Driven: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante
Last year we got a chance to road test the hardtop version of the Vanquish, and we left the scene suitably enamored
. Here we find ourselves at the helm of the drop top version of the Vanquish for the first time, simultaneously congratulating ourselves on the incredibly fortunate sequence of events that led us to this point in life, and also immediately realizing that despite perhaps losing a step to its hardtop brethren, the Volante is, without question, the more ideal configuration of the Vanquish.
Perhaps the easiest way to explain what the Vanquish Volante is would be to first explain what it is not. The Vanquish Volante – as well as the Vanquish model in general – is not a hardcore sports car. Yes, it has a 565 horsepower V12 that emits a sound which will stir emotions in you that you might not have known you even had. Yes, the body panels are made from carbon fiber. And yes, it has multiple driving settings, adaptive dampers and fantastic brakes. All of this might look "hardcore" on paper, but in practice, you quickly realize that the Vanquish Volante is as much about refinement, comfort, and elegance as it is about being able to lay down four second 0-60 gallops.
Despite all the aluminum and carbon fiber materials used in its construction, the Vanquish Volante still tips the scales at 4065 pounds – nearly 200 pounds more than the coupe, itself not exactly considered a lightweight to begin with. But as it turns out that’s perfectly fine, as the overarching theme of the Vanquish Volante is not nebulous top speed numbers that mere mortals will never see or limit-handling figures that no sane person will ever reach outside of a race track, it’s the pursuit of the ultimate open-top grand touring machine. To that end, Aston Martin has created a GT whose competitive set is so limited in scope, whether or not the Vanquish Volante is the ideal convertible grand tourer is something that can best be quantified by the heart rather than the head.
Interestingly, one of the key components that dictates the Vanquish Volante’s unique demeanor is the Touchtronic 2 six-speed automatic transmission. Upon initial inspection, this may seem like a less than perfect mating for the monstrous V12 lurking under the hood, and perhaps a little dated by today’s standards, but its compliance with our commands under various driving situations were more than commendable. While not quite as quick to shift as a proper dual-clutch unit, the magic of the Touchtronic 2 lies within the tall gearing of first and second gear. This, we believe, adds much to the linear and "refined" feel of the power delivery when launched from a standstill or low speeds. From a real-world perspective, that equates to a very quick car that doesn’t feel nervous or hurried when pushed, but rather poised and reassuring. Keep an eye on the speedo though, as triple digit speeds will rapidly approach before you’ve even hit 3rd gear in wide open throttle situations.
Turning our attention to the suspension, we noted that the Vanquish Volante’s three-way Adaptive Damping System (ADS) is masterfully tuned. Unlike many vehicles with adjustable suspension firmness, each of the different settings actually provide significantly unique dynamics. Normal works fine for the majority of typical driving situations, absorbing rough patches of road with aplomb, while Sport stiffens things up noticeably without resorting to rattling your teeth apart. However, if you’re ready to tackle some truly demanding curves, holding down the ADS button on the steering wheel until it blinks will engage the Track setting, firming things up even further from Sport mode for essentially flat handling. We had slight nitpick with the Track setting in that we wished it was indicated either by a different colored light on the steering wheel button when engaged or an indicator on the dash, as it appeared to be impossible to visually tell that the suspension was in Track mode once the blinking stopped. Regardless, for those of us who like the option of a properly stiffened ride setting in our sporting cars, its inclusion is a welcome one, despite its visual implementation in the cabin.
Driving the Vanquish Volante in the Sport driving mode – not to be confused with the ADS "Sport" mode, which is controlled independently of the driving mode settings – the 6.0-liter V12 up front becomes the star of the show, as the active exhaust baffles allow more of its exotic soundtrack to bellow forth. Interestingly though, we did notice an odd effect in that regard, in which the exhaust volume would fluctuate throughout the course of bringing the car up to speed from a standstill during normal jaunts about town, as though the baffles wanted to only tease us with the full potential of the V12’s song rather than just deliver it full time. Sport driving mode also brings with it a welcome addition of weight to the steering effort as well a transmission more willing to wind out each gear.
Normal driving mode quiets things down significantly, both from an auditory and sporting standpoint. With the top up and everything dialed to their respective sedate settings, the Vanquish Volante becomes a fairly serene environment, but it’s doubtful you’ll ever mistake this for a hardtop from the inside, as a fair amount of road noise still makes its way into the cabin. That said, if you’re driving the Vanquish Volante with the top up (a problem which can be remedied within 14 seconds) you’re kind of missing the whole point of this car.
The Volante can be had with either a 2 + 2 seating configuration or a rear seat delete in favor of a cargo area, and we’d recommend opting for the latter, as the rear seats are nearly useless for anyone who has legs. Room up front is ample though, and the interior remains essentially unchanged from the coupe’s One-77
inspired layout. It probably goes without saying, but very few vehicles can match the material quality found in the Aston’s interior. It is, quite frankly, sumptuous.
At an as-tested price approaching $320,000, the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante isn’t exactly an impulse buy. Moreover, it’s also not a vehicle whose merit should not be measured by its 183 mph top speed, 4.1 second 0-60 sprint, or its inconsequential 13 mpg city,19 highway fuel economy numbers. There are cheaper cars. There are faster cars. There are certainly more practical cars. But all of those metrics miss the point of the Vanquish Volante – it’s not the spec sheet which makes this car special, it’s the intangibles – the sensations, the sounds, and the driving experience which define the Vanquish Volante. Whether or not that equates to the ultimate grand touring convertible will largely be determined by judgments which are more or less subjective and best made on an individual basis. However, from where we stand, there simply aren’t a lot of other contenders for the title at this level.
2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante
Price: $297,995 base, $320,000 as tested
Engine: 6.0-liter V12
Output: 565 horsepower, 457 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 4.1 second (est)
On Sale: Now