Surprisingly, it’s taken Aston Martin two years to roll out the Vantage Roadster, soft-top sibling to the Vantage coupe. We can thank Covid for that; this car was due to arrive ahead of the 2020 summer season, until the pandemic forced most of the world into lockdown.
Belatedly, it’s here, and we’ve been testing it during the Indian summer we’ve enjoyed recently. As with its arch-rival, the Porsche 911 Cabriolet, the formula is largely the same as the coupe. It’s the details that differ – plus one fast-acting surprise spectacle…
The Vantage Roadster is priced from £126,950, around £12,000 more than the coupe. As with that car, the sole engine is a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. More may be in the pipeline, but right now, that’s not Aston’s priority.
Open-top sports cars are still an important market. If you live in California, why wouldn’t you err towards a convertible rather than a ‘coop’? The Vantage Roadster’s arrival completes the initial rollout of the bold-looking new Vantage, and aims to give sales a lift from their current – rather disappointing – levels.
Roof apart, it’s otherwise pretty much identical. Even weight only goes up by 60kg, an impressively small increase that shows the base car was designed with a soft-top in mind. As you can see from the photos, the design is as comfortable with the open-top roof as with a coupe lid. We jumped straight in and hit the road.
Driving the 2020 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster
The fabric roof is simply brilliant – because it raises and lowers in less than seven seconds. That’s incredibly quick, and you’ll barely believe your eyes the first time you see it.
Sat within, it feels like no time at all, and is certain to maximise roof-down time when driving. You won’t think twice about lowering the top at traffic lights, safe in the knowledge you won’t get beeped, roof half-retracted, when they turn green.
Also, even if they do change quickly, the roof can still be operated at speeds of up to 31mph.
It’s a nice, snug soft-top that’s cosy and quiet when it’s up. Impressively, the cabin is surprisingly calm and bluster-free with it down, too. Some open-top cars can make a racket when driving in open-top guise, but Aston has tuned the aerodynamics well. There’s no buffeting of your eardrums, either.
Roof down, the V8 does that, in the most pleasurable way. This gorgeously woofly and charismatic engine is already a delight, and becomes even more alluring when you can hear so much more of it. The exhausts have a deep, bassy hum and, in town, you’ll love just cruising around and listening to it.
It’s quick too, aided by two turbos that serve up 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds and a 190mph top speed. When revved through, it becomes electrifying, really picking up above 5,000rpm. The eight-speed automatic shifts gears tightly and responsively, and feels nicely connected for an auto. Good job: the new seven-speed manual option is reserved for the Vantage coupe only.
The ride has a firm feel at first (blame the big wheels), but it copes with bumps comfortably, thanks to a well-honed adaptive damping system.
Steering is quick, clean and tidy. There’s the odd bit of resonance through the steering column and rear view mirror, hinting at a slight loss of stiffness compared to the coupe, but it’s nothing major. The steering also has the same alert precision and connected feel, helping place this wide car accurately on tight and twisting roads.
It has a luxurious, easygoing and premium-style character, helped by a ride quality that’s pliant at speed, breathing nicely over undulating roads in a relaxed manner. It’s an effortless, feelgood car to drive, with that lush engine always there in the background to complement the chassis.
It can be dynamic, with near-perfect weight distribution and an engine sat well back in the chassis giving an agile feel when chucked around. The rear end feels positive and well planted, and it’s enjoyable to lean on it coming out of corners, hunkering down in a very assured way.
Still, it’s not as tactile as a Porsche 911. This is a slight disappointment in the Vantage coupe, but in the Roadster it matters less. Open-top sports cars are as much about enjoying the drive as they are making the hairs on the back of your neck tingle – and the overall feel of the Vantage Roadster is very pleasant indeed.
It’s a nice, cocooning car to sit in. The concave door panels and high centre console give a wraparound feel, and the low-slung driving position is sporty. It feels wide, and luxurious, with acres of hand-crafted leather-covered surfaces.
It’s busy, though, with lots of buttons to grapple with, plus an 8.0-inch Mercedes-Benz infotainment system that is controlled via a fiddly scroll wheel.
While a strict two-seater, the boot is a decent size, squeezing in 200 litres and, more importantly, promising to carry a full-size set of golf clubs (with accessories).
Final word on the front end. Some Aston traditionalists hate the Vantage’s radical ‘hunter’ front end, so the company now offers the more traditional grille pictured here. It’s pretty, but we prefer the regular setup.
At least people now have the choice: it will be interesting to see which wins through…
Verdict: 2020 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster
The Aston Martin Vantage Roadster is an intelligent car, with a cultured depth to the way it flows across-country. It’s a car you drive with your fingertips, in a relaxed and enjoyable way. It is effortless and remains unruffled – a very British type of open-top sports car. And a very fast one, too.
Committed petrolheads will still prefer a Porsche 911 (maybe a Targa, as no committed petrolhead would surely consider a 911 Cabriolet) but for many in this niche marketplace, the Vantage Roadster will hit the spot.
Here’s hoping it helps kickstart Vantage sales – and gives Aston Martin an excuse to now sharpen up the coupe into an even more driver-thrilling Porsche 911 rival.
Aston Martin Vantage Roadster specs
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Torque: 505lb ft
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
0-62mph: 3.8 seconds
Top speed: 190mph
Fuel economy: 24.4mpg
Length/width/height: 4,465 / 1,942 / 1,273 mm
Boot capacity: 200 litres