Road test: Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster drops the roof and raises the bar

While the premium sports car is more agile and has solid ergonomics, there are a few caveats

The specs

Engine: 4.0-litre V8

Power: 503hp at 6,000rpm

Torque: 685Nm at 2,000rpm

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Price: from Dh850,000

On sale: now

Savour the moment. Take it all in. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster is a pretty-looking thing, isn’t it? A caveat: as beautiful as this car is, it is extremely colour-sensitive.

My test car is in Riviera Run – or blue, in non-Aston speak. And the hue doesn’t quite do justice to the elegant lines created by design boss Marek Reichman.

It is vastly more appealing with the roof down, and Aston needs a pat on the back for sticking with a traditional fabric roof, which incidentally is also the fastest in the business. It opens in just 6.8 seconds and rises again in 6.7.

Cabin comforts

Inside, there’s a strong whiff of Mercedes, which can be a good thing or bad depending on your perspective. It’s understandable, though, as Stuttgart continues to increase its stake in the company – parts sharing makes sense.

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The Vantage Roadster can dispatch the o to 100kph run in 3.8 seconds and headbutt the horizon at a top speed of 306kph. Those are supercar stats

On the upside, this means that everything works just as you’d expect it to. The sat-nav, the infotainment system, the lot. This is a quantum leap from the Ford-era cars, which had – get this – a calculator as one of the features on the infotainment system.

Another caveat: the cabin is a bit of a squeeze, and getting in and out can be a chore for larger drivers. Having said that, the driving position is perfect, although I do wish the A-pillars were a touch slimmer, because they can hamper visibility.

Like most modern cars, it’s a button fest inside the cabin – not quite on the scale of the early Porsche Panamera, but still substantial. Happily, though, ergonomics are great and everything falls to hand easily. The build quality is up there as well, which has been a welcome change in modern Astons. No more flimsy indicator stalks or wind noise seeping through the rubber seals; it’s a proper quality product now.

Power play

Naturally, none of this matters if the driving experience doesn’t live up to the aesthetic chutzpah. Thankfully, the Vantage Roadster doesn’t disappoint. On the move, it is really rather good. With a 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 under the bonnet mounted behind the front axle, and a transaxle gearbox, the weight distribution is a near-perfect 49:51. This gives the car a sense of urgency and agility that was somewhat lacking in the previous version.

Even though the weight has gone up, it is merely a tenth of a second slower to 100 kilometres per hour than the 60-kilogram lighter coupe version.

Speaking of performance, the AMG-sourced V8, which first erupted to life in the Mercedes-AMG GT coupe, is still a masterpiece. Mated to an eight-speed automatic, it develops 503 horsepower and 685Nm from as low as 2,000rpm. This means the Vantage Roadster can dispatch the benchmark 0 to 100kph run in 3.8 seconds and headbutt the horizon at a top speed of 306kph. Those are supercar stats.

However, what’s more important is how it gets there. The V8, despite exhaust gases carving a curious path through the turbochargers, sounds about as loud as any naturally aspirated V8 engine. Even though it’s fettled by Aston engineers, the raw AMG bellow and anger are clear and present, magnified further when the roof is down.

Driving modes

There are three driving modes on offer – Sport, Sport+ and Race. These adjust various settings, including stability control, throttle response and steering acuity to suit the driving environment. Oh, and the volume of that stupendous V8.

Sport+ is adequate for everyday swanning, as it strikes a balance between sharpness and comfort. That said, it is a fairly good everyday cruiser that wouldn’t require you to visit the chiropractor every other weekend.

Around the corners, there is a hint of scuttle shake and you do get the odd squeak, but it is still remarkably well balanced and composed. Could it outperform a similarly priced, similarly specced Porsche 911? Probably not, but saying that would be missing the point of this car.

The 911 is a precision instrument; the Vantage Roadster is more of an object of desire. In this car you don’t reach your destination, you arrive, in a flurry of noise and colour. Just choose the shade wisely.

The specs

Engine: 4.0-litre V8

Power: 503hp at 6,000rpm

Torque: 685Nm at 2,000rpm

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Price: from Dh850,000

On sale: now