A Curtain Call for the 2017 Aston Martin Vanquish S Volante

Gaydon bids adieu to its naturally aspirated V-12 with a royal flourish

If Shakespeare’s Henry V were here today, we bet he’d drive an Aston Martin. Hank was classy, and the bard could have generously proffered the noble king with an equally classy mount, the 2017 Aston Martin Vanquish S Volante. The sound of it alone might herald an angel, and its $312,950 sticker is fit for a king.

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close the wall up with our English dead.”

One need merely press the crystal key into the ignition to hear the riotous crescendo of its growling exhaust note. It’s a dramatic, final call to arms of Aston Martin’s naturally aspirated 5.9-liter V-12. While the V-12 will always be an essential component of the Aston Martin brand, according to Andy Palmer, the company’s plain-speaking President and CEO, moving forward, the Vanquish will use a derivation of the DB11’s 5.2-liter twin-turbo mill.

Also taking a bow here is the company’s once omnipresent VH platform, its place taken by Aston’s new scalable chassis, first seen under the new DB11. It will underpin Aston fare moving forward, including the new Vantage.

Don’t be fooled by the sweeping lines and understated elegance of this open-air grand tourer. With a cavalry detachment of 580 horses, reaching 60 mph takes a paltry 3.5 seconds, a task aided by an improved aero package that includes a redesigned splitter and an updated diffuser that dampens drag and helps hug hedge-lined English roads.

Separate performance modes for engine tune and suspension are at ones fingertips. Sport mode is pure poetry, causing that lovely first gear to linger, gurgling the engine so nicely it’s a tough choice to switch it off. Modern highway driving might demand a more comfortable suspension setting, something we’re sure His Highness would have appreciated on those long sojourns back and forth to France. The transmission’s eight automatic speeds are well-bred, though, and the appropriate one shows up promptly, delivering a perfect amount of the car’s available 465 lb-ft of torque at either end of the ZF-sourced gearbox’s range.

“So great an object: can this cockpit hold the vast fields of France? Or may we cram

within this wooden O the very casques that did affright the air at Agincourt?”

Appropriately fitting Bridge of Weir leather covers the bespoke seats, which are at once supportive and comfortable. When someone hand-stitches your heated and cooled throne, it’s almost certain to be a respectable one. The rest of the interior is a thing of beauty, even the two back seats that are not suitable for anyone to sit in. And should it start to rain, as it often does in England, the convertible top can be put up without stopping, at speeds up to 30 mph.

The push button gear shifter on the center stack is a fine, streamlined choice. Though a nit from those who don’t sit right seat to drive, the D button suddenly becomes the furthest away from the driver. It’s easy enough to make the adjustment, or presumably Aston Martin might swap it for you if enough gold pieces change hands.

While it’s a sophisticated package, there are certain aspects of the Vanquish that feel dated. The nav system needs a face-lift and, oh, the slings and arrows of poorly positioned command buttons on the steering wheel. They seem to hinder more than help the process of operating simple cockpit functions like turning up the volume. And lest we forget, performance in this traveling amphitheater isn’t as precise as if driving the Vanquish S coupe.

However, fear not, any quirks and quibbles have been more or less addressed with the new Mercedes-supplied electrical architecture that made its debut with the DB11 and moves into all new models moving forward.

“Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit to his full height. On, on, you noblest English.”

With seven bankruptcies in its storied history, keeping calm and carrying on is something the 104-year old car company is used to. But there seems to be a plan in place to set the kingdom right, including the all-new Vantage, coming mid-2018, and Aston’s first ever SUV, the DBX, fast on its heels from a massive new facility just outside of Cardiff, Wales. Add in a low volume Rapide EV and the resurrection of the Lagonda brand and Aston seems well positioned.

For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings, carry them here and there; jumping o’er times, turning the accomplishment of many years into an hour-glass.”

Alas, poor naturally aspirated Yorick won’t be around, for that is the future. In the meantime, let us bask in the glow of what was. Listen long and well to the past before it rides into the sunset after its hard-fought victory. This fine, fine V-12 engine, fit for a king, and deserving of a proper send off, gets one in the 2017 Aston Vanquish S Volante.

2017 Aston Martin Vanquish S Volante Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $312,950 (base)
ENGINE 5.9L DOHC 48-valve V-12/580 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 465 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD convertible
EPA MILEAGE 13/21 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 186.1 x 75.2 x 50.9 in
WHEELBASE 107.9 in
WEIGHT 4,065 lb (est)
0-60 MPH 3.5 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 183 mph (est)