Gorgeous to look at and fun to drive - but it's not perfect.
To me, Aston Martin is at its best when it combines luxury grand touring elements with performance parts to create the world's premier cruisers. But what happens when the company leans more toward the sports car side of this formula? We spent a week with the 2023 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster to find out.
The Vantage name has been in use on and off by the UK automaker since 1972, but was most notably revived in 2005, becoming Aston's most successful model of all time with a 12-year production run. That act was going to be tough to follow, but a successor arrived in 2018 sporting a coupe body style and a Mercedes-AMG engine under the hood. Two years later, the Roadster arrived on the scene, adding more drama to the already flamboyant sports car. With Aston Martin poised for a successful season in Formula 1 this year, let's see if the road cars are equally dominant.
The previous-generation Vantage might be one of the prettiest sports cars of the modern era, so there was really only one way to go: down. That's not to say the current Vantage isn't objectively striking (it is), but in my opinion, there's something not quite as "perfect" in this model as in its predecessor. I'm no design expert, but perhaps it's the tiny headlights which are completely consumed by the low, wide front end. Also, am I the only one that sees a bit of NB Miata mixed with first-generation Dodge Viper?
Then there's the grille, which is offered in two flavors: Mesh and Vaned. The former debuted on the Vantage Coupe to some criticism for looking "unfinished." It was styled to look like the Aston Martin Vulcan, a lightweight track car, which we thought looked pretty unique. Aston then gave buyers the Vaned grille option, which looks more like the company's traditional design. This grille is $2,900, and while it's the better option of the two, for some reason, we don't love how it looks here. There is an option to finish the Vaned grille in black (pictured below on a silver car), and it looks much better to our eyes. Let us know your thoughts!
Moving beyond the front end, the Vantage has some dramatic lines. The long hood and wide stance distort this car's size; it's actually quite tiny at only 175.8 inches long. In fact, it's a full two inches shorter than a Porsche 911. Viewed from either the side or rear profiles, the Vantage is bite-the-back-of-your-hand beautiful. And since this car has over 500 horsepower, that's the end most people are going to see.
Since this is a hand-built car, everything is customizable. Our tester featured $18,000 worth of exterior visual options alone, including $4,400 for Liquid Crimson Signature Metallic Paint. This hue is transformative, looking almost black in low light and only showing its red pop in direct sunlight. If this color isn't to your liking, Aston offers dozens of greens, blues, reds, oranges, purples, browns, and any other tone you could imagine. There are even seven different wheel styles, including the $4,800 21-inch ones you see here.
We particularly like that Aston kept the traditional soft top. Not only does it look great with the roof up or down, but it operates quicker than any other power retractable unit in the world, lowering in 6.7 seconds and raising in 6.8 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph.
Much like the company's F1 cars, the Vantage borrows its engine from AMG. In this case, it's a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 producing 503 hp and 505 lb-ft of torque. That's more than the Mercedes-AMG SL 55, which uses the same engine, but less than the SL 63. Unlike the SL, power is routed to the rear wheels only, giving the Vantage a more pure sports car feel without as much complication. Though Aston uses the Mercedes nine-speed wet clutch MTC in the DBX 707, the Vantage still relies on a ZF eight-speed automatic. Shifts are smooth but can be lazy in the default Sport Mode. Putting the car into its Sport Plus and Race Modes or shifting manually with the column-mounted paddles is an easy fix.
This may be a German engine, but Aston's tuning is unique. It's more shouty than the SL, with crackles and pops that sound like a firearm discharging. The car will hit 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds, a tenth of a second quicker than the SL 55, then go on to a 190 mph top speed. For those wanting more performance, the Vantage Roadster F1 Edition ups the output to 527 hp, and the V12 Vantage Roadster makes an insane 690 hp.
The Vantage may be the sportiest model in Aston Martin's lineup, but it still has some cruiser in its demeanor. We had the chance to road trip the Vantage from Orlando to Miami, and it proved to be perfectly comfortable over that four-hour stint. It's a bit louder inside than a DB11, but the $2,300 Aston Martin Premium Audio easily overpowers the road noise even at low volume. Sport Mode is the default setting on the Vantage, meaning the ride is always on the firm side. It's not completely overwhelming like an AMG GT, but it can spring you out of your seat over a substantial speed bump.
Fortunately, the adaptive suspension can be adjusted independently of the drive modes (with the same Sport, Sport Plus, and Track settings), meaning you can drive around with the softest ride and still enjoy the most aggressive engine/transmission settings.
Despite its relative quick 0-60 mph, the Vantage doesn't leave the line with much drama. The launch control slowly leans into the throttle, so it doesn't feel like a gut punch as in some sports cars. Once it's moving though, the transmission shifts are rapid, accompanied by the V8 roar. When you lift off, it backfires with such ferocity, your neighbors might think a crime is being committed nearby. The steering, in typical Aston fashion, is perfectly weighted and communicates back to the driver. Once underway, the 3,847-pound curb weight, which is 132 lbs more than the coupe, melts away.
The front end is easy to point, and the rear end loves to step out in a controllable manner, allowing for some epic power slides. We never felt the need for the Track suspension mode, as the standard Sport setting enables a slight amount of body roll that we enjoy in a sports car. The Vantage trades some of the comfort of the DB11 for a lighter, purer driving experience that an enthusiast might prefer.
Aston does many things well, but the interior isn't exceptional. The previous Vantage used a Volvo-based navigation system that was painfully outdated, and despite borrowing a center stack from Mercedes, one of the most technologically advanced automakers, it's still out-of-date. The eight-inch screen is tiny, and despite its matte finish, is virtually impossible to see in direct sunlight. That's a big issue in a convertible. Aston runs a Mercedes COMAND infotainment system that is now two generations old, and it feels it. This car needs an MBUX update ASAP.
Apple CarPlay was unavailable when this car debuted, but Aston Martin has found a way to integrate it into the head unit via a dealer-installed accessory. Since this is not factory Apple CarPlay, it's not as smooth as it is in the DBX, which was designed from the get-go to accommodate the phone-mirroring software. Hopefully Aston Martin's next infotainment system will be an overall improvement, but we still appreciate CarPlay's availability, especially since it works wired and wirelessly.
As for the rest of the cabin, the materials are excellent, especially with the $5,700 Inspire interior theme. The Vantage's base interior actually looks quite drab, but there are three monotone and duotone design themes that can add more excitement. We'd go for something more unique than our tester's black with red stitching, but that's the beauty of Aston's nearly endless interior color options. The $2,000 Sports Plus Seats are a must-have option, since they look superior to the base seats and are still comfortable on long journeys. Another $1,100 for ventilated seats is also worth it if you live in a hot climate like Florida.
Some buyers may dislike the sprawling array of buttons and knobs on the dashboard, and we can certainly see why. They are laid out without much rhyme or reason, though they are easy to get used to without much learning curve. If we had to choose between this setup or a single massive touchscreen, we'd choose the former every time.
With just seven cubic feet of space in the trunk, you may have to pack lightly for a week-long getaway. We managed to squeeze a carry-on suitcase, a small duffle bag, a backpack, and a suit bag into the Vantage Roadster for a five-day road trip, but fitting a second person's luggage would have been impossible. At least the roof doesn't take up any of the valuable trunk space when lowered. The Vantage Coupe has a significantly larger trunk with 12.4 cubic feet, meaning it's the superior Vantage for long trips.
There is no glovebox inside, but the door pockets are large and there is decent storage under the armrest and behind the seats. Sadly, the cupholders are rather basic, though they held a Yeti just fine.
Pricing for the 2023 Vantage Roadster starts at $159,800 - $15,900 more than the Vantage Coupe. Our Liquid Crimson example rang in at $198,486 as-tested with destination included (a $3,086 fee), which puts it into competition with drop-top models like the Audi R8 Spyder, Mercedes-AMG SL, and Porsche 911 Cabriolet. The Aston certainly isn't the value play in that group, but exotic sports cars are rarely purchased with a logical lens.
This is an emotional purchase, and the Vantage Roadster tugs at the heart strings with its British charm. Its sleek styling will put a smile on your face, and the twin-turbo V8's gunshot exhaust will keep you grinning even on your worst day. Is this a perfect sports car? Absolutely not, but that's like saying your supermodel spouse takes a while to get ready in the morning. Of course they do! Who said beauty is supposed to be easy? Is it a blast to drive? Yes, and that's what really matters.
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