An Italian Lesson from Aston Martin
It should surprise exactly nobody that the recently unveiled Aston Martin DB12 Volante will be able to move quickly, given that it is essentially the convertible version of the DB12 coupe introduced last spring. It’s the very meaning of the name: Volante is Italian for ‘flying’ or ‘moving lightly and quickly.’
A ‘volante’ was also a kind of lightweight horse-drawn carriage, one built for speed. While the Aston Martin DB12 Volante might not be all that light in mass at around 4,350 pounds, the 671-hp twin-turbo V8 from Mercedes-AMG will ensure that it will be able to live up to its name. In terms of market position, the Volante appears to have just two direct rivals, the Ferrari Roma Spider and the much heavier Bentley Continental GTC.
With today’s etymology lesson complete, let’s have a look at the newest Aston Martin Volante and a glance back at its illustrious ancestors.
The First Volante
Aston Martin first used the Volante name on a final run of 1965 DB5 convertibles, and, for the most part, these were not much different from the 86 DB5 convertibles that had already been built to that point. (One of those sold at the Gooding & Company Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance auction in August 2023 for $2.2M.)
A rather unusual circumstance, though, instigated a further 37 that would be built and badged as “Volante” at the end of the DB5’s run in fall 1965. By then, Aston Martin was transitioning to the DB6, which was essentially a reworked DB5 with a slightly longer wheelbase, new roofline, and revised rear structure and design. Somehow, the company discovered 37 unused DB5 chassis, which could not be used for the new DB6. What to do?
The answer was to apply some of the DB6’s lightly altered styling to the DB5 convertible body and give it a new name: Volante. Visually, the main differences were the DB6 front styling with “bumperettes” instead of the DB5’s full-width bumper and using the DB6’s more elegant taillights (borrowed from the Triumph TR4) in place of the DB5’s triple cone-shaped lights. The DB5 Volante did not, however, get the DB6’s more aerodynamically effective “Kamm tail” rear design.
“Volante” is Aston for “Convertible”
Aston Martin referred to the new convertible as the “short chassis Volante,” although that was only in comparison to the DB6; the Volante used the same wheelbase as the “regular” DB5 convertible. The Volante name would resurface on the DB6 convertible, but not again until Aston Martin’s next production convertible, the V8 Volante, in 1978. That car was, of course, based on the marque’s simply named V8 coupe that dated to 1969 (or 1967 if you also count the six-cylinder versions).
The reborn Volante was popular enough that Aston Martin dialed back coupe production after 1981 to focus on the open car. Production overall remained a trickle for Aston Martin during this period. A total of 1,149 V8 Volantes were made, plus 89 Zagato-body versions. Bonhams sold a black 1986 V8 Volante with the rare five-speed manual transmission at its Quail: A Motorsports Gathering auction in August 2023, for $145,000.
Certainly one of the rarest and most sought-after would be the 2018 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Volante, with 99 built and just about a dozen imported to the U.S. RM Sotheby’s sold #80 of this series at its Monterey auction in August, for $555,000. The kicker? That car had just 20 miles from new.
Flying on Land
The DB12 Volante is mechanically identical to the coupe, sharing its hand-built Mercedes-AMG 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, a much revised version of the Aston Martin DB11’s engine. The engine delivers 671 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and sustains 590 lb-ft of torque from 2,750-6,000 rpm.
Despite the Volante’s approximately 300-pound gain over the coupe, performance will be the same. The Volante’s claimed 3.6-second 0-60 is a whole tenth of a second more than the coupe takes, which is literally one eye blink. The 202-mph top track speed is the same for both.
According to Aston Martin, DB12 Volante drivers can expect the same agility as the coupe version, thanks to the same suspension with Bilstein DTX adaptive dampers. As on the DB12 coupe, the Volante rides on 21-inch forged alloy wheels fitted with Michelin Pilot S 5 tires.
The Most “volante” of all Volantes
Aston Martin says it went to great pains to make sure the Volante would look stunning, top-up or top down, and who could disagree that that it succeeded? The thick, insulated power top comes in black as standard, with red, blue, and black and silver optional. The top opens in just 14 seconds and closes in 16, even while driving at up to 31 mph.
Aston Martin cites one interior difference between the two body styles: wood veneer or carbon fiber panels on the seatbacks matched to the door trim inlay “to create an extra layer of visual interest and luxury when the roof is lowered.” Translation: if you’ve got it, flaunt it. As with the coupe, Aston Martin’s “Q” customization program is open to Volante customers.
Expect the Aston Martin DB12 Volante to start at around $265,000, according to Car and Driver. And expect the newest Volante to be the volante-ist of them all.