A very modern classic: Ian Callum on his reborn Aston Martin Vanquish

Vanquish 25 by Callum - Concours of Elegance

Ian Callum is one of the most celebrated car designers of the modern era. His 30-year back catalogue includes the Aston Martin DB7 and Ford Escort Cosworth. He also revitalised Jaguar with a 21st-century sense of style.

Now, Callum is striking out on his own with a new company called… Callum. His first project was to remaster one of his classic designs. Meet the Aston Martin Vanquish 25 by Callum.

Modifying a masterpiece

Vanquish 25 by Callum - Concours of Elegance

The Vanquish is one of Callum’s greatest hits. The original was Aston’s breakout car for the new millennium, first previewed with the Project Vantage concept in 1998. Over the past two decades, it has aged like a fine wine. How does he go about improving on that? 

Well, even the Vanquish had elements elements that Ian wishes could have turned out better. For him, the Vanquish 25 is the facelift the Vanquish always deserved.

Making you look

Vanquish 25 by Callum - Concours of Elegance

Ian was keen to embrace the indulgent and boutique nature of such a project. Overall, there are 100 changes to the car, all of which come with the blessing of Aston Martin itself. 

The front has a stylish and aerodynamic overhaul, with added carbon fibre. That signature Vanquish grille is accompanied by a new chin spoiler. Flanking that, classic Callum-style vents in carbon seem reminiscent of those on the stillborn Jaguar C-X75 hypercar. 

New 20-inch forged wheels modernise a classic element of the Vanquish. The originals were a favourite of Callum’s, so their design has been updated, rather than replaced. The car sits 10mm lower and has a superb stance. New door mirrors join carbon fibre side strakes, updated sills and one-piece carbon window surrounds.

At the rear, the curvaceous light clusters are now fitted with LEDs, while a larger diffuser houses integrated exhausts. Take a look underneath and Callum has a little treat for you: the words ‘Made you look’ on the underside of this show car’s exhausts.

Customising the cabin

Vanquish 25 by Callum - Concours of Elegance

If the exterior is timeless, the cabin was a comparative disappointment from day one. It’s here that Callum says the most work needed to be done. Gone are the dull black plastics and cheap buttons, replaced by symmetrical carbon fibre on the centre ‘waterfall’, with up-to-date eight-inch infotainment. And yes, that’s Apple CarPlay you see.

Elements from later Astons are included, and the air vents are carbon strakes instead of plastic. What remains is the steering wheel, albeit re-trimmed in blue leather with a thinner rim. The shift paddles are borrowed from newer Astons, while the lower-set sports seats are trimmed with Callum’s own tartan design. You’ll find the same tartan-effect forged in metal for the bonnet vents, too. No sign of deployable shotguns, though…

The centrepiece for the cabin is the Bremont luxury watch that sits atop the dashboard, where you’d find the Sport Chrono dial in a Porsche. Thankfully, it can be removed when you park. Bremont is also responsible for the new instrument binnacle.

The start of something special

Vanquish 25 by Callum - Concours of Elegance

Of course, the Vanquish isn’t an automotive oil painting. In period, the driving experience was as muscular as the styling suggests. Vanquish 25 gets stiffer anti-roll bars, tuned dampers and custom springs, along with that lower ride height. The goal is to provide the sharper sporting edge that modern GT buyers expect, while maintaining the comfort of a grand tourer.

With re-designed wheels and newly calibrated suspension, the Vanquish 25 should have a lighter, pointier feel in the bends. And because nobody gets nostalgic about below-par brakes, modern Aston ceramic rotors are fitted – cooled by air ducts at the front.

The V12 was the jewel in the original Vanquish’s crown. No matter how much more accomplished an equivalent Ferrari or Porsche felt at the time, the Aston would win you over as soon as the engine fired. The Vanquish 25’s 5.9-litre V12 gets a 60hp boost, to 580hp. There’s a new carbon induction system and re-tuned exhaust. So don’t worry, that rumbling soundtrack should be preserved.

Lastly, the bane of the original Vanquish: its gearbox. While the Vanquish 25 won’t come with a manual option, you can get a proper six-speed automatic in place of the much-derided automated manual.

Ian Callum’s love letter to his own best work won’t be for everyone, not least because it costs £550,000 (including the donor car). If you hadn’t twigged, 25 is the number of examples they’re going to make. Ian Callum says there are more projects to come, but this seems a promising start. Bring on the reborn Escort Cosworth.

Ian Callum on the Vanquish 25 – Tim Pitt

Vanquish 25 by Callum - Concours of Elegance

We’re in the grandiose gardens of Hampton Court Palace, surrounded by classic cars at the annual Concours of Elegance event. Less positively, it’s just started drizzling and, by the time of my late-afternoon interview slot, Ian Callum has probably been asked the same questions hundreds of times today.

Not that he’s letting on. Callum’s pride and enthusiasm for the Vanquish 25 are infectious. “It has always been one of my absolute favourite cars,” he says with a smile. “That’s why I bought one.” Ian’s own Vanquish – original spec and painted in a very ‘007’ shade of grey – is parked on a plinth next to the ’25’. “I planned to modify this one for personal use,” he explains, “but David Fairbairn [programme director at Callum’s eponymous new design consultancy] suggested making it our first project.”

Asked to pick his favourite details, Ian cites the deeper front grille graphic (“I never liked the DB7 spotlamps either”) and upswept rear diffuser. “It would have been easy to do something more flamboyant, but that’s not in keeping with what the car’s about.” Interestingly, the Vanquish 25 has gained official approval from Aston Martin: “They respect the fact that I was the original designer and they’ve given it their blessing.”

Vanquish 25 by Callum - Concours of Elegance

Callum hopes to have the first Vanquish delivered by the end of 2019, and the entire 25-car run built within two years. “There’s plenty more we want to get on with,” he says. And while Callum is adamant he doesn’t want to “redesign somebody else’s car,” he says the next project won’t be an Aston. A Jaguar or even a classic Ford, perhaps? “We don’t know yet, but it will be more in-depth, with bespoke bodywork. Eventually, we hope to build a car from scratch.”

As Ian dashes for his next interview, I’m left feeling enthusiastic about the Vanquish 25 too. After all, ‘restomod’ Porsches are commonplace, yet a modified, modernised Aston is something quite different. I’m intrigued to see what Ian does next.

In pictures: Aston Martin Vanquish 25 by Callum

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


From Valkyrie to Valhalla: Aston Martin’s hypercars come to life

Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

The reveal of the Aston Martin Valkyrie, formerly known as the AM-RB 001, was met with as much scepticism as it was excitement. Could Aston really make this incredible set of numbers a running, driving, selling reality? 

Three years on from the launch of the AM-RB 001, the Valkyrie is almost ready for both customers and Le Mans. Not only that, there’s yet another Aston hypercar bringing up the rear, with James Bond behind the wheel…

Aston Martin Valkyrie

AM-RB 001 told us exactly what Aston wanted us to know. That it was a collaboration with Red Bull, that F1 design genius Adrian Newey was the brain behind it, and that it was 001 – the first of more to come. 1,000hp, 1,000 kilograms, a naturally-aspirated V12 and track performance to rival the fastest Le Mans cars. Scarcely believable at the time.

Then they named it and got more specific on specs. The Valkyrie should beat a one horsepower per-kilogram power-to-weight ratio, but the weight figure is to be closer to 1,200kg than to 1,000kg.

Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

Incredibly, the Valkyrie got more extreme with the AMR Pro track-only variant. It looks like something you’d spy at the front of the grid at the start of Le Mans. Funny, that…

Before we heard and saw that V12, the Valkyrie still felt conceptual. Then the news, pictures and videos came out of Cosworth dyno testing the 6.5-litre V12 to beyond 10,000rpm. It’s a beautiful piece of engineering.

Around the same time, the facility that lucky buyers are using to create their dream Valkyrie was revealed. It was bittersweet to see, knowing we had neither an allocation of one of the 150 cars, nor the minimum £2 million required to make it happen.

Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

As if one 1,000hp hypercar wasn’t enough, Aston announced the 003 at the Geneva Motor Show. A car to take on McLaren’s Senna, the 003, which soon became the Valhalla, is to get a twin-turbo V6 engine mated to a hybrid system, and put out around 1,000 horsepower. We should have known better than to assume how far from reality it was.

Answering the prayers of petrolheads the world over, Aston then confirmed that it would be adapting the Valkyrie for racing in the new hypercar class at Le Mans. The Valkyrie is to bring a V12 back to top-flight endurance racing in 2021.

Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

Somehow the story of a pair of Aston Martin hypercars would feel incomplete if Bond didn’t get his hands on one. Yes, 007 should be getting a 003 as his company car. Quite how the MI6 budget stretches to such a car is a mystery. How will Adrian Newey feel about all those heavy gadgets?

Now once again Aston skeptics are eating their words. Even amidst the financial woes, it’s mighty impressive that these two enormous projects are proving the doubters wrong by going flat-out at Silverstone.

 Aston Martin Valkyrie

Valhalla and Valkyrie are words borrowed from Norse mythology. You might have heard them referred to in some of Marvel’s Thor comic books and movies. 

Valhalla is a sort of Norse heaven, and a Valkyrie is a “chooser of the slain”. That means someone that scours battlefields looking for fallen warriors worthy of entry to Valhalla. They don’t pluck these names out of thin air, you know…

 Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

The Valhalla is still some way off. Aston refers to this running driving version as a ‘dynamic concept’. It’s a good indication of how Valhalla will look on the move, even if it’s not a verifiable representation of the finished article like the Valkyrie VP1 prototype.

This comes on the eve of the Valhalla’s North American debut at Monterey Car Week in the Quail display. It’ll be the first time Aston’s sophomore hypercar has been seen on the other side of the pond.

 Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

Aston reckons the Valhalla will be more suited to road use than its big brother the Valkyrie, even looking as it does and performing as they claim it will. “Though making greater concessions to practicality and road use, Valhalla remains true to the uncompromising engineering ethos laid down by its bigger brother.”

Even following in the wake of the incredible Valkyrie, offering over three-times as many units, Aston says the Valhalla is over-subscribed. It’s currently in the process of ‘hand-picking’ buyers to get the chance to own one of the 500 Valhallas it plans on building.

 Aston Martin Valkyrie

Even though this weekend arguably belongs to baby brother Valhalla, it’s worth an update on the car that started it all. This is verification prototype number one of the Valkyrie – the first fully representative running prototype. It debuted at Geneva and has been testing hard ever since.

What better stage on which to debut what Aston hopes will be the world’s greatest hypercar, than the interlude in the British Formula 1 Grand Prix? The Valkyrie took some laps with intrepid tester and master helmsman Chris Goodwin at the wheel, with the car sporting an appropriate Red Bull livery.

 Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

It’s been a long road getting the Valkyrie into the hands of customers. From sketches on an F1 design genius’s desk in 2014, to a generation-defining hypercar in 2019. Valkyries are expected to arrive in buyer’s special Aston-designed garages by the end of 2019. As for the Valhalla? That’s expected to be ready in 2021. Patience is the ultimate virtue…

The tallest building in Miami will be an Aston Martin

Aston Martin skyscraper in Miami

No, that headline isn’t clickbait: there really IS an Aston Martin skyscraper under construction in Miami.

If you think high-rises are outside Aston Martin’s normal remit, you’d be right.

However, this structure, once completed in 2022, will have genuine Aston Martin input.

Where does Aston Martin come in?

Aston Martin skyscraper in Miami

Amenity spaces throughout the building are being penned by Aston’s design team.

“One of the greatest joys of design is seeing your work come to life,” said chief creative officer, Marek Reichman.

“As this is Aston Martin’s first foray into real estate we are especially keen to see the tower start to take shape.”

Aston Martin skyscraper in Miami

Aston Martin Residences, situated at 300 Biscayne Boulevard Way in Miami, will be the tallest residential building in the area – and one of the tallest on the USA’s east coast.

So no, it’s not being built in Gaydon and being shipped out to the states. Nor do we think there will be a stripped-out AMR version. 

June 30th saw completion of an enormous concrete pour, to comprise the foundation of the 66-storey 818-foot condominium tower. The first eight floors are expected to be complete by Christmas.

Aston Martin skyscraper in Miami

The building will be comprised of luxury residences and penthouses priced from $750,000 to $50million. They range in size from 700 to 19,000 square feet. Half of them have already been sold.

We wonder if it’s got an underground parking garage and, if so, if there’s a sign saying ‘Aston Martin parking only’.

Aston Martin DBR1: The story of the Goodwood monument star

Aston Martin DBR1 Goodwood FOS

Traditionally, the central feature at the Goodwood Festival of Speed includes several cars. They’re invariably cherry-picked road and or racing icons from a chosen marque’s history.

Not so this year with Aston Martin, as a lone DBR1 takes to the swooping structure.

So it should, too, as it marks 60 years since Aston made its own motorsport history at Goodwood. In 1959, the marque secured the World Sportscar Championship with victory at Goodwood’s RAC Tourist Trophy (following victory at Le Mans).

And it did so with the DBR1.

Aston Martin Goodwood FOSStirling Moss took victory honours, but only after swapping cars due to his first car catching ablaze in the pits.

The DBR1’s domination was undeniable. It secured both first and second places, finishing 25 laps ahead of the closest pursuing Ferrari. The lead car was famously piloted by Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori. This was before Caroll got into squeezing big V8s into AC sports cars.

It was 10 years before that, in 1949, that Aston Martin first competed at Goodwood with the DB3S,. The company recently marked the 1959 win with a new DBS 59 edition.

Aston Martin DBR1 Goodwood FOS

This certainly feels like an apt year to be celebrating momentous moments in Aston Martin’s motorsport history. Especially given the breadth of its ambitions for the future.

The new Vantage GTE has had a rocky but promising start, rolling in the tyre tracks of a class-winning predecessor. It’s a sobering irony, though, that Ferrari took class honours at Le Mans this year, following the Aston having its performance slashed by regulators.

Aston Martin Goodwood FOS

Perhaps the most exciting news, however, is that Aston is going to be campaigning Valkyrie V12 hypercars at Le Mans in 2021 under the new rules.

As Aston Martin’s racing history is celebrated this weekend at Goodwood, we all look forward to the marque bringing a V12 – the most traditional and evocative of powerplants – back to Le Mans.

Bold Aston Martin Vantage special editions revealed at Goodwood

Aston Martin Vantage Heritage Racing Editions

Aston Martin is the star marque at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2019 – and will be celebrating 60 years since its famous 1-2 victory at Le Mans.

In addition to taking over the central feature, Aston is also launching special liveried versions of the Vantage supercar. The designs are influenced by nine decades of racing history.

Vantage Heritage Racing Edition 

Six unique Vantages have been created by the company’s bespoke ‘Q’ division, each sporting a colour-matched livery. They pay tribute to cars from 1923 to 2019 and there will be 60 cars made available. Here are your choices:

Next Generation

Those who watch endurance racing will recognise the lurid AMR colours on the ‘Next Generation’. This is Aston’s latest racing look. The car is yet to find its feet at Le Mans like its predecessor, but Aston is tenacious. It’ll be fighting in all classes at Le Mans in 2021, when the Valkyrie goes for the outright win.

Aston Martin Vantage Heritage Racing Editions

Record Breaker

By stark contrast, ‘Record Breaker’ pays homage to the oldest racing car to offer inspiration for this collection. The 1923 Razor Blade set two class records at Brooklands in 1923. The green is matched exactly to the original’s chassis, while the silver is a nod to the alloy body of the near-100-year-old racer.

Le Mans winner

Bringing it back to nearly modern-day is the Gulf livery on the ‘Le Mans winner’ Vantage. This scheme, while also being the most recognisable, pays tribute to the 2007 and 2008 wins that the DBR9, so coloured, brought home at the 24-hour race.

Aston Martin Vantage Heritage Racing Editions

Italian Progettista

Taking it back to 1935 is the bright red ‘Italian Progettista’. It’s a tribute to the Ulster that finished third at Le Mans in 1935.

Group C Monster

One of Aston’s lesser-known race projects was its Group C programme. The AMR1 took to the series in 1989 with a carbon tub and course-rippling aero. The white with red and blue flashes pays tribute to the 30-year-old top-flight machine.

The David Brown Era

This car in yellow and green livery pays tribute to a very famous DB3S racer. 

Vantage Heritage Racing Edition: the aero package

Aston Martin Vantage Heritage Racing Editions

It’s not all about flashy race-inspired paint schemes, though. The cars also feature a new aero kit comprised of a carbon spoiler, dive planes and an extended front splitter.

All in, the kit adds 194kg of downforce at 190mph. The aero package won’t remain exclusive to these heritage cars, however. It will soon be available for all Vantage customers.

The star car

Aston Martin Goodwood FoS 2019 Central Feature

Each of these new Astons will be displayed under the central feature over the course of the weekend, but the real star car isn’t actually represented by a modern livery. It will be on the central feature, though. It is, of course, the 1959 Le Mans-winning DBR1.

“It is a great honour to be celebrated at Goodwood Festival of Speed this year,” said Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin.

“Racing is a crucial component in Aston Martin’s DNA and it is something that we have pursued since the inception of the company more than 100 years ago. We have raced all around the world but the core passion and commitment that we’ve displayed has remained the same since our first race on Aston Hill.”

New Aston Martin Vanquish could have a manual gearbox

Next Aston Martin Vanquish could get a manual transmission

Stick-shift sticklers rejoice! The 2022 Vanquish – Aston Martin’s hotly anticipated mid-engined supercar – could get a manual gearbox. So Aston CEO Andy Palmer has hinted, anyway. If it does, it’ll follow the hardcore new Aston Martin Vantage AMR in bringing a stick and three pedals back to Aston Martin.

The Vanquish is still a way off. The shock Vanquish Vision Concept at Geneva 2019 didn’t have an interior, or indeed an engine. Yet as a statement of intent, and proof that Aston could make a mid-engined supercar look pretty, it worked a treat.

Next Aston Martin Vanquish could get a manual transmission

When it comes to the production Vanquish, Palmer has again reaffirmed his determination for Aston to be the last sports car manufacturer to offer a manual.

“I’ve already made a commitment that I want to be the last manufacturer in the world to offer manual sports cars and I want to honour that commitment,” he said, in an interview with Carsales.

While Palmer didn’t reference the Vanquish specifically, he goes on to criticise McLaren’s single carbon tub methodology. By contrast, Aston Martin opts for differing aluminium structures, benefitting ease-of-use and comfort for different models.

Next Aston Martin Vanquish could get a manual transmission

“Unlike McLaren we’re not trying to stretch the same assets over and over again. Our approach is a more expensive philosophy, but hopefully it’s a more compelling way of addressing a customer’s needs.

“Our mainstream cars, have been created to be useable daily – that’s why they employ an aluminium tub for a lower and narrower sill – it makes them easier to get in and out of.”

He goes on to assert that carbon fibre tubs will be reserved for more extreme models, where speed and performance take precedence over day-to-day ‘grand tourer’ abilities.

His previous assertion that the Valhalla hypercar – which will share its twin-turbo V6 engine with the Vanquish – will not get a manual ‘box, seems to suggest that the Vanquish possibly will.

Next Aston Martin Vanquish could get a manual transmission

Aston Martin is playing coy on specifics for the Vanquish, however. “It is too early for us to comment any further on the specific technical details of the upcoming Vanquish,” a spokesperson told The Drive.

Once again, Andy Palmer performs a delicate dance around juicy details on upcoming cars. If we were him and if the Vanquish is getting a manual, we’d struggle to contain ourselves, too…

Next Aston Martin Vanquish could get a manual transmission

It’s 10 years now since Ferrari made the bold move of abandoning a manual transmission for the 458. McLaren, in its renaissance, did the same, offering twin-clutch paddle-shifting only

The original Vanquish got a lot of stick for not offering a stick, and for its automated paddle-shift transmission. How poetic it would be for the new car to turn the tables.

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante review: sensory overload

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

Back in March, Aston Martin stole the Geneva Motor Show with two radical concepts. The ‘Son of Valkyrie’ AM-RB 003 hypercar – since christened Valhalla – arrives in 2021 and will be Daniel Craig’s wheels in the next Bond movie. The Vanquish is due a year later, a direct rival for the Ferrari F8 Tributo and McLaren 720S.

Both cars break the mould by being mid-engined. And both also employ a downsized, hybridised V6: a first for the brand. The new DBS Superleggera Volante, with its fulsome front-mounted V12, already feels like the end of an era.

Still, the old-school Aston Martin is signing off in some style.

Blowing a gale

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

For those not versed in all things Aston, ‘Volante’ means convertible and the DBS Superleggera is the firm’s flagship GT. This drop-top version costs £247,500 and first deliveries are scheduled for autumn 2019.

Power comes from a 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12, and there’s plenty of it: 725hp at 6,500rpm. That equates to 0-62mph in 3.6sec, 0-100mph in 6.7sec and 211mph flat-out – the latter achievable with the roof up or down, apparently. Efficiency figures (like you care) are 20.1mpg and 295g/km.

The Volante uses the same roof as the DB11. Available in eight different colours, it takes 14 seconds to open and 16 seconds to close. Did I mention it looks knee-tremblingly gorgeous, too?

Model behaviour

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

The DBS Superleggera was already the best looking car on sale, but the Volante kicks it off the catwalk. Sinewy and shrink-wrapped, it bulges in all the right places.

Unlike some supercars, the Aston doesn’t resort to aggressive aero appendages. It’s far too cultivated for that. Nonetheless, details such as the ‘curlicues’ behind the front wheels, double diffuser and ‘Aeroblade II’ rear spoiler deliver real downforce; a total of 177kg at Vmax is just 3kg less than the coupe.

Park the two cars side-by-side and the Volante’s haunches are appreciably broader and even more athletic. The extra space is needed for the roof, which disappears flat beneath the rear deck.

Orange rush

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

Much of the profit on cars like this stems from personalisation, and Aston Martin’s ‘Q’ division (note the knowing Bond reference) is happy to help. With options factored in, the price of my test car had snowballed to £301,760.

Sadly, Q’s efforts didn’t include rotating number plates or pop-out machine guns, but then pearlescent Cosmos Orange paint is hardly suitable for a spy. A special-order shade, it glints yellow in the Spanish sunshine, showing off the Volante’s flawless physique.

Other extras include a wind deflector, Bang and Olufsen audio system and (oddly Porsche Boxster-esque) smoked rear lamps. The mottled ‘chopped carbon’ badges divide opinion, but I love the retro ‘Superleggera’ script either side of the car’s nostrils, which replicates the logo of the famous Italian carrozzeria.

Manic in the middle

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

There’s nothing particularly ‘super light’ about the Volante, though. At 1,863kg without fluids, it’s 170kg heavier than the coupe, albeit with improved 50:50 weight distribution.

Flip-up the front-hinged bonnet and you see how that perfect balance is achieved. The DBS is almost mid-engined, its V12 wedged tight against the scuttle and clamped beneath chassis-stiffening cross braces. A bespoke Aston Martin engine rather than a rebadged AMG unit, it’s connected via a carbon-fibre propshaft to a ZF semi-auto gearbox at the back of the car.

Front suspension is by double wishbones, with a multi-link set-up at the rear. Skyhook adaptive dampers have three settings – GT, Sport and Sport+ – and the brakes are standard carbon-ceramic discs, framed by 21-inch forged alloys and Pirelli P Zero tyres.

Roots manoeuvre

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

Inside is where the DBS clearly reveals its roots. There are longer shift paddles, shapelier seats, a hooded instrument binnacle and a squared-off steering wheel, but little else differs from the DB11: a car first launched in 2016.

The old-tech Mercedes-Benz media system is a case in point. With its blocky graphics, clunky interface and modest 8.0-inch screen, it seems unbecoming of a £250k car. You can’t connect via Apple Carplay or Android Auto either.

On the plus side, materials quality is impressive and the DBS has four seats. The rear pews are brutally cramped, of course, but they’re useful to supplement the small, shallow boot.

Can we just torque?

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

Never mind those 725 horses, this engine is all about pulling power. A mighty 663lb ft (900Nm) of torque at 1,800rpm is enough to tow the Titanic. There’s no discernable turbo lag, just a swelling surge of decadent, addictive thrust, It feels like a force of nature.

Leave the eight-speed ’box in automatic and the Volante will cruise effortlessly. The first 20 percent of throttle travel is ample to keep pace with lesser traffic, and you can drive almost everywhere in fourth gear. Herein lies the difference between a highly-strung supercar and – to use chief designer Marek Reichman’s term – a “super GT”.

Pull the pin, though, and it erupts like Krakatoa, then proceeds to rip a hole in the horizon. Acceleration feels relentless, the engine goading you to wring out more revs with maniacal glee. The way it flips from demure to deranged leaves me awestruck every time.

Roar power

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

Beyond even pulse-spiking speed, noise is what defines the Volante experience. Retracting the roof allows, to quote Aston Martin, “a true orchestra of sound to pour into the cabin”. In five hours of driving, I didn’t reach for the stereo once.

At full throttle, the blood-and-thunder roar of the V12 ambushes your eardrums, but there are other players in this ensemble: the snarl of induction, the whoosh and snort of the turbos, the crackles and pops from the quad tailpipes. The result is multi-layered and richly mechanical – all played out in unfiltered surround-sound.

With its eight-layer fabric roof in place, the Volante is immediately more muted. There’s sufficient headroom for six-footers and you’ll appreciate the refinement on longer journeys. But the sense of occasion inevitably suffers a little.

A question of Sport+

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

If you think that muscle car soundtrack means tyre-smokin’ bad behaviour, you reckon without the magic of Matt Becker. The renowned chassis guru spent most of his career at Lotus and has transformed the way Aston Martins drive.

Again, there are three modes for drivetrain response, configured separately to the damping via switches on the steering wheel. The ride in Sport+ is too restless for regular roads, but in the mountains beyond Barcelona it gives the DBS unwavering focus.

With everything set to ‘maximum attack’ the Aston turns in like a race car with scores to settle. Its steering is lucid, body control is iron-fisted and the front end bites into bends like a grizzly bear. However, there’s also a fluidity here that inspires confidence. Only a far better driver than me would switch off the stability control on public roads, but the Volante feels progressive and dependable under duress. This thug has been to finishing school.

In a class of its own

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante


At the launch of the DBS coupe last year, Marek Reichman declared the Ferrari 812 Superfast its only real rival. In reality, while the two cars are quite similar on paper, they feel utterly different on the road. The Ferrari is a peaky prancing horse, the Aston a punchy British bulldog.

Maranello doesn’t make a drop-top version of the 812, which leaves the Volante somewhat in a class of its own. At the sportier end of the spectrum, the £237,000 McLaren 720S Spider is even quicker, and equally exciting to drive. And if comfort takes priority, the £176,000 Bentley Continental GTC W12 is less rambunctious and somewhat softer. Pity the poor millionaire making that decision…

One point of note: Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer has already said that the V12 engine “does fit” into the smaller Vantage. So if you’re after the ultimate V12 sports car, it could be worth waiting – and praying – they make it.

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante verdict: 4.5 stars

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

I’m not usually a fan of convertibles; I like my car to be a cocoon, sealed off from the outside world. I’d make an exception for the DBS, though. It’s so evocative, so richly visceral, that you want to savour every sensation and drink in every decibel. The opportunity for a 211mph blow-dry is tempting, too.

Coupe or Volante, I think this is the best car Aston Martin currently makes. A luxurious grand tourer one minute and a steroid-pumped supercar the next, it ably bridges the gap between the marque’s past and future.

As car enthusiasts, we’re all excited about Aston’s ambitious next steps. Even so, when big V12-powered brutes like the DBS Superleggera finally die out, the world will surely seem a poorer place.

Specification: Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

Price: £247,500
Engine: 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12
Gearbox: Eight-speed paddleshift auto
Front suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs
Rear suspension: Multi-link, coil springs
Brakes: Carbon-ceramic discs; 410mm front, 360mm rear
Wheels: 21-inch forged alloy
Tyres: Pirelli P Zero; 265/35 R21 front, 305/30 R21 rear
Power: 725hp@6,500rpm
Torque: 663lb ft@1,800-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.6 seconds
Maximum speed: 211mph
Fuel economy: 20.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 295g/km
Length: 4,715mm
Width: 2,145mm (inc. mirrors)
Height: 1,295mm
Dry weight: 1,863kg

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante: in pictures

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Steve Coogan’s classic Aston Martin DBS is up for grabs

Steve Coogan selling his Aston Martin at Silverstone

Steve Coogan’s Aston Martin DBS V8 is going under the hammer at the prestigious Silverstone Classic auction sale later in July.

The man behind Alan Partridge has owned the car for eight years but has now decided to part with it: there’s no word yet on whether it’s hitting the block to fund the continuation of Peartree Productions…

Partridge, of course, is well known for his automotive escapades behind the wheel of various Rovers and Lexus (sorry, Lexi).

The TV and radio presenter famously moved down, rather than up, the Rover car range, and also had a liking for “the Japanese Mercedes”.

Steve Coogan selling his Aston Martin at Silverstone

When the cameras were off, Coogan vacated the Linton Travel Tavern and the opulence of his character’s Rover 200. Privately, he had a taste for some seriously cool cars.

Now, something rather special from his extensive collection is going up for sale.

It’s this rather gorgeous 1970 Aston Martin DBS V8, which has an interesting life story even before Coogan acquired it in 2011.

That’s because it was the official Aston Martin DBS press car, as tested by Motor Magazine. They took it to a verified average top speed of 160mph on the then-unfinished M4 motorway.

Steve Coogan selling his Aston Martin at Silverstone

The dark blue Aston Martin DBS is in excellent condition, having undergone a restoration in the years prior to Coogan’s acquisition. Since then, it’s been meticulously cared for by reputable specialists.

The car is expected to cross the block for between £145,000 and £165,000. Not bad, given that before its restoration, it was found languishing in a Scottish field…

“We are delighted to have been asked by Steve Coogan to sell this magnificent and historically important car which is in outstanding and concours condition,” said Nick Whale, Managing Director of Silverstone Auctions.

Steve Coogan selling his Aston Martin at Silverstone

“He is obviously famous for his acting and comedy but is also a distinguished car collector and has really looked after this DBS V8.”

Viewing for the Siverstone Classic auction is on Friday 26 July; the sale will be spread across Saturday and Sunday of the 2019 event.

Aston Martin will take on Le Mans with Valkyrie hypercar

Aston Martin Valkyrie to race at Le Mans

Aston Martin has confirmed its long-awaited Valkyrie hypercar will race at Le Mans, following entry into the 2020/2021 World Endurance Championship season. This, as the new top-level hypercar regulations are ratified by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest – the organisation behind the 24-hour race.

The cars won’t quite resemble those customers will drive, or indeed the track-only AMR Pro version. The V12 engine will be prepared for the rigours of 24-hour racing, while Aston describes the car as a ‘fully competitive platform capable of challenging for outright race wins’. A ‘minimum’ of two will be entered when they take to the La Sarthe circuit next year.

If it wins, it’ll be the first ‘road car’ to come first at Le Mans since the McLaren F1 in 1995.

Aston Martin Valkyrie V12 Cosworth engine

The roadgoing Valkyrie is set to produce over 1,000hp at up to 10,800rpm from a 6.5-liter V12 engine in combination with a hybrid system. A test-ready prototype was shown at the Geneva Motor Show in March, following extensive work by Cosworth.

“We have always said that we would one day bring Aston Martin back to Le Mans with the intention of going for the outright win when the time was right – now is that time,” said Aston Martin CEO, Andy Palmer.

“David Brown came here in 1959, with a car and a team of drivers capable of winning. We intend to do the same in 2021. The Aston Martin Valkyrie is primed for such a challenge and sits perfectly within the ACO’s new ‘hypercar’ rule framework.

Aston Martin Valkyrie V12 Cosworth engine

“What could be more evocative than the wail of an Aston Martin V12 leading the charge into the night on the Mulsanne straight?”

We have to say, we’re struggling to come up with an answer to that.

Video: Classics and hypercars inside ‘Aston Martin heaven’

Nicholas Mee and Company has specialised in selling, maintaining and restoring Aston Martins for 25 years. We went along for a taste of Aston Martin heaven.

Video: The ultimate Aston Martin showroom

It might seem an exaggeration to call anywhere other than Gaydon ‘Aston Martin heaven’, but bear with us.

Inside the Nicholas Mee showroom in Hertfordshire are very finest, rarest and most curious machines from the marque’s history from DB4 GT to One-77, and everything in-between.

It just so happened that the oldest and one of the newest cars both cost well into seven figures. At the more affordable end of the Aston Martin spectrum were machines such as the outgoing V8 Vantage, DB9, a rare manual DBS V12 and the original V12 Vanquish.

60 years of Astons under one roof

The company specialises in everything from classic Astons of the 1950s, all the way through to the V8- and V12-powered supercars of the last 20 years.

Officially, that’s from 1950 all the way up to the very last Rapide S – a car that’s still in production. New-generation Aston Martins like the DB11, new Vantage and DBS Superleggera have a few years under the official dealer umbrella yet.

A cathedral to Aston Martin

The cars are only half the story, though. Having moved from London around this time last year, everything here is absolutely pristine.

From the farmhouse aesthetic of the service shops, with old-school supercharged Vantages in for work, to the immaculate showroom – architecturally, this place is as beautiful as the cars.

Zagato Astons old and new

Yes, the cars – we already mentioned the DB4 and the One-77. Add to that a smattering of Zagato-bodied and styled cars, from an 80s Vantage to the very latest Vanquish Volante. They’ve just got a lovely DB7 GT Zagato in stock, too.

On the 80s Vantage Zagato, they actually had several. One was a race-prepared car with a road-friendly interior put back in. A Vantage Zagato ‘GT3 RS’, if you will.

An Aston Martin Vantage with a racing V12

Then there’s the really special stuff. Flying under the radar (until we were made aware), was the Vantage RS Concept of 2007 – a one-off designed to show the world how cool a V12-powered ‘new’ Vantage would be.

Needless to say, it went down a treat, given the V12 Vantage went into production two years later.

The RS is an altogether different beast to the production car, however. Hundreds of kilos lighter, thanks to a numerous carbon components, its V12 (based on the racing DBRS9 unit) packs 600hp. That’s 90hp more than the production version.

It wouldn’t be until 2015’s Vantage GT12 that power would near those numbers in a Vantage, or indeed any naturally-aspirated Aston.

One-77: the original Aston Martin hypercar

Well, that is if you don’t include the 750hp 7.3-litre V12 in the One-77. It’s one of the most fascinating, beautiful and stunningly engineered hypercars ever conceived, and it’s almost entirely forgotten about.

Want to know more about the One-77? Watch our video above as we take an in-depth look at some of the cars mentioned.

Anyway, that’s Nicholas Mee, proprietor of some of the finest Aston Martins ever made. Unlike many exotic car dealerships, they welcome people in to see and learn about their rarefied stock. As if you needed an excuse…

In pictures:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.