Blow the roof off with Aston Martin’s Vanquish Volante
IMAGES: We get up close and personal with the mighty convertible cruiser.Damien Reid February 11, 2015
Folding back the roof on a car like the Aston Martin Vanquish does more than let the sun shine in, it exposes the senses and for me, the best part about the convertible Vanquish is the noise.
Not the noise of the electric roof motor or even the wind buffeting your head, but the burble on start up of its 6.0-litre V12 engine which later becomes a full-on howl at speed. We are so well insulated in cars these days and so used to being told by luxury car manufacturers that silence is gold that we’ve forgotten the aural joys you can experience from a 565bhp, hand-built precision tool doing its thing just in front of your nose.
As is Aston Martin tradition, the Volante badge is reserved for its convertible version, so other than a chopped top, this model is pretty much identical to the seductive Vanquish coupe. In fact, Aston Martin says it virtually designed the coupe to be a convertible from the start so it doesn’t carry the usual deficits of convertibles with a soggy chassis, extra weight for strengthening or a tiny boot that has to stow the roof.
Engine: 6-litre V12 Transmission: 6-speed automatic Power: 565bhp @ 6750rpm Torque: 620Nm @ 5750rpm 0-100kmh: 4.1 seconds Top Speed: 295kmh Price: AED 1.1 million
Wind it up to a decent speed and it hugs the road far better than a car of this size should. In our case we were on some back roads in the desert not far from the West Coast of the United States, and while road quality is dubious at best, it showed up the chassis stiffness and poise of this mighty GT at pace. Aston claims that stiffness is up by 14 per cent over the DBS Volante it replaces and it’s noticeable in the lack of scuttle shake, while the triple-layered, powered roof takes 14 seconds to fold away behind your head.
After a spirited run, having a look at the car over a coffee, I was reminded that it’s not a lithe Porsche chaser but more of a country lane cruiser and so for it to be punting along as it did, was fairly impressive. If you want the white-knuckle ride, there’s always the more nimble, V12 Vantage S for that. Yet as I was looking over the car and admiring its beauty, I noticed its interior hasn’t kept up to pace with the outside in terms of cutting-edge ergonomics. To put it bluntly, it’s feeling its age and for this kind of money you not only expect the latest, you expect it served on platter of shimmeringly beautiful ergonomics.
Each body panel on the car is constructed from carbon fibre not just because of its high strength-to-weight ratio but also for its flexibility of form. This not only reduces mass but means that fewer individual body panels are required, which reduces joints and contributes to a more coherent and svelte shape. You feel wrapped in the car with its high beltline and high centre stack. Visibility all-round is good for a car of its size and body style and is something that’s obviously improved when the roof is lowered.
Finding those twisty back roads brought the smile back big time, helped in spades by the adaptive damping system which is selectable by the driver. With Normal being the default setting, setting it to Sport or Track modes brings the hydraulically assisted Servotronic steering system into line by making it firmer, and the fun really begins as it transcends its Grand Tourer status where it competes with the likes of the Bentley Continental GT convertible and brushes with supercar status.
The car’s braking system features third-generation Brembo Carbon Ceramic Matrix parts, which improve their resistance to fade and are also lighter than a conventional system, reducing the overall weight of the car but in particular, the unsprung weight and rotational masses. The front brakes use 398 mm x 36 mm discs with larger front pads and six-piston callipers from the One-77, while the rear brakes use 360 mm x 32 mm discs with four-piston calipers.
Aside from the adaptive damping settings there are also modes for the engine, and flicking the lever into Sport mode improves throttle response, gear shifts from the six-speed automatic transmission and allows the engine to rev higher so you can fully exploit all 12-cylinders. Ride quality does suffer slightly as things tighten up but that’s not really your priority when punting it along.
Beyond Sport there is a Track mode which allows more slip in the Traction Control software for a bit of tail-out action, and if you really feel up for it, you can turn off the TC altogether and let it all hang out. Personally I don’t see the point as this car’s sweet spot is in ferrying you and ideally, one other at a rapid pace rather than full-on, point-and-squirt, apex-hunting at high revs and low gears. It can do it, but your kind of missing the whole point with a car like the Vanquish Volante.
The transmission is a conventional automatic unit rather than an automated manual used in some high-end cars including the little brother Vantage, but it works a treat in the more leisurely Vanquish and offers seamless shifts in auto or manual modes which are controlled with column-mounted paddles shifts. The Aston Martin Vanquish Volante has the potential to eat entire countries for breakfast, you could spend hours on hours behind the wheel soaking up the road and cruising for as long as there’s fuel in the tank.
Details: Visit astonmartin.com