2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster Cannot Be Ignored

When you sell about 120,000 cars in 107 years, even 120,000 very expensive cars, red ink flows. Aston Martin has gone belly up seven times in its history, and its current books don’t look so good. Despite a recent investment by Mercedes and a new wave of products powered by the Germans giant’s turbocharged engines, Aston’s CEO was recently replaced by Tobias Moers, the former chief executive officer of Mercedes-AMG.

Surely the acne-afflicted teenager ogling the sexy lines of the 2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster is unaware of Aston’s money troubles and C-suite dramas. And he doesn’t care. He rolls down the window of his mom’s SUV to better hear the burbling idle of its twin-turbo V-8. “Do a burnout,” he yells, with lust in his eyes. “Rev the engine.”

Jessica Lynn WalkerCar and Driver

If you believe kids don’t like cars anymore, spend a week in a current Aston Martin. Like the Vantage coupe, introduced in 2019, the new convertible version of the two-seater stops anyone less than 18 years old in their tracks. One morning we found a young father and his two boys admiring its Yellow Tang-painted curves and extensive carbon-fiber trim. The seven-year-old wasn’t shy. “How fast will it go?” Upon hearing of the Roadster’s 190-mph top speed, he shot back, “Some cars like McLarens can go over 200.” Yes, we let them sit in it.

Under the Roadster’s aluminum clamshell hood and beefy chassis bracing is the same AMG engine you find in the hardtop (as well as its native home, the Mercedes-AMG C63 S and the GLC63 S). The handbuilt AMG engines are usually badged with the name and signature of the builder but not here. In the Aston it’s the engine’s inspector that gets the nod. Our test car’s under-hood plaque read, “Final Inspection by Dave Nimmo.”

Jessica Lynn WalkerCar and Driver

As in the coupe, the 4.0-liter gets a 503-horsepower rating at 6000 rpm and is connected to a quick-shifting eight-speed ZF automatic transaxle. There’s enough punch up and down the tach to regularly exercise the traction control as well as your scalene muscles. But it isn’t scary quick. In fact, the V-8’s a bit lazy off the line as the electronics manage its 505 pound-feet of torque, which peaks at just 2000 rpm. There’s a long beat before its full brutality is unleashed and the scenery begins to blur. Clicking off tightly spaced gears at 7000 rpm, the transmission keeps the speed coming, blissfully uninterrupted, as long as you keep your foot down. Sixth gear hits right at 150 mph. Then we ran out of road.

Aston says the Roadster reaches 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, which is two tenths behind our test results for Jaguar’s supercharged F-Type R convertible, while Porsche’s 443-hp rear-drive 911 Carrera S out-accelerates them both. The last Vantage coupe we tested hit 60 mph in 3.3 seconds, and we suspect the open car will close the gap when we get one on the test track. Some structural additions and its folding top add a claimed 132 pounds to the coupe’s 3726-pound curb weight, while its lumpier aero shaves 5 mph from its top speed.

Flick it into Sport+ mode, and there’s a welcome jump in powertrain response—another when you chose Track mode. These settings also reclock the Aston’s center-mounted tachometer so that 6000 rpm is straight up and dial up the volume of its storming exhaust. In Track mode it claps and crackles like a Fourth of July sparkler. Toggle through the three suspension settings, and the changes are less pronounced. The default setup is firm and flat enough.

A soft brake pedal is a disappointment in the hills, but the Vantage’s steering is quick, and there’s an impressive amount of bite from its Aston Martin-spec Pirelli P Zero PZ4 rubber, sized 255/40R-20 front and 295/35R-20 rear. Its electronic torque-vectoring rear differential does an admirable job getting the power down, and the stability system’s Track mode loosens the reins nicely, allowing for some oversteer. We suspect the Roadster will nearly match the coupe’s 0.99-g skidpad performance. Its bonded-aluminum chassis only suffers from occasional and momentary cowl shakes over rougher patches, but its thick A-pillars and large side mirrors do block the view of apexes as well as pedestrians.

By Aston’s stopwatch, its softtop folds away in just 6.7 seconds, which Aston brags makes it the quickest around. Thickly insulated, it seals out wind noise well on the highway and road roar on most surfaces. Its short seat bottoms lack enough thigh support for long drives, but its seat heaters will roast you like a Thanksgiving turkey so you can keep the top down comfortably on cool nights. There were some initial gripes, but we stopped complaining about the Vantage’s squared-off steering wheel after just a single tank of fuel. It’s a non-issue. However, the painfully simple gauges seem out of step with the complexity of its center stack and console, which look like they belong in the Millennium Falcon.

Besides the matter of design continuity, some of the materials in the Roadster’s cabin have trouble living up to its $164,086 base price, including cheap plastic for the vents, cupholders, and speaker grills. Its 8-inch infotainment screen, also borrowed from Benz, reeks of dated hand-me-down. Yellow stitching added pizzazz to our test car’s black leather, and Aston’s big column-mounted paddle shifters are metal, but overall fit and finish remains well behind its German rivals.

Jessica Lynn WalkerCar and Driver

Porsche’s notoriously endless list of expensive options seems to have inspired Aston, however. Our test car was lathered up with nearly $50,000 in extras, including $18,400 for its glossy exterior carbon, a $5,300 paint job, $1,600 yellow brake calipers, $3,100 Snowflake wheels, $1600 aluminum door-sill trim, $800 smoked taillights, a $500 embossed Vantage logo, a $300 umbrella, and a $200 first-aid kit. Total MSRP was $213,686, about twice the price of an all-wheel-drive Jaguar F-Type R convertible.

Last year we said the Aston Martin Vantage coupe was in an elite group of sports cars that deliver driving thrills and looks to kill. The Roadster also qualifies for that wolfpack with well-sorted dynamics, enough grand-touring civility, and a shape that constantly affirms that, yes, kids are still into cars—at least when the cars look like this one.

Moers’s timing is favorable. Aston is building its best cars since the 1960s, the heyday of the brand that gave us the DB4 GT and 007’s DB5. And its first SUV, the 542-hp DBX, will finally go on sale later this year. We’ll see if all of that’s enough to turn the red ink black.

Specifications

Specifications

2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster

VEHICLE TYPE

mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door convertible

BASE PRICE

$164,086

ENGINE TYPE

twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement

243 in3, 3982 cm3
Power

503 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque

505 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm

TRANSMISSION

8-speed automatic

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 106.5 in

Length: 175.8 in

Width: 76.5 in

Height: 50.1 in

Trunk volume: 7 ft3

Cargo volume: XXX ft3

Curb weight (C/D est): 3850 lb

PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)

60 mph: 3.4 sec

100 mph: 7.6 sec

1/4 mile: 11.6 sec

Top speed: 190 mph

EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)

Combined/city/highway: 20/18/24 mpg

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