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Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Roadster Sportshift (2008) review

Published:22 May 2008

Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Roadster Sportshift (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

The Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster was introduced only a year ago, but already it’s been revised, the headline stats being a V8 that’s been bored and stroked from 4.3 to 4.7-litres (new pistons, liners and crankshaft), pushing power from 380bhp to 420bhp and torque from 302lb ft to 346 lb ft. The price? It rises from £91k to £93k – Sportshift carrying an additional £3k premium.

Have they even bothered to change the way the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster looks?

If you’ve already got a Roadster you’ll be pleased to hear that the new model is indeed identical on the outside, so to the casual observer you won't suddenly be driving round in last season's lines. It's inside that the changes have occured, with a DBS-inspired centre console. And the DBS's awkward Emotional Control Unit and theatrical push-the-key-in-the-slot start-up procedure. There are also some useful extras including iPod and MP3 integration and a 30GB hard disc drive sat-nav replaces the previous DVD-based system.

And it still sounds great, right?

Yes indeed, and even better than the Coupe because you can tuck the roof away on the Roadster. The bypass valve in the exhaust still opens at around 4000rpm, so it still has that head-turning soundtrack. Thanks to the bigger engine the Aston Martin Roadster now also has the go to match the show. There’s instant shove as soon as you drop the accelerator and you get one big rush all the way to 7000rpm.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Roadster Sportshift first drive

But I'll bet losing the roof ruins the handling and composure.

Not at all. In fact, the Roadster was actually the most supple of all the cars we drove, despite the Roadster, unusually, being a little stiffer than the Coupe. Strange but true. The new Roadster should also ride exactly like the old one – it sticks with the same suspension while the more elderly Coupe adopts the set-up used on the Roadster since 2007.

One of Aston’s engineers called the increased use of adjustable dampers (as seen on the, erm, DBS) a cop out, and this standard car’s (ie non-Sport Pack) ride really did strike a very good balance between supple compliance and body control.

The Roadster maintained its composure through the bends too, and only very occasionally did we notice any kickback through the steering column or vibration through the rear-view mirror. We didn’t get to sample the Sport Pack on the Roadster (see the Coupe review for a comparison), but this standard spec must surely better suit the Roadster’s cruiser character.

However, while the steering was good (light, linear, immediate feel on turn in), we did find the Sport Pack gave a more reassuring heft on committing to a corner.

Shouldn’t it have a folding hard top?

Keeping a fabric hood keeps the weight and cost down and maximises stowage space. It doesn’t harm the looks either and works well, opening in 23 seconds at speeds of up to 30mph.

Roof down and windows up you can enjoy open-air motoring without feeling like you’re driving through a hurricane. It's easy to see why Aston has stuck with what it knows.

Should I go for the six-speed manual or the automated manual Sportshift? 

We only sampled the Roadster with the Sportshift transmission (see Coupe review for a lowdown on the manual) but were very impressed. The six-speed automated manual is basically a clutchless manual. There’s no gearstick on the transmission tunnel, just paddleshifters fixed in place on the steering column and ‘drive’, ‘reverse’ and ‘comfort’ buttons on the centre console.

Unlike the similarly equipped Ferrari Scuderia, the Aston features a creep mode, helping to recreate the torque converter smoothness of moving off once the brake is released without the driver having to press the accelerator. There’s a light tremor through the transmission on take up, but it works well.

Through town, ‘comfort’ feels unnecessarily ponderous, the pause between gears having you leaning forward expectantly as you wait for the power to kick back in. Regular drive mode is better, if still a bit shunty. Still, the manual isn’t particularly refined so this is a compromise we’d gladly live with for the extra satisfaction it gives out on the road.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Roadster Sportshift first drive

Go on then, open her up!

Pull back the left-hand paddle, drop to second and flatten the accelerator. The Vantage fires down the road, the gearbox refusing to change up until you instruct it do so. Pull back on the right paddle and the next gear fires home. It’s not as quick as the Ferrari system, but it’s hardly a frustration.

Charge up to a hairpin in fifth and call for three gears at once. Do this really quickly on some paddle-based systems and they fail to deliver. The Vantage doesn’t. Second racks up with some automatic and very theatrical blips on the downshifts and you swing into the turn, the paddles fixed in place so you can call for third on the exit without worrying where the paddles moved to while you were twirling the wheel.

No doubt about it, the Sportshift delivers more involvement than the manual.

Is it the same as before?

No. The Magneti Marelli electronics have been tweaked to produce a clever and more intuitive system. We’ve mentioned the new creep mode, but there’s also corner detection that monitors steering wheel inputs and holds a gear during cornering. There’s also hill descent detection to hold a gear on downhill stretches of road, optimising engine braking. Of course, a pull on a paddle means the Vantage reverts to manual mode until your speed becomes so low it can no longer hold the gear.

Verdict

The Vantage Roadster was a very good car to begin with. Now it’s even better. It looks fantastic, the cabin is comfortable, the ride superb. It’s also now a very quick car, the Sportshift transmission showing it in its best light.

Specs

Price when new: £96,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 4.7-litre 32v V8, 420bhp @ 7400rpm, 346lb ft @ 5000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automated manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.9sec 0-62mph, 180mph, 21.4mpg, 312g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1750kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4380/1865/1255

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Photo Gallery

  • Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Roadster: rear view picture
  • Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Roadster: side view picture
  • Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Roadster: front three-quarters picture
  • Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Roadster: picture
  • Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Roadster: front three-quarters picture

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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