Aston Martin V8 2007 Review
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Red moons don't come along very often and neither do Aston Martin convertibles. Apparently this new Vantage V8 Roadster is the 14th example since 1950, but you almost never see one on the road and I wouldn't be surprised if I'd witnessed more lunar eclipses.
Watching this week's ochre orb rise over a splendid powder-blue example, one of the first in Australia, was a rare alignment of stars indeed.
This soft-top version of the Vantage Coupe is unlikely to be a common sight, even when Australia's full quota, a couple of hundred, perhaps, have been handed over to buyers.
But in Aston terms, it will be relatively high volume. The company is currently building more cars than at any time in its history, 7000 last year, or about one-third more than Ferrari.
The recent sale by former owner Ford now means development work is going full-throttle under new shareholders. Annual production is expected to hit 10,000 when the Rapide four-door joins the line-up in 2009.
Convertibles account for more than half current output and the majority of those will be the V8 Roadster. The larger V12-powered DB9 Volante is nearly $100,000 more expensive, and you need a blue moon for that one.
For such an exclusive brand, the Aston appeal has remarkable cut-through. Some badges inspire unprovoked hostility in passers-by, but an Aston is greeted with almost universal admiration that even envy cannot dilute.
Aston expects this car, of all its models, to attract more women buyers, but judging by the response merely to a mention of the brand, it already has a fair bit of appeal.
The V8 Roadster, like other Astons I've driven, has an extraordinary ability to cross the gender divide.
The Roadster commands a $24,000 premium over the coupe and shares most of its engineering, including aluminium underpinnings, lightweight bodywork, 4.3-litre V8 and six-speed manual transmission (or the option of a two-pedal, auto-clutch version of the same gearbox).
None of these cars is a slouch when it comes to looks or performance. But with a 0-100km/h time of just 5.0 seconds, the Aston is competitive against all but the quickest. To this non-objective observer, it has the edge in terms of beauty and cabin ambience.
The Roadster manages the neat trick of looking good even with the roof up, which is not the best angle even for expensive drop-tops. Sharply raked A-pillars mean the fabric forms a low, taut cabin line (almost) as persuasive as the smooth hardtop. The convertible also retains that car's grille, headlights and wrap-around tail-lights with their appealing LED details.
The same pronounced style crease flows from the signature side vent, and the shapely form of the wheel arches turns the flanks into an almost sexual statement.
It's gorgeous, but if it's gorgeous with its roof up, top-down it's irresistible. The three layers of fabric which make the cabin feel well insulated when in place, fold in a swish 18 seconds.
The roof is slickly packaged behind the cabin, avoiding any suggestion that it's an awkward piece of cargo, while the boot space, which is weekend-for-two-in-a-warm-location size, stays the same regardless.
Nice touches include the fared-in headrests and concealed fuel-filler cap, which can be hard to find unless you know where it is.
The car's lines come into their own now, and the cabin can show off an expanse of contrast-stitched leather punctuated by gun-metal coloured plastic and metal for the functional bits.
The switchgear and control placement mirrors other Astons and has some endearing quirks, such as the high-mounted buttons used to select D, R or N in the automated manual version I drove. The counter-rotating dials are also unique, with the speedo describing a conventional arc but the rev-counter needle flicking anti-clockwise. There's no redline marked and an almost complete lack of ornamentation, save for a little analogue clock.
The seats are a highlight both to look at and to occupy. Set appropriately low, the driving position is marred only by excessive reflections off the top of the dash into the front glass, and a complete inability to see the end of the long bonnet.
Aston has a minimalist approach to standard equipment and in the Roadster it's sparse, which means the starting price really is where you begin. Sat-nav, heated seats or Bluetooth compatibility are just a few features you might expect at this price, but they're extra. So is cruise control.
I'd do without most of them. The cheap steering-wheel buttons for cruise and stereo are about the only jarring note in the cabin — and the volume control didn't work. But that was the exception in a car that felt tight, well-built and nuggetty solid.
Aston claims exceptional rigidity for this Roadster, and it's not difficult to believe because it is substantially heavier than its Porsche and Jaguar rivals.
It's the length of a hatchback but weighs as much as the larger DB9 Coupe.
On the road, it has the hunkered-down feel of a small car running big rubber.
The 1.7 tonne weight is extremely well disguised because the mass sits low to the ground and the car responds to inputs cleanly.
After a few hundred kilometres I found myself braking and turning in earlier for corners, but carrying more speed.
The steering wheel and pedals are all pleasing to use with vestiges, at least, of an unmediated sportscar just beneath their civilised surface. It turns in with poise and alacrity and the brakes are strong.
The ride quality is firm but acceptably so, and Aston eschews adaptive suspension and other trickery, such as variable-ratio steering. The road noise thrown up by tyres is the main detraction from refinement.
One complex piece of technology is the Sportshift automated manual gearbox, a development of systems used by many of the exotic brands. The difficulty of low-speed manoeuvring we've encountered with these gearboxes has been addressed with a 'crawl' function, which edges the car forward or back for parking just like a conventional torque converter automatic.
In D, the shifts are sufficiently smooth and around town it's the default choice, although the best way to learn this transmission is to use manual mode, changing gear via the steering wheel paddles, all the time. Slight throttle adjustments can make all the difference to shift quality and timing.
In a nice touch, the numerical gear display turns red as the upshift point approaches, although the system will allow revs to be held at maximum without changing up for you.
On an open road, manual mode is clearly superior and not just because it blips the throttle and swaps ratios faster than any pro. Automatic can choose strange times to change gear- mid-corner on a couple of occasions. It's unclear whether the software would eventually learn a driver's style.
And with your fingers on the paddles, you can control the engine note. Like the coupe, the stainless steel exhaust system opens up all the stops at 4000rpm and sounds like the brass section of big band.
But unlike the coupe, in the convertible the volume is turned up to full, and it's like you're in the dance hall rather than listening to the recording.
This V8 engine doesn't feel quite as quick as its vital statistics suggest, it can even go off the boil a little on inclines with the tacho showing less than 3000rpm, but it spins very enthusiastically and the sound it makes has a slightly feral quality that's extremely addictive.
This Aston doesn't need a full moon, red or otherwise, to reveal the beast within.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster
Body: Two-seater soft-top convertible
Engine: 4.3-litre V8
Outputs: 283kW at 7000rpm; 410Nm at 5000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed clutchless manual
Performance: 0-100km/h in 5.0 seconds
On sale: Now
Range and Specs
|Vantage Roadster||4.3L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO||$60,300 – 76,230||2007 Aston Martin V8 2007 Vantage Roadster Pricing and Specs|
|Vantage||4.3L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$51,400 – 65,010||2007 Aston Martin V8 2007 Vantage Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data