THE 2012 ASTON MARTIN DBS VOLANTE CONVERTIBLE REVIEW
Full Review by Andy: The Story of the DBS Volante
A car is more than the sum of its sheet metal and cylinders. It is a living story, an embodiment of human vision and effort. For 800 words or so, this review will bypass the fact that the Aston Martin DBS Volante is beautifully and wildly impractical and will instead merely revel in its story.
Aston Martin has long been synonymous with opulence. The first car ever to bear an Aston Martin moniker was a modified Isotta-Fraschini, an Italian luxury vehicle. Ninety-nine years after its founders first affixed names, Aston Martin continues to produce some of the world’s most stunning vehicles. The DBS Volante was unveiled at the 2009 Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California, a world-famous venue for classic and modern luxury cars. Its dramatic good looks stunned viewers everywhere. Poised like a leopard preparing to pounce, feline muscles rippling over its svelte body, the DBS Volante melds elite Aston Martin style with care-free, top-down liberty, courtesy of a power-retractable soft-top enclosed under a hard tonneau cover that closes in 14 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph.
(See 80+ images of the 2012 DBS Volante Convertible.)
However, good looks are not synonymous with good engineering. Fifty years of Detroit muscle proves it. Yet Aston Martin takes its manufacturing as seriously as its design. In recent years, Aston Martin models have seen success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours Nurburgring, two grueling endurance races only finished, let alone won, by vehicles with impeccable science underneath their sheet metal – or, in the case of most of the DBS, carbon fiber. Beneath the hood’s carbon fiber splitter, arranged in a front mid-mounted position, is a booming 5.9-liter 510-horsepower V12 monster that sings out a sonorous song through the dual rear exhaust pipes. It is a piece of beautiful engineering, despite its lackluster fuel economy below that of a Chevy Express large van.
Aston Martin went to great lengths to strip weight from the DBS Volante. Using VH architecture, the modular chassis uses high-strength aluminum and aerospace bonding techniques to make the structure light and rigid, keeping 85 percent of the weight in between the wheelbase to improve handling. The standard carbon ceramic brakes are not only virtually fade-free but also shave 28 pounds off the unsprung weight of a DB9, the DBS grand touring sibling. Despite the mechanical legerdemain, the DBS Volante still tips the scales at a massive 3,990 pounds – probably due to the six hundred animal hides strewn inside. However, the V12 engine hauls all two tons to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds towards an unlimited top speed of 190 mph. Drivers can use either a crisp six-speed H-box or a slick-shifting Touchtronic automatic with downshift rev matching. At the touch of a button or two, thanks to a double-wishbone suspension with five-mode adaptive damping, the DBS Volante instantly transforms from an English grand tourer into a rabid, roaring beast.
The DBS Volante is built at Gaydon, Warwickshire, England at Aston Martin’s headquarters. Along with every other Aston vehicle except the One-77, the DBS convertible is fashioned by one of three production lines, a process that minimizes disparity of construction. Master craftsmen hand-built the vehicle with state-of-the-art tools. This process balloons Aston’s operating costs, but it endows each vehicle with the spirit of each master craftsman. Throughout the cabin of the DBS Volante are strewn traces of patience, love and effort given by its makers. Real stitching sows together the unsoiled full-grain leather upholstery and trim, accented by piano-black finish and carbon fiber trim for an athletic appearance. The cabin is not particularly functional or large, as the tiny two rear seats are best left to kids and cargo, but it is a masterpiece of hand-built craftsmanship.
For nearly $300,000, most readers envision a vehicle chock-full of the latest gadgets, a sort of gizmo-ridden super-mobile that James Bond might drive, but that is not the Aston way. The DBS Volante has luxury, but is not quite lavish. It does not have a blind-spot or lane departure warning system because Aston Martin expects drivers to drive themselves. Front and rear parking sensors are small concessions to human fallibility. Rather, the DBS Volante is equipped with the best of what it has. Bang & Olufsen developed a custom 1000-watt 13-speaker sound system with USB/iPod/auxiliary audio input and a variety of auditory perks. It also has Bluetooth, an HDD navigation system, power and heated front seats, a glass key, special pen holder, and boot-mounted umbrella.
Viva la 2012 Aston Martin DBS Volante.
Engine: 5.9-liter V12: 510 hp @6,500 rpm/420 lb-ft of torque @5,750 rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, six-speed shiftable automatic
Fuel Economy: 11/17 mpg
0-60 mph: 4.3 seconds
Base MSRP: $290,461
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