First Drive: 2019 Aston Martin DB11 Volante
Achingly pretty, the drop-top DB11 is a Grand Tourer for the ages.
NICE, France — As the speedometer needle creeps upwards, well into the triple digits, the forceful shove against our backs doesn't seem to diminish much. In fact, the open cabin (roof down, side and quarter windows up) remains eerily calm as an indicated 160 km/h flashes on the digital display of the 2019 Aston Martin DB11 Volante.
As we hit 190 km/h (118 mph), I mention the impressive cabin serenity to my drive partner, Automobile contributor Basem Wasef. He agreed—as an open-top gran tourer, the DB11 Volante is amazingly adept, with near-coupe-like calm inside.
The name "Volante" alone conjures up imagery of great Aston drop-tops to come before and the DB11 seems poised to continue the tradition. Since the coupe was launched a couple years back, the convertible version has been all but a given—and now it's here. In fact, Aston has been taking pre-orders for the DB11 Volante for several months and U.S. deliveries are expected to start in June.
It's not always an easy job to make a good-looking coupe-based convertible, especially when you're starting with the DB11 coupe, where the flowing, contoured roof seems an integral part of the striking design. And so, in creating the Volante, engineers and stylists did much more than just lop off the car's handsome chapeau.
The DB11's rear decklid was massaged and contoured, the folding top mechanism compacted to allow for the lowest profile possible, and the dramatic rear fender flares are creased just a bit lower on the car's flanks. The changes give make for congruent aesthetics for the Volante while improving wind noise and aerodynamics.
Other changes from coupe to convertible include a stiffer windshield surround to comply with rollover standards, a strengthened rear crossmember (which is located near the rear shock mounts and improves their functionality as a side benefit), and more structural reinforcement in the sills and the tray underneath the engine. There's also some blackout trim up front and a prominent gloss black splitter, along with new wheels that shave approximately 6.4 lb off the Coupe's set.
The eight-layer insulated fabric top electronically unfolds from under its metal cover in just 14 seconds and stows back away in 16 seconds with minimum or mechanical noise. The top operates at speeds up to 31 mph and can also be folded remotely via key fob. Aston Martin says the top's compact structure allows for some 20 percent more cargo space in the trunk than in the DB9 Volante.
Under the aluminum clamshell-style hood of the DB11 Volante is AMG's potent twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter, 90-degree V-8, producing 503 hp and 513 lb-ft of torque. While the engine is built completely at AMG without involvement from Aston Martin, the English brand did design all the cooling components located in the ample space ahead of the engine, as well as the bespoke exhaust system, which was tuned to give the car a more Aston Martin-appropriate note. While the engine features a dry sump in Mercedes-AMG applications, a wet sump was mandated for the DB11 for packaging considerations. The transmission is ZF's excellent 8-speed auto, which frankly works well enough as to render a fancy dual-clutch unit wholly unnecessary, especially in this class of vehicle.
Underneath, the DB11 Volante gets a few suspension tweaks given its 242-lb weight increase (mostly thanks to the car's added structural reinforcement). The rear anti-roll bar has also been reduced in diameter by 0.4 mm and rear shock rates have been tweaked to account for the car's slightly stiffer rear structure. Weight distribution is 47/53 percent front/rear, compared with 49/51 in the V-8-powered Coupe and 51/49 in the V-12-powered one.
Enough with the specs, how does this DB11 Volante drive, you ask? Quite sublimely, actually. Even if the Volante loses an ounce of stiffness to the Coupe despite the added structural elements, you'd be hard-pressed to tell on most roads. The car feels very much of a piece, devoid of cowl shake or any feeling of any slop from the chassis.
The AMG V-8 is a lovely engine, torquey, brutish and eager with plenty of pops and bangs accompanying the rapid manual downshifts from the gearbox. Power is very strong and while the eight lacks the silky smoothness that defines Aston's V-12, you could argue it's a sportier, more aggressive feeling engine that comes with the added benefit of less weight over the nose. It's never really what you'd call quiet, but in eighth gear, the DB11 Volante is able to drop revs far enough that easy conversation at freeway speed—top up or down—is entirely possible.
As we often do with multi-driving-mode sports cars, we preferred the softest of the modes—in this case, Grand Touring—for most on-road driving situations, with Sport providing a little extra stiffness from the Skyhook adjustable suspension for the twistier bits of road we encountered as we headed inland from the Mediterranean Sea and towards les alpes. (Selecting Sport mode also reduces the speed at which the rear spoiler deploys and retracts.) Sport Plus firms things up a bit too much for the street, in our opinion, sending the rear end hopping over road imperfections that GT mode sucks up while giving ultra-sharp throttle response that may be welcome on the track, but contributes to less-smooth inputs on the street.
Braking performance is impressive, the DB11's large steel discs and six-piston calipers hauling the car down from big speed time and time again without noise or drama. The only gripe we had about the driving experience was the steering, which doesn't quite match the best of today's electronically-boosted systems, such as that of the Porsche 911. No matter, this is a grand touring car first and prospective buyers will probably appreciate more isolation than in their sportier supercars.
In all, the DB11 Volante would make a superior sports convertible to keep at your fifth home in the South of France, ready at an instant's notice for a blast up the local mountains or for a trip to neighboring Monaco for the weekend. Of course, with a base price of $219,581, roughly $20,000 more than the coupe, interested one-percenters will have to make the painstaking choice between a DB11 Volante or the new Ferrari Portofino, which starts around the same price. Hey, nobody ever said being rich was easy.
2019 Aston Martin DB11 Volante Specifications
|ENGINE||4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/503 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 513 lb-ft @ 2,000-5,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2-4-passenger, front-engine, RWD convertible|
|EPA MILEAGE||15/21 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||187 x 76.8 x 51.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.0 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||187 mph (est)|