As days lengthen and shadows shorten, a new roadster stands poised to spearhead a revitalised Aston Martin Vantage range. “I love designing convertibles,” Aston Martin Lagonda’s Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman says, “but they are not without their challenges. The car must have a look of its own, not simply that of a coupe with its roof removed. It needs to retain proper Aston Martin style with the hood raised and with it lowered, and turn every head on every pavement. Yet, at the same time, space must be found to stow that hood without affecting the lines of the car and with as little impact as possible on carrying capacity.”
There are other considerations too: Vantage customers are used to moving fast and wish to be neither delayed nor dampened by the need to pull over to the side of the road at the first sign of rain and then wait while a complex roof mechanism goes through its many motions.
Mass is also an important consideration as, despite lacking a roof, all convertibles inevitably weigh more than coupes from the same stable. This weight gain must be minimised while also ensuring maximum structural strength is retained. As a result, creating any convertible is anything but simply replacing a metal roof with a fabric hood. And making a Vantage Roadster worthy of the history of Aston Martin convertibles is a task of even greater magnitude.
To satisfy these many, disparate and often opposing interests requires radical thinking. For Vantage Roadster, the answer is what is known as a “Z-roof”, where the hood folds back on itself to disappear under its cowling behind the seats. The results are extraordinary. Most importantly, the folded roof has a stack height of just 210mm.
This refers to the height of the roof inside the car once fully stowed away and its importance is that the higher the stack, the more likely it is to interfere with the lines of the car. In the Vantage Roadster there is no interference at all, allowing the shapes along the side to flow seamlessly from the door to the rear of the car.
But this is only one benefit of designing such a compact hood system. Another is that far more space can be given over to carrying luggage than might otherwise be possible. As a result, the new Vantage Roadster offers an incredible 200 litres of boot space, which is over half as much again as that provided by the previous Vantage Roadster and enough to swallow a full-sized golf bag, a three-wheel trolley and golf shoes.
As for its speed of operation, once again it is class-leading. While comparable sports cars require up to 20 seconds for their hoods to fully open or close, the Vantage Roadster completes the operation in less than half that time, requiring just 6.8 seconds and at speeds of up to 30mph, meaning that if you’re in town you shouldn’t need even to slow down to raise or lower the roof, let along pull over to the side of the road.
Even so, having the fastest, best-packaged and most space-efficient roof system available on this kind of car today was not enough for an Aston Martin. “Developing a convertible is always one of the toughest tasks faced by chassis engineers,” says Aston Martin’s Chief Engineer Matt Becker. “If you are not very careful, you can end up with a car that loses too much torsional rigidity, or one that gains too much weight. Or both…”
Torsional rigidity is a measure of structural strength and is crucial to ensuring that the car provides as stable a platform as possible for the suspension to work upon. If you have ever driven a convertible that doesn’t either ride or handle as you might hope and which suffers from excessive noise, vibration and harshness (known as NVH in the trade), it’s a fair bet that compromised torsional rigidity has a lot to do with it.
Happily, the Vantage Roadster was engineered in parallel with the coupe and treated as an entirely separate car, with exceptional rigidity with minimal weight gain designed in from day one. Weight gain is just 60kg — an achievement that is all the more staggering when you consider others in the class add up to 155kg of additional weight, when comparing convertibles with their coupe variants.
This minimal increase in weight helps everywhere: Vantage Roadster loses scarcely any performance and its handling remains superb.
Joining the Roadster this year will be a coupe fitted with a seven-speed manual gearbox. This new car is based upon the limited-edition manual Vantage AMR, which earned universal praise in 2019, but which will be priced to provide a new access point to Aston Martin ownership. The gearbox, which is based on that used by the previous generation manual V12 Vantage S, offers seven forward gears with a classic racing “dog-leg first” configuration.
Fitted with a mechanical limited slip differential and weighing 70kg less than the automatic Vantage, the manual Vantage will come with a very traditional feel likely to delight old school purists happy to trade a few tenths off their 0-60mph times in favour of that sense of connection between man and machine that only three pedals and a manual transmission can provide.
Traditionalists will also be delighted by the news that for the first time in this generation, any Vantage can now be specified with a new iteration of the iconic Aston Martin grille. The grille is entirely optional and provides a new face for the Vantage, satisfying those who wish to drive a state-of-the-art coupe or convertible while evoking the classic look of Aston Martin. Either way, performance, presence and poise are guaranteed.