The DB11 in any of its forms is a car anyone would want to be seen in. Classically proportioned yet entirely modern, it moves Aston Martin forward without breaking too abruptly with its past. In creating the droptop Volante version, designers made sure not to mess too much with the coupe’s gorgeous silhouette. Despite a fair bit of reshaping of the rear haunches to accommodate the mechanism for the folding softtop, they’ve largely succeeded. The Volante maintains the long, low, athletic stance of the coupe, and, when raised, the eight-layer fabric roof itself suffers none of what one Aston designer calls the “soggy umbrella” look.
Rain Drop, Drop Top
Of course, you’d be crazy not to lower the top and enjoy the full Volante experience. Doing so takes 14 seconds (and 16 seconds to raise it) and can be done at speeds up to 31 mph. It’s in this state that the DB11 most purely expresses its ethos as a grand tourer for warm-weather locales. While many of today’s automakers have misconstrued the GT name as some sort of hard-core high-performance suffix, Aston allows its DB11 to be a true GT car in ye olde tradition, with a compliant ride, a comfortable interior, and an effortlessly robust but not brutal amount of power. The last comes courtesy of a version of a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 sourced from Mercedes-AMG, here producing 503 horsepower and 498 lb-ft of torque.
These pleasing qualities are all present in the hardtop DB11, too, and while it’s hard to assess the differences between it and the Volante without back-to-back drives, Aston’s efforts to bolster the roofless model’s structural rigidity seem to have paid off. We noticed nary a quiver, shake, or unseemly vibration during our time with the car, although we were driving on mostly pristine roads in the south of France. About 98 pounds of the Volante’s claimed 254-pound weight gain over the V-8 coupe are due to structural enhancements, and while the extra weight wasn’t specifically apparent, any DB11 can feel a bit large on narrow European roads. Nevertheless, we were impressed with the supple and pleasant ride quality, which displays no trace of harshness, even with the adaptive dampers in their stiffest setting.
Pick and Choose
Aston Martin organizes the DB11’s chassis modes separately from the powertrain settings, although both calibrations share three levels: GT, Sport, and Sport Plus. We appreciated the considerable personality shifts offered by these configurations. Set everything to GT mode and you get a relaxed cruiser that combines the aforementioned supple ride with somewhat languid throttle response, lazy downshifts from the eight-speed automatic transmission, and a pleasant, subdued exhaust note. Sport and Sport Plus chassis modes are hardly transformative, but they add increased heft to the accurate steering and a bit less compliance from the dampers. It’s the Sport and Sport Plus powertrain modes that really bring the car to life.
In these settings, the glorious twin-turbo V-8 wakes up, with more immediate response to throttle inputs, snappier shifts from the gearbox, and a truly thrilling soundtrack filled with characterful pops and crackles. The Volante is best enjoyed with the top down, the suspension left in the relaxed GT mode, the powertrain in its most aggressive Sport Plus mode, and a heavy foot on the right pedal. After all, being heard is a surefire way to ensure being seen.
With the top lowered, onlookers will be able to check out the DB11’s plush interior, which is much improved over Astons of yore. Partnering with Mercedes-Benz on its electronics has done Aston wonders for modernizing the cabin, as the COMAND-based infotainment system is eminently useable and the displays all appear crisp and clear. Even so, some fit-and-finish issues persist and there are elements of cheapness within. It seems worth it to shell out a bit extra for some of the more extreme leather colors and exotic materials, as the car we drove didn’t quite delight with its black upholstery and somewhat drab piano-black trim.
We’ve gotten this far without mentioning the 600-hp, twin-turbo V-12 that’s such a focal piece in top-level DB11 coupes, and that’s because the Volante does without that engine option. Ostensibly, the reasoning behind this decision has to do with the weight savings of the smaller and lighter V-8, although there are environmental considerations too, such as China’s influential displacement tax and certain CO2 regulations in Europe. This might seem a strange omission from a car whose mission statement is largely one of indulgence, but as we found in our first drive of the V-8 coupe—as well as tests of various Mercedes-AMG and -Benz models powered by this burly V-8—the Mercedes engine is special enough to provide a compelling alternative to the 12-cylinder with little to no sacrifice in performance.