Convertibles are almost always heavier than the hardtop models on which they’re based.
You’d think that chopping the lid off a car would result in a leaner, meaner machine, but the additional reinforcements required to prevent these vehicles from feeling like a pair of wagons connected by an overcooked lasagna noodle offset any losses netted by all those top-side cutbacks.
Despite their voluminous engineering expertise, not even Aston Martin can steer around this apparent law of physics: convertibles are chunky.
In the process of losing its fixed lid, the 2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante gained a not-outrageous 243 pounds (110 kilograms), 98 of which (44.6 kilograms) went into bolstering its structure. There are thicker sill extrusions, a different windshield surround, the rear bulkhead has been changed and, of course, they’ve added rollover hoops for passenger protection should you have a really, really bad day and manage to flip the car.
Managing That Mass
But a key takeaway with this new convertible is that performance has not been affected by the added mass it hauls around. With a husky curb weight of around 4,134 pounds, the DB11 Volante can still hit 62 miles an hour (100 km/h) in as little as 4.1 seconds. That sprint time is just one-tenth slower than what the coupe model can deliver, thanks to better traction from the extra pounds over its rear end. Essentially, in real-world driving, you’re never going to notice a difference between these two cars, other than, of course, the ability to sunbathe while driving the Volante version.
Delivering that breathtaking acceleration is a familiar friend, an Aston Martin-tuned 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 sourced from Mercedes-AMG. As in the coupe model, it’s rated at 503 brake horsepower and 498 foot-pounds of torque. A perfectly on-point eight-speed automatic gearbox sends all that twisty goodness to the car’s meaty rear tires.
Curiously, the unequivocally orchestral V12 available in coupe versions of the DB11 will not be offered here. Aston Martin spokes folks say this engine is undesirably heavy for this application where they’ve already added a fair bit of weight.
A dozen cylinders or not, acceleration is fiery, with the Volante’s powertrain making all kinds of great noises as it works. The exhaust, in particular, really wails when you bury your right foot, burbling and popping with each upshift, histrionics that are especially noticeable when the top is tucked away.
Helping enable this thrill-show is an astute eight-speed automatic transmission. Refined when you’re cruising about town, this gearbox can nonetheless shift with frightening speed when the DB11 is in one of its sport modes.
On the subject of driving-modes, Aston Martin lets you fine-tune how the Volante behaves in action. There are three damper setting and three options for the chassis and powertrain. I found myself just leaving the dampers in their softest setting, which provides a surprisingly smooth ride and the tiniest wisp of body roll.
Putting the powertrain in either S or S+ modes dramatically sharpens the throttle response and transmission shift schedule; the changes between each of these settings is quite noticeable. This car’s steering is also extremely agreeable; the ratio is quick and the weighting just right for hustling around mountain roads.
Fabric for the Win
The car’s ragtop can be retracted or deployed at speeds up to 31 miles an hour (50 km/h), opening in as little as 14 seconds (putting it back again takes an additional two seconds). Also, it’s powered by a new hydraulic mechanism that’s far smoother and quieter than previous systems employed.
During development this entire assembly was subjected to 100,000 cycles in special weather chambers to simulate 10 years’ worth of use in just a month, meaning it should last for the long haul.
For better noise attenuation, this roof is comprised of eight layers. Even when driven in anger, the Volante’s cabin remains relatively serene. During testing, no obtrusive ruckus from either the wind or road surface made its way into the car’s well-isolated cabin.
Engineers opted to go with a fabric roof instead of a hardtop for several reasons. First, it would have been impossible to get the sweeping body shape they wanted using pressed metal. Second, is packaging. A hard lid would have been incredibly difficult to fit within the DB11’s already snug body. As it is, the rear fenders had to be elevated by 0.43 inches (11 millimeters) just to accommodate the ragtop assembly, which supposedly has the industry’s lowest folded height of just 10.24 inches (260 millimeters).
But whether that top is up or down, the DB11 Volante feels like a solid brick of tungsten. All those reinforcements engineers added to the structure really pay off because this car exhibits essentially zero jiggles, judders or junky-sounding rattles, even when driving over gnarly pavement. It’s even stiffer than the brand’s flagship Vanquish Volante model, which features tons of expensive carbon fiber.
Extraneous Odds and Ends
The DB11’s interior is certainly nice, though it’s not quite a sensation. There is soft leather everywhere, elegant styling and easily understood electronics. Various colors and trim options are also available; the contrast broguing is particularly nice, mimicking the designs and patterns found on high-end dress shoes.
Still, I find the lack of a glovebox a curious omission, which means all your important paperwork has to either be stored in the shallow center console, or worse, one of the door pockets where it’s subject to weather and of course the risk of falling out at inopportune times. The volume slider employed in lieu of a proper knob can be a bit frustrating at times as well.
For greater comfort in chilly conditions, a heated steering wheel is offered. This is also the first Aston Martin Volante model to come with rear ISOFIX attachment points for children’s car seats, so now the kiddies can go for a cruise as well.
The Verdict: 2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante Review
Despite losing its top and gaining a bit of weight, the Aston Martin DB11 Volante is still an amazing driver’s car. The performance penalty you pay compared to a coupe version is negligible – basically, you’ll never notice the difference in normal driving, which is pretty remarkable.
Aston Martin’s DB11 Volante is set to arrive in the U.S. this June, just in time for summer motoring. Base price is a princely $219,581, a figure that includes $3,086 in destination charges.
This review first appeared on AutoGuide