A V12 engine is wholly unnecessary these days. Most automotive companies are unveiling hybrid and electric powertrains, or yanking insane power out of tiny engines; witness how the mechanical wizards over at Mercedes-AMG have managed to coax a staggering 416 horses out of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The future of transportation seems to have found many replacements for displacement.
Then you fire up the 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante. And after those 12 glorious cylinders roar to life, all horrorshow and delightfully demonic noise, you realize, “We can never give up the V12. This must be defended to our dying breath.”
The Good: It’s an Aston Martin, so the exterior is as beautiful as they come. From first glance at the menacing mustached-grilled face — elongated and widened to help shovel air to that ginormous engine — to the completely new hindquarters that house the folding roof and it’s mechanisms, the DBS Superleggera Volante is sexy, aggressive and commanding.
Subtle Easter eggs abound, such as the way the front quarter panel side vents match the angle of the hood vent strakes. The rear haunches have been enlarged, which is most noticeable when you spend extra time moving the side mirrors to see past them; you’ll need that view unobstructed given the frequent rearward glances before you rip past all the lesser machines during your travels. A plush interior provides maximum comfort on long hauls, making it an ideal grand tourer.
Who It’s For: Anyone who believes V8s are child’s play, who finds 715 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of twist appealing, and who yearns to feel the wind ripping his hair out with the top — and accelerator — down. (And who has $335,000 to spare.)
Watch Out For: The Volante is a two-plus-two, so there technically is a backseat. However, no adult humans will be able to contort their bodies as to utilize the rear seats for any real period of time. Trunk capacity is limited, given the addition of the roof mechanism; owners intending on using the Volante as a road-tripper best practice packing light. Speaking of weight reduction, the use of Superleggera — Italian for “superlight” — is a giant misnomer, as the Superleggera Volante tips the scales at a hefty 4,450 pounds, though the addition of 220 pounds (for the drop-top) only mildly dulls the scream to 60 by 0.2 seconds over its hardtop sibling.
Alternatives: Only a handful of 12-cylinder super-steeds exist. You’ve got the W12-powered Bentley Continental GT convertible, which, while heavier at 5,019 pounds, bests the DBS Volante to 60 mph by 0.2 seconds. The Winged B’s luxe interior also trounces the DBS Superleggera Volante’s, and it all clocks in $100,000 under the Aston’s base price. The Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster, which begins at $421,321, churns out 730 horsepower (15 more ponies than the Aston), and the sprint to 60 happens in an eye-watering 2.9 seconds. Lastly, there’s the Ferrari 812 Superfast, a $363,730 stunner from Maranello that gas 788 prancing horses on tap. It’ll win all of the V12 drag races, catapulting you to 60 in 2.8 seconds. (It only comes in coupe form, though.)
Review: The backdrop for the DBS Superleggera Volante test drive was Tarragona, Spain, a picturesque mountainous region not terribly far from Barcelona known for its vineyards. So chosen because of the nation’s impeccably maintained serpentine roads, the assembled automotive media wound up being welcomed by triple-digit temps and a slew of wildfires dotting the countryside. Heat and smoke plumes be damned; with a 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12 at your disposal, you can outrun the fires and drop the top to make your own cooling breeze.
The DBS stems from the DB11, which lies a step down in the Aston hierarchy; as such, the Superleggera Volante borrows the fabric-and-metal roof system from the DB11 convertible. Those 715 available horses and a lightly-tweaked suspension for improved road manners help provide a top speed of 211 mph, regardless of the roof’s position. White-knuckle the squared-leather tiller and mash the accelerator, and that top-speed integer becomes very real as this road-legal weapon fires to 60 seconds in 3.5 seconds and the massive heap of torque keeps you pinned against the seat.
With the roof lowered, the exhaust notes are full and rich, even in the calmest driving mode of “GT.” That softens the throttle mapping, suspension, and the ubiquitous eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic gearbox‘s shifts. Even in that most sedate setting, though, that honking engine delivers ample brawn, and you just need to bring the might to the gas pedal to get the Aston lurching forth. One area for improvement may be the transmission tune here, which frequently scrambles downward in search of the ideal gear when not required.
Flip the switch to Sport or Sport Plus and the Superleggera Volante howls with glee. Literally: Burbles and cracks bolster the exhaust notes, while the throttle response and suspension become scalpel-sharp. The Volante’s 50/50 weight distribution, coupled with communicative feedback from the steering wheel, make impassioned sprints and passes a proper hoot. When the full whoosh of 664 lb-ft of torque arrives at the rear wheels at a mere 1,800 rpm, the Volante responds with the slightest wiggle of its tail before hurtling you down the road. Rinse and repeat, and you’ll also elicit the occasional cackle of delight from the passenger seat.
Despite its relative largeness, the DBS Volante’s agility through corners while remaining glued to Tarragona’s terra firma is admirable. It dances around pinched hairpins with aplomb, booms from the exhaust echoing off steep surrounding mountain slopes. Switch to manual mode for transmission control and keep your foot buried all the way to the red line on the tach, and you’ll find every expanse of road is suddenly too short for the car. Swift dives onto the carbon brake rotors are rewarded with immediate stops sans drama or chatter. She stops as good as she goes.
Verdict: A surprising amount of our test drive route was closed, either due to the raging wildfires or other accidents, forcing us to forge a new path back to our endpoint. Ordinarily, hunting for an open road would be a chore — especially after encountering the umpteenth closure barricade. In the 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante, it just meant extra time flogging the bejeezus out of that V12. And in a car this good, every extra second was welcome.
Powertrain: 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12; eight-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Torque: 664 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 3.5 seconds
Aston Martin hosted us and provided this product for review.
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