Aston Martin Vantage Roadster Review: Better With No Roof?

The drop-top version of the Vantage has the same flaws as the coupe, but they become much more forgivable amidst the V8 theatrics

A lot of us would like to think that - given the means - we’d buy an Aston Martin V8 Vantage. But would you? Imagine the required sum is in your bank account, or more accurately these days, you’ve agreed a bunch of monthly payments you can afford. You’re about to take the plunge on your dream car. And then a thought pops into your head: I could buy a Porsche 911 instead.

Fine car though the new Vantage is, the 992 version of the 911 is more dynamically polished, better built, has a far superior cabin and infotainment setup, and although it looks less distinctive, the front end is a lot less ‘Marmite’. Plus, given that you need to stump up £118,350 for a Vantage without options, the Porsche is a hell of a lot cheaper.

The Vantage Roadster on the right has the new optional vaned grille
The Vantage Roadster on the right has the new optional vaned grille

The Aston is a commendable choice that’s harder to recommend than we’d like. But here’s the thing, once you take the roof off each of these sports cars, the 911 gets a little weaker, and the Vantage much stronger. I’m not talking about dynamics - the 992 cab doesn’t really drive any differently to the coupe. No - it’s all about theatrics.

The drop-top 911 is the only convertible sports car I can think of that’s worse off for having its roof off. In the tin-top, the back of the car acts as a sort of echo chamber, filling with delicious flat-six induction howl. In the cab with its fabric roof up or down, you lose this effect, and all you get is what’s puffed out of the particulate filtered exhaust pipes. Which is a load of raspy, uninteresting nonsense.

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The Aston couldn’t be more different. I’ve always liked the noise the Vantage makes, but it’s not a defining feature of the coupe. In the Roadster, however - good lord, do you enjoy that magnificent racket. That 503bhp, 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 may be borrowed from Mercedes-AMG, but the exhaust is all Aston’s work. It gargles fantastically at idle, rumbles moodily in the mid-range, and roars angrily in its upper reaches.

Every lift-off or gear-change brings with it a cacophony of explosive crackles from the quad tail-pipes. You don’t even need to be exploiting the full travel of the throttle pedal to achieve this - even light inputs of the right-hand pedal result in dirty V8 noises spilling out the back of the car.

Aston Martin - Aston Martin Vantage Roadster Review: Better With No Roof? - Features

The soundtrack alone could sell this car, but it isn’t a one-trick pony. The roads used for the car’s launch aren’t what you’d call smooth, but the well-resolved damping shrugged off imperfections while keeping the body impeccably stable during demanding corners.

It helps that the adaptive suspension can be adjusted independently of the main drive modes - Sport, Sport Plus and Race. But on some bits of road, even in the firmest setting, the Vantage doesn’t get bouncy and flustered as some sports cars can away from a smooth race track.

You don’t get a huge amount of feedback through the steering, but the weighting is good, and it feels consistent throughout the lock. The front end is nicely sharp, but as with all other versions of the Vantage we’ve driven, the rear can get unruly earlier than you might expect, giving the stability control a hissy fit. There is the more lenient ESP Track setting, but you’d better be paying attention if you intend on using it - when the Vantage steps out at the rear, it does so quickly.

Aston Martin - Aston Martin Vantage Roadster Review: Better With No Roof? - Features

Noise aside, it drives much like the coupe - you’d need to get both cars back-to-back if you wanted to dive into the nuances that separate them. The weight gain is fairly modest at 60kg, and the days of cars going all floppy once the roof has been hacked off have largely been consigned to history. You can thank modern, super-stiff bodyshells for that, although the Vantage has received some under-body modifications to keep the rigidity in check.

Dropping the roof takes 6.7 seconds, while only 6.8sec is required to put it back up again. No other production electric convertible is faster, and a quick test confirms it really is that quick. With it down, you’re well cocooned from the wind, with the small, fixed deflector at the rear of the cabin clearly doing its job. The stack height is reasonably low, so rear visibility doesn’t suffer too badly from accommodating the new rag top.

Aston Martin - Aston Martin Vantage Roadster Review: Better With No Roof? - Features

The flaws are all still here, of course - the dynamic inferiority relative to the 911; the less than brilliant cabin; the old-gen Mercedes tech - but in this convertible guise, the Vantage becomes a stronger option amidst its peers. Since you’re buying something inherently compromised, cars like these need emotional appeal. And that’s something this Aston has in spades.