First Drive: Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster
Advantage Roadster: Aston Martins's V8 Vantage loses nothing with its top sliced off
June 2007 By Todd Lassa Photography by Nick Dimbleby
First off, your humble servant is not James Bond. That's no Jaeger-Le Coultre Reverso (the watch from which the V8 Vantage Roadster draws its design inspiration) on the left wrist. There's no defibrillator in the glovebox. The drive isn't along the scorched-earth landscape of Iceland or to Casino Royale (though Provence's twisty roads to Mount Ventoux are no slouch).
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster most certainly isn't any manner of Ford Motor Company product nor a jazzed-up Jag or Porsche 911. You slice the iconic top off a 911, even if you're Porsche, and the car looks like an aftermarket conversion. When Aston slices the lid off the V8 Vantage, you get something that looks like its own piece of art. It's as masculine looking as the Coupe (though a couple hundred pounds heavier), the lines enhanced without the fastback roof, making this Roadster look equally at home cruising Beverly Hills or Miami Beach.
In fact, the Roadster has one clear advantage over the Coupe: its soundtrack. No need for a high-end hi-fi in the dash; the raspy WOOFLE! of the exhaust fills your ears with stereophonic sound when you've lowered the top. At speed and especially when exhaust-note-strafing a stone or cement wall alongside a two-lane in Provence, the Roadster's 380-horsepower 4.3 rumbles like a musclecar V-8 with whine added for a British accent. You'll work the gear change extra hard just to make your own music.
Speaking of gear changes, the three-pedal six-speed manual rules. Most Americans will choose the automated manual six-speed, with paddle shifters affixed to the column, just as more Americans will take the Roadster over the Coupe. Aston's automated manual is better than BMW's sequential manual gearbox, but it's not as good as Audi's DSG. Even with this tranny's built-in downshift throttle blips, it's not as smooth or as satisfying as when you row your own. The traditional six-speed manual is one of the best gearboxes extant. The clutch takeup is smooth and even, the gearshift smooth and positive.
No complaints about the engine or chassis, either. The V-8 actually feels stronger than its 302 pound-feet would indicate. With either gearbox, it pulls hard even in upper gears and gives you the confidence to fill any traffic hole with quick application of the right foot. All road imperfections make themselves known through the seat of your pants, and that translates into high cornering ability, but the chassis is at the same time silky smooth and rock steady. It informs you of the imperfections without making you uncomfortable. Steering is inspiring and quick, yet light to the touch. The Roadster is as tactile as the Alcantara placed inside the interior door pulls. Top up or down, the car is quiet until you lay into the V-8. You can keep wind roar to a minimum with the top down and the windblocker in place. Doing the nerdy thing and winding up the windows helps.
Biggest complaints concern the interior. It's snug for larger passengers. The bottom of the super-rakish A-pillar results in a front blind spot at intersections. The center stack is busy with buttons, making it hard to find such rudimentary items as the tripmeter reset. And, really now, a $127,000 car should have automatic-up power windows.
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