Test Drive: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante
British elegance, raw power and modern styling in the brand's first full carbon convertible
"There is no bumper, there’s only form" Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s design director, explains when briefing us on the 2014 Vanquish Volante in advance of our spirited drive through the deserts surrounding Palm Springs. Reichman is a proud Brit, with a long heritage in automotive design, who took the helm at Aston Martin eight years ago. His excitement for the design of this car is expressed with the same enthusiasm as a story he recounts later over dinner—hearing that he got the job back in 2005. The car, Aston’s first fully carbon fiber convertible, is a perfectly paralleled sibling to the redesigned Vanquish introduced last year—a true GT offering comfort and style during both high speed and long distance drives.
Like all vehicles in the brand’s current line-up, the Vanquish Volante’s design is grounded by the Golden Ratio—every measurement has an exactly proportional counterpart. This formula, best summarized as the division of a line in the extreme and mean ratio, was derived by the ancient Greeks from observing basic forms in nature and geometry. Beyond its proportional perfections, the Vanquish has unique expressions made possible because of its full carbon fiber body. The side line aims forward; creating the sense that the car is lifting from the rear. Triangulated forms behind the rear wheels create width and the shape of the trunk lid and fin are simply impossible to construct from a single piece of any other material.
A strong aesthetic prowess extends from the sparkling winged hood emblem all the way to the car's carefully executed tail-light design. Not to be misled by the use of forward-thinking materials and design, this is an Aston Martin through and through. Keeping design and production all within Great Britain, the hood emblem was designed and produced by a Birmingham-based jeweler. Extending through to the rear of the car, the classic imagery and sprit of England's finest luxury sports car maker remains strong. The wings of Aston Martin's logo are mirrored in the Volante's tail-lights. After launching their car personalization program to much acclaim at last year's Geneva Auto Show, the new Volante is available for Q treatment in a wide range of exterior and interior colors from the subdued and elegant to the vibrant and zesty. Nearly every aspect of the car can be customized with Q, giving drivers a one-of-a-kind ride made to their exact specifications and desires.
As beautiful inside as it is out, the Volante's interior sets a new standard in craftsmanship for its class. Utilizing carbon fiber for each body panel allows for fewer parts and essentially fewer joints, resulting in an interior that looks and feels hand-molded. With the highest quality full-grain Luxmil leather (with optional quilting), the plushness of the interior is unquestionable. Even with the top down and the warm desert air swirling about, the 15-speaker BeoSound audio system delivered the full-bodied, textured sound for which Danish audio specialists Bang & Olufsen are renowned. Arguably the most notable design element in the Volante is the restructuring of the center stack; opting for elegance, simplicity and an improved user interface. Familiar controls like engine start and gear selection exist alongside a newly integrated infotainment system. All of the buttons feature haptic feedback—the tactile technology used in touch-screens—offering precise control and, in the age of smartphones, an intuitive user interface. While the center stack is—for the most part—a triumph, there are a few shortcomings. For a car in its class, the satellite navigation system leaves much to be desired. While it is functional, the navigation system falls behind the rest of the Volante's execution.
The Vanquish Volante was a pleasure to drive within the constraints of traffic and the generally slower life of downtown Palm Springs. Unlike other cars with over 560 horsepower, it’s not edgy, jumpy or itching to speed. The moment we got out of town, however, all that power was at our disposal and we rocketed along the winding mountain roads sticking turns like the opening chase scene in a Bond film—or so we pretended. The Vanquish is a GT meant to balance comfort with performance so throttle response and suspension were a bit more gentle than the delightfully sharp V12 Vantage S which we also recently had the thrill of driving. The line between comfort and performance is variable, however—available adjustments to the suspension and transmission let us set up our own ratios of sorts.
From day in to night, under the warm desert skies, we literally forgot the Vanquish Volante had a top and never put it up. The three-layer soft top is reported to open or close in under 14 seconds, even while driving at speeds up to 30 mph. Starting at $298,000, the Vanquish Volante will begin shipping in early 2014. For a closer look, check out the slideshow.
Images by Josh Rubin