BY PETER BARNWELL
TOPLESS people will just love the new Aston Martin DB12 Volante convertible that arrives later this year (overseas) complete with a multi-layer soft top and a petrol engine courtesy Mercedes-Benz.
Built in traditional sports car configuration with a front engine and rear-wheel drive, the British supercar is not a V12 as the name might suggest instead, there is a potent 4.0-litre, twin turbo V8 under the bonnet… old school.
It is due for UK and probably Chinese introduction (Geely is a part owner of AM) from Q4 with the rest of the world including Australia following a little later on, the swan-door DB12 being Aston’s advance guard of a “next generation” of sports cars.
The venerated manufacturer and F1 participant saying the Volante provides an alluring combination of roof-down driving and “spectacular Super Tourer performance and handling”.
And there’s no denying its sleek, low-line roof packaging that facilitates fast operation while impinging minimally on the car’s striking aesthetics.
Expected elegant appearance is highlighted on the Volante which retains timeless Aston Martin qualities of style and craftsmanship this time revitalised by advanced technologies and state-of-the-art engineering to say nothing of an enhanced driving experience that has been honed to a keen edge.
Like the tin-top and equally gorgeous Coupe, the DB12 Volante is built on a rigid bonded aluminium structure (like the Lotus Elise and Exige) engineered to capably support the new level of dynamics on both models with particular emphasis on the Volante which doesn’t gain strength from an integral metal roof.
The result was achieved as much through overall clever chassis design as through the underneath of the vehicle that features reinforced key structural elements such as the rear suspension upper mounting points and lateral connections, as well as performance additions including the engine cross brace, all of which bolster the Volante’s torsional stiffness.
Aston engineers know their stuff so placed a particular effort on reinforcing the suspension mounting points for vehicle integrity and dynamic performance.
It facilitates the use of a non-isolated steering column and complementary steering and damper tuning to deliver precise on and off-centre steering connection with linearity of vehicle response.
But the heart of the beast is under the bonnet where resides a stupendous 4.0 twin-turbo V8 engine that is embellished by a stirring V8 soundtrack blatting out the back.
The hand-built Mercedes-AMG-sourced M177-series unit, tuned by Aston Martin engineers, delivers a stonking 500kW of power at 6000rpm complemented by 800Nm of torque between 2750 – 6000rpm.
Details include modified cam profiles, optimised compression ratio, larger turbos and increased cooling to facilitate a 0-100km/h in 3.7 seconds with a v-max of 325km/h.
In true sports car style, power is fed to the rear axle alone through a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission with a range of shift strategies optimising each of the dynamic driving modes.
Like the Coupe, the Volante uses a short final drive ratio to maximise in-gear punch while an electronic rear differential (E-Diff) aids traction and stability. No manual trans is offered more’s the pity.
The Volante runs four-stage ESC with a choice of five pre-defined dynamic modes.
Other performance related highlights include new generation “intelligent” adaptive dampers, which have a 500 per cent increase in bandwidth of force distribution compared to previous generation hardware. AM says they gift the Volante a range of dynamic capability and character far in excess of competitor cars.
According to AM the main mechanical difference between DB12 Coupe and Volante are detail revisions to rear spring rate and a dedicated damper tune to allow for a slight weight difference.
Aston Martin says pinpoint drive feel and car control is aided by electric power steering with a non-isolated steering column and constant 13.09:1 ratio rack. The sexy drop top rolls on 21-inch forged alloy wheels are fitted with specially developed Michelin Pilot S 5 tyres.
Eyeball popping brake force is via cast-iron 400mm front discs and 360mm rear discs as standard with optional Carbon Ceramic Brakes (CCB) offering increased braking performance, reduced brake fade and a 27kg weight saving in unsprung mass.
“Volante possesses all the Super Tourer traits so successfully introduced in the DB12 Coupe. That we have preserved this class-leading performance and handling is testament to the underlying brilliance of the DB12 platform and the work we have done to maintain the advantage of its superb powertrain and chassis in an open-top version,” said Aston Martin chief technical officer, Roberto Fedeli.
“It’s no longer the ‘softer’ option, as the DB12 Volante offers the stimulation of a true sports car with the unique pleasure and satisfaction that only a convertible Aston Martin can deliver.”
The electrically operated, eight layer ‘K-fold’ roof, available in four colours, folds in 16 seconds under a hard tonneau to a mere 260mm stack height aiding packaging, luggage capacity and aerodynamics. Deployment takes 16 seconds at speeds up to 50km/h and can be performed remotely from the key fob.
Visually the Volante’s connection to the Coupe is unmistakeable particularly with the roof deployed.
Inside the Volante is the “epitome of luxury and style” highlighted by wood veneer or carbon fibre panels on the seatbacks matched to the door trim inlay to create an extra layer of visual interest and luxury when the roof is lowered.
Luxury kit includes a high end, latest tech, and multi-screen infotainment system along with Bowers & Wilkins surround sound hi-fi and HMI systems immersing occupants in a fully connected state-of-the-art experience.
Bespoke Q by Aston Martin is available with the Volante providing an ultra-luxury personalisation service that allows those who wish to put their own stamp on the model.
“For many of our customers, roof down driving is the greatest pleasure. Aston Martin Volantes have captured that emotion and expressed it in unique style for more than six decades,” said Aston Martin chief executive officer, Amedeo Felisa.
“With the new DB12 Volante we have changed the rules, creating a car that intensifies those feelings by preserving all the purity and exceptional sporting capabilities of the DB12 Coupe. A rare and true sporting convertible in every respect, this is a car to challenge preconceptions and find a new generation of Volante customer”.
Local pricing is expected to start from $492,000 plus on-road costs.