First DriveVivid, visceral, poised and hilariously vocal, Aston’s second limited-run track-special Vantage might even be better than the first
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What is it?
Meet the new convertible version of Aston’s smallest, cheapest car, the V8 Vantage. Most people expect every drop-top Aston to assume the Volante title, but the company has chosen to run with the ‘Roadster’ moniker on this occassion, and we think it rather suits the car.
The last Aston convertible we drove – the DB9 Volante – had more shake than the cheesy Welsh crooner who used to go by the name of Stevens. But the engineers have gone to town on this car, with numerous detail modifications to the bodyshell.
First, the car runs a shorter wheelbase, and is therefore inherently stiffer. Aston then carried out a much more detailed computer analysis of the shell and, subsequent to the findings, strengthened the sills and the front and rear crosspanels. Then the sheer panels became structural elements (on the coupe they’re simply aerodynamic aids), and the entire cross car beam (that’s the panel which holds the steering column in place) was improved with a number of cast aluminium components. Many of these modifications will filter back into other cars in the range.
The overall weight is up by just 70kg, but that still leaves a car that casts a very small shadow on the road weighing a portly 1710kg.
Otherwise the car is mechanically identical to the coupe, meaning it runs a 4.3-litre V8 based on the Jaguar motor, but dry sumped and persuaded to produce 380bhp at 7000rpm and 302lb ft at a high 5000rpm. Our test car also came fitted with the Speedshift paddle-shift gearbox that is also now available on the coupe. List price is £90,000, which, by the way, is a full £14k more than a 420bhp Jaguar XKR.
What’s it like?
We’ll leave it to you to decide how much you like the look of it, with the proviso that you must be completely mad if you don’t find it desperately attractive.
The conversion to a canvas roof has been carried out with great attention to detail. The leather-trimmed buttresses behind the seats look entirely homogenous, and the truncated dimensions somehow lend themselves perfectly to the roofless shape. Better looking than the coupe? Too close to call.
It's certainly a quantum leap over the DB9 Volante in the way it resists structural shakes. The Roadster is a very rigid little thing, and only on terrible surfaces does the column shimmy with protest. It matches an XK in this respect.
Not all of the changes from coupe to ragtop make immediate sense. Spring rates, for example, are up around 10 per cent, with accompanying changes to the dampers in bump and rebound. There’s 5mm added ride height (strange, but it’s actually quite noticeable this) and the anti roll bars have been left unchanged. When was the last time a manufacturer added roll stiffness for the convertible variant of a sports car? Nope, I can’t remember either. Aston claims no loss in ride comfort, and it can be believed, so expect these changes to filter into the coupe sometime soon.
And how does it perform? Well, there’s a slight shortfall claimed, but this car actually felt faster than last coupe I drove. The only comment I have to make on the paddle-shift is that people should buy the manual; it is far better. And a new transmission oil has eased that first-to-second shift.
Wind buffeting at speed is minimal, the hood is a one-touch affair and quite fast enough, only the detachable wind deflector detracts from the experience; it's too fiddly.
Should I buy one?
If you’re in the market, yes. It looks the business, drives very well indeed and demand won’t cease for quite some time, keeping prices stable.
The fact that it costs more than the competition doesn’t matter much with this car; it is far more glamorous than any 911 and really deserves comparison with the Ferrari F430 Spider and roofless Lamborghini Gallardo. It might be slower than both, but for pose value, it’s right up there.