By on August 22, 2008

Abso-bloody-lutely perfect.Sean Connery's Bond, James Bond, would punch you in the face while kissing your girlfriend. His Aston Martin DB5 was beyond cool. By the 1990s, Bond drove a range of product placement-mobiles, and Astons looked like Jaguars (and vice versa). While devastatingly quick, Astons handled like trains. And then the Vanquish, DB9 and V8 Vantage restored a sense of dignity. But– the Vantage's 4.3-liter V8 stumped-up "only" 380 hp. When critics questioned, Aston did the English version of flipping them off: nodded their collective head and shrugged their shoulders. But now, finally, Aston unleashes the 2009 Vantage with a 4.7-liter V8. Power jumps from 380 to 420. Torque is up, and the dashboard is new. I recently exercised the convertible version, the Vantage Roadster, for a few hours on a sun-drenched day to see if Bond's whip is suitably… nasty.

It doesn\'t get any better than thisThe Vantage coupe is the best looking car on sale in North America. Aston’s engineers admitted to a British newspaper that they designed the Vantage by morphing Adriana Lima and a clone of Leonardo Da Vinci: a blend of emotionally irresistible and mathematically precise curves and planes. Like the Brazilian model, the AM Vantage is much smaller in person than you’d expect– about the size of a Porsche 911. Only while the 911 is the same as it ever was, the Vantage is burning down the house.

I’m inclined to knock convertible sports cars as “less serious” than their tin-top progenitors. But the Vantage Roadster is tight, right and outta sight. It doesn't suffer from the popular "fat ass convertible" syndrome. My only gripe: with the top up, the Vantage's side window shape is imperfect– and that's unacceptable when the rest of the car actually is perfect. So, we won't be seeing an Aston Martin Vantage Roadster resting on its laurels in MOMA. But then again… with the top down, it’s a twelve out of ten. 

Not a bad seat in the houseSitting in the Vantage is an occasion worthy of Farago's 50th. Fellow writers warned me that the Aston's cabin was far too brittle and cheap for a $100k+ Texan-Saudi-British automobile. They were right– in the past. For 2009, the Vantage gets an interior refresh that brings it in line with the excruciatingly exquisite DB9. All the Vantage's ancillary parts– switches, knobs, panels– have been kicked-up to first class. 

The Lima's-thigh-soft leather smells like money. The parking brake is a long hand lever on the floor, to the left of the driver. The wood is real wood without 3 inches of polyurethane shellacked on. Sexual metaphors aside, it's a MacBook Air in an old school wrapper.

Open wide...This is the part where past reviews of the Aston Vantage get into letdown mode. The drive can’t match the looks, it's underpowered and not the finest track handler. This time out, it's not entirely true. And. Misses. The. Point. Yes, the 2009 Vantage is significantly quicker than the 2008 model, but it's not as quick as its competitors. And I have no doubt whatsoever that an Evo would trounce it on a track. But it’s of absolutely no consequence.

Above 4000 rpm, the Vantage's exhaust flap opens. Top down, what was a wonderful chamber orchestra concert is now an all-out assault on your senses. The sound of the Vantage's engine at WOT is in a league entirely of its own. This is different than a GM V8 burble, or the power ballad of a Mercedes AMG, or a motorsport-emulating Ferrari V8. In the Aston, the engine and exhaust sounds are in an amazing contradiction. The engine is refined, and screaming. It’s pure as the driven snow, but dangerous and thrilling. It’s motherfucking opera.

Magic music makerAs it happens, this sound is the reason you don’t buy the manual transmission. Because one day you’ll mash the pedal and the sound of the engine will curl your toes. Now how are you going to shift, with your left foot contorted and numb? At least you thought ahead and bought the Roadster, so you can have that cigarette you will so desperately need.     

The handling is absolutely bloody mahvelous. Oh sure, it can’t match the deus ex machina handling of a four wheel-drive Porsche Turbo. But that’s computers trumping physics. The Vantage Roadster is a proper sports car, with limits to find and exploit. The steering feedback is more direct than a Brit from oop north. The suspension certainly is hard, but you never have that brutal, jarring moment of falling into a pothole.    

Perfect from any angleThe Vantage Roadster is Aston's long-awaited return to form. It's a car that identifies its owner as a suave sybarite, from a long line of eyebrow archers. At the same time, it's got a genuinely dangerous edge. Although the Vantage's horsepower is still laughable compared to its direct rivals, it's no longer a deal-breaker. Lest we forget, Ian Fleming's Bond was, in fact, a Bentley man; a company that used to describe its horsepower as "adequate." Indeed. 

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45 Comments on “2009 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster Review...”


  • avatar
    Ingvar

    DB5, please.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Awesome review and full of well-placed references, Mr. Berkowitz. Even my neighbor’s dog agrees!

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Great review ….looking forward to seeing if the bigger motor and upgraded interior makes it worthwhile to pony up the extra $40k vs an '06 model.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Justin…..I hate you. There. I said it. This car is just too lustful to be seen naked in public.
    Just saw one in black in NYC last night, and couldn’t believe that my wife wasn’t slobbering all over it like I was.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    that’s my favorite color combination right there. that car is traffic accident hot.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Great review Justin…I agree on every point except one: the manual transmission. Like Hammond did on TG, I’d drive the Vantage through tunnels all day just to hear the sound of the engine running through the gears, curled toes be damned.

    Oh, and the Vantage comes close to ripping the Vanquish S from my heart. Tantalizing close.

  • avatar
    John B

    Sigh!!!

  • avatar
    fisher72

    As Jeremy Clarkson said: It is just so much nicer to sit in traffic in an AM than a Ferrari.

    I’ll just settle for my MINI S.

  • avatar
    dreamtech

    Justin, great review! a hilarious and informative read. This Aston Vantage is truly gorgeous and rare.

  • avatar
    rob

    Fantastic review! Fantastic car. The coupe really is the best looking modern car, and perhaps the best sounding.

    In a couple of years I’m going to have a very difficult decision to make: Auston Martin Vantage Coupe or house …

    Can anyone here think of a better looking modern car than the Vantage?

  • avatar
    danms6

    rob:

    I’d give the Maserati GranTurismo a slight edge but neither one loses.

  • avatar
    pman

    I saw one of these in Orlando…I gawked at it and turned to my wife and said that it was better than a lap-dance. I understand that aesthetics are subjective, but it was, without question, the best looking car I’ve ever seen.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    While it’s undoubtedly a beautiful car, does anybody else agree that every single Aston since the DB7 has looked almost exactly the same?

    The DB7, DB9, V8 Vantage, the new Vantage, the Vanquish and DBS are all great looking cars, but they all look nearly identical with the exception of detailing. Even the Rapide looks like a 4-door DB9 (which is a good thing, but still). I don’t think they’ll ever be able to top the Vanquish, so looking at any new Aston just doesn’t seem to excite me like it does everybody else

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I’ve loved the V8 Vantage (and now Volante) ever since they were a concept. It is my favorite vehicle. Moreso than any other car, new or old. I’d say an original GT40 might be close behind…well, maybe the other way around.

  • avatar
    JJ

    I’m pretty sure Sean connery drove a DB5.

    The DB4 looked about the same (as did the DB6), especially the iconic nose did, but for some reason everyone knows the DB5 (and the DB4 GT Zagato).

    On another note, the car is beyond beatiful but red leather in a modern car always looks bad, even if it is this dark red. The white paint is awesome though.

  • avatar
    ppellico

    Justin…
    So you are advising this over the Mazdaspeed3!
    But the MSP3 was voted#1!
    This is really going to further piss off and encourage those anti top ten list crybabies!
    I was thinking about the new Genasis…but now you have really confused me!

    Its nice to see that there are really true sports cars out there.
    I mean…they really look like they did when I was a kid.
    The tear-drop rear end and the traditional yet modern fronts.
    Although its not even in this car’s universe, the Solstice reminds me of the earlier sports cars as well.

    But it is a nice review and give all of us dreamers yet another dream.

  • avatar

    DB5. My bad. Text amended.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    I saw one the other day.

    I always turn my head everytime I see one. they are just so captivating to look at. It’s like it has this magnetic appeal to it.

    A very sexy car for a very sexy rich person.
    funny… the front end reminds me of 08 Lancer

    A sharky look.
    ppellico you are funny. In all cars to compare.

  • avatar
    Scott

    Yeah…I don’t get the white at all. I’ve seen plenty of Astons on the roads around here, and none of them were white. For good reason, based on those photos.

    The car is sexy as hell, but it’s a rare ride that can carry white. This one just misses.

  • avatar

    I once said that I’d kill all of you for an Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.

    It is time to correct that statement.

    I’d kill half of you for an Aston-Martin Vantage Roadster.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    whatsanobeen

    So close to perfection, and yet, because of its proximity to perfection, the flaws become even clearer. I wish the mirrors were reshaped, and the motor produced more power (that rumored MB partnership should make for a more than “adequate” engine).

    But even with the blemishes, as the song “My Funny Valentine” goes, “…she’s my favorite work of art…”

  • avatar
    shaker

    I agree with the five stars, based on looks alone.

    I wish I had the “price of admission”, because I think this car would make me look good!

  • avatar
    BEAT

    WHATSANOBEEN.

    The side mirror is the only thing that you want to change on this car? mmmm

  • avatar

    In the Aston, the engine and exhaust sounds are in an amazing contradiction…It’s motherfucking opera.

    As a classical music person, this was a coffee-spitting moment. Very, very well played, Mr. Berkowitz :)

  • avatar

    thetopdog

    I completely agree. The Vantage is not an unattractive car, but its impact has been diluted by the fact that every car Aston has sold in this century has basically looked like a variation of the same thing.

    I’m not blown away by the Vantage. I live in west L.A., so I see Vantages and DB9s every couple of days. They’re certainly more tasteful than a Lamborghini and more stylish than a Porsche, admittedly, but their drama level is low. They have the combination of stubby proportions and visual bulk that characterizes Nissan’s sports coupes (G37 Coupe and Z), more hulking and muscular than svelte. An E-type Jag, it is not.

    In an era of relentlessly ugly cars (I’m lookin’ at you, BMW 6-series), there’s something to be said for understated taste and a pleasant attention to detail, but it inspires no lust in me.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I really love that split behind the seat backs. Nice touch that makes a big difference.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    argentla : It makes me very happy that somebody out there agrees with me

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    re: “DB5, please.”
    Ingvar / August 22nd, 2008 at 9:03 am

    two weeks ago, i might have said the same thing. since then, i watched a recently broadcast episode of top gear, where they compared a series 1 e-type jaguar roadster with an am/db5 coupe and it forever changed my mind. that coupe was the slowest car ever recorded around their track.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    In the future when hybrids have speakers in the exhaust system that play back sounds, you can be sure I’ll have the AM’s exhaust note selected.

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    My God.

    Even the engine compartment is stunning!

    I will always take a good looking car over an uglier, but faster ride, especially in this segment. Sooner or later, somebody will make a more powerful car, but good looks are truly timeless. At the end of the day, I’d rather look back at the Vantage Roadster in my driveway than an M6 Cabrio.

    Currently, only the Alpha 8C could be considered its equal in the looks department.

  • avatar
    onerareviper

    There are very few TRULY beautiful automobiles produced in a lifetime. This is one of them. A true work of art. This car will be just as gorgeous 20 years from now as it is now. And that is the true test of automotive design. Will any current Ferrari. No. Any Lambo? No. Porsche. No. Therefore, it is extremely easy to forgive a small performance gap to its competitors. Plain and simple, this car makes me drool….

  • avatar
    Theodore

    It was a fine review up until the gratuitous profanity. After that, not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      steeringwithmyknees

      I disagree – that line was absolutely and completely perfect. Let me guess: you are also someone who insists that everyone take their hats off at a meal, even if that meal is at KFC?

      Get with the times, please.

      And by the way, gratuitous isn’t the proper word here.

      This was an extremely well-done review, and if you cant use profanity on a site like this, what’s the point of calling it the truth about cars? The first time I saw this car in person, I definitely used a word or two that some would not appreciate.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Not only Two Talking Heads references in one review, but both of them in the same sentence. Mondo impressive.

    I’ve got a girlfriend who’s better than that, but nothing is better than this car, is it?

    Take me to the river!

    Great review. But, ummmm….you forgot to mention if the option list includes an ejection seat, machine guns, and a rotating license plate….

  • avatar
    capeplates

    Superb! It will turn heads wherever it goes – I’m green with envy of anyone who can afford this dream machine

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    This car is stunning in person. You’re right, it is smaller than you’d expect. And unlike a lot of other exotics, this car just doesn’t make the owners look like douchebags.

  • avatar
    TreyV

    Aston’s never did anything for me until I saw some in person at an auto show. I peed myself a little when I saw the Vanquish for the first time. I believe it when you describe experiencing this Vantage in person.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT (inhale) I WANT IT I WANT IT!

    Hell, I’ll be happpy with the one Bond rolled last time around. Repairs could only be, what, $100,000? [sigh]

    I see their point but I cannot agree with those who are negative towards the evolved styling. Always remember, “Porsche 911, evolved styling since WWII.” …and it still looks good.

    In these eyes, I just see (stress this) general and generic styling among most of the makers like BMW (way too busy), Mercedes (blobs), Lambo (nuclear alien), Audi (drifting towards same-ness), the Japanese (too generic at times), and Ferrari (recent designs have been a let-down.) Alfa/Maserati/Aston still have serious head-turning designs out there and one of the three, you can’t get here and the other two you can barely find (and afford) here.

    Oh well, instead of in depth analysis of the Aston’s design in person, time to do the same analysis of the styling Mecca called the Toyota wagon-thingy. [shudder…]

  • avatar
    Jay

    Magnificent review! Next time take me along, damnit

  • avatar
    red60r

    Driving experience in a DB7 Volante V12: the only car I have driven where the fuel gauge needle moved visibly while (sorry- whilst) underway. But who cares? A really posh ride with performance available on demand. Think the V8 sounds sexy? Add 4 more pots.

  • avatar

    It’s unfortunate that a mere fraction of a percent of us will ever experience the eargasm of ripping one of these through a tunnel, topless.

    I’m going to go stare at the sun now, so that the last image I’ll ever see again is the Vantage Roadster, burned into my retinas.

  • avatar

    And may I remind Ingvar that James Bond drove a DB4 (or was it a DB3?) in the book but a DB5 in the movie!

  • avatar

    And does anyone remember the Aston Martin Lagonda, a most amazing, and expansive, 4 passenger sports car? I saw one a couple of years ago; I thought it was a Maserati Quatroporte – which is back among us in an almost miniature configuration.

    This is all just to comment on the size of cars more than 30 years – well, 40 years ago. What were we thinking? … at 35¢ a gallon … for premium …

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I’d get SO much ass with this car!!

    Was in Beverly Hills today. Saw 102910’s of S-classes, SLs, Bentleys… didn’t blink an eye. Saw a DB9 Volante in grey and almost crashed. It took only one. :)

  • avatar
    Nickatnyt

    My dream car. Thanks for confirming that it kicks azz.


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