Palm Springs -- Marek Reichman is talking at dinner about the yellow interior accents in a daringly but “on-trend” blue-on-blue 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante when he happens to think of cufflinks. The yellow, says Aston Martin’s design director, is like a pair that’s a brighter color than one’s clothes. It’s “something very, very unique and has a special touch,” Reichman says.
And this is just the sort of fastidious attention to detail that to him distinguishes the new convertible, the first Aston Martin ever to be clad entirely in a body of carbon fiber. Painting this material, for example, presented a special challenge. So Aston came up with a patented sealing process to mask the surface, to prevent the sinking found on the carbon-fiber weave of other brands’ cars. (Yes, he names them: “Lamborghini, Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes, as well.”)
Seven steps are required to paint the Vanquish Volante, which is an amazing, evocative arrangement of curves and strakes, creases and haunches. The process consumes many hours. “But it’s what we stand for,” he says.
When we stand back from the spotlit car, the same one that was revealed two months earlier at Pebble Beach, we find the teal color gracefully accentuating the design’s tension and power.
Decades of aspiration come togetherThe next morning’s subtle light, though, reveals something else in the line of 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante convertibles outside our hotel: a crazy appletree-green car with a creamy white interior. This will be our ride today. We drop in behind the wheel, feeling important -- almost as if we’ve been enthroned.
The 5935cc DOHC V-12 engine starts up with a glottal thrum that makes us remember why, in Babbitt, the 1922 novel by Sinclair Lewis, George Babbitt’s son Ted “aspired to a Packard twin-six and an established position in the motored gentry.” A delicate reediness is detectable from the twin exhausts, but also a nervous brassiness in advance of the car’s stepping out molto allegro.
For a moment we forget how the Vanquish Volante will breathtakingly gain speed, flashing from 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds on the way to 183 mph; how the 565 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque are diplomatically modulated by the rear-mounted, six-speed automatic transmission; how the chassis, which is fourteen percent stiffer than the old DBS Volante, is as self-possessed as an explosive ordnance disposal technician.
Rather, we are overcome by the softness of the leather, which wraps the A-pillars all the way down to the sill, envelops the dashboard, and swathes the armrests—and of course the fabulous bucket seats, where in our car the upholstery is perforated while in others it’s quilted, hourglass-style. (In this latter case, ventilated seats are not available.) The console is a contemporary masterpiece. Four glass buttons, two on each side of the ignition key’s dock, are for selecting transmission function. Capacitive-touch controls actuate the secondary functions. The instrument cluster, with the speedometer’s exciting italics culminating at 240 mph, is something we would like to carve out and take home for the mantelpiece.
All of the above can be enjoyed in the open air. From the top of the full-height windshield, a sheet of glass so steeply raked that it annoyingly reflects the center-dashboard speaker, the three-layer fabric roof folds down in about the same time that bipartisanship endures on Capitol Hill.
The top operates at road speeds up to 30 mph, something we forget when heading into the mountains -- and oncoming rain. Stopping by the roadside for the one-touch closing operation, we marvel at the quietness of all the moving parts and the drama of the coastal clouds that are trying to squeeze through the pass and over the peaks.
Meritorious service in the mountainsLight traffic on the backroads allows us to whoosh along, but with a car this capable we repeatedly remind ourselves to watch the speed because of police patrols.
With the chassis this capable, the steering this exact, the ride this comfortable (even with the electronically controlled, three-mode suspension set at Sport), we can hardly imagine a finer grand touring automobile. The only distractions are a bit of wind rush along the roofline and some rumbling when the fat, 20-inch Pirelli PZero tires roll over a freeway’s seamless, striated concrete. When crossing railroad tracks on a backroad, which is always the test of a convertible’s stiffness, the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante behaves with firm English resolve.
Only a few people will ever be lucky enough to own the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante. When deliveries of this automotive apotheosis start before the end of 2013, the purchasers will part with $297,995 (plus $2825 for shipping and handling). Our appletree-green paint, not among the twenty-one standard colors, was $1595; carbon-fiber trim added up to $6380; and the 20-spoke wheels were almost bargain-priced at $3975.
In this case, for $312,770, you get overachievement from craftsmen, unusable capability from engineers, and impeccable design that will ensure desirability for generations.
2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante
|Engine:||5.9-liter DOHC 48-valve V-12|
|Horsepower:||565 hp @ 6750 rpm|
|Torque:||457 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm|
|L x W x H:||186.1 in x 75.1 in x 50.9 in|
|Cargo capacity:||9.8 cu ft|
|Curb Weight:||4,065 lb|
|EPA Rating (city/highway):||13/19 mpg|