First Drive: Aston Martin DB11 Volante

19th February 2018
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

It snowed on the Cote d’Azure last week. Lots. At the top of a mountain pass, where the road mercifully flattened, three Aston Martin DB11 Volantes pulled gingerly into a lay-by covered in snow for an emergency discussion. Continue along the pass and hope we had reached the peak, or turn back to the hotel, and face the descent back through icy hairpins with a vertiginous drop on one side.


This was not the planned weather for the launch of the DB11 droptop: cold February air was expected, but not cloudbursts of heavy snow. We weren’t even sent out on winter tyres (the following groups were… wimps.).

We continued on the picturesque route, and as the road thankfully dropped towards the coast, the snow cleared and tarmac appeared. We even managed to get the roof down.

With some real pace thundering through the rear tyres and the powertrain in Sport Plus mode, it became blatantly obvious that the DB11 Volante is not a boulevard cruiser; not, at all, the “softer”, lifestyle option. It is the most potent convertible sports car – or grand tourer if you like, although that also belies the razor-sharp dynamics of this car – I’ve driven, with no noticeable compromises in the pursuit of that fabric roof and the wind in your face. 

When the DB11 V12 coupe was launched to the world as the leading car in CEO Andy Palmer’s Second Century Plan, it was heralded by Palmer himself as the most dynamic car Aston had ever launched, setting new standards for the badge. It lived up to the billing, combining incredible good looks with innovative aerodynamics, new engines and a new chassis. Then along came the V8 derivative, with customer feedback taken on board about the clashing interior materials, lack of branding on the boot and other details. And now the Volante, available only with the V8 engine, with deliveries beginning in time for the spring sunshine.


The first thing you notice is how seamlessly the fabric roof blends into the overarching silhouette of the car. There was the usual debate about the best balance of sound-deadening layers in the roof versus a thin, elegant fabric cover. Design, it seems, won out, and the result is the most shallow “stack height” as the folded fabric roof is described, in the industry. The rear windscreen sits flush with the fabric, which in turn sits flush with the car. It’s a very stylish, minimalist design. 

Naturally, the Volante has undergone some structural stiffening to counteract the loss of a metal roof. Overall the car is 110kg heavier than the V8 coupe, but the same weight as the V12 coupe. It is roughly two thirds as stiff as the coupe version, with strengthened sills, and stiffer suspension points, but still an isolated rear subframe for better handling.

Start the raucous engine, push the little button by the centre storage space to lower the roof, and it glides back almost silently, in 14 seconds and at car speeds of up to 30mph. With the portable wind deflector up, the cabin is impressively composed and the front passengers are almost completely protected from the wind.


The back is no place for adults but, for the first time in an Aston convertible, there are IsoFix mountings for the two rear seats. It will still be a squeeze for legroom, especially as little legs tend to stick straight out from booster seats, but now there is at least the option to take your precious cargo somewhere. The boot, we were assured, has enough room for two golf bags, with a couple of the clubs out, or four flight bags. When the roof is up, you can push the lined separator up into the boot ceiling to create space.

This is still a mighty quick, very powerful car on the go, with enough shunt in normal GT mode for serious overtaking. Press the Sport steering-wheel button once, or twice for Sport Plus, and, with the roof down, you can hear the full opera from the exhausts, popping on the lift-offs and growling on the way up the rev range. Sport mode also stiffens the steering, however, which seems unnecessary and not that pleasant, especially as the Volante’s steering is already sharper on initial turn-in than that of the coupe.

The other downside, although a totally subjective one, remains, in our eyes, the interior design, which is so at odds in its busy clash of patterns, shapes and materials with the calm, clean exterior styling. Still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And what we can’t find fault with is the way this car continues to drive, whether in V12, V8 or Volante form. It is a stunning incarnation of Aston’s future that sets an ambitious benchmark for the company’s performance going forward.

  • Aston Martin

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  • DB11 Volante

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