Soft-top ver­sion of the fantastic sports GT

As­ton’s strik­ing new con­vert­ible grand tourer is armed with a Mercedes-sourced 503bhp twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 en­gine On sale Now Price from £159,900

What Car? - - Contents - John How­ell­[email protected]­mar­

IN 1885, A man named Elias J Bald­win en­tered a horse in the Amer­i­can Derby, which this horse duly won. Well, it would, be­cause old Elias’s nick­name was Lucky, on ac­count of his ex­traor­di­nar­ily good for­tune in busi­ness. And how is this rel­e­vant, ex­actly?

The par­al­lel is that the horse was called Volante, as is this new As­ton Martin con­vert­ible, which Andy Palmer, As­ton’s CEO, no doubt hopes will bring a slice of Lucky’s pros­per­ity As­ton’s way.

Af­ter all, Palmer’s stated mis­sion is to build As­ton into a vi­able, profit-mak­ing busi­ness. So far, he’s done rather well, but a smash-hit £159,900 con­vert­ible would prove a wel­come boost to the com­pany’s bot­tom line. But is it bet­ter than the Mercedes-benz S-class Cabri­o­let?

There’s a rule of thumb that says con­vert­ibles are not as good as the coupés on which they’re based. The rea­son? Chop­ping off a roof cre­ates weak­ness, so brac­ing is needed to stiffen things up, thus adding weight. Weight is bad; it blunts the per­for­mance, ride and han­dling. And the DB11 Volante is 110kg heav­ier than the DB11 coupé and still not as rigid. Yet it hides these flaws well.

For a start, per­for­mance is stu­pen­dous. Its won­der­ful Mercedes-amg-sourced, twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 (there’ll be no V12 Volante) re­sponds with barely any lag and pulls like a Shire horse from low revs. Yet it still gal­lops en­thu­si­as­ti­cally around to its red­line and sounds grand with it.

Although it’s firmer than the S-class, it’s still com­pli­ant, so with the stan­dard switch­able dampers in Com­fort mode it’ll ease you smoothly over all but the most rut­ted roads.

And while the Volante is not as nim­ble as the coupé, it’s not far off, and it’s more re­ward­ing than the S-class. In fact, switch the dampers to Sport and the DB11 dis­plays re­as­sur­ing grip and con­sum­mate com­po­sure as it flows along a moun­tain pass. Just don’t treat the ac­cel­er­a­tor like an on-off switch out of cor­ners; be­ing quick and rear-wheel drive, it de­mands re­spect.

Where do the DB11 Volante’s faults lie? Well, the eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box can be slow-wit­ted when the steer­ing wheel pad­dles are used. The grabby brakes are irk­some – they make it hard to drive smoothly in traf­fic – and so, too, is the rum­ble of road noise on the mo­tor­way. That’s with the roof up; drop it – this can be done in 14 sec­onds at speeds of up to 31mph – and it’s pleas­antly blus­ter-free. Vis­i­bil­ity out of the tiny rear screen isn’t great, ei­ther, so the stan­dard rear park­ing sen­sors and rear-view cam­era are wel­come.

The Volante is more in­ti­mate and sport­ing in­side than the S-class Cabri­o­let and there’s enough room up front for taller adults. It’s the rear that’s tight; de­spite As­ton’s claim of more space than the out­go­ing DB9 Volante, those back seats are diminu­tive.

Even with the roof up to cre­ate more space, the boot only swal­lows two carry-on suit­cases and two soft bags.

So where does that leave us? This is a mar­ket that’s about to get in­ter­est­ing; the new Fer­rari Portofino is due soon, while an all­new Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT Con­vert­ible is also im­mi­nent. But, right now, you have a sim­ple choice: for space, com­fort and lux­ury, it has to be the S-class, but for pure ex­cite­ment and driv­ing plea­sure, buy the DB11 Volante.

DB11 Volante has some rear seats, but they’re cramped

Drop-top weighs 110kg more than the equiv­a­lent coupé

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