One last hurrah

One last hurrah
An Aston Martin Vanquish Volante model car is displayed at the British carmaker's booth during the press day of the Geneva Motor Show in Geneva.

Take a good long look. Or better yet, a good, long listen to the Aston Martin Vanquish Volante. Because the marque's epic V12-powered cars are about to rasp their last, victims of more stringent CO2 emission regulations. By the time a next generation Aston Martin fires to life (within the next few years), it will most likely come equipped with a forced-induction V8 that is built in conjunction with Mercedes-AMG.

So it helps, then, that in its final act before it exits, Gaydon's soft-top range-topper is quite possibly the best, most complete Aston Martin in a long while, and not just for its strikingly beautiful looks, regardless of whether the triple- layered fabric roof (that takes 14 seconds to stow or deploy) is up or down.

The best bit about the Vanquish Volante is the way it handles, finally curing the wooliness of its predecessor, the DBS Volante. The Vanquish Volante touts an increase in torsional rigidity of up to 14 per cent, achieved mainly through the use of carbon fibre in the rear end of its chassis.

More importantly, the newfound stiffness and revised suspension settings have endowed the Vanquish Volante with some iron-fisted body control, aided nicely by the tenacious grip of the Pirelli P Zero tyres. This soft-top car is emphatically not soft, something made abundantly clear when the ADS adaptive suspension is put into Sport or Track mode.

That said, the suspension, while admittedly firm in the above two modes, still has as a modicum of comfort, as the ADS is a fully active system. It constantly takes into account a host of variables, including vehicle speed and steering angle, to provide an optimum damping setup, so city driving, even in Track mode, does not become too tiring for its occupants.

Still, whichever suspension mode you select, or however you choose to drive the car, there is the pervasive presence of the mighty 5.9-litre V12, something even more apparent when the fabric roof is folded away.

This is the stuff petrolhead fantasies are made of, so it is a pity we will probably never see (and hear) the likes of that titanic V12 again because, in addition to emitting a whopping 335g per kilometre of CO2, it is not frugal with fuel as well (claimed 14.4 litres/100km).

But while it is terribly bad for Earth, the motor is terribly fun. It produces 573bhp and 620Nm (against the DBS Volante's 517bhp and 570Nm), which can catapult the big Aston ragtop from a standstill to 100kmh in 4.1 seconds.

It is blisteringly quick, though you cannot help but think those acceleration figures, while impressive, are nowhere close to what its main rivals, such as the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster or the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, can do (3 and 3.3 seconds respectively).

However, what is a little galling is, compared to the Lambo and Porsche, the car's interior disappoints in quite a few ways, despite it being covered door-to-door in sumptuous, butter-smooth Luxmil leather.

There is a cheap, hollow click when manipulating the buttons on the steering wheel, an unconvincing wobble to some of the knobs on the centre console and the infotainment system's graphics look pretty dated. And do not even get us started on the centre console's finicky touch- sensitive panel that controls some of the air- conditioning and infotainment functions.

The combined effect of all that is to make the Vanquish Volante look and feel lacking in polish. It would be somewhat less unseemly, though, if this car's asking price was not an astronomical $1,210,800 without COE or options.

So then, the million-dollar (and then some) question would be: Is the Vanquish Volante worth buying? Well, it is certainly not a question that has an easy answer - it involves a major tussle between your head and your heart.

On the one hand, you have that Godzilla price tag, which would be easier to swallow without the dated interior and patchy quality. On the other hand, you have that monster of a 12-cylinder, those heart-meltingly sexy lines and how it is the most sorted Aston Martin in a good, long time.

Were we to have a spare million or so lying around, we would spring for the Vanquish Volante in a heartbeat - if only because it is about to be part of a soon-to-be-extinct breed.

stlife@sph.com.sg

The writer is a regular contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

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