Aston Martin finds a winner after losing its top.
– Nice, France
Aston Martin’s DB11 keeps losing things. First it lost four cylinders with the introduction of a V8. Now, it’s lost its roof. But despite the losses, the British car manufacturer’s sporty grand tourer somehow keeps getting better.
Credit the 2019 DB11 Volante’s goods on its design. When Julian Nunn, lead designer on the DB11 Volante, originally sketched the car, he aimed, well, low: “I made a side-view drawing of what I wanted. I was being cheeky and drew a rather fast roof which you don’t normally get on a convertible,” he says. That vision resulted in a long, low top that yielded a car more aerodynamic than the hardtop coupe.
The so-called K-Fold canopy, named for how it compresses when retracted, is comprised of eight layers of acoustic and insulation materials. It does a great job of keeping the noise out when it’s up. Inside, the cabin’s quietness matches the Volante’s coupe cousin. When the top is down, it stacks more compactly in its rear compartment than any Aston Martin convertible before it.
Implementing a new hydraulic motor, the roof operates more quietly than on previous Volante models. And if you’re caught in some ubiquitous British rain when taking this open-aired beauty for a spin, the roof functions at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. One need only get wet for a paltry 16 seconds. When the sun pops back out, the roof only takes 14 seconds to retract and one can start working on their tan again.
Because of the extra bulk from the canvas top, the rear of the car required a minor redesign. As a result, the Volante doesn’t look as if someone just chopped the roof off a DB11 and slapped on a convertible top. The revised tail is still athletic with an assertive stance, but details such as negative surfaces in the haunches’ sheet metal diminish its bulky look, making it appear sculpted and elegant.
This redesign inevitably informed the revised dynamic aspects of the DB11 Volante as well.
“We retuned the rear of the car to accommodate for the convertible top,” says Ian Hartley, Senior Manager of Vehicle Dynamics. “Rear springs and dampers were stiffened to keep the car more balanced” over undulating roads.
Additionally, a cross-car beam, which goes over the engine, has been reconfigured to add rigidity to the front end, and suspension hard points and top mounts have been reinforced to make up for the lack of roof.
Overall the weight in the Volante increased by 242 pounds, of which 98 are from body structure improvements. The rest is the roof mechanism, which ultimately shifts the weight distribution to 47/53 front/rear in the Volante instead of the 49/57 in the coupe.
“The chassis is so strong we’ve been able to carry over the front suspension tune from the coupe. There’s been no compromise,” Hartley confirms. Seems no one informed the DB11 Volante that convertibles are supposed to suffer with softer suspensions and looser dynamics because of a compromised chassis.
When it’s out on the road, even with the top down, the Aston Martin DB11 Volante drives as well as its coupe sibling. Steering response was adjusted slightly. It’s now more connected on-center and feels a bit weightier, so the driver has something to push against with the Volante’s increased heft. Cornering in the DB11 feels as balanced and expertly handled as in the coupe, and when we hit standing water on 20-inch summer tires they squirted out from under us for a moment but recovered quickly.
It’s still a GT, and the driver can move through the same dynamics modes and damper settings as in the coupe: GT, Sport, and Sport Plus. In Sport Plus mode the DB11 Volante is boisterous but still superbly well behaved. There’s an increase in throttle response, and gearshifts become quicker and more defined, really moving the DB11 along at a fever pitch.
And that chortling exhaust noise, blimey!
Finally out of the mountain twisties high above the coastline of the Côte d'Azur in Nice, France, and back on the highway, GT mode made for relaxed and comfortable driving one could get used to every day.
The same Mercedes-AMG-sourced, biturbocharged 4.0-liter V8, built to Aston Martin specs, produces the same 510 horsepower in the Volante as in the coupe. It’s mated to the same eight-speed automatic transmission. And even with the soft top, it gets the wind whipping through the hair you’ve got left at 62 mph in 4.1 seconds. The coupe makes that speed in only a tenth of a second less. The top speed of the Volante is slightly lower than the coupe’s, at 187 mph down from 200 mph.
Though temperatures hovered around 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the usually sunny south of France, with the windows up, the seat and steering wheel heaters on, and the climate control ratcheted to a balmy 85-degree setting, the topless Volante stayed warm and easily proved itself to be a many-season convertible.
Comfortably ensconced within the cabin, one doesn’t hear the wind, and talking to your passenger is effortless. There is no need to raise your voice. This alone might be worth the $216,495 purchase price.
A few interior features new for the Volante model include front seatback veneers that can be matched to those in the rest of the cockpit, with options like piano black or open pore ash wood. The same exterior cues that denote the DB11 V8, its two hood vents and dark-bezel headlights, are present on the Volante. It’s slim C-shaped taillights give the rear view the innovative and handsome look of a concept car.
First deliveries of the 2019 DB11 Volante are scheduled for the first quarter of 2018, which means they’re imminent and just in time for summer. The only thing left to lose with the DB11 is your shirt when you buy every model.
Photos: Aston Martin