The 2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster has real substance beneath its style
It’s so easy to dismiss modern-day Aston Martin as the car for graying self-important alpha males who slap on a giant TAG watch and think they’re James Bond. But that would be both unfair and simplistic. Every luxury brand is a luscious flower for bees whose attraction begins and ends at brand cachet. The question for everyone else is whether there’s any substance underneath the gilded hood ornament. We drove the newest Aston Martin Vantage, the sun-scooping 2021 Roadster, and discovered six interesting takeaways.
The Vantage name goes all the way back to 1950
The annals of the wonderful but perennially troubled firm go back 108 years (the former CEO used to brag repeatedly to the press that Aston had gone bankrupt seven times over its history—perhaps one reason he’s the former CEO), but the Vantage name is 70 years old. Then, Vantages were strictly the race-ready versions of Aston’s DB2 road car. In 1977 the Vantage became its own model, but it was the 2005 reboot as both Aston’s cheapest and also its best car that created the modern mold, with its aluminum chassis and low-swept styling that has come to define Aston Martin in the modern era. The Vantage was completely overhauled in 2019 with help from Mercedes-Benz to produce the car you see here.
Mercedes-Benz has done wonderful things for Aston
The 4.0-liter Mercedes-AMG twin-turbo V-8 under the hood of the 2021 Vantage, as well its rear-mounted eight-speed automatic and contemporary cockpit electronics, are all welcome byproducts of the German firm taking a financial stake in Aston and supplying the company with much needed technology. The Vantage’s old Ford-Jaguar-derived 4.2-liter and 4.7-liter naturally aspirated V-8s were lively, cammy, almost Italian-like wailers that are fondly remembered, but Aston was destined to be a memory without an all-new powertrain and chassis electronics to meet tighter regulations. The 504-hp Benz engine, which also goes into the AMG C63 S, is brutal and responsive but is also a mush machine when it needs to be.
The Vantage Roadster’s soft top folds in 6.7 seconds
Aston claims it’s the quickest top among its peers, and it certainly surprised us, disappearing into the trunk like a startled housecat. The power-top control on the driver’s door is a little weird, though. You push it down to lower the windows, then once they’re gone, pull up to drop the top. It is definitely fast enough to get done at a traffic light, even if the thought doesn’t occur to you until moments before the green. Just for reference, the Vantage Roadster can hit 60 mph from a stop in 3.7 seconds.
Some have complained that the Vantage interior lacks a certain elegance of design
We don’t think so. You can select cheery bright slashes of leather to adorn the doors, as in the car we drove, or you can sit in a coal shaft, your choice. Indeed, much depends on how you option the Vantage, for Aston presents a veritable Jersey diner’s menu of exterior and interior choices that can result in sublime perfection or clashing volcanic disaster. You can select from two grilles, four styles for the fender scallop, three “Aston Martin” trunk scripts, five colors for the brake calipers, and eight fabric top colors on the Roadster, just for starters. If you thought redoing a kitchen was hard, that’s nothing compared to ordering a Vantage. Aston’s website gently tries to funnel you toward sensible choices, and you can talk to an in-house consultant if you like. They even give you some turnkey design packages with names like “Cosmic Tang,” “Platinum Rebel,” and “Lunar Eclipse,” or you can wade into the mile-deep menu of options yourself. Caution: there are 55 exterior colors to choose from, and the ability to select from a broad palate of monotone or two-tone interior leathers (for brown, did you want the Dark Mocha, Ice Mocha, Sahara Tan, Winter Wheat, Coral Sand, Sandstorm, or Cream Truffle?) so the risk of committing bad taste is real.
Weight comes in under 4000 pounds
This is an accomplishment for a luxury convertible in this day and age, even one made out of aluminum. On a sinuous road, the car’s steering responses are sharp and the course changes immediate. The steering assist is electrical, as in most cars today, and the feedback is highly muted, but the weighting is fairly natural. So much progress in these systems over the past ten years. The 20-inch Pirelli PZeros feel epoxied to the road and speeds through tight bends were shockingly quick before there was any trace of slip. Aston claims a slight rear weight bias and the suspension has no trouble digesting surface imperfections without upsetting the balance. You can ratchet up the shock stiffness by moving the mode selector from sport to sport-plus or even to the extra cagey track mode, but on a public road, why? It just makes the ride brittle and the body more prone to be thrown around, thus upsetting the stick. Leave it in the base setting or, if you want to make more noise, go to sport-plus. Otherwise leave it alone.
The Roadster starts at $150,086
The price keeps the Vantage firmly in the face of the Porsche 911, which used to be considerably cheaper than an Aston but has been gaining ground rapidly in recent years. As with Porsche, you can pile on the options and $200,000 Vantage Roadsters will not be rare in Aston Martin showrooms. Hey, that’s about what these things go for. It’s a lonely territory, between the sub-$100,000 Boxster and over-$200,000 Ferrari Roma (formerly the Ferrari Portofino, formerly the Ferrari California). Really, the Porsche 911 is its main competition if you don’t count a used Bentley Continental GTC, which would be like driving an Aston with several engine blocks in the trunk and passenger seat.