By Alex Taylor III
August 19, 2009

Let’s get it out of the way right at the top: The new convertible version of Aston’s V-12 powered 2+2 grand tourer (with automatic transmission) carries a sticker price of $285,990.

That’s crazy, right, as we struggle to emerge from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression?

But let’s consider this: The DBS Volante is the most drop-dead gorgeous, most satisfying car I can ever remember driving.

More refined and sophisticated in appearance than a typical Italian supercar, yet more expressive than a Porsche or a Jaguar, the Aston is stunning to look at. Every detail, from the four mesh inserts in the hood and the flared headlamp openings to the carbon fiber door handles is executed with an extra helping of panache that elevates it from the merely attractive to the alluring.

My test car glowed in a hue that Aston endearingly describes as Hardly Green that was both unique and eye-catching, and worked nicely with the brown leather surface coverings.

The view from behind the wheel is no less stunning. The winged Aston emblem dominates the steering wheel, the instruments are finely calibrated, and the Bang and Olufsen audio provides superb fidelity.

Fire up the six-liter engine by inserting the ignition device in its slot, and the Aston barks to life. Onlookers snap to attention. Select a gear by punching one of the traditional Aston dashboard buttons and you are off.

Power arrives smoothly and you can feel the six-speed transmission shifting smoothly up and down through the gears, proceeding so smartly that manual gear changes would be an insult to the software.

My agreement with Aston prohibited me from performance tests like 0-60 acceleration, so I can only report the company’s claim that 62 miles per hour can be reached in 4.3 seconds and top speed is 191 miles per hour.

As for flaws, I can identify but two: The carbon fiber chin spoiler is so close to the ground that it inhibits travel over rough surfaces, and the trunk is too tight to accept a bag of golf clubs.

But practicality isn’t the point here. Like a fine watch, the DBS Volante represents an ambitious expression of the mechanical arts.

For those who can afford to indulge such pleasures, and who can accommodate a Volante in their fleet of automobiles, it is an entirely worthy addition.

I would consider it a modern-day classic, for which paying the unreal sticker price is merely part of the pleasure of ownership.

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