V12 Vantage S is for the hooligans and thrill seekers, the Vanquish Volante sits at the opposite end of the Aston Martin product range. It's got the same 573hp 6.0-litre V12 and is hardly what you'd call sluggish. But the delivery of that power is poles apart from the snarling, pent-up Vantage. Sure, with the Sport button pressed and the exhausts open the V12 growls, gurgles and howls in typically charismatic fashion. But the transaxle mounted six-speed auto puts it to the road in a very different way, slurring away in D and able to purr along in considerable refinement if you keep your thumb off aforementioned (and now wheel-mounted) Sport button and leave the three-way adjustable dampers in their normal setting. With the roof up it's snug, impressively calm and peaceful, the heavily insulated fabric roof doing a very good job of isolating you from weather and noise alike.
Act your age
But we're not especially mature. So, obviously, the first thing we do when given the keys to the Volante are drop the roof, turn every button we can find up to 11 and go in search of something more exciting.
Thankfully the Volante responds in kind, blurring its shifts from the paddles but at least keen to deliver them when requested both up and down the 'box. On the crazily twisting Californian mountain roads writhing into the hills above Palm Springs third and fourth are more than adequate for most corners, this AM11 evolution of Aston's long-serving V12 now delivering 457lb ft of torque. You need to wind it out to 5,000rpm or so to really exploit it but given the noise it makes doing so it's not exactly a hardship and it's easy to cover ground very quickly indeed, blowing the pastel chinos and blazer stereotypes out of the water somewhat. The boot may be big enough for two sets of golf clubs but the Volante is able to go beyond the world of manicured lawns back on the valley floor.
Power and glory
A Mercedes SLS Roadster might be a little tougher to catch but shares a similar normally aspirated power delivery and balance, albeit possibly a tad further along the sportier end of the spectrum. It'd be a gloriously noisy and rapid back to back test though, the Bentley's turbocharged grunt able to humble both with straight-line punch and corner exit traction but less agile and, shall we say, exploitably adjustable on the throttle.
There's no escaping the fact it's basically a two-tonne car, headline all-carbon bodywork or not. Indeed, according to Aston development boss Ian Minards it'd only weigh another seven kilos or so if made out of aluminium. Begging the question...
Minards says the shapes carbon permits wouldn't be achievable in aluminium and, clearly, there are bragging rights associated with carbon you wouldn't get if they'd used GRP instead... Given much of the criticism of Aston's recent products has been an over-reliance on a single design template the ability to create a new look and use of carbon fibre to achieve it makes sense. But although undeniably more expressive and textured stylistically than its predecessors the Vanquish doesn't quite gel from all angles. The front three-quarter is broad-shouldered and eye catching but the rounded, falling rear doesn't quite work and means the sense of unwanted weight carries through from the scales to the aesthetics.
Not adopting the eight-speed auto from established partner ZF also seems a missed opportunity to really put some ground between the new Vanquish and DB9 and DBS. See here for Aston's reasons why but given even a 6.0 V12 sometimes feels breathless in the desert heat and the Volante needs something to live up to the promise. That something will, in time, be a turbocharged engine from new partners AMG and with the knowledge of that deal ever present you can't help but speculate what a dollop of low-end torque would do to offset those extra kilos.
As it stands the Vanquish and this Volante version do give Aston's product range a much-needed lift from the DB9-based cars it supercedes. The more stylish and much classier interior is a significant improvement from the confused controls and baffling ergonomics of previous models and much more in keeping with that hefty price tag. Though the squared-off wheel optioned on some of the test cars is probably one to avoid.
So, yes, more exotic than the SLS and sportier than the Bentley, this remains an Aston Martin for grown-ups. Which is why if we were buying an Aston with this engine it'd be the Vantage instead.
ASTON MARTIN VANQUISH VOLANTE
Engine: 5,935cc V12
Transmission: 6-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 573@6,750rpm
Torque (lb ft): 457@5,500rpm
Top speed: 183mph
Weight: 1,919kg (with driver)
MPG: 19.6mpg (NEDC combined)
Price: £199,995 (before options)