All along, the plan was to simply see Aston Martin's new DBS convertible -- the 2010 Volante -- and speak with a Gaudin client, who was expecting delivery of a DBS Volante in a few weeks. This meeting was also to coincide with a mid-September preview event and the first chance for Gaudin customers to behold Aston Martin's latest flagship model and 16th convertible.
Over two days, Gaudin hosted a DBS Volante open house where several customers experienced the new DBS Volante firsthand.
As should be expected, not everything goes exactly to plan. But when that change affords you the opportunity to get behind the wheel, who can complain?
Drive an Aston Martin? No, you can't be serious? Yes, they were most sincere and determined. Well, no one has to be asked twice to get behind the wheel of one of the most distinctive sports cars ever made.
With a price tag of $288,000, the 2010 Aston Martin DBS Volante, which means "moving with light rapidity," is, like most of its sister Aston Martin models, often revered to as automotive artwork. Even approaching the vehicle, it somehow emits the same feelings one might experience in a museum when a beautiful painting touches your soul. This is truly a luxury sports car whose pedigree has been refined over 95 years of classic coach craftsmanship and racing-inspired engineering.
"The DBS Volante encompasses 75 percent rigidity of the coupe," said Gary Hyman, Aston Martin North America regional after-sales market manager, noting Aston Martin's bonded all-aluminum structure. "A stiff chassis simply means better handling."
The Volante also weighs less than 4,000 pounds, thanks in part to a carbon-fiber hood, front wings and decklid (bonnet), Hyman added.
Starting the DBS Volante experience from the passenger seat was wise because most of your senses are already completely overloaded. Of course, sight is a given. This example was painted lightening silver with a tricoat metallic finish. The signature Volante fabric and motorized convertible top was a bold red that matched the hand-stitched interior. Getting in, one immediately feels and smells the full-grain, leather seats, and immediately notices the extra touches like carbon-fiber-trimmed door panels and dash.
"Each car is still assigned one interior craftsman," said Paul Jarrett said, Gaudin's Aston Martin manager, noting the long-standing Aston Martin tradition of handmade quality. "They take pride in knowing their names are forever associated with the vehicle they produce."
The front bucket seats are roomy and supple. The "2+2 occasional" rear seating compartment probably couldn't accommodate much more than a briefcase or laptop, but that's really not a consideration, is it? What's important is driving, so Jarrett inserted the Emotional Control Unit (a device used like a car key) to start the Volante and instantly there was that distinctive Aston Martin rumble, which, believe it or not, was enhanced even more when Jarrett switched exhaust modes. There's really nothing like it and we hadn't even left the dealership.
Top down, seatbelts fastened, Jarrett eased the DBS Volante into gear using the optional six-speed "Touchtronic," with electronic shift-by-wire control system transmission, bringing the hand-built, all-alloy, 6.0-liter, 48-valve, V-12 engine to life. The question, though, was could we unleash all 510 horsepower? Honestly, we never came close, although Jarrett was able to demonstrate the limberness and responsiveness of the power plant that also produces 420 foot pounds of torque and is capable of reaching a top speed of 191 mph. As if that's not impressive enough, the Volante's short-distance specs also boast zero to 62 mph in 4.3 seconds.
From the luxurious confines of the Volante, the streets surrounding Gaudin's west Las Vegas location never looked like this. Perfect top-down weather combined with ultimate performance rouses all the senses. Imagine what would happen on open road? Why imagine?
Just then, Jarrett safely signaled the Volante to the curb and we switched seats. Once comfortable, which is easily achieved with all the electronic adjustments (memory seat, steering wheel, mirrors), we slid back into traffic. Trying to absorb Volante's character and spirit was almost an exercise in futility. But, we did manage to find enough room to click through all six gears, both in up-shifting and down-shifting modes, while navigating tight and sure footing in the turns. Nothing really comes close to matching the experience of piloting something so dynamic and directly descended from thoroughbred race car lineage.
Driving an Aston Martin, specifically the DBS Volante, is a partnership between the individual behind the wheel and the vehicle itself. Using the Adaptive Damping System, the car automatically adjusts the suspension to driving conditions, sensing throttle position, brake position, steering wheel rotation and vehicle speed.
Back at the dealership and safely parked, we reflected on a couple of things drivers often take for granted, like braking. In the DBS Volante, front and rear systems include ventilated carbon fiber-discs with six-caliper piston calipers. Anti-lock braking system is, of course, standard, but the Volante also features traction control, which for the uninitiated, may take some instruction and practice.
What we didn't get a chance to hear was the Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system, which comes standard on the DBS Volante and features 13 speakers. Keeping in line with the Volante's driver/vehicle partnership, the Bang & Olufsen component is tuned to sense when the roof has been retracted and adjusts the sound to compensate for extra wind noise.
According to Hyman, about 30 percent of Aston Martin's sales are in the United States. "There is huge potential here for our cars." Hyman noted the British manufacturer's goal is to produce 1,500 units this year.
Gaudin's current inventory, according to Jarrett, includes two 2009 DBS coupes, but he's expecting a 2010 DB9 coupe as well as a Vantage Roadster. Currently, Jarrett is awaiting delivery of two custom-ordered Volantes.
"We're proud to represent Aston Martin and bring the DBS Volante to our Las Vegas customers," Jarrett said. Several stopped by, but the clients who weren't able to see the car during its short visit will soon be rewarded when their new Volantes arrive in the coming weeks. And, when they do take possession of their cars, Jarrett promises they'll be the proud owners of one of the most potent production Aston Martins ever made.
"The DBS Volante is the ultimate combination of engineering excellence and design perfection," Jarrett said.
For more information about the 2010 Aston Martin DBS Volante, stop by Gaudin Jaguar Porsche Aston Martin at 7200 W. Sahara Ave., call 284-7000 or access www.jplv.net.