by Jared Rosenholtz
The last time we hopped behind the wheel of an Aston Martin, it was a DB11 with an AMG-sourced V8. We thought the DB11 skated a fine line between agile sports car and comfortable cruiser but in the back of our minds, we knew Aston Martin could create an even more astonishing product. Enter the 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante, the convertible version of the company's flagship grand tourer. There is no outsourced V8 to be found here. Just a twin-turbocharged, hand-built V12 throwing 715 horses at the rear wheels.
Aston first used the DBS moniker in 1967 on a successor to the DB6 and we last saw it used on a DB9-based model from 2007 to 2012. It makes its triumphant return after a brief hiatus, now with the Superleggera (superlight in Italian) moniker attached to pay homage to Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera, an Italian coachbuilder who helped assemble some of Aston's most valuable models. The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante arrived on the market last year without much direct competition, but at this price range, it's all about how the car makes you feel. In the case of the DBS, the feeling is quite spectacular.
Having only arrived in the second half of last year, the still-fresh DBS Superleggera Volante continues into 2020 largely unchanged. However, newly available leather upholstery choices, along with different wheel designs, are now available. Otherwise, the DBS Superleggera Volante continues as the British marque's flagship convertible.
5.2-liter Twin-Turbo V12 Gas
Both muscular and elegant, the Volante builds upon the coupe's stunning styling and adds a power-operated fabric roof that can be lowered in just 16 seconds and raised back up in 14 seconds. The flamboyant styling boasts a large interpretation of the Aston grille, while the front splitter and air dam improve the speed of airflow underneath the car. Deep side strakes also help to reduce lift, aiding stability at higher velocities. LED headlamps and ultra-slim LED taillights are fitted, along with daytime running lights and dynamic indicators. The quad exhaust outlets have a matte black finish, and the alloys are 21-inch items wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tires.
At 185.6 inches in length, the DBS Superleggera Volante is close to seven inches longer than the McLaren 720S Spider, but not as long as a less expensive grand tourer, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet. The Aston measures 51 inches in height, 84.4 inches in width including the side mirrors, and rides on a 110.4-inch wheelbase. The dry weight works out to a hefty 4,107 pounds so, even without a driver and fluids, the Superleggera name is a bit of a head-scratcher.
Choosing a paint color for the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante can consume many hours, such is the pleasure that comes with trying different wheel designs and colors on Aston's vast configurator. The broad color palette spans over 50 shades, including stealthy hues like Satin Xenon Grey, Satin Jet Black, Satin Concours Blue, and Skyfall Silver - a sneaky allusion to Aston's link with 007 over the years. For many, the Volante will be about getting noticed, though, so there are also much more vibrant colors like Hyper Red, Lime Essence, Kermit Green, Elwood Blue, and Frosted Glass Yellow. The brake calipers go beyond the usual red and can be painted in the likes of Vivid Orange, Vivid Blue, and Bronze. A selection of colors for the fabric roof can also be chosen, including Bordeaux Red, Atlantic Blue, Sandstorm, and the more conservative Black. Our tester sported an understated shade of Xenon Gray with red brake calipers, which garnered attention from those in the know while scooting under the radar of the authorities (handy with 715 hp on tap).
With monstrous V12 power under the hood, the DBS Superleggera Volante is one of the quickest convertibles in the world. It'll blitz the 0-62 mph run in 3.6 seconds (just two tenths off the pace of the coupe) and reach a maximum speed of 211 mph, a task that is likely to completely rearrange your hairdo if attempted with the top down. This prodigious shove is thanks to 715 horsepower and 663 lb-ft of torque generated by the 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12 engine, which is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Sending power exclusively to the rear wheels, the Volante can be troubled for traction off the mark, but once you get up to speed, the surge of power is electrifying. Although there are ultimately quicker drop-tops in the world, such as the McLaren 720S Spider, the DBS never feels in need of more oomph.
Like a true GT, the DBS Superleggera Volante's driving experience is dominated by a large-capacity engine. 12 cylinders and twin-turbocharging help the 5.2-liter engine crank out a phenomenal 715 hp and 663 lb-ft of torque. Can anyone say British Hellcat? An eight-speed transmission handles shifting duties and in normal driving, it feels completely civilized. Under normal circumstances, the V12 hums along quietly with a smooth soundtrack playing in the background while transmitting almost no vibration. The transmission loves to stay in top gear to preserve fuel and in the standard GT mode, the car can almost be described as sleepy with regard to throttle response. It even includes an engine stop/start system to improve fuel efficiency, which we gladly left turned off.
Things liven up though when you take the DBS out of GT Mode and place it into Sport or Sport Plus Mode. One little button transforms the DBS from a quiet cruiser to a loud bruiser. The transmission wakes up, allowing a shorter response time between the mashing of your right foot and your ears being filled with a V12 roar. Shifting with the column-mounted paddles increases the involvement even more, eking every last rev out of the sumptuous V12. Let off the throttle or invoke a downshift, and the DBS rewards you with a crackle on the overrun that can shake entire apartment buildings. Ask us how we know...
This is a 4,000-plus-pound GT car, so you might hop in expecting it to feel more luxurious than sporty. But Aston has managed to tread a very thin line here, in our opinion offering the absolute apex of aggressiveness and comfort in one package. In addition to GT, Sport, and Sport Plus modes for the drivetrain, Aston includes these same modes for the suspension, which can be configured independently. Should you wish to tighten up the car's otherwise lovely ride, Sport Plus Mode places the adaptive dampers into their stiffest setting, helping the DBS remain composed at higher speeds. We chose to leave the suspension in its GT setting for most of the week combined with the Sport Plus drivetrain setting, netting maximum comfort and maximum speed.
In a spectrum between the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet and the Ferrari 812 GTS (two front-engined GT cars), we'd place the DBS closer to the Mercedes in terms of comfort with many of the handling characteristics of the Ferrari. The steering, for example, feels pin-point precise and perfectly weighted through Aston's unique square-shaped wheel inspired by the One-77. Some GT cars manage to match the DBS on handling and comfort but few can then pair these traits with flawless steering feel.
According to EPA estimates, the DBS will return 14/22/17 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, predictably heavy consumption for the large V12 engine. Based on these estimates, a realistic range works out to just under 350 miles when the 20.5-gallon gas tank is full. The Bentley Continental GT Convertible is a bit lighter on the pocket, with its V8 variant returning figures of 16/26/19 mpg.
In real-world driving, the DBS earned every penny of its $1,000 gas guzzler tax by returning around 10 mpg on average. When pressed even harder, we saw our fuel economy drop down to around 5 mpg. If we babied it, we could see around 20 mpg on the car's computer but the allure of the V12 exhaust note was simply too tempting to maintain this number for long. At least you can sleep comfortably knowing that the gas was sacrificed in the name of glorious noise.
With its 2+2 configuration, the Volante can seat four, although adults will only really want to sit in the much more spacious front seats. There are plenty of high-quality materials like leather and Alcantara covering the seats, dashboard, and door panels, along with standard features like automatic climate control, front/rear parking sensors, heated seats, and a 360-degree camera system. Ventilated seats are also available for hotter days. The infotainment system is based on Mercedes' older COMAND setup, which is now starting to feel its age. More frustrating are the touch-sensitive climate controls which can prove distracting on the move and be subject to fingerprints and dust. Otherwise, the snug environment is comfortable and feels special, as it should considering the Volante's price.
With the DBS, Aston has managed to craft seats that provide comfort over long journeys and support during spirited driving. The seats are heated and ventilated for further comfort and feature 12 methods of adjustment with three-position memory. Front seat occupants will be comfortable over long journeys but the tiny back seats are best left for luggage that won't fit in the trunk. We left the included wind deflector in place for most of the week and simply ignored the back seats entirely.
As with the exterior, the highly customizable interior can be made as restrained or vibrant as the owner wants it to be. As standard, the cabin is trimmed in Caithness leather and Alcantara, with the DBS logo stylishly embroidered into the headrests. Dark chrome interior jewelry and Piano Black trim inlays provide the glitz. The seats can be primarily trimmed in Alcantara, or with leather in a monotone or duotone style. There are plenty of colors to choose from, including Electron Yellow, Coral Sand, Aurora Blue, Indigo Blue, and Vivid Red, or less eye-popping hues like Wolf Grey, Obsidian Black, and Dark Mocha. The duotone option works well when a more restrained black is paired with something like Electron Yellow, creating a dramatic contrast that really emphasizes the cabin's stylish design. Gorgeous triaxial quilting is a box we'd tick, and you can even select from five seatbelt colors. The Alcantara headlining can be its own color, as can the carpets, and by this point you may want to consider the services of an interior design professional. Twill carbon fiber and open-pore wood are among the available trim inlays.
The DBS Superleggera Volante isn't a car for carrying vast amounts of cargo, as the trunk measures just seven cubic feet when the roof is up, a figure that drops to six cubes when the roof is lowered. The Bentley Continental GT Convertible has a bit more space in its trunk at 8.3 cubes. Quite simply, it's the price to pay for the glamor of top-down motoring.
In the cabin, things aren't much better. The door pockets do offer some storage but there is no glovebox, so most items will go to the center console armrest. This is where the back seats are more useful, as they provide extra packing space when you really need it.
While you'll get more standard gear in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Convertible, the DBS does at least have standard automatic dual-zone climate control, front/rear parking sensors, heated and power-adjustable front seats with a memory function, keyless entry, parking assistance, the electrically-operated roof, and LED headlights. A 360-degree camera system also helps to make parking a less stressful affair and is especially useful since the DBS isn't particularly easy to see out of. Further standard items include a power-adjustable steering column, push-button ignition, powered cargo access, cruise control, and front/side airbags. Along with the wide selection of colors and trim materials, the options list also avails ventilated seats, powered seat bolsters, a heated steering wheel, and a four-piece leather luggage set.
Technology has never been Aston's strong suit and even when borrowing from a tech-forward company like Mercedes-Benz, the small automaker has still managed to make a hash out of it. The infotainment is housed on a small-ish eight-inch screen controlled using a Mercedes-sourced rotating knob and touchpad. COMAND feels outdated in 2020, which is why Mercedes has moved onto a new MBUX infotainment, which we hope Aston will adopt in future model years. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still absent but a standard premium audio system helps you drown out the V12 sound should you finally grow tired of it. Our tester was equipped with the optional Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system with pop-up tweeters that rise from the dash. On a sporty GT like this, infotainment won't make or break the purchasing decision but we'd like to see Aston get with the times here.
As a newcomer to the market, the 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante hasn't yet been subject to any recalls by the NHTSA. As with the Bentley Continental GT Convertible, the Volante is sold with a three-year/unlimited-miles basic warranty. This coverage also covers the drivetrain. A 10-year/unlimited-miles corrosion warranty applies as well.
Local authorities haven't crash-tested the DBS Superleggera in either coupe or convertible guise, so no official rating exists for Aston Martin's latest model presently.
The essential safety features are all in place, including traction control, electronic stability control, tire pressure warning, and an occupant protection system comprising dual front airbags, front side airbags, and front knee airbags. A 360-degree camera is also standard, along with cruise control, front/rear parking sensors, and LED headlights. However, modern driver aids like blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and cross-traffic alert are notable by their absence. Bentley at least makes these items available for the Continental GT Convertible.
All sorts of factors play into the decision to purchase a car but if we were to simply narrow these down to how the car makes us feel, the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante approaches perfection. The steering feels directly connected to the wheels, providing the driver with feedback from the road surface. It is perfectly comfortable even over rough roads and when the path ahead straightens up, the V12 engine sings on its way to 211 mph. Few cars at any price range can match the visceral experience provided by the DBS without punishing the driver with stiff suspension, uncomfortable seats, and overall misery. If we had to pick a car to go coast-to-coast while stopping at all of America's best driving roads, the DBS would be the perfect car for the job.
Yes, the DBS is out of most people's budgets and the Volante version pushes the price up even further by more than $20,000. But this is why cars like this are often referred to as "dream cars" and as far as dream cars are concerned, this one is spectacular.
The privilege of owning the DBS Superleggera Volante will cost a pretty penny: $328,100, to be exact at the time of writing in 2020. This price excludes a $1,000 gas guzzler tax as well as taxes, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $2,825. Starting at over $100,000 less, it must be said that the Bentley Continental GT Convertible suddenly seems like a bit of a bargain, albeit with significantly less power.
The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante is available in just a single trim. Like the coupe equivalent, the Volante is powered by a 5.2-liter twin-turbocharged V12 engine with 715 hp and 663 lb-ft of torque. Powering the rear wheels only and using an eight-speed automatic transmission, it's capable of getting to 62 mph in just 3.6 seconds.
The gorgeous convertible's exterior is characterized by 21-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, quad exhaust outlets, and a carbon fiber clamshell hood. The fully electric fabric roof can be lowered in just 16 seconds. Inside, the Volante offers a 2+2 seating arrangement trimmed in a combination of Caithness leather and Alcantara, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable seats with heating, Bluetooth audio and streaming, and an eight-inch infotainment display screen. A 360-degree camera and front/rear parking sensors form part of the Superleggera's safety offering.
The extensively customizable DBS can be specified to each buyer's individual tastes, adding tens of thousands more to the base price. Although many of the upgrades are aesthetic - from the range of exotic paint colors to a choice of various leathers and trims in the cabin - additional features can also be added. These include a Bang & Olufsen audio system, a wind deflector, ventilated seats, a garage door opener, and the Aston Martin tracking system. If it's all-out gadgetry that you're after, though, cheaper German convertibles offer more. Where the Aston stands out is in the buyer's ability to customize virtually every part of the cabin and to make it look and feel completely unique.
There is only one "trim level" available for the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante and all of the customizing is done via optional extras. Endless customization options are available but if we were to build our dream DBS, we'd opt for a bright hue from the Q palette like Cosmos Orange. Since the DBS is already wildly expensive, we'd spare no expensive kitting the car out with carbon fiber trim on the interior and exterior, Q exclusive leather, Bang & Olufsen audio, and the Underbonnet Jewelry pack, which coats the engine badging, oil cap, and insulation in gold. As-tested, our DBS Superleggera Volante carried a sticker price of $379,436.
Although both these cars are British convertibles that are similarly priced, the DBS Superleggera Volante and 720S Spider are very different animals. It only takes a look at the scales to confirm this: the Aston is over 850 lbs heavier than the McLaren. While the DBS Superleggera is incredibly quick, it still aims to cosset its occupants in a super luxurious cabin, whereas the 720S Spider is an all-out supercar that just happens to be roofless when you want it to be. Both cars produce in excess of 700 horsepower, but the McLaren's lighter weight allows it to reach 60 in an amazing 2.8 seconds. And, while the Aston's gearbox and handling capabilities are admirable, everything feels heavier and slower to react than in the precise, scalpel-sharp McLaren; the 720S is clearly the more visceral machine. But the Aston is more beautiful, both inside and out, and comes with more features - plus, it has small rear seats for emergencies or extra storage space. It's difficult to choose a winner because these two convertibles serve such different purposes.
Starting at around $100,000 less than the Aston Martin, the Bentley Continental GT Convertible is off to a big advantage. Newly introduced last year, both these convertibles are fresh to the market. The Aston is sleeker and a bit racier, whereas the Bentley has more of a grand-old-school charm about it. Despite the cheaper price, the Bentley has an even more luxurious and finely crafted cabin - every inch of it has been constructed with care and every surface is covered in exemplary materials. While both cabins can be customized to your heart's content, the Bentley offers more available features, such as adaptive cruise control and night vision, and you can add many of these extras before getting to Aston's base price. In W12 form, the Bentley produces 626 hp (down on the Aston's mammoth 715 hp), making the Continental a few tenths slower to 60. To drive, both cars feel heavy, but this somehow feels more in tune with a Bentley than an Aston Martin. The GT is not only more comfortable and refined, but can hold its own in the corners too, and offers all-wheel-drive security. Both are achingly desirable, but at $100,000 less, it's hard to argue with what Bentley offers.
Check out some informative Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante video reviews below.