Have you ever felt an overwhelming desire to be thrown down a canyon while humming classical music, wearing a tailored suit, and kicking the crap out of someone you don’t like? Well then–you’ve just imagined what driving the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante is like.
(Full Disclosure: Aston Martin invited me to make noise and sensible choices in the new DBS Volante in Spain. I was flown out, fed, watered, and given some lovely pictures so I didn’t die and you could see what the car looks like in situ.)
Aston’s new flagship droptop is pitched as the car to go for if you want to look your very best at very high speed, yet also as something you can use on the day to day. It somehow manages to slip back and forth between an intense adrenaline hit and almost trouble-free daily driver with utmost ease.
The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante is an elite sport-luxury convertible for people who have lots of money and like to be seen driving, at speed, from A to B. “A” being their mansion in the country, and “B” being their beachside villa. It’s excess, showmanship, and drama all folded in to a sizeable package. Show and go all at the same time.
Under the hood is a 715-horsepower, 664 lb-ft 5.2 liter twin turbo V12 that, according to Aston Martin, will get you from 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds. They say it’ll do 0-100 mph in 6.7. Top speed is pegged at 211 mph, though on the launch event Aston’s Matt Becker revealed the car managed 215 mph during testing.
Its power is fired to the rear wheels via an eight-speed ZF auto ’box. Its hood takes 16 seconds to open and 14 to close, and can be operated from the key within a 6.6 foot radius. A nice bit of drama for the walk up to your ride, I’m sure you’ll agree.
As for consumption Aston reckons it’ll get through 17 mpg in varied driving. Which, for an engine displacing this much literage, isn’t bad..?
At no point during my time in the Volante was I every anywhere approaching “uncomfortable.” OK, when you set the springs to maximum attack it gets bumpy, but never actively uncomfortable. This goes not just for your arse, but your ears as well. Roof up or down, you can quite comfortably have a conversation with your passenger at highway speeds with no trouble at all. It’s every inch a Grand Tourer.
Do you like speed? And noise? You do?! GREAT! Because when you pin it you get both of those things to a vast degree. The speedo adds numbers at a frankly alarming pace. Though you won’t be able to look down at that because you’ll be concentrating on the g-force pushing your body to the seat. Its V12 bellows wonderfully while you do so. As party pieces go, it’s a good one.
On the looks front Aston’s still got it. I’d suggest it’s not as elegant as those that preceded it, but you’ve got to admit that all the way from the massive grille to its hips the DBS has got the image thing nailed. Unmistakably an Aston Martin, yet one that looks as though it’d smile while it guts you. A perfect smile though, not a pearly white out of place.
Outside it’s all pretty, all the time. Inside, less so. The infotainment screen feels like something of an afterthought stuck on the dash, the touch controls are a nice idea but don’t look all that good, and the big plastic air vents? In a $329,100 car? Rather takes the shine off.
The center console design itself is a whisper from being wonderful. You can see what the design team was doing, an explosion of tech and touch, but it feels as though Aston just missed the mark. Merc’s COMAND system (now the standard thanks to the AMG/Aston tie up), while better than Aston’s own efforts of old, is also a bit of a faff to use.
Forward visibility can be a little troublesome. Aston Martins are always tricky to place as the hood tends to drop off quite dramatically once you’re sat in the cabin. This means you can’t really tell where the front wheels are, which is fine if you have space, but any narrow street or parallel parking sitch could lead to some loud scraping and a head in hands moment.
And this car is very, very large. Narrow twisty roads may seem like fun, but it feels as though the DBS takes up all of the lane, meaning any enthusiastic traffic coming the other way will be a cause for concern.
You no longer need to be especially skilled when it comes to getting in a supercar and going about your business. They’re designed to within an inch of their beings to be no more difficult to use than a tin opener. In fact, it seems like it’s easier to encounter a hard-to-use can opener than supercar these days. Idle musings aside, the DBS, with springs and powertrain set to their most basic “GT” settings (Sport and Sport Plus modes turn the wick up on each) requires only presence of mind and a modicum of self-restraint to drive around most pleasantly.
There is an enormous amount of power under your right foot, but treating the gas pedal with respect makes it easy to gently wind the DBS up to your desired speed and let it just sit, silently, wafting you along looking all shiny and bright in your big comfy seat.
With the roof down the rear visibility is, obviously, rather good so you’ll be able to see if anyone’s trying to keep up with you. Wind (especially with the deflector up) doesn’t really bother the inside of the cabin, so you can chat happily away at 13 or 130 mph. Power delivery is smooth, and the eight-speed ZF changes gears for you seamlessly. Everything simply does what it’s supposed to do.
Pop the roof up and you’ll find that your rear visibility is much reduced–there is a glass rear window in the fabric hood but it’s so small and steeply angled that it’s pretty much useless. You’ll feel a little hemmed in should the weather be playing silly buggers with you, and it left me feeling a bit claustrophobic. This, despite the fact that the cabin is rather spacious, and I’m not exactly a giant.
On the highway it’s stable as you like, so you’ll be able to cross a continent in it no problem (it’s a big GT after all, it’s kinda the DBS’s M.O.).
Small towns, with their narrow roads and small parking spaces will prove something of a problem for it. Having a long but hard to place front end attached to a very wide car means anything that looks even remotely like a kerb should be treated with suspicion several from several miles away.
Unless you have nine children and live at 32 Narrow Street, Little Narrowton in the typically rainy nation of Weatherland, the DBS Volante will likely suit your every need.
Deciding to drop over $300k on a 715 HP car and only driving it to and from the shops does seem a little silly. While you could spend all your time with the car bumbling round and picking your nose, you’d be far better-pressed to find a favorite stretch of tarmac and enjoy all the engine has to offer.
Even in its most inert mode, the DBS is capable of being rather unhinged. The sheer amount of power and ferocity at which it’s delivered makes swear words fly out of your mouth at a rate that would make even Jim Jeffries blush. The wind is knocked out of you, and continues to be absent until you run out of space to stretch the car along.
Then, when you need to lose speed, the carbon brakes will forcefully scrub off all the numbers you need them to while causing the seatbelt to try and merge itself with your rib cage. And that’s before you put it in “Sport.”
Sport, and the even more rabid Sport Plus, makes everything more urgent. Cranking up power/gear ferocity and ride firmness depending on your desired drivetrain and damper settings. Now, the ideal combination for driving away the stink of the day is to have the powertrain set to sport and keeping the ride in its softest setting for maximum waft. The Sport setting on the ride is a touch firmer, while Sport Plus feeds back every lump on the road. Though you’ll get round corners faster you’ll bump around a fair bit between them so it’s best to keep that for track use only.
It’s a similar case for the drivetrain–Sport is enough for what any human would possibly want to do with it. This thing is utterly savage in any setting, and poking the angry bear on public roads would just be unnecessary.
When you really give it some shove, the DBS suffers from a similar problem to early V12 DB11s–it doesn’t know what to do with its power and gets a touch twitchy even with the traction control turned on. Going for a quick overtake needs to be done carefully, as pulling out and pinning it in one smooth move causes the rear to get ideas above its station.
In really tight, twisty sections the DBS feels a little big, and silly powerful. It’ll go for it, but you need to be aware of the thing’s size and power more than you would in, say, the new Vantage. That said, if you get your balance right and keep things smooth there’s a ludicrous amount of grip on offer. It doesn’t lean too much in the quick stuff and its steering is silky smooth (and the square wheel is a nice thing to hold while you’re using it).
Occasionally the ZF ’box can be a little hesitant–ask it to do too much and it’ll make you wait your turn while it gets busy.
This thing’s real playground is neither the highway (where it’ll overtake all the things and plop you where you need to be with no fuss), nor the tight ’n twisties, but big, open sweeping roads. It’s here you can play with third and fourth gears, lean on it around the corners, and really use its explosive power. It’s big, so it suits big, open spaces.
Take one of these on a blast after a rough day and you’ll get home with a massive grin on your face.
For $329,100 (before options) you get a lot of car, but then you can also buy a lot of cars for that money. If you’re looking at DBS Superleggera Volante, though, it’s not likely you’re going to be counting your pennies.
It’s stunning to look at, insanely fast, and still a little flawed. Yes, you can really buy a series production Aston Martin with over 700 horses to play with.
In fact, it’s only down 35 on the unicorn-tastic One-77 hypercar. Smooth and calm when you want it to be, aggressive when you need it to be. This is car that needs treating with a little respect on the top end. And say what you will about new turbo motors–its 5.2-liter turbo twelve is characterful and easy to fall for. Those in the market for something like this (which, let’s face it, is either this or a Continental GTC) are in an enviable position.