July 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

Car Culture

$320K car offers the grand tour

2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante is a $320,000 treat for the eyes. (Phil Berg / Special to The Detroit News)

What do you actually do with a $320,000 car? Drive it, you say. Relish the experience, even if you don’t own the car? Well, life is not that simple.

In this case we are talking about a 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante, an exquisitely designed convertible sports car from a tiny British automaker.

When you are handed the key fob to such a car you have to think twice about how you are going to use it. The sort of casual, hop in, drive anywhere, park anywhere approach you might take with a “normal” car is not applicable.

Even a “1 percenter,” the well-heeled individual who owns a small fleet of luxury cars and could easily afford this Aston, might think twice about popping down to the grocery store in this machine.

For a start, there are some practical considerations. The front air dam, beautifully molded out of expensive carbon fiber (as is most of the rest of the car’s skin) extends almost to ground level, meaning an accidental encounter with a nasty road bump or curb could be a costly affair.

The same goes for the alloy wheels with their ultra-low profile tires. Scraping those 20-inch beauties on an obstacle is going to bring tears to your accountant’s eyes.

Then there is the interior, finely trimmed in cream — almost white — colored leather. Blue jeans are not an option, and transporting potentially messy kids is out. Speaking of which, there is a back seat, but it literally has no legroom so it’s really only suited for groceries or a backpack, but make sure nothing’s leaking.

If you do find a parking spot, preferably one with 6 feet of clearance on either side to avoid the peril of clumsy door openers, then you have to contend with the attentions of well-meaning but careless lookers. People love to get close to such a striking car, so paint scratches are a constant worry.

On the plus side, there are undeniable thrills to the Aston driving experience.

These start with the exotic bark from the 6.0-liter V-12 engine exhaust system. The 565-hp Aston motor and six-speed transmission does not have the outright performance or sophistication of some other European exotics from the likes of Ferrari and Porsche, but its delivery suits the nature of what is more a grand touring model than an outright sports car.

Inside the Volante, the light colored leather trim may be impractical but it is undeniably seductive and comfortable.

Not so impressive, and evidence of the fact that Aston does not have the deep pockets of a large automaker, is the lack of some of the creature comforts, infotainment features and safety systems you find in far less expensive cars. A basic navigation system, absence of a glove box or one-touch operation power windows, plus cooled seats that fail to cool are just a few of the car’s detailed drawbacks.

Such inconveniences, however, may be unimportant to the potential buyer, for whom the sheer visceral excitement of driving is what matters.

Are there “smarter” choices than this Aston when it comes to ultimate performance, handling and the latest technology and features? Certainly.

For instance, the new Porsche 911 Turbo S outpoints the Aston in most areas and would save the buyer at least $100,000. However the Aston has two key advantages; exclusivity and a visual presence that’s hard to beat. For the lucky few that can afford this car, that’s all that matters.

John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Consumer and can be reached at jmccor@aol.com.