Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Alistair Charlton

Aston Martin DB12 Volante first drive: topless tourer goes like a supercar

Aston Martin DB12 Volante.

Some cars need explaining – their means of propulsion, where they sit in the market, their price, their very reason for being – while others, well, don’t. Today I’m driving the latter, because when you see ‘Aston Martin DB12 Volante’ you know exactly what you’re in for.

This is of course the convertible version of Aston’s latest DB. It goes just like the DB12 coupe (that is to say, it is significantly more potent than its DB11 successor), and looks very similar too, albeit with some canvas where the roof used to be.

Taking a can opener to the DB12 has resulted in some weight gain, to the tune of about 110 kg. That’s quite a lot, and means the Volante with a driver and passenger tips the scales at near-as-dammit two tonnes. The heavy batteries and bulky bodywork of EVs is getting us all used to two-tonners, but it’s still a surprise to see such a figure next to a two-door convertible Aston with rear seats only suitable for small children, and mediocre boot space.

I digress. That extra weight comes from strengthening deployed by Aston’s engineers to help the DB12 retain its composure with the roof missing. Anything south of a carbon-tubbed McLaren inherently loses a fair bit of stiffness when the roof is taken away, so this is all normal behaviour from Aston. Also normal is the stiffer suspension mounts (up by 140 percent at the front), a cross brace in the engine bay and firmer rear suspension to help keep the rear axle and the car’s two driven wheels in check.

Goes like a supercar

(Image credit: Aston Martin)

That last bit is crucial for the DB12 Volante, since it has the same Mercedes-sourced twin-turbocharged, 4.0-litre V8 engine as the coupe, producing the same 680 PS (671 horsepower) and 800 Nm (590 ft-lbs) of torque. These are massive figures. The DB12 produces 143 hp more than the DB11 and Aston is keen to stress how dynamic the ‘12 can be. No longer is it a grand tourer built only for trips to the golf club. Instead it’s the most powerful convertible V8 GT on sale, and could even sit between Ferrari's Roma and 812.

Instead of the folding metal hard top of the convertible 812, the DB12 Volante has a Roma-like fabric roof that uses what Aston calls a ‘K-fold’ mechanism, owing to its shape. The roof opens in 14 seconds and closes in 16, both with the press of a button in the centre console, and it’ll do so while driving at up to 31 mph.

The roof tucks away into a compartment in the boot robbing the Aston of some storage space, but leaving enough for a couple of small, soft bags. Your remaining luggage can always travel on the back seats, unless you’ve already got two kids installed there.

(Image credit: Aston Martin)

You won’t be surprised to learn it’s perhaps not the right car for a family weekend away. But it’ll see you to the golf club just fine, or to the South of France if there’s only the two of you, and the occasional school run would be a breeze.

A wind deflector is available, mounted in the usual fashion at shoulder height across the rear seats thus making them redundant. The car I drove had this fitted and aside from the od squeak and rattle from its mounting points it seemed to work very well, with buffeting and wind noise kept to a minimum.

That’s not interesting though, is it? What you’d rather learn about is the Aston’s massive performance and if the V8’s soundtrack comes roaring into the cabin. It does. The hard-topped coupe sounds good but, as is the way with so many cars these days, their exhausts strangled by particulate filters, even the most hardcore Sport Plus mode never quite stirs the soul.

An improved soundtrack

(Image credit: Aston Martin)

Things are much better in the Volante. Sport mode sounds good, but Sport Plus is where the histrionics are really let loose. There’s a lovely noise of course, but also small volleys of pops and crackles between gear shifts; it’s childish, sure, and local villages might well have rolled their eyes as I drove by, but it’s fun nonetheless.

Sport Plus also speeds up the gear shifts and is really only suitable when you’re driving, erm, appropriately. This mode also makes the suspension too firm for British roads, so you’re best going for Sport, then prodding a pair of buttons to turn the exhaust up to Sport Plus and dialling the suspension back to Comfort.

Interior tech

(Image credit: Aston Martin)

Speaking of buttons, the cabin here is the same as the DB12, which T3 drove last summer. It features an all-new, bespoke infotainment system built in-house by Aston Martin. It’s a huge improvement on the aged Mercedes system Aston used before and features a 10.25in touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Mercifully, the cabin temperature, heated seats and other functions are controlled using buttons; some physical, others touch-sensitive.

It all works very well indeed and serves as a stark reminder that physical switchgear is safer and more convenient to use – especially in a new and unfamiliar car – than touchscreens and voice assistants. Long may Aston’s approach continue.

What else? It’s worth saying again how bombastically quick the DB12 really is. The Volante reaches 62 mph in 3.7 seconds, just a tenth behind the heavier coupe, and the top speed is the same, at 202 mph. The thrust from walking pace to the speed limit really is extraordinary, but it’s delivered with utmost composure.

(Image credit: Aston Martin)

On dry roads the traction and stability systems mostly keep to themselves, such is the traction offered by the DB12’s bespoke Michelin tyres. It’s a tired old cliche, but this car plays the Jekyll-and-Hyde thing better than most; quick as a supercar one minute, quiet and comfortable cruiser the next.

Put the roof up, as the early arrival of some April showers forced me to, and the cabin is perfectly refined for a soft top. You still know you’re not in a coupe, but only just, and the 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system is as impressive as ever.

So too is the DB12’s design. It’s a truly beautiful thing, made even more so with the lack of a roof. The pale metallic blue car I drove made a fine argument of bucking against the green or silver trend, although I’d worry about specifying the white interior on a car intended to be used daily. Regardless, it still garnered a near-constant supply of smiles, pointed fingers and admiring glances during my two-hour drive through the Cotswolds – something Astons manage with more dignity than many other two hundred grand supercars.

Coupe or convertible?

(Image credit: Aston Martin)

The ultimate question is, should you go for the coupe or the convertible? Either DB12 is unlikely to be the buyer’s only car, which makes me side with the convertible, since it might well be your only soft-top. We’re an optimistic bunch in the UK and buy far more convertibles than our weather suggests we might, so it has that going for it too.

If you truly want to daily-drive your DB12, the coupe’s refinement and extra boot space make it the winner. But for all other circumstances you’re going to want the Volante.

Priced from £203,000, the Aston Martin DB12 Volante is available now.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.