Motoring editor Jeremy Taylor puts Aston Martin’s new convertible, the Vanquish Volante, to the test. And, in case £200,000 is too punchy, Chevrolet’s Camaro Convertible
White leather seats with red stitching sound as masculine as a poodle wearing stilettos. The latest Aston Martin is more macho than James Bond’s swimming trunks but I’ll wager 007 would never opt for a ‘cream truffle’ interior pack in his new Vanquish Volante.
Alas, I had no choice, but it didn’t spoil my time with the ultimate British grand tourer. The Vanquish Volante is the first Aston Martin convertible with a carbon fibre bodyshell. It looks more desirable than former Bond girl Ursula Andress carrying a couple of conch shells.
The Volante will certainly turn as many heads, wherever you drive it. Beautiful from any angle, it’s as gorgeous with the roof up as it is down. Just what I would expect from a convertible that costs a fiver less than £200,000 and is Aston’s most expensive offering.
December roads aren’t well suited for testing a V12 supercar with 565 horses under the bonnet. Those 20-inch rear wheels constantly scrabble for grip, especially if you opt for ‘Sport’ mode and exercise your right foot across the Hampshire countryside.
You don’t need an excuse to drive a car like this but I decided on a visit to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, home of the (recently finished) exhibition of Bond cars, including several Aston Martins.
There was a shameful moment when 007 switched to a BMW, of course, but I’d be highly surprised if Daniel Craig wasn’t trashing a Vanquish in the 24th action film, slated for release at the end of 2015.
Bond would certainly approve of the Volante’s outrageous soundtrack. The burble from the 6.0-litre engine is amplified down two exhaust pipes that only serve to announce your arrival from great distance.
I’ll be honest, I rarely switched the 1,000w Bang & Olufsen soundsystem on. And when I did, it was just to marvel at the two tweeter speakers, as they rose up on top of the dashboard, shaped like a couple of GM mushrooms.
I may be 50 but I shudder at the thought of what a car like the Volante might cost me to insure. Just kerbing those £3,745 wheels would be painful; losing the exquisite glass, keyless ‘key’ more than £500. At least fuel consumption of 18.1mpg suddenly sounds acceptable.
The Volante spent the night locked up safely behind 20-feet gates at the contemporary The Pig In The Wall Hotel, in Southampton. Amazing as the electronically folding hood is, discovering a slashed roof in the morning could seriously damage your sense of humour.
After troughing through a breakfast of epic proportions, it was a delight to be wrapped in heated leather again. The Volante roof drops in seconds and can be activated while the car is moving.
What surprised me most about this Vanquish was just how useable it is as an everyday car. Provided you don’t have to climb too many sleeping policemen or squeeze into narrow parking spaces and know the location of every speed camera in the country, you can convince yourself that it’s damn near as practical as a VW.
It’s true that there is absolutely no legroom for the rear two seats, Aston forgot to include a glovebox and the Vanquish Volante is £58,000 more expensive than the delightful DB9 Volante. But if you want to be perceived as more James Bond than Johnny English, it’s the only way to go.
Chalk and cheese? The brutish Camaro may be American and over here but it’s a genuine alternative to the Vanquish Volante.
Powered by a 6.2-litre V8 engine that produces 426bhp, the Chevy is only available in left-hand drive and displays two, go-faster stripes on the bonnet and bootlid.
There is nothing subtle about the Camaro but at £39,995 it is astonishing value for money. It will also turn heads, if not always for the right reasons.
This is an iconic America muscle machine that screams for attention. In the States, it competes head-on with the Ford Mustang and is now the nation’s most popular sports car.
The Camaro prefers highways to British country lanes but with so much power on tap it’s still an absolute giggle to drive, if you know how to cope with the occasional tail slide.
Despite all that power, the Chevrolet is a very heavy car and, like most Americans, is dimensionally challenged too. From fender to fender the Camaro measures 4.8 metres, so it isn’t designed for our supermarket car parks either.
If you can cope with the image, a limited choice of garish colour schemes, and driving a big car from the wrong seat, the Camaro convertible deserves to be taken seriously.