The Aston Martin Vantage Roadster Rips Back Roads With An Open-Air Soundtrack
Stunning looks and sports car performance improve with the wind in your hair.
Aston Martin's current generation Vantage is a stunner. A proper sportscar that carves canyons and catches loads of second looks everywhere it goes. When I drove the Vantage coupe last summer, I had plenty of good things to say about it, particularly as a driver's car, but did knock the dated infotainment system.
Now Aston has introduced a Vantage roadster model, to improve the sensory experience behind the wheel. When the the good folks at Aston Martin offered me a test week in the new drop-top version, I jumped at the chance. Sadly the weather did not play along, and the skies were cold and gray the whole week I had it.
The Key Numbers
Underneath a one-piece aluminum clamshell, Aston Martin powers the Vantage Roadster with an AMG-sourced twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that packs 503 horsepower @ 6,000 RPM and 505 lb-ft (685 Nm) of torque from 2,000 - 5,000 RPM. Through an alloy torque tube with a carbon propeller shaft and a rear-mid-mounted eight-speed automatic transmission, the Vantage Roadster lights up the rear tires to surge from 0-60 MPH in just 3.7 seconds with a top speed of 190 MPH. By adding a powered soft top, the Vantage Roadster's curb weight is up to 3,800 pounds, about 200 more than the coupe, boasting a 50:50 weight distribution.
With a base price of $147,000, the options list eats your kid's college fund quickly, and the Spirit Silver Vantage Roadster I was sent racked up a total MSRP of $193,886. Competing directly with the AMG GT Roadster, the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster finds itself in between a nicely equipped--yet less powerful-- Porsche 911 S Cabriolet and the more powerful--and slightly more expensive--911 Turbo Cabriolet.
Open-Top Cruising In Town
If you're daily driving the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster, you'll be treated to a comfortable yet responsive ride, with a buttery smooth engine ready to blast on demand. Civil when it needs to be, the Vantage behaves like a refined grand tourer around the city, but the suspension damping is a bit on the firm side. If you behave yourself with the throttle, hitting the EPA estimated 18/24/20 MPGs, but making that turbocharged V8 roar was far too tempting for me.
Sharp steering is assisted with just enough electric boost, and in the basic sport mode the Vantage Roadster is easy on the elbow grease. Pirelli P-Zero rubber is great for grip, but does provide a bit of noise that makes its way into the cabin with the top up. Cabin noise with the top up is much higher than I anticipated inside a convertible in this tax bracket, with a significant amount of it coming from wind noise created from the fold of the soft top just behind your head.
The Vantage Roadster's cockpit is carried over from the coupe, sadly getting some complicated controls for everything you'll want to adjust as you drive along. All touch points are quickly within reach, but because there are so many buttons that look the same, you'll always have to take your eyes off the road to make any adjustments.
Sacrificing the Vantage coupe's rear hatch and cargo capacity, Aston Martin gives the Vantage Roadster a stylish flat rear deck that gives the shape an attractive upgrade. Thankfully the soft top operates quickly, even at speeds up to 35 MPH, keeping you dry if a shower sneaks up. Unless there's a named storm blowing in, keep the top down to enjoy the experience, and put on a jacket and crank up the seat heaters if it's chilly outside.
When you have a badge this cool, lose the additional letters.
Storming Back Roads
Purchasing an Aston Martin isn't done with commuting in mind. It's done with a focus on fun weekend drives. When you wander outside the city, and onto fun stretches of road, the Vantage Roadster is brilliant. The slightest bit of torsional rigidity is compromised by chopping off the roof, but I won't gripe because this British roadster still behaves like a proper sports car. Keep the top down to take in the wonderful audible experience, and enjoy a cockpit that isn't too upset with wind rushing in.
Aston Martin gives the Vantage Roadster the same sport, sport+, and track drive modes as the coupe variant, with that trio of settings able to be tweaked separately for the suspension and powertrain, but there's no custom mode to tweak settings to your liking. As you select the sportier modes, the tachometer takes on red details to let you know it's about to get angry. Put the suspension and engine modes into Sport+, flick the Vantage into a tight bend, and you're rewarded with sharper and moderately weighted steering.
The Vantage Roadster benefits from an electronic differential and dynamic torque vectoring that helps it rotate perfectly, and on several occasions I could easily stab the go pedal while apexing and control a smooth drift. The firmer dampers that aren't wonderful on city streets give nice feedback on the smoothly paved twisty roads, but do exhibit a hint of jitter when there's any bump in the corners.
On paper, the 503-horsepower figure doesn't seem sufficient for a car weighing nearly two tons, but the Vantage Roadster smoothly accelerates with any application of the fun pedal. Throttle response is sharp but not jumpy, making effortless bursts down straights between corners. Tuning for the Vantage's engine feels more composed than the AMG GT's setup, with a smoother torque plateau, but by no means is it slow. Engine mapping in the sportier modes translates to some serious fuel consumption, and I saw MPGs dip into single digits after a flogging session along a twisty road.
Because the Vantage gets a more conventional 8-speed automatic mated to it's AMG engine, rather than the racier 7-speed twin-clutch 'box in the AMG GT I tested on a road trip, gearshifts are more composed, and seem to dart up and down more often than I prefer. To have the most fun on a back road, I suggest switching to manual mode, making use of the massive aluminum paddles mounted to the steering column. Pirelli P-Zero rubber wrapped around attractive two-tone diamond-turned wheels is definitely grippy when it counts, and the massive ventilated steel brakes are more than competent for spirited driving.
The Really Good Bits
The Vantage Roadster is a brilliant thing to look at, and the looks aren't compromised when you put the top up. While it costs $2,300, opt for the vaned grille to get a more classic Aston front end versus the modern fascia you'll see on most new Vantages. Aston's bucket seats look sporty with some thick bolsters, but they're exceptionally comfortable for longer days on the road, and I love how low I sat in the cockpit.
Exhaust tones are subtle and sporty in the standard sport engine setting, and turn rabid with a throaty burble and crackles when you opt for sport+ or track modes. It's an intoxicating sound at the cost of some fuel economy. The steering wheel shape is a bit odd, but the rim is nice and thick, and inputs in any drive mode are fantastic.
Not Great Things
As I noted in my review of the Aston Martin Vantage coupe, the deal with AMG for its great engines includes a provision that sticks Aston with some seriously dated infotainment systems that have to be one generation old when the car goes into development. Rather than getting Mercedes' MBUX system, the Vantage Roadster gets the downright awful COMAND setup. The screen and control puck are far from intuitive, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are far too new for this dated infotainment and navigation software. Thankfully you can stream music from your mobile phone over Bluetooth, which is some consolation.
Because the Roadster's top has to be tucked away somewhere, the open-air Vantage loses a lot of storage space. The convenient shelf behind the seats that I liked in the coupe is gone, and the trunk can barely hold two carry-on sized roller bags, so pack light if you're taking the Vantage Roadster on a road trip. Cupholders are tiny and shallow, and are right next to your elbows, so make sure to have a secured cap on any beverages.
Still A Good Roadster
Because of the price point, this Aston is pinned against the AMG GT Roadster--which has a much better and more modern interior--and Porsche 911 cabriolet variants. The Vantage Roadster is definitely the best looking of the bunch, but when dropping nearly $200,000 on a car in this class, the interior needs to be much better to end up in my garage.
There are a few pros and cons to consider in the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster, but I still think it's a great drop-top sports car. The Vantage may have dated bits inside, but the driving experience is great, and the looks are fantastic. The coupe version of the Vantage I reviewed last year is a more practical choice, but the rumbling V8 soundtrack paired with the wind through your hair is a fantastic way to spend your weekends.