2010 Aston Martin DBS Volante: First Drive

A drop-top without the drawbacks

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2010 Aston Martin DBS Volante: First Drive
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The best thing about the DBS Volante is that, top down, you can more thoroughly appreciate the sound of Aston’s viciously powerful V12 engine.

FAST FACTS

1. The DBS Volante is powered by a 5.9L V12 engine with 510hp and 420 ft-lbs of torque.

2. It is capable of hitting 62 mph in 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 191 mph.

3. The soft top folds away in just 14 seconds under a rear tonneau cover and can be operated at speeds up to 30 mph.

No, wait… maybe the best thing about the drop-top DBS is how good it looks and the envious stares you’ll get driving it.

I’m not talking about the stares of sixth grade boys or of 20 somethings of the fairer sex – even if that is nice too. I’m taking about envious glances from your peers; the folks who perhaps can or just can’t afford such a masterful piece of automotive art.

Thanks to Aston Martin, I had just such the opportunity recently.

TAKING TO THE TWISTIES

Pulling out of the Bernardus Lodge in Carmel, CA the day prior to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Eegance, I made a right onto the steeply graded and twisting Laureles Grade Rd. Gingerly at first I eased on the throttle and then began to push the car. But I’m not alone.

While Aston Martin chose Bernardus to set up a home base for a few days, Ferrari is just down the street at a winery and Porsche is at a nearby golf course. And all three automakers are instructing their test drivers to the same stretch of twisty asphalt that I’m on.

A rotund-looking Porsche Panamera waddles past in the hands of some less than enthusiastic driver, followed close behind by a dark-haired gentleman who, like myself, is enjoying the sunshine. His ride, however, is a spanking new Ferrari California, a possible competitor for the DBS, were it not for the Aston’s significantly more ridiculous price tag.

Then I notice it. He’s staring. Yup, the guy in the Ferrari is staring at my car. There are few, very few, automobiles money can buy that will elicit that reaction.

And why wouldn’t he stare. The DBS Volante is as stunning a piece of carbon fiber and hand-crafted aluminum as there is.

Not wanting to waste the experience, I roll on the throttle and as the big V12 hits the magic 4000 rpm mark the two big pipes out back hit full song, leaving that Ferrari owner (as well as anyone for a few miles) with a lasting impression.

BIG V12 PUMPS OUT 510 HORSEPOWER

And while he’s thinking about what four-more cylinders might make his Ferrari sound like, I’m racing down the steep hills and powering out of corners. With the same output as the coupe model, there’s 510hp and 420 ft-lbs of torque on tap. Aston says that’s enough to move the DBS Volante to 62 mph in just 4.3seconds, just a tenth of a second slower than the hard-top. It’s easy to believe. Normally convertible versions end up being a lot heavier than the coupe model and the added weigh is tangible – not here. The power is so abundant that it feels equally as fast.

LIGHT ON ITS TOES

Much of this has to do with Aston’s decision to go with the soft top, over the hard top convertible. The rest has to do with the engineering that went into making the DBS such a light weight car to begin with.

By using a fabric roof and requiring the usual structural reinforcements that come with a convertible, weight has been kept to a minimum with just 250 lbs being added for a total curb weight of 3,990 lbs. That might not sound overly unsubstantial, but for a grand touring exotic like this it certainly is. In fact, it’s 155 lbs less than a BMW M3 Convertible, and almost 500 less than a Mercedes SL63.

From the start, Aston designed the DBS to be light with several carbon fiber body panels, including the hood, trunk and front splitter. In fact, just popping the hood to snap a few photos of the engine, it’s amazing the thing doesn’t just blow off at speed. It weights almost nothing.

Other light-weight components include a carbon fiber driveshaft to deliver power to the rear wheels, as well as standard carbon ceramic brakes. Dropping 26 lbs in one of the most crucial areas, the brakes also perform on a world-class level when up to temperature, which, while not normally possible (or recommended) on the open road, I might just have achieved during repeated downhill portions of my test.

With massive disks and six-piston calipers up front the car’s added weight doesn’t show when stopping. And despite a 25 percent reduction in the overall rigidity of the chassis, I didn’t notice any bending or twisting either.

Surrounding those brakes on my tester was a set of optional ten-spoke 20-inch forged aluminum wheels that reduce the already sprightly curb weight by 17.6 lbs.

TRANSMISSON, SUSPENSION AND TRACTION CONTROL ALL GET SPORT MODES

Rather than a six-speed manual, which I’ve had the pleasure to test previously on a DBS coupe, my test car came with Aston’s Touchtronic six-speed automatic gearbox – as I suspect most Volantes ordered will. Using the paddles, gearshifts are quick but not exactly lightening fast. This is a manumatic system after all, and not like the F1-style box found in the V8 Vantage or a dual-clutch setup.

The car can be driven in full automatic mode or shifted with the paddles. Additionally, a sport button at the bottom of the center stack engages more aggressive gearshifts at higher rpm, with heightened throttle response. It even adds a few extra rpm to the throttle-blip downshifts.

One drawback to Aston’s system is the dash-mounted setup for the transmission buttons. It certainly looks nice with the P, R, N and D on the dash right near the ignition port for the crystal key fob, but when it comes to making a three point turn or even just reversing it’s a bit tedious, as the buttons require a bit of a stretch to reach.

Two other oh-so important buttons found in the cockpit are for the suspension and traction control systems. The DBS comes equipped with an active damping suspension that constantly adjusts the car’s setup based on throttle position, brake position, steering angle and overall speed. There are five built in settings to help deliver the most dynamic or comfortable ride quality (based on the driving style), or just hit the little shock button and engage the Track setup.

There’s also a track setting for the stability control system, which is easily engaged with a two second push of a button. This lets the car slip and slide a little, but will keep you for overdoing it. It can also be turned completely off, which is best left for the track and not mountain passes filled with Ferraris.

RELATIVELY BLAND INTERIOR – MATTE CARBON FIBER ASIDE

Generally I was a little disappointed by the interior of my test car, especially when you consider the asking price. Sure there’s gobs of leather and stitching on the dash, but the Vantage Roadster I drove a few months back had that and it costs half as much. Perhaps I was spoiled when the DBS coupe I drove had burgundy Alcantara – a material that looks infinitely more luxurious than leather. The matte-finished carbon fiber door trim is an impressive touch, but I wonder if it’s impact was lost due to the all-black interior. The piano black center stack is also standard Aston, as are most of the buttons, like the climate control and audio knobs that may very well be aluminum, even though they feel like plastic. The steering wheel is also rather dull and I’ve never been a fan of the reverse reading gauges. My final gripe with the interior is that the digital readout that tells you what gear you’re in is far too small.

In terms of audio, the DBS Volante does come with a first rate 13-speaker Bang & Olufsen setup standard, although in my brief time behind the wheel I was more interested in the sound of the V12 engine.

As for the exterior of the car, you can’t help but love it. Aston says the design of the original coupe was done with a convertible version in mind. It shows.

Top down, the car looks about as perfect as any car can be and dropping the top takes just 14 seconds. The ragtop stows under a rear tonneau cover that has been designed to accentuate the car’s rear haunches. What you won’t find are roll bars. Instead, Aston engineers opted for a hidden Roll-Over-Protection-System (ROPS) that deploys when necessary.

THE VERDICT

It’s impossible not to love the DBS Volante. The car’s design is breathtakingly beautiful, both artistically and hormonally. It has gobs of power with a sound to match.

The drop-top DBS is opulently luxurious and yet a serious performance machine, and while you’d never think of taking it on the track, if you did, it has the goods to deliver.

In the automotive industry, there’s a widely accepted rule that when you build a convertible out of a coupe you sacrifice much of what made the coupe so good in the first place. The DBS Volante is the exception to that rule.

LOVE IT
  • Intoxicating exhaust note
  • Stunning design
  • No real performance loss on drop-top
LEAVE IT
  • Annoying backwards gauges
  • Tiny gear indicator
  • No dual-clutch of F1-style transmission offered

Related Reading:

2009 Aston Martin DBS
2009 Aston Martin DB9 Volante Review

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