Forget James Bond. Aston Martin's most powerful convertible ever is the automotive embodiment of David Beckham – an impeccable physical specimen endowed with the rare combination of pretty boy good looks and athletic prowess so exceptional it's difficult to believe.
But such is the 2014 Vanquish Volante.
At least the 565-horsepower grand tourer will be available to more individuals than Victoria Beckham and the couple's four children, though not too many more. Introduced in August and available early next year, the $300,820 Vanquish Volante is one of just five models in an exclusive lineup that sells a mere 3,800 cars annually.
Volante is the Italian term for flight, but translated into English by Aston Martin, it's a suffix for any premium sports car the British automaker has deigned to lose its top. In the case of the Vanquish, that means a four-seat coupe that's jettisoned its fixed carbon-fiber roof in favor of Thinsulate fabric that can be operated while driving at speeds of up to 30 mph, though getting to that speed is achieved in about two seconds – far more quickly than the 14 seconds it takes to fully retract the roof.
The Volante's soft top is the only part of the Vanquish that isn't sheathed in lightweight carbon fiber, which on the test car I drove for a day was painted an appropriate shade for a performance vehicle that appeals to men's vanity: peacock blue or, as Aston Martin terms it, Ocellus. Even so, its designers let the car's carbon fiber expose itself where appropriate for maximum aesthetic effect – on the retracting door handles, mirror caps and front and rear splitters.
The Vanquish is, after all, a supercar, even if it has lost its lid. The first Aston Martin convertible to accurately mimic the silhouette of its origin sports coupe with a full-size windshield that effortlessly disappears into its aerodynamic roofline, it is powered with the same fourth-generation 6.0-liter V-12 as the hardtop.
Accessing that power is accomplished through an idiosyncratic ritual. The driver places the key fob in a slot on the center console, which ingests it as a pinball machine does a quarter and brings the beast to life.
Like any premium sports car worth Bill Gates' chump change, the Vanquish Volante can be operated in three drive modes, but it's the sport setting that beckons. Literally. The sport button isn't just red. It glows, daring drivers to press it and proceed full steam ahead.
I was happy to oblige when I took the Vanquish Volante for a spin along Ortega Highway, where it handled like a perfect gentleman, effortlessly sashaying through the canyons without threatening to slam me into the quilted leather door panels. Already, the Vanquish boasts three times the firepower of the average passenger car and exponentially more charisma. But it's also outfitted with adaptive damping, dynamic stability control and electronic brake-force distribution, which determines the most effective application of its carbon ceramic brakes and how they put the clamp on 20-inch alloy wheels.
The Vanquish Volante is a terrifically well-heeled machine that makes it difficult for even the worst drivers to look like idiots. Herky-jerky as their inputs might be, the car automatically smoothes them. Its engine is front-mounted but driven with the rear wheels. Low slung and substantial-feeling, with its 2-ton curb weight split 51 percent front and 49 percent rear, the handling was agile, composed and forgiving.
Vanquish is exactly what the Volante did in the canyons. I'm fairly sure I blasted the hearing aids out of the ears of the elderly driver I passed on the straight with only the slightest press of the accelerator. In retrospect, I probably should've taken the car out of sport mode, which amplifies both the engine and exhaust notes, but its guttural sound was too satisfying – especially with the top down.
With the top up, however, drivers will be glad for the 13-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system to disguise the wind and road noise.
More than a few times in the hours I had with this car, I looked in my rear view only to see some racer-boy in an Audi or other "budget" Euro-mobile so new it still had paper plates, speeding toward my rear bumper, hoping to give me a run for the money. Aston Martins of any stripe tend to inspire such shenanigans, having spent a century accumulating wins that have made the marque one of the most pedigreed in motorsports.
While its subtly sculpted exterior and engine sounds scream "sport," the Vanquish Volante interior is pure luxury. The blue of my test car was carried into an exquisitely crafted, leather-clad cockpit offset with 1 million individual stitches sewn in an optional hourglass pattern. While most Aston Martin buyers select the same plebeian color palette as everyone else – white, black or silver – more intriguing color combinations are available. The peacock blue, for example, was offset with yellow brake calipers, as well as yellow piping on the contoured seats and yellow paddle shifters affixed to the same square-sided steering wheel as Aston's jaw-dropping, limited-edition One-77.
The waterfall center console of the Vanquish is likewise lifted from the sold-out One-77. Intuitively arranged, the gear shift and climate controls are positioned along a steeply declining wall, as if the buttons could just drop off and collect in the leather-trimmed cubby down below.
While the front seats offer a good amount of head and leg room, the rear seats are just that: seats. There is absolutely no room for legs, which makes them suitable for carrying a purse but not passengers. Still, the Vanquish boasts the largest space of any Aston Martin, including its trunk, which can fit two whole sets of golf clubs.
Already, the Vanquish Volante should be sold with a matching pair of Beefeaters, but in case the base model isn't exclusive enough, Aston Martin recently announced a Neiman Marcus edition that will be limited to just 10 cars and painted the same Seychelles Blue as the DB6 Volante in which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were driven for their 2011 nuptials.
Featuring bespoke trimmings from the automaker's customization arm – Q by Aston Martin – the Neiman Marcus edition may give a nod to James Bond. But the Vanquish Volante drives and bends like Beckham.
2014 ASTON MARTIN VANQUISH VOLANTE:
–Base price: $300,820
–Powertrain: Naturally aspirated 6.0-liter V-12; four valves per cylinder; quad overhead cam; front mid-mounted engine; rear-wheel drive; six-speed automatic with electronic shift-by-wire control
–Horsepower: 565 at 6,750 rpm
–Torque: 457 pound-feet at 5,500 rpm
–0 to 60 mph: 4.1 seconds
–Top speed: 183 mph
–Overall length: 186 inches
–Wheelbase: 107.9 inches
–Weight: 4,065 pounds
–Manufacturer-estimated fuel economy: 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway, 15 mpg combined
(c)2013 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
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