We drove an ultra-stylish $273,244 Aston Martin DB11 Volante convertible - here's the verdict

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Aston Martin DB11 VanquishHollis Johnson/Business InsiderWe love New York - and we love the Aston Martin DB11 Volante.

  • The Aston Martin DB11 Volante is the convertible version of the new DB11 coupé that arrived last year.
  • The Aston Martin DB11 is the successor to the DB9.
  • We were completely captivated by the stylish, powerful machine, despite it having a smaller motor than the coupé - and a soft roof.

Last summer, we got a look at the power, beauty, and soul of the stunning new Aston Martin DB11, in coupé form. Price tag: $254,084.

More recently, we checked out the drop-top version - the Aston Martin DB11 Volante. Price tag: $273,244.

OK, so this much power, and soul doesn't come cheap. But then again, if you have James Bond aspirations, you're talking about Tom Ford suits, good scotch, and the best Champagne. The lifestyle has some costs - but living well, as it's been said, is the best revenge.

I'm a massive Aston Martin fan. The DB9 is one of my all-time favorite cars, and while the DB11 we sampled last year is burlier than its forebears, it continues the tradition of Astons being the stylish, thinking-person's muscle car. That isn't all show, either. Aston Martin competes in high-level endurance racing worldwide, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France (the race car is derived from the DB11's stablemate, the Vantage).

But here's the cool thing about Aston's grand tourers: They're fast, but they don't need to be driven to the edge. You can thrum along at 40 mph and feel like the slickest, smoothest cat in town. Sure, you'll want to dress the part. Astons are so suave that you can't get away with jeans and a t-shirt. Believe me, I've tried. And failed.

Aston was kind enough to let us borrow the 2019 DB11 Volante for a few days in late spring, just as the convertible weather was arriving on the East Coast. Our coupé came with a stately Magnetic Silver paint job. The Volante's was a slightly flashier "Pearl Blonde," and the exquisite leather interior was two-tone "Blue Haze" and "Coral Sand." So the Volante wasn't exactly holding back.

Here's how it all went down.

Photos by Hollis Johnson.

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Behold: the glorious beauty of the DB11. We weren't sure about the Pearl Blonde paint job, especially with the blue top, but in about 15 minutes I was loving it. The weather in New York City was ideal for a convertible.

Behold: the glorious beauty of the DB11. We weren't sure about the Pearl Blonde paint job, especially with the blue top, but in about 15 minutes I was loving it. The weather in New York City was ideal for a convertible.

I never get tired of looking at an Aston.

I never get tired of looking at an Aston.

Even from a distance, the DB11 Volante just pops.

Even from a distance, the DB11 Volante just pops.

The shape is classic GT, and although it's broken slightly by the convertible top, the sinuous, athletic lines and flowing curves of the Aston are unmistakable. The entire design fits together like a muscular animal drawn from nature.

The shape is classic GT, and although it's broken slightly by the convertible top, the sinuous, athletic lines and flowing curves of the Aston are unmistakable. The entire design fits together like a muscular animal drawn from nature.

Pure sculpture: long, low, and wide. There's just enough exterior detail — vents and scoops and cuts-ins — to keep matters lively.

Pure sculpture: long, low, and wide. There's just enough exterior detail — vents and scoops and cuts-ins — to keep matters lively.

With that much hood up front, the risk for the DB11 Volante is that it would fall out of proportion. But it doesn't. The bold read haunches keep the design in balance.

With that much hood up front, the risk for the DB11 Volante is that it would fall out of proportion. But it doesn't. The bold read haunches keep the design in balance.

The rear is stunning — an achievement, given that the back end has to accommodate the top when retracted. Note how the tail lights and headlamps are proportional in terms of graphic mass without resembling each other too much.

The rear is stunning — an achievement, given that the back end has to accommodate the top when retracted. Note how the tail lights and headlamps are proportional in terms of graphic mass without resembling each other too much.

There's also some tech back there.

"One of the major triumphs of the DB11's design is the new AeroBlade system, which creates a virtual spoiler using jets of air directed through discrete ducts located on the decklid of the car," Business Insider's Ben Zhang noted in his review of the DB11 coupé last year.

"This allows Aston to deliver great downforce without the need for a large and unsightly spoiler. There is a small retractable spoiler, but that's only deployed at high speed."

The top retracts in about 15 seconds.

The top retracts in about 15 seconds.

And I'm ready for some open-air motoring!

And I'm ready for some open-air motoring!

Do you agree that the DB11 Volante makes just as stunning an impression with the top dropped? To be honest, I think it looks sharper — and better than the coupé!

Do you agree that the DB11 Volante makes just as stunning an impression with the top dropped? To be honest, I think it looks sharper — and better than the coupé!

The forged alloy wheels will run you $5,400 extra. And the brake calipers? $1,600. In total, our tester came with just under $60,000 in options.

The forged alloy wheels will run you $5,400 extra. And the brake calipers? $1,600. In total, our tester came with just under $60,000 in options.

In an era of brash, oversize badges, Aston still whispers. Because it can.

In an era of brash, oversize badges, Aston still whispers. Because it can.

Let's slip inside.

Let's slip inside.

The door sill plaques reminds you that the DB11 is England-made. Well, 66% anyway. The engine and transmission are German, from Mercedes-AMG.

The door sill plaques reminds you that the DB11 is England-made. Well, 66% anyway. The engine and transmission are German, from Mercedes-AMG.

Mercedes owns 5% of Aston, which is small, private carmaker in a world of big conglomerates. The company brings in only about $1 billion a year and can't push nearly as hard as larger concerns, so it has to join up with others to make a go of it. In 2017, Aston sold 5,100 vehicles.

Oh my. I mean, c'mon. You're encased in luxury. Having a bad day? Then just go sit in your Aston Martin DB11 Volante for a few minutes to decompress, cheer up, be pampered.

Oh my. I mean, c'mon. You're encased in luxury. Having a bad day? Then just go sit in your Aston Martin DB11 Volante for a few minutes to decompress, cheer up, be pampered.

The view from the modest rear seats. Yes, the blue gives the DB11 Volante a bit of a Frank Sinatra edition vibe, but I dug it.

The view from the modest rear seats. Yes, the blue gives the DB11 Volante a bit of a Frank Sinatra edition vibe, but I dug it.

The Tamo Ash seat backs are gorgeous — and $2,000 extra.

The Tamo Ash seat backs are gorgeous — and $2,000 extra.

It's extremely pleasant to be the driver of this thing.

It's extremely pleasant to be the driver of this thing.

Again, that subtle winged badge.

Again, that subtle winged badge.

And a tachometer front and center on the instrument panel. As it should be.

And a tachometer front and center on the instrument panel. As it should be.

Adult in the back seats? Maybe. More likely, pre-teens. Or just a $2,000 linen sportcoat and an Hermès handbag.

Adult in the back seats? Maybe. More likely, pre-teens. Or just a $2,000 linen sportcoat and an Hermès handbag.

So discreet.

So discreet.

The seats and leather trim are "brogued," just as with fine benchmade shoes.

The seats and leather trim are "brogued," just as with fine benchmade shoes.

The DB11's interior is ultra-mega-premium and relatively uncluttered. The gearshifts are handled by buttons in the center stack, and 8-speed transmission can be manually operated using paddles behind the steering wheel.

The DB11's interior is ultra-mega-premium and relatively uncluttered. The gearshifts are handled by buttons in the center stack, and 8-speed transmission can be manually operated using paddles behind the steering wheel.

The infotainment system is borrowed from Mercedes, operated via a touchpad between the seats. It generates no problems: audio, navigation, Bluetooth pairing, USB/AUX inputs — all check. If you need contemporary infotainment tech in your throwback GT car, you won't be disappointed.

These speakers rise from the dash. The Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system is an $8,300 options. It sounds pretty good, but to be honest I've never been blown away by the audio setups in any Aston. I think it has something to do with the snug design of the cockpits. Doesn't provide a great acoustic environment.

These speakers rise from the dash. The Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system is an $8,300 options. It sounds pretty good, but to be honest I've never been blown away by the audio setups in any Aston. I think it has something to do with the snug design of the cockpits. Doesn't provide a great acoustic environment.

The truck is large enough to handle a few pieces of luggage — enough for a weekend getaway.

The truck is large enough to handle a few pieces of luggage — enough for a weekend getaway.

The key fob. My biggest complaint about the car. It's a lightweight piece of cheap plastic. Not a great place to cut corners, Aston!

The key fob. My biggest complaint about the car. It's a lightweight piece of cheap plastic. Not a great place to cut corners, Aston!

In days of yore, a lovely crystal key had to be inserted in the dashboard to start the car. No more. Now we have a plastic fob and a push-button. Sigh ...

As much as the DB11 is about aesthetics, this is a sports car, so let's examine the Mercedes-AMG-sourced engine tucked beneath the hood.

As much as the DB11 is about aesthetics, this is a sports car, so let's examine the Mercedes-AMG-sourced engine tucked beneath the hood.

That's a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, making 503 horsepower.

That's a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, making 503 horsepower.

What, no V12?

Right. As Ben Zhang noted when reviewing the DB11 coupé, pop the hood on that sucker and "you'll find a sublime 5.2 liter, twin-turbocharged V12."

That engine serves up 600-horsepower and a 3.9-second 0-60 mph sprint, with a 200 mph top speed.

The V8 can manage just 187 mph. But the 0-60 mph run happens just a whisker slower, in about 4 seconds.

It was inspected by one Joseph Rush. Nice work, Mr. Rush!

It was inspected by one Joseph Rush. Nice work, Mr. Rush!

So what's the verdict?

So what's the verdict?

Ben and I agreed that we like the Volante better than the coupé. Nothing wrong with the hardtop — a trained killer in a Savile Row suit, according to Ben— but it's sort of the same thing I feel about the V6 Jaguar F-Type versus the F-Type R. The bigger engine and more stonking power doesn't necessarily provide a superior driving experience.

The V8 is a German motor, of course, and the V12 is Aston-made. But while a massive V12 looks good on paper, a V8 offers ample power and relieves Aston of the burden of dealing with regulatory hurdles associated with dinosaur propulsion. To a degree. We're still talking about just 20 mpg combined here.

The DB11 Volante doesn't feel lighter or friskier than the Coupé — it has that same extremely purposeful vibe, supremely confident going fast in a straight line accompanied by a throaty roar of combustion through the dual exhaust pipes, supremely confident diving into corners, supremely confident racing away from semis on the highway, supremely confident just cruising through the New Jersey suburbs (well, as supremely confident as a car can be in that environment).

The Aston, then, is pretty much in its element no matter what the circumstances. This makes for an endlessly blissful experience, and it should, given the price tag. You very much get what you pay for. The old knockabout convertible being less thrilling to drive than hardtops doesn't apply. The Volante serves up a rush that's equal to the coupé, even with almost 100 less horsepower on tap.

So as much as I love the old DB9, I might have a new favorite Aston.

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