Licence to thrill

The drop-top version of the Aston Martin DBS Volante is a car even 007 would be proud to own, as Steve Walker discovers

PRESUMABLY convertible cars are a big no-no for members of Her Majesty's Secret Service. Having your head exposed to the elements must be a major disadvantage when being pursued by baddies with machine guns and rocket launchers, so Aston Martin's most famous customer might not be too enamoured with the DBS Volante. Fortunately, any red-blooded individual without a licence to kill will absolutely love it.The DBS Volante is Aston Martin's 16th open-topped effort, joining a range that already included the Vantage Roadster and the DB9 Volante. Although the DBS shares many common parts with the DB9, it incorporates a number of modifications designed to provide greater sporting focus.The engine bay isn't where much of the DBS development budget was spent. The familiar 48-valve 6.0-litre V12 once found in the Vanquish resides here, though it's been enhanced with a smarter bypass system that opens at higher revs to provide additional intake air and a more aggressive exhaust note.Getting to 60mph is the work of 4.3s and the top speed is 191mph, so this convertible is equipped to live with the top supercars. The standard gearbox is a six-speed manual but customers can opt for the wheel-mounted paddle shifters of the Touchtronic automatic. The DBS Volante is another effortlessly beautiful car. The fabric hood can open in just 14 seconds and is engineered to give the best possible insulation from noise and the elements. It disappears beneath the sculpted rear tonneau cover which features twin humps that hide Aston's ROPS Roll-Over-Protection-System.Rigidity, or the loss of it, is always a major problem when removing the roof from a coupe but the DBS was designed with a Volante version in mind from the outset and the drop top car retains 75 per cent of the coupe's chassis stiffness.Equipment includes electric memory heated sports seats with ten-way electric adjustment, parking sensors, a trip computer, power-folding mirrors, 20-inch alloys, sat nav and a beautifully finished interior set off by an all-alloy centre console. There's a sophisticated car alarm and a Tracking device, the stereo is a Bang & Olufsen BeoSound unit, the braking system uses carbon ceramic discs and the suspension is governed by Aston's Adaptive Damping system.Don't expect to average better than around 20mpg even if you do a fair few motorway miles. There's also the irritation that the small fuel tank will make the car seem even thirstier than it is. Better news comes in terms of depreciation. Because of the car's exclusivity, expect residual values to be as high, if not higher, than an equivalent Ferrari's. The DBS Volante is largely what you would expect from a car that sits at the top of the Aston Martin product range with engineering, luxury, technology and performance coming together under a predictably exclusive price tag. The FactsPRICE: �172,500 - on the road [est]INSURANCE GROUP: 20CO2 EMISSIONS: 388g/km [est]PERFORMANCE: Max Speed 191mph / 0-60mph 4.3sFUEL CONSUMPTION: (urban) 11.7mpg / (extra urban) 24.1mpg / (combined) 17.3mpg [est]STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front, window & side airbags, ABS, traction control.WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: L 4721mm, W 1905mm, H 1280m;

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