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Aston Martin DBS 2009 Review

I have a friend - yes, it's true - who is a keen cyclist and who, among other challenges, has circumnavigated Australia on his treadly.  Despite living some distance from the CBD, he cycles to his city office on occasions when the weather is fair and may take to the road on weekends for a bit of extra legwork.  Cycling doesn't imply that my friend practices financial restraint because when he gets out of the lycra he gets into his Saab convertible.

"I would never have a car with a roof again," he says. "It's just like being on a bike. You see more, feel more, hear more and I get to wherever I'm going without feeling captured, closed in and stressed. I even drive a bit slower."

Which answers questions about the Sunday driving style of many convertible owners and specifically ignores all the potential downsides of sunburn and erratic hair.  Convertibles, above all, are sexy. Yes, sexier than lycra. And this, Aston Martin's latest DBS Volante which is the first to land in Australia, is the sexiest of them all.

Sexy is subjective but I've yet to find anyone disagreeable about the looks of an Aston Martin. Then you just take the top off and voila!  But it's more than that. Technically this V12-engined machine is identical to the DBS Coupe and V12 Vantage and one rung up from the DB9 models.

It's designed for grand touring with a fang on the side, a car that will cosset you and your lady on your weekender yet at a press of the accelerator, capable of baring its teeth. Its bite really is as formidable as its bark.

Pricing and fit-out

At $535,350 (plus on-road costs) this is the Touchmatic version that loses the clutch pedal and gains steering wheel paddle shifters and a civilised approach commuting. The six-speed manual, wonderful though it is, may become hard work in traffic.  It's priced to shout loudly at its arrival on the street and just in case you missed its vision, there's that distinctive "active" exhaust system to rasp its symphony up and down your spine.

The Volante is a four-seater according to Aston literature. But the only way a human could occupy the beautifully sculptured leather cocoon behind the driver is to remove superfluous limbs or adjust the seat until the driver's chest is pressing on the steering wheel.  For two occupants. it's a lovely piece of work. The rear seats are good for shopping bags and that leaves plenty of legroom upfront.

The cabin is pure Aston and identical to the rest of the range. Only trim and colour defines the models and in the case of the DBS Volante, includes carbon-fibre door pulls and centre console mask and the remains of selected cattle.  The roof is fabric and for the new model - identified predominantly by the clear tail light lenses - is thinner. That means more room for your head but Aston assures does not increase the intrusion of exterior noise. For heaven's sake, isn't there enough noise going on under the bonnet and out the tailpipes?

The boot is just a small carpeted box and instead of a spare wheel there's an aerosol kit and the telephone number of a tilt-tray truck.  Volante owners who can be bothered also get an anti-buffeting screen for days and nights when the roof is down. They will appreciate, however, that when the wind is modest the roof can be raised or lowered at vehicle speeds of up to 48km/h.

You don't have to make a spectacle of yourself stopped at the traffic lights, even if you wanted to, because the roof action is surprisingly rapid.  Running your fingers through the automatic gearbox is simply a matter of pressing the relevant button atop the centre console, with individual cogs commanded by the paddles sprouting from the steering column.

The fun starts with the "Sports" button set low in the console, positioned almost out of temptation and alongside the equally fearful switch that disarms the electronic stability and traction system.  With a hot 380kW V12 under the alloy bonnet, you would think there was no need for a Sports button. In fact, it doesn't produce more power it just sharpens up drivetrain components so it reacts quicker, spins further and sounds even more magnetic.

The button defaults to the off position and was so sorely missed that I had to keep turning it back on, even if it was to exaggerate the exhaust howl.

Driving

Discovering the importance of the button meant spending a cool morning on a vacant track, flicking up and down the paddles on the left and right and letting the tachometer needle close in on 8000rpm.  It has brilliant handling, with a bite in the corners and the immense torque on tap for a slingshot exit.

Despite its bulk and its price tag, it's a very easy car to punt and even driven hard shows little tendency to lose the plot.  Though the Volante is mechanically identical to its DBS Coupe sister, there are distinct characteristics.  It rides so well you'd never think it had 20-inch wheels. Harsh traffic bumps that upset similar cars are simply glided over in the Volante.

As if appreciating that a roof-down car invites more noise, the Volante's exhaust starts with a burble and crackle and then softens to being almost inaudible at 2000rpm before waking the dead when the engine hits 4000rpm.  This interval is where a driver - not necessarily you or me - would coast through narrow suburban streets and motor gently down a busy shopping strip.

Here it is seen but not necessarily heard. You and I, of course, would select first cog and get the engine over 4000rpm and do a slow but raucous parade to make ourselves noticed and value-add the price we paid for the car. And for $535,350, we'd be within our rights.

ASTON MARTIN DBS VOLANTE

Price: $535,350
Engine: 6-litre, V12
Power: 380kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 570Nm @ 5750rpm
Perfomance: 0-100km/h: 4.3 seconds, top speed: 307km/h Economy (official): 16.4 litres/100km, (tested): 21.5 litres/100km
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, sequential; rear-drive

Rating: 90/100

Rivals:

Bentley Continental GTC Speed Conv ($480,997) 88/100 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder ($502,000) 91/100 Ferrari California ($459,650) 90/100 Mercedes SL65 AMG ($502,000) _ 89/1000

Pricing Guides

$138,435
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$128,810
Highest Price
$148,060

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 5.9L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $128,810 – 148,060 2009 Aston Martin DBS 2009 (base) Pricing and Specs