Beggars, as they say, can't be choosers. When Aston Martin rolled out the new Vantage convertible last year, we were sure to let them know that we wanted to drive it as soon as possible; the hardtop Vantage, after all, is one of our favorite sports cars on sale today, and it's a rare speed machine that doesn't get more exciting by chopping off the top.
Being good eggs, the Aston Martin PR people were happy to oblige our request; they set us up with a long weekend with the new convertible as soon as it arrived in the press fleet. Thing is, it happened to arrive in early March.
As you might imagine, the first weekend of the third month is not an ideal time to bask in droptop life in the greater New York City area — especially in the winter of 2020-2021, which has ranked as one of the harsher ones in recent memory. Still...we made do.
Squint at the Vantage Roadster, and it's almost possible to imagine it was an NC-generation Mazda MX-5 that was injected with super-soldier serum and given a blast of vita-rays just like Steve Rogers. The Aston is a tad bigger, but the proportions are the same — apart from the muscular fenders and mammoth front grille that feel like exaggerated superheroic versions of those familiar traits.
While it may not be quite as delicate as the Miata from behind the wheel, there's no denying that it shares that same sort of immediacy and involvement — a combination of both excellent chassis tuning and the inherently well-balanced chassis. It feels smaller and more nimble than you expect, yet never loses that inherent boisterousness — the snarling exhaust, the dramatic power — that helps set Astons apart.
That's not to suggest the Vantage is a bad car to drive in the winter; pop a set of high-performance winter tires like the ones my tester, and it'll claw its way across snow and ice as well as any low-riding car can. (Plus, its impeccable balance and ample power mean Scandinavian flicks are never hard to kick off.)
It is, however, a bad car to drive with the top down come winter. Some modern convertibles have all kinds of tricks that make the cabin feel toasty and isolated even in cold weather, from heated steering wheels to hot air vents for your neck to active wind-blocking trickery. The Vantage Roadster has...heated seats and a heater. I tried dropping the top for a brief spell on a sunny 25-degree day, but even with a beanie and a scarf on and the windows up, the cabin's drafts made it unbearable at 50-plus miles per hour.
The biggest usability demerit against the Roadster lies, as you'd expect, with the compromises needed for the power-folding top. It eats up a good chunk of the coupe's surprisingly ample cargo space — both that of the trunk and that found behind the seats. While there's still room for a couple backpacks in the stern, two people's carry-on luggage would likely be beyond the Vantage Roadster.
If you can live with that, however, this Aston's interior is an awfully nice place to be. Despite the cramped appearance, there's enough room for tall folks that long-legged drivers won't feel their legs cramp up for at least two or three hours. The Mercedes-sourced infotainment system is almost charming in its outdated-ness; it reminds you that you're there to drive, not fiddle with a screen. (Still, the lack of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay can be annoying when trying to navigate around traffic.)
And the trim feels bespoke and charming, with the sort of character associated with handmade leather goods than a production car's interior. Some of the credit, admittedly goes to the gorgeous All Copper Tan coloration, which manages to make a good case for its $5,300 price.
Speaking of such: Aston Martin may have ties to Mercedes-Benz these days, but its option tree bears a greater resemblance to the brand's cross-town competitors at Porsche. My test vehicle boasted $47,000 in options — and exactly none of them added to the car's performance.
Granted, some of them are certainly worth the coin on this sort of car; the $1,900 for the Ceramic Blue paint seems like a steal, for example. But if you're just looking for maximum top-down Aston Martin pleasure for a minimal outlay of cash, you can (Lawrence) stroll out the door with a Vantage Roadster for a shade over $150K. Just be sure you pick it up between April and October if you live north of the 35th Parallel.
Base Price / Price as Tested: $150,086 / $199,186
Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8; eight-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Torque: 505 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Remember being a kid and dreaming about driving a sports car? This is what you were dreaming about.