Aston Martin DBS Volante -- Click above for high-res image gallery

When you love the performance of a particular coupe, it's not often that you get to hop in the convertible version and say to yourself, "So... you mean I can have the same thing with the top down?" But in between the tight and relentless esses of Monterey's Carmel Valley Road, that's what we found ourselves debating. What we settled on was this: While the handling envelope of the DBS coupe is excellent, the envelope of the DBS Volante is, well, excellent. Follow the jump for our thoughts.


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Photos copyright ©2009 Jonathon Ramsey, Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.

Aston's coupes tug at several of our senses – and thoroughly at that – in a way that isn't merely competent components living together, but as a living, breathing organism that speaks to you. The company's convertibles, though, will not be forgotten, primarily because they are exactly what we want in roofless motoring: everything from the coupe, without a top. It doesn't happen often, and especially not when it comes to performance cars.

Yet that is what all of the company's roadsters deliver – same performance, more sun. The DBS Volante doesn't veer from that assessment. However, we did find something new in the Aston script with this car. It was so good at what it did that we quickly forgot what we were driving, and didn't care to remember.



Allow us to explain: the DBS coupe is a hard-edged beast covered in aluminum and stitched leather. Put the top down on the DBS Volante, and you're gently cruising in a hard-edged beast covered in aluminum and stitched leather but with a cabin full of glorious sunlight. Nothing new there.

The DBS, though, isn't a beast that wants only to cruise. It wants to run. It loves to run. And when it runs, the back of it is alive with twin baritone squalls. In the DBS Volante, those V12 sirens aren't somewhere "back there," they're in the back seats, right behind your headrest, so close it's like they're trying to climb into the front seats to see where they're taking you. The noise from that 6.0-liter V12, which produces 510 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, is simply audacious.



And the chassis is just as good. Sail into a corner with high speed and extra gusto, the car will make sure you sail out the other end in the right direction. The car scrabbles just a hair when powering through unkindly surfaced corners, but that's more about the car itself than the lack of a top. It isn't perfect, but it is most excellent. The DBS Volante will shake and scuttle more from the Bang & Olufsen stereo than it will from any maneuver.

But then there's that improved Touchtronic transmission, and that is so close to perfect that we'll go ahead and call it perfect. It shifts faster than before and delivers on every promise – and we mean every single promise – of what a "flappy paddle" transmission can be. Shifts are instant and seamless in every situation we could come up with. And because the exhaust note, the one right behind you, is downloading information on available revs and power straight into your auditory canal, you never have to look at the gear selector display. The sound is the only shift indicator you need.




Which is why when we got to the Come Conquer Me section of Carmel Valley Road, all of a sudden, the car didn't matter at all. The only thing that mattered was what it could do. We didn't have time to think that we were in a death match with physics and asphalt – and winning – in a convertible Aston Martin, and we didn't care. We only thought, "Keep doing it..."

As a car and a package, the DBS Volante is exquisite. As a convertible, it's that, times two, plus a whole sky full of sun. And thankfully, it still looks good with its top up... but why would you do that? If it's raining, just take the DBS coupe.

Second Look:

Jonathan's assessment of the DBS's dynamics is spot-on – a testament as to how far Aston has come in its quest to make the ultimate drop-top GT. Unlike the DB9 Volante, which traded a bit of spice for cowl shake and sunlight, the DBS' transition from coupe to convertible is as seamless as its power delivery. When transitioning from push to shove, the Volante exhibits the slightest trace of flex, but even then, you're running so close to the edge that the risk of intimacy with nearby trees and forest creatures is your only concern.

The soundtrack is, in a word, glorious. Nail the long pedal to the floor and your neck cranes around to see what just drove by ("Oh, that's me!") and while the transmission is truly superb, there were a few moments during our drive where we grabbed a lower gear only to find we were still stuck in third when we desperately needed second. A quick press of the "Sport" button (which only affects the gearbox) seemed to rectify the issue, delivering crisp shifts as timely as a Swiss train (or Jaeger LeCoultre's own DBS-branded chronograph).

Although we weren't completely enamored by the coupe's look when it debuted (there was an air of over SEMAfication), the Volante comes across as more subdued – elegant and timeless, with enough pomp and circumstance to make any excursion a life-affirming event. With the standard DBS you get the world. With the Volante you get the sun, moon and stars – and carnal congress with one of the most exhilarating exhaust notes available to (near) mortals.

- Damon Lavrinc


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Photos copyright ©2009 Jonathon Ramsey, Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.

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