|First Drive: 2010 Aston Martin DBS Volante, Automobile, October, 2009|
The Aston Martin DBS Volante takes 200 hours to hand build, 50 hours to paint, and fourteen seconds to transform from fabric-roofed soft top to open air roadster. Second in Aston's lineup only to the $1.7 million One-77, the DBS Volante is the feeling man's convertible, a sensual but muscular specimen for those who consider the 911 Turbo cab too brutish, the Ferrari F430 too brash.
Aston Martin engineers assert they weren't afraid of a little NVH when translating from coupé to convertible, so the rear subframe is solidly bolted to the extruded aluminum chassis. Thus, this rolling assemblage of magnesium and carbon fiber addresses the road crisply, as we confirmed during a blast through bendy Cotswolds backroads. Eighty-five percent of its mass rests between its two axles, enabling quick rotationóbut the car's largish dimensions still make it less tossable than the V8 Vantage.
The cabin is a finely modulated soundscape of V12 hum, barely perceptible wind noise, and 1,000 watts of Bang & Olufsen audio utilizing a mic'd feedback loop to adjust equalization with speed. In Blighty, the Volante's supple, old world interior feels married to the ivy covered stonework blurring byóbut is it too precious for the urban American jungle? Stiffening the shocks via pushbutton offers one answer, as the adaptive suspension becomes more commensurate in spirit to the 6.0 liter, 48-valve, 510 hp powerplant under hood.
Most DBS Volantes will come equipped with a clutchless Touchtronic 2 transmission, but we tested the manual. Rowing the cool-to-the-touch metal shifter gives the DBS a more manly edge, especially in contrast to those exquisite interior surfaces. Clutch take-up is a bit abrupt and throttle response rather sharp for a 12-cylinder, but once at speed this 3,990 lb sled whooshes forward with silky certainty. Also seductive is the expressive tonality of the exhaust note; punch it past 4,000 rpm, and hum morphs to snarl, pushing hard until the abrupt, 7,000 rpm rev limiter.
Certainly not for everyone, the gentlemanly DBS Volante is a stately open-air grand tourer in the waning segment of elegant lines and excessive horsepower.