Meet the Terrifyingly Brilliant Last of the ‘Old World’ Aston Martins

Aston Martin is welcoming a new era; first, a goodbye party for the old.

With very few exceptions, I had not driven a right-hand drive car on the left side of the road before getting behind the wheel of the Vanquish S Volante. This is Aston Martin’s newest offering — a naturally aspirated, 600 horsepower V12 sits in front and drives the rear wheels. It sounds like absolute madness, for which the only prescription is more of the same. The car’s tires are roughly the width of a queen-size bed. The car itself is far wider than I am tall, and its hood is longer and sexier than Jessica Rabbit’s legs. All in, its price is well north of $300,000. Reacquainting myself with opposite-side driving in this particular car: honestly, not a great idea.

But admitting as much in the moment — that is, standing under a gloomy sky outside a rivetingly charming 18th-century mansion-cum-hotel set deep inside the Cotswolds in England — would have been silly. My gracious Aston Martin hosts would probably have calmly smiled and immediately popped me back on a plane had I explained quite how dubious I was feeling. So I said nothing. But after literally inching through a parking lot roughly the size of a necktie and then creeping down a centuries-old country lane, my teeth grinding and the engine popping and licking its lips…my god, did I get used to the feeling of it all, and quickly.

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S Volante

Engine: 6.0-liter V12
Horsepower: 595
Torque: 465 lb-ft
Transmission: rear-mounted eight-speed automatic
0-60: 3.5 seconds
MSRP: $312,950

The Vanquish S Volante is the last in a long line of what I’ll call “Old World” Astons, which is to say cars under development before recent, drastic internal changes went underway — changes born under new leadership that have resulted left and right in forward-looking shapes and all-new models. This car comes from an era of Aston Martin in which new models were introduced about once every 12 years; now, the new guard will be introduced at the rate of one per year. If I were to rely on a cliche metaphor — and indeed I will — I’d say this last model is Pierce Brosnan to the newer generation’s Daniel Craig (only in this instance, picture Pierce Brosnan as a feral, jacked-up, graying mutant à la Logan). Or perhaps a better cinematic analog might be the new Kingsman spy franchise: this is a face-meltingly violent, old-guard dark knight with a stately sense of humor.

The “S” in its name means it’s the second iteration of the Vanquish — it’ll see only a limited production, and then gone forever are the Old World Astons like this one. “Volante” means it goes topless at the push of a button, which is an easy way to get more of that aural stimulant mentioned earlier. Baffles in the exhaust open up fully around 3,000 RPM, so from a slow start the burble is gentle embers of potential energy; push the engine further and you create a full-on, cacophonous inferno. I discovered that echoing this noise off provincial stone homes and startling gentle villagers makes me giggle maniacally. A learning experience from top to bottom, this car.

That said, there are other things to complain about. Its speedometer, which goes up to 240, is so stupidly fun to consider it makes me grin even now; however, reading it on the fly is done with pronounced difficulty. The V12’s venomous, endless power makes one want to do full-throttle start after full-throttle start; but that’s just plain unreasonable behavior. Another: the side mirrors. Every time I glanced over to check my blind spot I was wholly, shamelessly distracted by the car’s rear hips. There are a lot of cars whose lines are gorgeous to behold, even from the driver’s seat, but the back flank in this one is so exaggerated, so outrageously, curvaceously wide that it made my heart pound with every lane change. How is a driver expected to control such physiological uprisings at speed?

The looks of the Vanquish S Volante — even with its soft top, which can often mar otherwise beautiful coupe rooflines — are impeccable. Because the shape and the creases in the carbon fiber bodywork aren’t entirely modern, there’s a tinge of sentimental elegance you won’t find in many cars produced today. And that is precisely what makes Aston Martin so infinitely compelling: even with its heart cemented squarely in its heritage philosophy, the company is charging headfirst into the future, boldly keeping with its policy of hand-building cars, all of which are promised to be the most beautiful vehicles on the road.

The Vanquish S Volante is a shining example of those principles. It doesn’t directly compare to anything else on the road; in truth, no Aston Martin does. The company makes “sporting grand tourers,” which, truthfully, is about as accurate as one could be. This is a knock-down, drag-out ferocious performer — truly horrifying power delivery, insane sound, transcendent to drive. Inside, it’s luxury for days: gorgeous, hand-sewn leathers and premium trim, and everything is a delight to see and touch and smell. So is it a sports car? A grand tourer? A luxury convertible? None. All of the above. It’s a “brute in a suit,” as Aston Martin describes their own four-wheeled wonders. Suffice it to say, whatever the official moniker, I find the Vanquish S Volante to be perhaps the best reason to drive on the other side the road.

Aston Martin hosted us in England to experience the Vanquish S Volante. Opinions are that of the author.

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