Aston Martin launched the DB11 coupe just over two years ago, and with it ambitious plans to breathe new life into a renowned marque with a legacy that dates back more than a century. The V8 variant followed the V12 a year later, offering Mercedes-AMG’s 4.0-liter, twin turbocharged engine, along with a slightly more accessible price point.
While the V12 model continues Aston Martin’s long-standing affair with sonorous mills, the V8 coupe surprised many, not only because of its copious grunt but also the handling improvements that came along with the lighter powerplant. We preferred it to the V12 model, a conclusion that proves that there is, in fact, a replacement for displacement.
That sentiment hasn’t been lost on Aston Martin, as the DB11 Volante debuts exclusively with that V8 under that hood, as well as a few new surprises. Starting at $216,495 and ringing up $225,549 as tested (with gas guzzler tax and destination), the DB11’s competitive set includes GT convertibles like the Bentley Continental GTC and Ferrari Portofino, the latter of which offers more horsepower and the convenience of a foldable hard top. Does the DB11 Volante hold its own among such storied company? We spent a glorious Labor Day weekend with Aston’s latest grand touring ragtop to find out.
More than just a chopped top
As the opening volley in Aston Martin’s new design language, the DB11 coupe set the aesthetic bar high. Achingly beautiful without ever flirting with garishness, it was a proper, modernized follow-up to the aging DB9 that didn’t betray the core GT philosophy of the outgoing model.
Transforming that striking shape from a sleek coupe into an equally compelling drop-top was a task fraught with potential perils, so Aston Martin sweated the details.
The rear haunches, for instance, see the character line moved 0.4 inches higher over the wheel opening to allow for the section that hides the top and its mechanicals to seamlessly blend with the rest of the bodywork. If Mother Nature decides to be less than cooperative, the top can be deployed in 16 seconds at speeds up to 31 miles per hour. Subjected to more than 100,000 cycles in special weather chambers designed to simulate conditions in the world’s harshest environments, the new eight-layer roof is designed to comprehensively insulate the DB11’s occupants from the elements.
You’ll want to spend most of your time with the top down, of course, because the Volante lives for sunny days.
While summer in Los Angeles is temperate, we did note that the top operates quickly and in near-silence. Once its up, wind noise is nearly on par with a typical luxury coupe, while headroom remains ample. Rear visibility takes a serious hit however, as the rear glass is surprisingly small and creates significant blind spots.
You’ll want to spend most of your time with the top down, of course, because the Volante lives for sunny days. With top stowed away, it gains a 20 percent increase in cargo volume versus the DB9 Volante, while providing a head-turning silhouette. Those compelling looks do come with a caveat, however. The ragtop variant of the DB11 gains 242 pounds versus its coupe counterpart, due in large part to chassis reinforcements added to compensate for the structural rigidity lost with the roof. That shifts some of the car’s mass rearward, resulting in a 47/53 weight distribution front to back.
To compensate, Aston Martin turned its attention to the suspension, swapping out the coupe’s rear sway bar and springs for slightly more aggressive pieces to counteract the additional heft. Such a change always risks upsetting ride quality, but found little to complain about as the Volante cruised down the tarmac.
Interior and tech
As you’d expect, the interior of the DB11 Volante is awash in premium materials. With the top down our tester’s chestnut brown leather appointments were on full display, allowing us to really soak in the details; the jewel-like ignition button, the aluminum shift paddles, and the large center-mounted electronic tachometer all bring a sense of occasion to the proceedings, while the supple hides and brushed metal accents are a constant reminder that you’re piloting something special.
As with the power plant under the hood, the interior shows obvious signs of the partnership that Aston Martin penned with Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG in 2013. Gone is the DB9’s AMI III infotainment system, and in its place is an iteration of Mercedes’ ubiquitous Command system.
While it provides a much-needed update for Aston Martin, the hardware is a generation behind what the MBUX software Mercedes-Benz is currently rolling out in its latest models, like the all-electric EQC. An infotainment system that lacks a touchscreen as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality seems out of place in a machine that commands this much coin, and Command’s convoluted interface doesn’t do it any favors.
There are other places where the tech shines, however. Hard buttons for the drive modes and suspension stiffness flank either side of the steering wheel, allowing the driver to change car’s character without ever taking his or her hands off the wheel, while the pair of configurable TFT displays in the gauge cluster keep relevant information accessible at a glance.
Behind the wheel, the Volante makes its grand touring intentions clear, but that doesn’t mean it lacks athleticism – quite the contrary, in fact. There’s no shortage of power on tap from the boosted 4.0-liter, providing plenty of mid-range torque and a subtly menacing V8 soundtrack, the latter of which was made possible by specially designed intake and exhaust systems that give the DB11 V8 a unique character compared to its AMG counterparts.
Set the drive mode to GT, put the suspension in its softest configuration, and the DB11 Volante is happy to dispatch a grueling low-speed commute or a long highway stretch at Autobahn-caliber speeds.
This ragtop is more about spirited jaunts through the Malibu Hills than it is about setting fast lap times on the Nurburgring.
Step up the drive mode ladder to Sport or Sport+, and the experience becomes more urgent as the eight-speed transmission snaps to attention and the exhaust valves open. We preferred to drive the car in these more aggressive settings due to the enhanced response from the drivetrain and the additional aural drama, but the GT mode will deliver greater efficiency and help maintain a lower profile if the situation calls for it.
The three-mode adjustable suspension is happy to stiffen up to corral body motions when you’re ready to tackle your favorite stretch of twisty tarmac, while big six-piston calipers and 15.7-inch rotors up front are at the ready should you need to scrub off some pace with haste. Still, the 4,100-pound machine is at its best when driven at seven or eight tenths of its capability. Even in the most aggressive suspension setting, the car will start to show its weight when pushed passed its comfort zone. While it’s a blessing at low speeds when traversing less-than-perfect pavement, the GT-focused suspension tuning becomes a detriment to confidence as you start to approach the performance limits.
Yes, the DB11 Volante can still be taken to the ragged edge if you want to go there, but this ragtop is clearly more about spirited jaunts through the Malibu Hills than it is about setting fast lap times on the Nurburgring. We think that’s ok. The Volante is luxurious and smooth enough to serve as a comfortable everyday cruiser, so the fact it won’t set a record hot lap at your local track isn’t a problem. That’s obviously not the reason this car exists.
Aston Martin provides a three-year, unlimited mileage bumper-to-bumper warranty as well as a ten-year, unlimited mileage corrosion warranty. The company also offers an extended warranty for up to seven additional years, also with unlimited mileage.
How DT would configure this car
While our tester looked positively dapper with magnetic silver paint with chestnut tan leather, we’d opt for a combination with a bit more visual drama, like diavolo red paint paired up with obsidian black leather.
Of course, we can’t forget about the Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system, or the optional touchpad infotainment controller, either.
The DB11 Volante is perhaps the most honest interpretation of Aston Martin’s approach to road car design – capable yet luxurious, sporty but not nervous. A car for those who enjoy the thrill of speed, but aren’t in a rush.
If you’re looking for more of an extroverted, performance-focused experience, the Ferrari Portofino might be a bit more your speed. But if you’re willing to forego the open roof, Aston Martin would also be happy to sell you a Vantage. Or if you’re simply looking for the ultimate grand touring coupe, the DB11-based DBS Superlegga will certainly deliver on that front.
But for those who like their drinks shaken rather than stirred, the DB11 Volante cuts a jaw-dropping figure while avoiding the pretense that’s often associated with other makes in its competitive set. Sometimes class speaks louder than lap times.