Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 2 December 2020

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante: The drive that makes us question owning a high-powered sports car today

So much potential goes untapped until you're on a racetrack

If you’ve seen a child reaching out for ice cream on a hot day but unable to get their hands on it, then you’ll start to understand what I went through the day I had the keys to the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante.

It has one of the best supercar drivetrains hiding under that long, carbon-fibre, wraparound clamshell hood, as well as some sensational lines and a powered roof that folds away in 14 seconds.

The DBS Superleggera also houses a 715 brake horsepower, 5.2-litre, twin-turbocharged V12 engine that revs to 7,000 revolutions per minute with 900Nm of torque from 1,800rpm and is mated to a rear-mounted, eight-speed automatic transmission.

Yet I wasn’t able to fully explore all this potential.

It made me question the point of owning high-powered sports cars in this era altogether

I was told it was fitted with a tracker that monitors its speed against local UAE limits, which is obviously responsible. But it meant that all that engineering artistry at my fingertips remained untapped, as I also wasn’t prepared to invalidate the insurance of this Dh1.3 million car by taking it to a racetrack.

It made me question the point of owning high-powered sports cars in this era altogether, and how having the same gorgeous lines and bespoke interior wrapped around a basic four-cylinder unit might be the sad, realistic future. But that’s a discussion for another day.

The convertible versus the coupe

Fortunately, I have already sampled the engineering wonders of the DBS Superleggera in the correct conditions on Germany’s unrestricted Autobahns when I drove the hardtop coupe last year.

The difference between the convertible and the coupe is the new body, which incorporates a folding roof with some added rigidity to offset the lack of C-Pillars in the rear and a revised design around the tail.

So, while this has the same big heart under its hood, it’s really all about the looks.

Aston has opted for the traditional fabric roof over folding alloy units used by others. Metal roofs may provide better security, but they come at the cost of added weight and reduced space. Insulation is virtually the same, with eight layers of hood lining wiping out any road noise, plus you get full-sized rear seats and a decent boot from the extra space.

The rear has received a major redesign, as the coupe uses the C-Pillars to channel air on to an invisible rear wing created by an air curtain at the outer edge of the bootlid. On the coupe, air is sucked through vents near the rear window, through channels in the boot and expelled upward, under pressure to create a virtual rear wing. All this disappeared when they lost the roof on the Volante (Aston terminology for convertible), so engineers have had to find a new solution.

A double diffuser under the rear bumper is the F1-inspired answer, taking a bit of Grand Prix know-how from Aston’s association with the Red Bull team. So air is now sent under the car to neutralise lift and produce 177 kilograms of downforce at top speed that is just 3kg off of the coupe’s target.

Lowering the roof allows you to experience the added emotions of hearing that luscious V12 spool up and crackle on the exhaust overrun. In Sport Plus mode, the exhaust will do this at parking speeds, so that is something I could still experience with the virtual nanny activated.

Testing out the top speed

During my experience with the coupe in Germany, a few engineers suggested I test not only the top-speed claims on the Autobahn, but also the 900Nm of torque. Even on the speed-limitless motorway, I never found a piece of road long enough to fulfil the challenge. The DBS pulled like a train and was hauling strongly beyond 300 kilometres per hour as I began to run out of road.

Our exit approached and it was back to urban reality for a brief spell, where the car slinked almost silently through the village before crossing back into Austria. It was brief, but it answered all of my questions about the DBS’s performance capability, which stands equally for this convertible version.

Noticeably, there was zero lag, no turbo whistle and no indication that it’s a turbocharged engine. It pulled cleanly, like a big, naturally aspirated car, and was easy to short shift on mountain roads to let the torque do all the work.

A colour-tinted carbon fibre is available for those who don’t need to know the price

Choosing drive modes is ridiculously easy, with no endless point-and-click sub-menus to wade through on a centre console screen like you find in many of its competitors. It’s a simple process of selecting two rotary dials on the steering wheel, with the left one controlling the suspension, while the right dial alters the engine mapping for the GT, Sport and Sport Plus modes.

Aside from having a zero to 100kph time of 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 340kph, the DBS Volante will out-accelerate the Ferrari 812 Superfast across the all-important 50-160kph haul in fourth gear. Holding the same gear, Aston claims the Ferrari covers it in 4.9 seconds, while the DBS takes 4.5 seconds.

All looks, no action

The Volante also stands out from the coupe, thanks to a range of eight new colours, including the eye-popping “Golden Safron” on the test car. It also offers further personalisation choices, with six colour options for the roof, while the windscreen surround is available in a carbon-fibre finish.

Carbon fibre replaces much of the leather used in the coupe, including the door skins and tonneau, while a colour-tinted carbon fibre is available for those who don’t need to know the price.

Thankfully, the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante received so much attention about its looks that no one asked what I thought about its performance.

Updated: June 25, 2020 01:33 PM

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