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What - Aston Martin DBS Volante
Where - Warwickshire, UK
Date - November 2009
Price - £175,681-£178,617
Available - Now
Key rivals - Ferrari California, Mercedes SL65 AMG, Bentley Continental GTC Speed
Gallery: Aston Martin DBS Volante
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Soft-top Volante version lets you enjoy all the fun of Aston's hardcore DB9-based DBS with the wind in your hair
We like - Epic engine, beautiful looks, bespoke feel, ride, steering feel, plays the refined cruiser and extrovert supercar with equal aplomb
We don't like - Bodykit possibly a bit lairy, auto option dulls the excitement, more manic DBS engine less suited to the heavier cabrio, tiny boot, the price
The 'Power, Beauty, Soul' that flashes across the instruments when you fire up the £175K Aston Martin DBS Volante is, admittedly, a bit cheesy. After all, it's not like you need reminding of this.
Because if there's one thing an Aston Martin has in abundance it's character. Astons have always been a bit special, up there with Ferrari in terms of heritage and emotional appeal yet as British as James Bond, the quintessential Aston man.
And this new soft-top version of the DBS does everything in its power to tug at your heartstrings. Equally gorgeous inside and out, it's blessed with one of the great engines too.
Based on the DB9 but tougher, faster and louder in both voice and styling, the Volante version of the DBS has 510hp at its disposal, the better for chasing down Ferraris, Bentleys and Mercs.
A traditional fabric roof has meant no compromise in style too, especially compared to the contortions Ferrari has contrived on the California to accommodate a folding metal hardtop.
The Aston is a real beauty, but underpins this with real high tech. The chassis is made of bonded aluminium while DBS spec adds carbon fibre wings, bonnet and boot lid with the patented 'surface veil' to ensure a smooth paint finish.
Based on the same 6.0-litre V12 used in the DB9, in DBS spec power climbs from 470hp to 510hp. Interestingly torque is actually down, at 420lb ft from the DB9's 443lb ft.
This underlines the DBS's more racy nature, the engine tuned for high-rev horsepower rather than cruisey low-end pulling torque. And you need to get a few revs on the dial to really unleash its best.
Given the noise it makes when the exhaust valve opens at 4,000rpm this is no hardship though, this significant shift in character more enjoyable than ever with the roof down.
The optional Touchtronic automatic gearbox is smooth and effective too with a pleasingly punchy paddle shift override. But it's nice to see Aston still offers a manual option for those craving more involvement.
The lighter California's sub four-second 0-62mph sprint and 193mph top speed beat the Aston's 4.3 seconds and 191mph but not by much. Both lack the punch of the Bentley Continental GTC and Mercedes SL65 AMG though.
But in comparison with the normally aspirated Aston engine the turbocharged V12s in the Merc and Bentley are crude blunderbusses - all shock and awe. To continue the analogy, the DBS is more elegant, hand-crafted Holland & Holland shotgun.
Ride and handling
Though light on its feet there's a maturity and weightiness to the Aston's controls underlining the DBS Volante's position at the top of the range, at least until the One-77 arrives.
Like the Ferrari California and forthcoming Mercedes SLS roadster - another likely rival to the Volante version of the DBS - the Aston Martin has a front-mid-mounted engine and gearbox in the rear for improved weight distribution.
And though it's a big car its weight is kept within the wheelbase, making it feel more nimble and predictable than you'd expect. It also rides with real poise and comfort, with only a hint of cabrio shimmy on bumpy roads.
The Adaptive Damping System offers an additional, firmer setting Aston Martin says is "ideal for circuit driving", though it's doubtful any DBS Volante owners will be exploring this ability and it's best left alone on the road.
Modern Aston Martin cabins really are in a different league, owing more to top-end hi-fi design than conventional car interiors. A theme reflected by the exclusive Bang & Olufsen BeoSound stereo, complete with funky pop-up speakers.
These even automatically compensate for the additional wind noise when the roof is down, carbon fibre door fittings and even a lightweight weave to the carpets typical of the theme of weight saving with no compromise in luxury.
Lowering the roof lets you show off this fabulous interior to everyone too. Only the rather cheesy embroidered DBS logos on the seats impact on the otherwise classy tone, though you can of course tailor the trim to taste.
The Thinsulate-lined hood is cosy and, bar a bit of tyre roar, offers great refinement. And when the sun comes out it disappears in just 14 seconds at speeds up to 30mph. It does eat into boot space though.
Economy and safety
We'll gloss over economy because if you're in the market for a 500hp-plus cabrio it's unlikely to feature high on your list of concerns. But what about safety?
Well, ceramic brakes are standard and, once woken, offer massive, easily modulated stopping power. The stability control is kept busy in the wet too but, should the worst happen, pop-up roll hoops deploy from the rear deck.
MSN Cars verdict
If you're after an open top Aston you could argue the standard DB9's character fits the Volante mould better, the hardcore DBS accoutrements ultimately more suited to the more focused coupe. But we're splitting hairs.
Even with the more aggressive styling the DBS Volante has class, style and character the Ferrari California can't touch. Its sky-high price ensures exclusivity too, the DBS Volante reserved for those for whom only the best will do.
More images of the Aston Martin DBS Volante from Bing
More Aston Martin road tests
|Need to know|
|Engine - petrol||6.0-litre V12|
|Engine - diesel||N/A|
|Torque (lb ft)||420|
|Top speed (mph)||191|
|Rating||Aston Martin DBS Volante Touchtronic|
|Ride and handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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