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Sonic Assault: 2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster First Drive

Not that this isn’t already painfully obvious to the vast majority of us living on the other side of the socioeconomic gulch, but it sure is a fantastic time to have a boatload of cash and a fat line of credit right about now. The current market is lousy with six-figure sports cars and super-coupes for all sorts of tastes and use-cases, especially in the competitive $150,000-$190,000 slice. In a space packed with spectacular cars like the Audi R8, Porsche 911, Mercedes-AMG GT, and Acura NSX, there’s enough divergent paths to sift through that you’ll need an in-mansion massage and custom juice cleanse to bring those stressed chakras down to baseline.

Maybe some clear, crisp air and a little vitamin D courtesy of Apollo himself will help solidify your decision. In that case, try the new 2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster on for size—it should fit the drop-top-sized hole in your detached carriage house like a bobsled upholstered on Savile Row. With the removal of the second-generation Vantage’s roof, the British automaker closes the loop on one of the most popular models in its history; if the prior generation of Vantage and subsequent Vantage Roadster are anything to go by, expect to find a thick traffic jam of Gaydon’s finest hair dryer clogging up rivieras and cruise strips near you.

2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster: Dealing With Drawbacks

Fundamentally, this isn’t mechanically far removed from the standard Vantage coupe we first drove back in 2018. The same DB11-sourced bones ride underneath, though the Roadster is up 132 pounds over the coupe—a surplus Aston engineers worked hard to counteract by rejiggering the rear adaptive suspension, incorporating extra bracing, and generally beefing things up for roofless duty, a customary endeavor for coupe-to-convertible conversions.

What it did not do is add additional power, though a lack of motivation is hardly a problem in the coupe. With the top down, there’s nothing but sky to muffle the crackling of the Mercedes-sourced M177 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, sharing the coupe’s healthy 503 horsepower and 505 lb-ft of torque. Also familiar is the eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic transaxle, as is the active suspension, torque vectoring, and limited slip rear e-diff.

This means 0-60-mph scrambles take a claimed 3.7 seconds, and the Roadster will rush to a top speed of 190 mph. Surprisingly, neither of these are the Vantage Roadster’s most impressive number; that lightweight Z-fold roof mechanism is lowered and raised in a speck under seven seconds, making it the quickest operating power roof on the market. Care to guess what slice of exotica the Roadster wrested the crown from? Think closer to home—the (now) second-fastest power roof belongs to the Ford Mustang, at an even seven seconds.

2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster: Let’s Talk Aesthetics

So, Aston Martin’s trademark reserved drama seems to be intact with the new Roadster. Aesthetically, the Vantage takes to its craniectomy like peanut butter to chocolate—it’s very clear the Vantage coupe was designed from the get-go to lose the roof at some point. Top up or top down, it’s a striking car, though my particular tester’s vibrant spec of Ceramic Blue paint over a fantastic Copper Tan leather interior contributed significantly to the magnetic aura that followed in my wake. Even in supercar-bored Malibu at an impromptu Cars and Coffee-esque gathering, the bright blue streak coaxed out phones and prompted elbow nudges.

If your new Roadster will serve primarily coastal cruising duties, you won’t have to worry about slipped discs or a strained neck either. With the suspension and powertrain left in the standard Sport mode, the Roadster makes good use of the V-8’s thick torque and putts around town without excessive kickdowns or throttle touchiness, while adaptive suspension shrugs off an admirable amount of harshness while rolling over shattered pavement and expansion joints. Even without a front axle lift system on my tester, the Vantage was blessedly scrape-free for an entire weekend, even while braving steep lot entrance ramps and gas stations.

Inside, the interior layout—particularly the center stack—is a bit of a jumble, necessitating repeated investigation as to the functions of the smaller buttons. Though the Mercedes-sourced COMAND system is a technological marvel when compared to the previous generation of Aston infotainment, it’s still rather cumbersome to navigate in any sort of hurry. This is more Mercedes’ fault than Aston, but considering I spent more time deciphering how to change the radio station than should be necessary, it’s worth a mention.

There’s good stuff on the inside too. Aston’s mastery of leather and stitching is matched only by fellow Brits Bentley and Rolls-Royce, with impossibly taut leather fitment and superb attention to detail. The steering wheel is the same fantastic funky half-square, half-round design present in other Astons, shielding a pair of large column-mounted metal paddles for manhandling the transmission. Even with the Mercedes guts on the center console, the cabin of the Vantage Roadster feels very, very special, more so than most cars at this price point.

2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster: Monster Heart

Any frustrations I had with the center stack or infotainment melted away like soap foam in a hot shower the minute I made it out to an open stretch of canyon road. Whatever Aston has done to the M177 V-8, or its intake and exhaust, makes the AMG-sourced engine more tactile and aurally bombastic than in any version of the AMG GT I’ve driven so far, including the GT R. It’s not as sonorous as ye olde naturally aspirated 4.7-liter V-8 found in the last Vantage, but the disgusting torque and deep well of power makes this just as fun.

The gruff and almost toneless rumblings from the quad pipes out back often morphed into tumbling overrun and quick ear-burning firecracker snaps during shifts and throttle lift-off, occasionally causing me to jump as I blasted about with the top retracted. It was great fun finding a cluster of mingling enthusiasts pulled over on the side of Malibu’s many canyon roads, giving us the chance to lay down sonic suppressive fire as I left them whooping and hollering for more.

2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster: The Scuttle to Match the Style

Dynamically, the Roadster is nothing short of an impressively versatile and sharp sports car. It’s not rapier-edged like a Boxster Spyder or as brute-force as an AMG GT, instead offering excellent balance and immediate confidence regardless of either comfort level or technicality of road. The front-mid-engine layout has a lot to do with this, as the car reacts with neutrality to even the most aggressive and poorly-planned corner entries, all while maintaining sticky mid-corner grip in both sweepers and trickier off-camber stuff. Picking the right settings for both the suspension and the drivetrain via the two buttons on the steering wheel makes a significant difference; I found Track setting for the drivetrain and Sport Plus for the suspension to be the sweet-spot out in the tighter stuff, but it’s all what you prefer.

Steering remains one of Aston’s stronger attributes, and the Roadster continues this with stellar weight, feedback, and speed. Torque vectoring is also remarkably effective, making the act of hurtling through serpentine backroads in a 503-horsepower super-‘vert as low-stress as chugging down the highway. There’s a price to pay for all this nonchalance; the standard cast iron discs haul the Roadster down from speed without any issue, but the pedal quickly softens after a few minutes of aggressive driving, we suspect thanks primarily to the myriad onboard systems keeping me from a fiery and no-doubt gruesome run-off.

2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster: Braking Bits

Of course, outfitting yours with the Vantage’s optional carbon ceramic setup should be the way to go, but based on my exploration of the online configurator, the Roadster doesn’t seem to have ceramics as an option. I’d chalk this up to an accidental oversight, but as the new manual transmission is also absent from the soft-top, this leads me to believe the numbers were crunched, and the take-rate for ceramics and the stick were too low for the type of customer who favors the Roadster. That being said, Aston’s developed a bit of a reputation as a fan of the bespoke request—wave enough cash, and I bet you might find some ceramic stompers fitted to your new convertible.

Speaking of the green stuff, Aston just put the hurt to the Vantage Roadster’s pricing to the tune of $14,000, dropping it to a starting price of $150,086. Not bad for something so distinctive, but you’ve got to be careful with the option list if you want to take advantage of that new price cut. My blue tester carried pricey options like a $10,600 exterior carbon ceramic package, $5,300 leather kit, and $5,300 wheelset, among many, many other options that ballooned the price to $199,186.

You’re spoiled for choice if you’ve got this kind of cash to burn, but I highly recommend those who seek specialness and a little zhuzh in their weekend ride give the 2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster a look.

2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster Quick Hits

  • One of the most compelling options in a competitive price range
  • Looks to die for with sound to match
  • Quickest power roof in the world at just under seven seconds
  • Excellent performance and handling
  • We’ll take ours in Ceramic Blue, please

2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster Specifications

ON SALE Fall 2020
PRICE $150,086 (base)/$199,186 (as tested)
ENGINE 4.0L twin-turbocharged DOHC 32-valve V-8/503 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 505 lb-ft @ 2,000-5,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine RWD convertible
EPA MILEAGE  18/24 mpg (city/hwy) (est.)
L x W x H 175.8 x 76.5 x 50.1 in
WHEELBASE 106.5 in
WEIGHT 3,589 lb (dry)
0-60 MPH  3.7 sec
TOP SPEED 190 mph

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