Aston Martin’s new Vantage Roadster not only offers a top speed of 190mph but also stakes a claim to have the fastest operating convertible roof in the business.
The £127,000 Vantage is the baby supercar in the Aston range and now comes as a convertible option for those who want a high-performance motor and to also be seen driving one.
The first examples to come off the Gaydon production line arrived in time for us to test the new Vantage in the final sunshine rays of September’s Indian summer before the long autumnal drag into winter and the sub-7-second roof mechanism gets a few months of rest.
Taking ad-Vantage of the Indian summer: We’ve been among the first to test drive Aston Martin’s new convertible baby supercar, with the Vantage Roadster arriving on UK roads while the extended period of sunshine still graces the UK
We took the Vantage for a spin in the equally glorious Warwickshire countrywide – Shakespeare Country – using the exceptionally popular petrolhead pit-stop Caffeine and Machine in Ettington, near Stratford-upon-Avon and just a stone’s throw from Aston’s headquarters, as a socially-distanced and Covid-19-compliant base for the day.
Aston says the new Vantage Roadster convertible combines ‘uncompromising performance with pure emotion’ – but, with first deliveries about to start, does it live up to the billing?
It certainly turns a few heads when you fire the powerful and throaty 4.0-litre, 510 horsepower, twin-turbo V8 engine into action – the same powerplant that graces the coupe, which is some £6,000 less expensive than the Roadster.
Ray Massey poses with the £127,000 Aston Martin ahead of our first drive in the top-down sports car
It certainly turns a few heads when you fire the powerful and throaty engine into action
Like many sports cars of this ilk, you simply unleash anywhere near the full potency of the Vantage Roadster’s performance while guaranteeing keeping hold of your UK driving licence
The eight-cylinder motor is a powerful beast. So much so that on the UK’s public highways you will barely ever get to do it justice.
It’s linked to a slick 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox, and when you plant the throttle into the carpet, the car rushes to 60mph from a standstill in just 3.7 seconds.
That might be 0.2 seconds slower than the hard-top Coupe, but it feels quicker with the roof in the lowered position and the rapid acceleration rearranging your hair style while the V8 howls in full orchestral crescendo.
But once you’ve hit the legal speed limit in four seconds, where do you go from there?
If you have a de-restricted German Autobahn or use of a private track – and the nerve, of course – at your disposal, it’ll reach a top speed of up to 190mph with the roof raised.
The roof is among the quickest to open and close on the market today, opening and closing in less than 7 seconds
‘Even in winter conditions, it’s worth winding the heater up to the max and enjoying the alfresco driving experience,’ says Ray
A small nudge of the throttle pedal and the explosive acceleration reaction is lightening quick, catapulting the open-top Aston into the distance
But it’s not just outright speed where the Vantage Roadster is an impressively fast performer.
The roof mechanism can only be activated at speeds of up to 30mph, but once deployed will save you from an unseen downpour in less time than it takes Usain Bolt to cross the finish line of a 100-metre sprint.
Lowering the folding canvas lid with a push of switch takes the intricate system just 6.7 seconds, while putting it back up takes a fraction longer at 6.8 – still short enough to keep your lap dry in a thunderstorm.
Suffice to say it’s lovely and snug with the roof up, with the fabric lid doing a great job of cancelling out road rumble and wind noise.
But why waste a soft-top? Even in winter conditions, it’s worth winding the heater up to the max and enjoying the alfresco driving experience.
Even with the roof down, clever design negates a lot of the wind noise taking over the interior acoustics – so much so that you can hold a conversation with a passenger without having to raise your voice too much – granted you haven’t got your foot planted on the accelerator and the V8 at full chorus.
At its heart is the same 4.0-litre, 510 horsepower, twin-turbo V8 engine that graces the Coupe. It’s only a fraction slower in a sprint to 62mph
We spent most of our test route cruising in the friendliest of the three adaptable driving modes, Sport. This provides thrills when you want them but won’t draw unwanted attention driving through town
It’s lovely and snug with the roof up, with the fabric lid doing a great job of cancelling out road rumble and wind noise
Also down to personal choice is how the Vantage Roadster behaves on the road.
Depending on mood or activity, owners have can specially a tuned-in driving mode that corresponds with how they’re feeling or the road they’re driving on.
The selection are all – unsurprisingly – performance orientated, with Sport, Sport+ and Track modes, which offer progressively increased responsiveness and excitement in the order listed.
We initially had the setting wound back to Sport, which is a more than ample base setting if you don’t want to be shifting modes all the time.
But switching it via the steering wheel controls into Sport+ ratchets it up a significant notch, tightening the sinews, boosting the cacophony of sound and creating a real rumble in the asphalt jungle.
A small prod of the throttle pedal and the explosive acceleration reaction is lightening quick, catapulting the open-top Aston into the distance on a straight road.
Will it fit in my garage?
Aston Martin Vantage Roadster
Style: two-door, two-seater convertible
Price: from £126,950
(a £12,100 premium over the Coupe)
On sale: now
First delivers: Autumn 2020
Built: Gaydon, Warwickshire
Width (including mirrors): 2152mm
Weight: 1628kg (60kg more than Coupe)
Top speed: 190mph (compared to 195mph for coupe)
Acceleration: 0-60mph: 3.7 seconds (compared to 3.5 seconds for coupe)
0-62mph: 3.8 seconds.
Engine: 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 510 horse-power (PS) / 503bhp
Gears: 8-speed automatic ZF
Wheels: 20-inch 10 spoke. Pirelli P Zero tyres
Average fuel consumption: 24.4mpg
Fuel tank capacity: 73 litres
CO2 emissions: 262g/km
Fabric Z-fold roof: Lowered: 6.7 seconds Raised: 6.8 seconds Both at speeds of up to 31mph
Luggage capacity: 200 litres (enough for golf bag)
But it also focuses the handling, with the suspension feeling more hunkered and reactive to the most minute of adjustments of the steering wheel.
Changing direction with neck-jarring response with the wind gusting over your head, the exposed sensation to G-forces makes it feel like your in an aerobatic stunt plane rather than glued to the road.
Though this does come at the compromise of ride comfort, with the stiffer setup heightening your senses when it comes to Britain’s somewhat rippled tarmac and turning your backside into a pothole postcode data collector you want to download to the local authority’s road repairs department.
Not having access to a circuit during the UK launch event, we wimped out of putting it into its ultimate Track mode, though given the potent performance of Sport+ we can only imagine an increase in brutality of the responsiveness to feel like a full-blooded gym workout.
But you can argue that the Vantage Roadster is as much a cruising – and posing – machine as it is an apex-clipping sports car.
While it can be as unruly as you want it to be on twisting b-roads, it’s also well-mannered around town.
We burbled sedately through the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon for a bit of top-down posturing in the most modest of the driving modes.
Had it not been for the striking good looks – of the car – the sedated V8 soundtrack barely raised suspicion of there being a supercar in close proximity.
And it’s at this pace where the Roadster makes far more sense than the hard-top Vantage Coupe, coming into its own as a compact GT car where you can enjoy the driving sensations and the surrounding scenery dating by your head all in one.
Despite the extra engineering required to keep the topless car stiff and safe on the road, the new Roadster weighs 1,628kg, just 60kg more than the Coupe, thanks in part to the lighter folding roof mechanism and revisions throughout to the chassis and exterior.
The one disappointment for me is that the manual seven-speed gearbox now offered as an option on the Coupe won’t be available for the Roadster, which limits its appeal as a proper driver’s car.
And even with an automatic transmission choosing the gears for you, it’s a thirsty beast – averaging just 24.4 miles to the gallon with hefty CO2 emissions of 262g/km.
With a starting price from £126,960, it’s far from cheap and a hefty premium on the Coupe version, which is a full £12,000 less expensive with the manual gearbox – though the price difference is halved with the auto transmission.
As you might expect, the interior is beautifully clad with high quality leather and robust mental switches and paddles
The driving modes can be adjusted at the toggle of a switch on the steering wheel
With the roof down, the design still negates a lot of the wind noise taking over the interior acoustics. You can hold a conversation with a passenger without having to raise your voice too much – as long as you haven’t got your foot planted on the accelerator
And expect to pay much more if you add bespoke sport and luxury extras such as sports-plus seats and carbon-fibre interiors.
While it might be pricier than the Coupe, it’s not less practical.
A low ‘stack-height’ of the roof means the Roadster can maintain its svelte profile and aerodynamic integrity, says Aston Martin, while also having minimal impact on luggage space.
The boot, while far from massive, has 200-litres of capacity in total – enough to stow a full-sized golf bag plus accessories.
In an ideal world, I’d pick the Roadster with a manual ‘box for the best combination of enjoyment and engagement. But even without the stick shift, the convertible still wins me over with the added drama it brings.