What Car? says...
You might recognise the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante’s basic form because, although the famous British brand counts this as a bespoke model, it is in fact heavily based on the DB11. There’s a hard-top (coupe) version that you can read about by clicking here; in this review we’re focusing on the convertible (or Volante in Aston speak).
There are more than just a few tweaks to justify the big price hike over the regular DB11 Volante. For a start, the DBS has a wider stance, which is designed to improve stability and gives greater road presence. The DBS is lighter than the regular DB11 Volante, too. How? Well, instead of the DB11’s aluminium bodywork, it uses mostly lighter carbonfibre cladding to improve everything from its handling to its performance.
Speaking of which, its 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 petrol engine is also from the DB11, but with the wick turned up considerably. Yep, this mighty drop-top pumps out a scarcely believable 715bhp – almost twice as much as a basic Porsche 911 Cabriolet.
All this power is channelled to the rear wheels only, through a rear-mounted, eight-speed automatic gearbox that has been beefed up to handle the mutinous 664 lb ft of torque. But is this an overpriced, overpowered toy? Or is it worth considering instead of a Bentley Continental GT Convertible or McLaren 720S Spider?
Click through to the next page and we’ll begin to tell you all you need to know.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Now, if you’ve ever been lucky enough to drive the regular DB11, you’re probably thinking the last thing it needed was more grunt; it can be a little lively, you see. Yet Aston Martin has set out to make the DBS Volante ultra-useable and driveable, despite its incongruous power. Part of that process involved fitting it with a set of specially developed Pirelli P Zero tyres.
What’s it like? In a world where an electric Tesla’s inaudible speed is very much the talk of the town, there remains something utterly wonderful about being able to thumb a starter button and listen glorious whirr of a V12 petrol engine cranking over before those twelve cylinders awake with deep bellow. Arguably, this isn’t the most evocative-sounding V12 of all time – but in the same way that, to some, Ossetra caviar might not be considered quite as scrumptious as Beluga, if you catch our drift?
At idle it hums sweetly, and through the rest of its rev range the continual changes in tone keep you fascinated. Its range is baritone to tenor, interspersed with occasional tangents of hardnosed, mechanical thrash metal that give this engine its aural signature.
So, the noise is edifying, but what can we say about the performance? Oddly, you almost expect a bit more savagery in first gear, because, after a momentary pause for the twin turbochargers to add their version of Scotch Bonnet chilli sauce into the performance broth, it builds excitedly, but by no means explosively, to its 7000rpm crescendo.
Then you repeat the same foot-flat antics in second or third, and suddenly that monstrous torque is like the enormous gloved hand of a six-foot-plus goalkeeper thumping you in the back. And watching the numbers building rampantly on the digital speedometer confirms what your senses are telling you: oh yes, this is a truly fast car.
It wholly justifies Aston Martin’s claims of 0-62mph in 3.6sec and a top speed of 211mph. Yet it’s not like a rampant Catherine Wheel that’s about to come loose at the nail; it’s epic but manageable. That said, it you want even more mind-bending acceleration, the McLaren 720S Spider offers just that.
That performance does show up the gearbox’s failings, though. It’s a regular automatic, rather than the dual-clutch type fitted to a 720S, for example, and its changes are decidedly slurred and less reactive to your pulls on the shift paddles behind the steering wheel. It’s a weakness, certainly, but not a deal-breaker.
Again, that description of usability shines through elsewhere. The DBS Volante, despite its prodigious power, conjures up otherworldly traction from its rear tyres. So, assuming the road is dry at least, this isn’t an intimidating monster like you might imagine; it quickly gives you the confidence to push hard without feeling you might spear off the road.
It looks after you in other ways, too. The delicious steering weight and accuracy that allow you to guide the DBS Volante using just your fingertips; the inherent balance and poise of its chassis; the well-judged brake pedal and vast brake discs that haul you up assuredly. This big drop-top GT puts you at the epicentre of the driving experience, and with that comes a feeling of full control.
On the subject of its credentials, if you’re thinking that all this handling prowess must come at the expense of ride quality, you’d be wrong. The adjustable suspension is able to maintain contact with the road – even if it's a decidedly uneven one – while still letting the DBS Volante almost float along without ever jarring or thumping. As in many drop-tops, there is a faint shiver through the car along uneven roads, simply because the Volante isn’t as stiff as the hardtop version of the DBS, but it’s something you’re aware of rather than annoyed by.
As for top-down cruising, the Volante keeps you relatively well protected from wind buffeting. The Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet and Bentley Continental GT Convertible offer even more refined top-down motoring, though.
The interior layout, fit and finish
It’s blueprinted DB11 in the cockpit of the DBS Volante. That's no bad thing, because the driving position is sound, with ample adjustment that allows all shapes of driver to get comfortable. Everything moves electrically, because this is no pared-back racer and still very much in the GT mould.
Visibility isn’t great, with rather thick windscreen pillars that hamper your view around tight bends and a slim rear screen to boot, but that’s standard issue in a car such as this. You get a rear-view camera and front and rear parking sensors to offset these issues when you're parking.
The finish retains the best bits from Aston Martins of old and adds smatterings of modernity, with soft, hand-stitched leathers sitting next to carbonfibre trims. It’s not the most robust interior in places, with the iffy-feeling climate control vents, for example, proving that Aston Martin still has work to do to make its cars feel properly luxurious inside.
As in the regular DB11, there are plenty of switches sourced from Mercedes, as well as the infotainment system. It’s not the best system on the market – the Bentley Continental GT Convertible’s is superior, for example – but it’s far better than anything Aston Martin has offered before. To control it, there’s a big dial between the front seats that you twist to scroll through the on-screen menus display on the centrally mounted 8.0in screen.
At speeds of less than 30mph, you can draw the electrically operated roof up or down. This takes around 14 seconds and can be done remotely from outside the car by using the key, as well as by pressing a button between the front seats.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Front space in the DBS Volante is fine, with plenty of head and leg room for a couple of tall adults. However, while there are rear seats, even teenagers won’t fancy sitting in them for very long.
Those seats are a handy place to stow bags, coats or even a set of golf clubs, though. That’s handy because the main boot area is quite small, big enough for a suitcase or a couple of softer weekend bags, but this isn't a GT with luggage capacity aplenty.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
There’s little to say here that you won’t already know. The DBS Volante isn’t cheap to buy and nor will it be cheap to run. But if the prospect of its price or day-to-day running costs has crossed your mind, perhaps it wasn’t really for you in the first place.
Broadly speaking, the asking price is similar to that of the McLaren 720S, while the Bentley Continental GT Convertible can be had for less. Then again, so can the regular, less powerful DB11 Volante which, to us, is a better buy.
The level of standard equipment is high, from usability features such as keyless entry and sports seats, to the dynamic appendages including carbon-ceramic brakes and 21in forged lightweight alloy wheels. Nevertheless, you can go crazy decking out your DBS Volante with a range of bespoke features, should you wish.
|RRP price range
|£280,160 - £280,160
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|21 - 21
|Available doors options
|3 years / No mileage cap
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£20,535 / £20,535
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£41,070 / £41,070