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Aston Martin DB11 Volante: Driven

You'll have to make do with the V8 in Gaydon's new soft-top. Don't expect to mind...

By Matt prior / Monday, February 19, 2018

This, then, is the new Aston Martin DB11 Volante, the V-word being Aston shorthand for soft top.

Its arrival has been inevitable ever since the announcement of the DB11 and, well, doesn't it look handsome? I don't know. I think so, but you decide. For its maker, the real achievement is how low the deck behind the rear seats manages to be.

That bit of the body, as anybody who once looked at a Peugeot 307 CC will testify (sorry for putting that image in your head) is the hard part to get right. Package it wrong or use too many insulating layers and your hood is huge and you have a camel's hump back there. Specify a too-thin hood and you end up with loads of wind noise and it's harder to keep warm/cool with it raised, which will be most of the time.

Anyway, Aston's engineers say they're really pleased with the result of this one: it's insulating enough, they reckon, but very cleverly packaged, powered by a much quieter motor than the old DB9's hood, yet it still operates quickly and at up to speeds of 30mph.

That, then, is mostly what marks the DB11 Volante out from its Coupe derivatives that you'll already know quite a lot about. DB11 sits on a new Aston platform which will underpin most things that Aston makes; at the front is the engine, driving the rear wheels.

But while in the DB11 coupe you can have a twin-turbocharged V8 or V12, in the Volante only the V8 is available. There'll be a convertible version of the next-gen Vanquish if you really must have a V12, but most customers, Aston says, will be happy with the 510bhp 4.0 V8 it buys from Mercedes-AMG and to which it applies its own tune.

Fitting the V12, it seems, would necessitate retuning the suspension yet again - which has already been done for this - and it'd need to be crashed again, too.

I suspect worst, though, is that it'd be quite heavy. There's additional strengthening beneath the Volante's aluminium skin to keep the torsional rigidity acceptable. Most significantly a cross-structure that runs across the front of the engine bay, not far from the engine uprights (they call it the garden gate), has increased rigidity there, there are greater wall thicknesses along the sills, and there's a new crossmember running above the boot opening at the rear.

All told, those and the hood mechanism add 110kg to the DB11's weight - which makes the V8 Volante more or less the same weight as a V12 coupe, at 1,870kg - while torsional rigidity comes out at 22kN/degree, compared to the 34kN/degree for the coupe. So quite the loss, but still rather more rigid than the 15kN/degree of a soft-top DB9.

It's rigid enough, at any rate, that the DB11 Volante does not feel floppy; the image in the rear view mirror doesn't particularly shimmy around in front of you as it does in less rigid cars, and neither does the scuttle shake or steering kick over bad bumps.

In fact, dare I say it, I think the steering on the Volante is better than in the coupes. Aston is learning more and more about its latest aluminium architecture and in stiffening the area around the front suspension mounts it seems to have liberated the steering's ability to transmit road feel, which, although fast, is responsive, accurate and trustworthy too.

It's one of the highlights of a dynamic package which otherwise offers most of what a DB11 coupe does. The ride is composed and compliant - you can firm it up, but I doubt you'll bother - while the handling balance is benign and predictable. It doesn't have, say, Porsche 911 levels of agility - this is, after all, quite a heavy car - but it turns well, grips faithfully and eventually lets go entirely predictably and controllably.

The engine makes a conventional V8-ey noise - pleasing, though without the spectacular aural drama that comes in AMG's own applications. And the automatic gearbox is as splendid as I've come to expect the ZF eight-speed transaxle auto to be.

It does all this, too, while offering sound levels of refinement. Hood up and you might as well be in a coupe. Hood down and with an optional wind deflector in place, above the tiny +2 rear seats (albeit with ISOFIX mounts), and there's barely a tousle of what passes for my hairline.

The rest of the interior is, as with the Coupes, slightly less successful. Ergonomically it's a leap over Astons of old, the Merc switchgear is well-integrated but I'm not quite sure how long it'll take me to get used to a Mercedes stalk plus two others on one side, and none on the other, while the new Bentley Continental GT probably redefines how good other switchgear and things like air vents should feel.

But I suppose the Bentley - and it's worth remembering we haven't even seen a production-ready coupe yet, let alone a convertible - is a heavy old thing, and the Aston treads that fine line between sporting and GT-ing. Apparently the biggest trade-in for DB11 Coupes is the Porsche 911 Turbo S, which tells you that customers seem to want a car that is dynamically capable to drive. In the Volante, they've gone for one that is all but as rewarding, and in a couple of respects even more so, than the coupe.


Engine: 3,982cc, twin-turbo V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 510@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 514@2,000-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 4.1sec
Top speed: 187mph
Weight: 1,879kg
MPG: 28.3
CO2: 230g/km













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