New Aston Martin Vantage Roadster 2020 review
Is the open-top Aston Martin Vantage Roadster a threat to its German rivals?
This highly engaging new Aston Martin Vantage Roadster takes the fight right to the front door of German rivals Porsche, Mercedes-AMG and Audi in the high-end convertible sports car stakes. True, this is an expensive car, but the latest open-top Aston is also quick, capable and extremely desirable. It sounds rather lovely at full chat, too, and is arguably more fun to drive than its coupé relative, even if the chassis isn’t just as crisp.
Aston Martin has a new boss as of last month, and ironically he used to be the chief at AMG, one of Aston’s key rivals. He’s called Tobias Moers and he has a reputation for never taking no for an answer. As a result, he’s produced a string of great cars for AMG that have tended to put their equivalents from Aston Martin in their place in recent years.
While it’s far too soon for him to have had any influence over this new Vantage Roadster, be in no doubt: his presence at Aston Martin will make a difference to the firm’s cars in the months and years to come.
In the here and now, however, the Vantage Roadster is a pretty tasty piece of kit in its own right. Powered by the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo, AMG-sourced V8 as the coupé, and using the same eight-speed ZF auto gearbox with fixed paddles, the Roadster has 503bhp and 685Nm of torque.
Car group tests
So although it’s 60kg heavier than the coupé, thanks mainly to the electric hood mechanism, but also to the strengthening of the front-engined, rear-drive chassis in key areas, the Roadster can still hit 0-60mph in just 3.7sec and reach a top speed of 190mph (3.5sec/195mph in the coupé).
The roof itself is an all-electric canvas affair, and Aston claims it is the fastest hood around, taking less than seven seconds to go from fully up to down or vice versa.
In practice it’s very rapid and can be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 31mph, but crucially the motors are smooth and mostly silent as the canvas glides into place.
Wind refinement is impressive with the hood up. Hood down there’s some notable wind buffeting across the top of your head if you sit high behind the wheel. But drop the electric driver’s seat right down to its lowest setting and, unless you’re well over six feet tall, the buffeting pretty much disappears.
What’s less welcome is that boot space has shrunk – from 350 litres in the coupé to 200 litres here. But you can still just about squeeze in the two obligatory sets of golf clubs, albeit with a bit of creativity.
On the move the Roadster feels thoroughly majestic to drive on a sunny day, hood down. As with the coupé, there are Sport, Sport+ and Track drive modes, and these can be dialled up separately for the chassis and drivetrain. This means you can have the most aggressive throttle map and exhaust with the most comfortable damper settings, or vice versa, which is useful.
Ironically the Roadster sounds best of all with the hood up, not down; lowering the hood introduces enough wind noise to all-but obliterate the sound of the V8 above 45mph, although only in this state do you get to hear the full range of crackles and bangs from the exhaust on overrun.
Hood up, the engine sounds magnificent – louder and fruitier than in the coupé, due to the relative absence of sound deadening.
Either way, the Vantage Roadster is a very special car to drive, hood up or down. The V8 delivers thunderous performance that is just about lag-free, with immense acceleration in the mid-range. The gearbox works well enough in auto mode, but lacks the extra snap you get from the dual-clutch units found in the equivalent Porsche 911, AMG GT or Audi R8 drop-tops.
It’s the Aston’s chassis and steering that define the driving experience, though, and both are very good, even if the Roadster has a slightly old-school approach to the way it unpicks a decent B-road compared with the more clinical 911 and R8 Spyder.
If anything, the Roadster is more enjoyable to drive than the coupé because it gives so little away to it dynamically, yet has the extra flexibility to deliver al-fresco motoring, if and when the sun comes out.
|Model:||Aston Martin Vantage Roadster|
|Engine:||4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive|