Aston Martin DB11 Volante Review
Paul Horrell’s 2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety verdict and score.
IN A NUTSHELL So visually gorgeous it’ll make you swoon, great to drive, devilish fast. But the devil extracts his price: it’s bulky, cramped and expensive – likely half a million with options
2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante
Price $398,465+ORC Engine 4.0l twin-turbo V8 petrol Power 375kW at 6000rpm Torque 675Nm at 2000-5000rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive rear-wheel drive Body 4750mm (l) 1950mm (w exc mirrors) 2060mm (w inc mirrors) 1300mm (h) Turning circle N/A Towing weight NA Kerb weight 1870kg Seats 2+2 Fuel tank 78 litres Spare No Thirst 10.0 l/100km combined cycle Fuel Petrol
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THE VOLANTE IS the convertible-top version of the already sexy Aston DB11. So it’s a long, arrow-shaped glam-mobile, on the sports-car side of the GT spectrum. The bodywork and structure is aluminium but it’s still not light, because there’s so much luxury and power squeezed in. Up front is a bombastic twin-turbo V8 that Aston buys from Mercedes-AMG. (The home-brewed and magnificent V12 from the Coupe isn’t available in the Volante for a while.) There are other Mercedes bits too, including the infotainment system and a set of pop-up rollover safety bars.
What’s the interior like?
All quilted leather. If you choose it, that’s quilted leather in lurid colours, with contrasting areas of other lurid colours. And suede. Accessorised with polished metal. Spec a DB11 badly (or well if that’s you taste), and you feel like a purse inside an expensive handbag.
But if chosen tastefully, it’s actually gorgeous, exuding a sense of luxury and hand-done craftsmanship. Aston Martin has an exclusive design of perforations like the holes on a brogue shoe. You can also spec the backs of the front seats in matt wood veneer – far nicer than it sounds. The head-restraint pads appear to hover in front of the seats themselves.
The digital instrument panel is less successful. The graphics are too close to cheap computer games, and clash with the leathery ambience. It’s pretty hard, too, to integrate a central display screen into these shapes. So Aston sensibly didn’t try and just plonked it on the dash top where it is at least clearly visible.
That infotainment is a Mercedes unit, and there’s been no attempt to hide its origin – the visuals and controller wheel system are straight out of a C-Class. So the graphics are clear and the menus make sense. Mind you it’s not Merc’s latest or most comprehensive system, so beyond live traffic it’s limited. No CarPlay or Android Auto, no other connected apps.
Oh come to think of it one part of the infotainment is Aston’s own. The volume is adjusted by a unique touch-sensitive slider that turns out to be peculiarly frustrating and fiddly.
The seats adjust electrically but their narrow, curved backrest might roll your shoulders forward uncomfortably. Important if you want to use your roadster on a chilly day is that they’re heated, and that there’s little high-speed turbulence when all four windows are up, and especially when the wind-block net is in place.
The powered roof drops without your even touching any latches. Raising is just as easy, in 16 sec, and it’ll still proceed even if you’re driving at up to 50km/h.
Roof up, there’s little wind noise, and visibility is OK too. Makes you wonder why you’d buy the Coupe really. Maybe when you’ve spent such big dollar on the car, there’s little left for sun lotion or a hat.
The boot has a folding divider. When the roof is down the divider eats up space because the roof fabric drops into that compartment. But roof-up you can pop the divider against the top of the boot and gain extra volume. It’s only 206 litres at the best of times though.
A comical piece of over-engineering is the central armrest. Underneath the driver’s elbow is a space that’ll store little more than a few choc bars (which will melt) and a phone. It’s covered by a leather pad that’s driven backward and forward by an electric motor. Which takes such an age that you long for a simple upward hinge – as used by all other cars for good reason.
What’s it like on the road?
Right, time to press that starter button and fire up the twin-turbo V8. It’s exhaust isn’t too anti-social yet; you can keep good terms with your neighbours.
But there’s a button you can press that makes it louder. A serious, resonant howl, all the way to 7200rpm. That’s the powertrain mode button, which also sharpens up the initial throttle pedal travel, and makes the auto shift map keener to let the engine rev higher. In any mode this is a magically crisp engine: turbo lag is almost entirely banished.
Uncork its full epic muscle and you can shock-wave from zero to 100 in 4.1 sec. It’s seriously fast, but maybe not quite as rabidly accelerative as some 375kW cars, because it weighs a well-fed 1870kg.
The engine has a pretty wide working rev band, so it shouldn’t be too hard for the transmission to keep things percolating along nicely. Sure enough it does, and it shifts smoothly too. It also responds promptly to the manual shift paddles.
Such a responsive and predictable powertrain is a superb ally in corners, because you can control your speed – and hence pitch and g-load – so finely. Plus the chassis itself is confident, steering progressively and staying well-damped and level. It feels like you can trust it, and place the car accurately in bends. Just as well, given its bulky girth.
Anyway, allow it your trust and it shows itself grippy and well-balanced. But don’t idly mash out the full power too early at the apex – the back tyres can’t do the whole job without a bit of sympathy from you. You’ll get a flashing of the traction-control light and a cough from the engine, but not before the rear has done a little outward skip. Which is fun if you’re ready for it.
Just as there’s a button for powertrain modes, there’s another for suspension. My test was on fairly bumpy, slippery roads so I was glad of the extra traction from relatively soft dampers, and the protection of full ESP. So I used the ‘GT’ mode. ‘Sport’ and ‘sport +’ are programmed to stiffen the dampers and loosen the stability systems.
Anyway, use the comfort mode and this is a surprisingly smooth-riding machine at town or highway speeds. Only real drawback for reasonably relaxed long-distance travel is the tyre noise.
What about safety features?
It’s a big, rigid bodyshell, made strong enough to handle all that power without bending. So it should be OK in a crash. But unsurprisingly the testing bodies haven’t bought one to check that theory out. Aston has done a thorough job of restraints: there are front airbags, a driver knee airbag, door airbags and also bags in the seats for protecting the pelvis and thorax. Roll hoops pop up from behind the rear seats if the car capsizes.
The brakes are great – vast 400mm platters at the front with six-piston calipers. Long-distance driver support is disappointing. Given how hard it is to hold this things down to 100km/h, the absence of adaptive cruise control is a bit of an annoyance. Lane departure warning is also absent. LED headlamps are standard though, as is a set of 360-degree parking cameras, and blind-spot warning.
So, what do we think?
How can we resist? OK it’s hard to think of a minicar with less boot and rear-seat room, and it drinks crazily, which slightly undermines the idea it’s a ‘grand tourer’ because you need to keep stopping. But it’s just so crazy beautiful, and properly fun to drive that you’d park the kids with a babysitter and just take off to the mountains.