2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante first drive review: Relaxed rush

The 715-horsepower Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante is a car best driven fast, but not hard.

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Sometimes numbers really don't matter. Say, when the roof's down in the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante, warm Spanish air gently tousling your hair, V12 soundtrack overlaid in your head with Matt Munro's "On Days Like These..."

At a semi-hypothetical time like this, for example, a 0-62 mile-per-hour acceleration figure and how it compares to another car's 0-62-mph figure simply isn't important. As long as the car has enough torsional rigidity, then precisely how much it has is of no concern. And will you be worried as you sweep through the Catalan countryside that you're in a car with six pounds less downforce? I just don't think you will.

That's not to say that some of the new DBS Superleggera Volante's numbers aren't impressive. A 0-62 mph time of 3.6 seconds (and a 0-100 time of just 6.7 seconds) is hot stuff. Slower than a McLaren 720S Spider, admittedly, but also quicker than a new Bentley Continental GT Convertible. Similarly, I like the fact that the Volante is capable of 211 mph flat out, no matter whether the roof is up or down. Impressively, that's exactly the same v-max as its fixed-roof sister. Also identical to the coupe are the power and torque figures produced by the 5.2-liter, twin-turbo V12: a robust 715 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 664 pound-feet of torque between 1,800 and 5,000 rpm.

Inevitably the Volante is heavier than the DBS Superleggera Coupe, with a dry weight of 4,108 pounds, representing a substantial 375-pound increase. Similarly unsurprising is the fact that about a third of the torsional stiffness has been lost by removing the bracing benefits of a roof, but as I said, there's still plenty of resistance to twisting left in reserve. The reason for the reduction in downforce from 396 pounds to 390 is the loss of the C-pillars and the attendant aeroblades that they housed. However, the fact that their removal has made such a small difference perhaps asks more questions of the coupe than the convertible.

Even more impressive is that the softening of the roof hasn't neutered the marvelously muscular looks of the DBS. The front is the same as before (although the curlicues behind the front wheels are a touch deeper) but the rear has had to be remodeled to accommodate the roof mechanism beneath the carbon skin. It has been done incredibly effectively. The waisted, big-haunched look that is so redolent of the Aston Martin One-77 has been preserved and perhaps, somehow, even accentuated in the Volante. Overall, something about it just oozes laid-back confidence and I think walking up to it with the key in your hand would always put a spring -- possibly even a swagger -- in your step.

Press the starter and the V12 comes to life with all the theatricality of an operatic gorilla gargling to clear its throat. Like the looks, the 5.2-liter engine has a smooth strength to it that feels effortlessly devastating. You don't need to rev it out. It feels happier when you're leaning on the monumental torque, which the rear wheels do a remarkable job of transmitting to the tarmac. If you do swing the needle 'round to the redline then you'll notice that's the only time when the turbos really become vocal, the thunderous musicality giving way to a little more gas rush and chirruping.

The gearbox will certainly thank you for sticking to the mid-range, too, as this disguises a slight lack of crispness to the way the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission goes about its business. Most of the time it responds to requests politely, but it doesn't feel as brisk as the best out there, so you find that you tend to hold onto gears more than you might.

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The chassis is also best when held back a fraction from all-out attack, but then I think the coupe is happiest at something less than 10 tenths, too. And it's a car that makes such huge strides even when you're not trying that, to be honest, there's very little sense of missing out. You'll feel the slight tremor indicating a loss of structural rigidity as you pass over the first bumps, but in the next breath you'll feel the precision retained by the steering and it won't matter. The weight is noticeable on the brakes if you're really pushing hard (the Volante certainly needs the huge 16-inch carbon ceramic front discs) and through harsher compressions you can scuff the nose at speed. But then you can do that in a Ferrari 488 Pista, as well.

What I hope you're getting a picture of is a car that is not dynamically perfect, but is incredibly enjoyable to spend time with. It has character and flair and it just makes you feel good about life. It's thrillingly fast, plenty good enough down a decent piece of twisting road and, somehow, it's rather nice to not feel like you're missing out if you're not pushing it to the very limit. It's a relaxed rush.

The DBS Superleggera Volante is a truly open-top experience as well. Sit in something like a current McLaren or Lamborghini with the roof down and you get more of a targa vibe, whereas in the DBS you feel more exposed to and in touch with your surroundings. The midengined cars are like sitting in the crucible of the new Centre Court at Wimbledon with its roof open, whereas the DBS is more like being at Lord's Cricket Ground. Exacerbating this trait further is the fact that you can drive the DBS with all the windows down (the state in which convertibles inevitably look best) and not be unduly buffeted by the wind.

And the cost of all this? Well, in the US a DBS Superleggera Volante will require you to hand over $329,100. Sums which, sadly, I can't afford. Sometimes, of course, numbers do matter.

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