hood down. The V8 engine suits it perfectly and build-quality feels top-notch. It oozes character that is missing from many rivals.
It is priced at a level that ensures exclusivity and fulfils the brand ethos. It is a confident athletic sports car dressed in a Saville Row suit. Mr Bond would approve.