2024 Aston Martin DB12 Volante review: A breath of fresh air

You’d expect the Aston Martin DB12 Volante to be a plum drive but is this well-ventilated car preferable to the coupé? Andrew Frankel goes topless

Marketing bumf talks of the DB12 being “scythed with sharpness” – but it’s a good-looking car with or without roof

Marketing bumf talks of the DB12 being “scythed with sharpness” – but it’s a good-looking car with or without roof

Dominic Fraser

It was, I suppose, a moment of clarity. Unless you are a motoring journalist this will sound ridiculous, but in the road-testing game you can get so caught up in the business of getting the job done you can quite forget to enjoy yourself. I’m not asking for pity here, by any standards I’m a lucky boy, but often you have so little time with a car and so much that’s new about it that needs to be understood, it is all you can do just to come home with a reliable opinion about it.

This was not one of those days. I had the new Aston Martin DB12 Volante for hours and didn’t even need to share it with another journo nor even take any photographs. The DB12 component of its title I knew already from the coupé version, the Volante from the DB11 Volante whose roof system has been taken over almost unchanged. By normal standards this was not going to be a tough day. So for a moment or two I did something I never normally do: I parked my inner critic, sat back in those soft leather chairs and simply enjoyed the ride. And there was much to enjoy, for I was driving a brand new convertible Aston Martin on quiet, open Cotswolds roads in fine weather, wind in what’s left of my hair, the twin turbo V8’s baritone warblings clearly audible over the very well managed onrush of wind. It was a form of automotive heaven.

So of course that made me extremely uncomfortable. After all this time, I still don’t feel my natural place is in such machines, largely because I’d not have one hope in hell of being able to pay for one. So back on went the mantle of the gimlet-eyed inquisitor, my reason for being here was returned and all was once more well in my world.

Wind in the hair – but  this man’s a tin-topper through and through

Wind in the hair – but this man’s a tin-topper through and through

I’d like to say that the Volante is so much more than merely a drop-top DB12, but that is precisely what it is, no more or less. It has a slightly higher rear spring rate to cope with the additional mass of the stowed roof at the back of the car and the consequent rearward shift in weight distribution, but it’s only increased by 10% because the hood adds just 90kg to the mass of an already near two tonne car. Actually, that’s an admirably low figure for a roof system which comprises a hood of no fewer than eight separate layers and all the attendant electric motors which must be strong enough to raise the roof in quarter of a minute while the car is travelling at 30mph into a stiff headwind.

“Someone at Aston told me it’s even quieter than the coupé, which I can just about believe”

And it’s been achieved by taking the brave decision to add precisely zero additional bracing to the chassis to compensate for the inevitable loss in rigidity concomitant with deleting a large and structurally significant part of the car. Aston’s argument is that the chassis strengthening work done when turning the DB11 into the DB12 obviates the need. I think what’s being left unspoken here is that the sort of person who’s going to buy such a car is not the kind to quibble over the last newton-metre per degree of torsional rigidity. And it is also true that compared to, say, a DB9 Volante, its feels as structurally sound as an LMP1 car. But it’s not like the coupé, and the odd fizz, jolt and even the occasional rattle you could never imagine finding their way past the coupé’s suspension does penetrate the cabin. Nor does the steering seem to have quite the same precision. Does it matter? To me, a little. Owners might however set greater store by the fact the ride remains excellent most of the time and the roof up refinement quite extraordinary. Someone from Aston even told me that it’s quieter than the coupé, which I can just about believe.


I feel more short-changed by the absence of a V12 engine, even as an option. The AMG-sourced V8 works better in the coupé because it has more of that brute-in-a-suit vibe about it. Don’t misunderstand me: this is an epic motor providing towering punch even to one as hefty as this, but it’s no substitute for the svelte smoothness brought by upping the cylinder count by half as many again. Also, its voice is louder and clearer with the roof up than down. I’m not saying this is a good nor bad thing, just something you might like to be aware of.

Yet this is still a fine Volante Aston: though imperfect, it is to date the best to drive by a distance and a fabulous thing to look at too. And now Aston Martin has dragged its infotainment systems up to the present day you no longer need to wince when seeing all those decade-old Merc C-Class bits dotted around the cabin.

But I’d still have the coupé, which is one of the best Astons, period. My problem with this car – and I accept it is mine and maybe nobody else’s – is that however much I enjoyed being in it, which I did very much, I could never escape the gnawing knowledge of how much more, even than that, I’d be enjoying the coupé. And the convertible roof just doesn’t mean enough to me. If it does to you, fill your boots, for there is precious little else likely to trouble you here.

Aston Martin DB12 Volante

  • Price £199,500
  • Engine 4 litres, eight cylinders, petrol, turbocharged
  • Power 671bhp at 6000rpm
  • Torque 590lb ft at 2750rpm
  • Weight 1905kg (DIN)
  • Power to weight 352bhp per tonne
  • Transmission Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph 3.7sec
  • Top speed 202mph
  • Economy 23.2mpg
  • CO2 276g/km
  • Verdict Wonderful, but roof preferred.