Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff join Chris Harris for new series in 2019
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£211,950 when new
You can still buy a Vanquish Volante? Indeed you can. The new Aston Martin DB11 Volante is all well and good, but to start with it’s only available with the AMG V8. Your only way into an open-top, V12 Aston is to get one of these. And this isn’t the new turbocharged V12 we’re talking about, but the (very) old 5.9-litre nat-asp engine that’s been in service basically since the advent of internal combustion. That long, huh? Not really, but it feels like it. And you’ve not got long left, because when the Vanquish dies, in all likelihood the old V12 will die along with it (at least for non-special editions). So will the Volvo-based circa mid-Noughties switchgear and prehistoric infotainment system. Since this car was designed all those years ago (the platform is related, and not all that distantly, to the DB9’s) Aston has signed an agreement with Mercedes-AMG that will see them both co-operate on various things like powertrains and electrics. But this car’s basics predate that, so you still Bluetooth your phone to “Aston Martin Vanquish” rather than “MB Bluetooth”, like you have to in the DB11. What’s so special about this one? Last year Aston gave us the Vanquish S Coupe. We drove it and adored it, even though at £200K it defies all rationalisation. At around the same time it applied many of the same chassis, suspension and engine tweaks to the Volante too, and created the Vanquish S Volante. Said changes include an increase in power from 565 to 592bhp thanks to a freer-flowing intake system that’s also said to improve throttle response. The eight-speed ZF auto has been retuned to deliver quicker shifts, the adaptively damped suspension fettled to give a “keener edge” (though the Volante’s setup differs slightly from the Coupe) and there’s a new carbon aero pack. This is our first go. And? We have to talk about noise first. You might think the DB11 sounds good. And it does, but nothing like as good as the Vanquish. From about 3,500rpm it delivers almighty cacophony of noise as the engine surges smoothly and swiftly toward its red-line. It’s rarely tiring, save for a bit of drone at mid-speeds. This is possibly the best-sounding car on sale today, no joke. The eight-speed auto gearbox is nothing like as sharp or decisive as the latest DCTs, or its latest implementation in the DB11, but it responds faithfully to commands. You’ll end up driving in it manual anyway, as you chase another hit of the V12’s addictive soundtrack. It’s a cabrio - how floppy is it? There are two modes each for the engine and suspension. The firmer of these two suspension modes exposes the flex inherent in the S’s chassis, but is still usable on the road. Not that we’d bother – this is a comfortable car, with comfortable seats and a lusty powertrain that doesn’t need to be revved out, but really rather enjoys it. How about inside? The Interior is an odd mix – exceptional leather-work, but the indicator stalks and air vents are a bit nasty. CarPlay has been shoehorned into the infotainment system, and it’s not terrible, but nothing like as seamless or feature-rich as something from Mercedes, Audi or BMW. There are rear-seats, but you can’t get anyone – not even a child – in them. And you still can’t see what any of the buttons do if the roof’s down and the sun’s out. What’s the damage? To the front lip, when you hit a speedbump? Substantial. This thing could really use a nose-lift. No, to my wallet… Ah. £212,000 before options. McLaren 720S money – and that’s so much more car than the Aston. Objectively, there’s no way the Vanquish is worth that much when you can get a cabrio that delivers as much performance, luxury and badge for substantially less (not least from within Aston’s own range). But no objectively better rival will have this glorious V12. None of them look this good either, or have as cool a sounding name as ‘Vanquish’. For all its shortcomings, it’s hugely likable and hugely desirable. If you’re not bothered about tech – the stereo sounds good once you get it going, handily – and need a long-distance GT for commuting to and from your sixth home and have £212K going spare, go ahead. You’ll love it. We do.