2016 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Convertible
Still one of the most beautiful sports cars money can buy
Cruising around in a Vantage drop-top on a sunny afternoon could go to anyone’s head, making an accomplished albeit otherwise little known business mogul feel like celebrity, but the car is definitely the star. This modern-day classic attracts flocks of reverent followers where ever it goes. The rasping bark from its twin tailpipes might initially cause a disgruntled turn of the head, but that’s immediately followed by a softening expression, easy smile and cheery acceptance. Unlike some upper echelon sports cars there’s something about Aston Martin that simultaneously eliminates envy and elicits positive energy. I’m sure this particular example’s tranquil Mako Blue paintwork didn’t hurt matters.
It’s been a while since I took to the streets in a V8 Vantage Convertible, although those were the streets of Monterey, California and the car tested was white with a mocha cloth top and interior. It would’ve done just as nicely this time around, but there’s something subtly bespoke about this 2016 model’s whimsical blue hue and richer, dark navy fabric top, these colors complemented by an intricately penned set of diamond-turned twinned five-spoke 19-inch alloys, classic gray painted brake calipers, and clear taillight lenses, all worthy options, whereas the steely tone of its light Argento gray interior was comparatively down to business.
We’re talking business done in an opulently attired office, mind you, Aston never going sparse on grandeur unless purposefully gutting the interiors of its V8 Vantage GTE Pro racing cars ahead of FIA World Endurance Championship events like the 6 Hours of Mexico it just won, July’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring it also claimed victory at, and the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans where the legendary British marque walked away as Championship leader in June. Aston Martin’s glittering history is medaled in motorsport success, a heritage many of its showroom challengers can’t claim.
The animalistic growl escaping its dual chromed tailpipes delivers a quick reminder of this racing pedigree with each blip of the throttle, although the V8 Vantage’ resplendent cabin is obviously more about keeping well-heeled racers comfortable on the way back from the track. The special two-tone perforated leather seats are as beautifully sculpted as they’re perfectly enveloping, their cushions optionally heated and powered adjustability enhanced with memory, while Aston finished nearly every inch of the cabin’s surfacing in soft contrast blue-stitched hides, from the rearmost buttresses atop the deck lid and bulkhead wall just below, to each door panel from top to bottom, even wrapping within the door jams where few will ever notice, as well as the entire instrument panel and dash, albeit the roof pillars, windshield cross member, and soft top lining is trimmed in ultimately luxurious alcantara suede. Other highlights include seemingly solid piano black lacquered hardwood door pulls and handles, ruggedly constructed yet still beautifully detailed aluminum doorsill plates, et cetera ad infinitum.
I defy you to find anything cheap inside this car, which can’t be said for some even pricier rivals. Where those competitors take shortcuts with hard, hollow, mold-extruded plastic switchgear, the Vantage has refitted this 2016 model’s intuitively designed center stack with an awesome spectacle of touch-sensitive buttons and handcrafted billet aluminum knobs. There’s nothing like it anywhere. Even the surrounding gray surfacing is as densely solid as I’ve ever felt, Aston not skimping on quality one iota, while the flip-up infotainment display remains as ideally discrete as possible, just the way I prefer in a car with so many classic elements, although it’s infused with sharp resolution, rich contrast, and a fabulous array of functional and sporting features, the former including the usual reverse camera with dynamic guidelines, navigation, finer adjustments for the superb sounding optional 600-watt stereo, and more, plus the latter boasting a set of digital horsepower and torque meters to add a little visual fun to the car’s accelerative experience, that is if the rapidly advancing road ahead, obscurely smudged peripheral scenery, and previously noted engine and exhaust soundtrack aren’t already sensory overload.
Those unfamiliar with Aston Martin primary gauges might immediately find themselves doing a double-take after witnessing the tachometer spinning counterclockwise, just one of many wonderful idiosyncrasies carried forward from the brand’s storied past. On that note, horology aficionados that I unabashedly attempted to lure into reading this review by placing a well respected bit of Piaget wrist jewelry within the first paragraph, will appreciate the level of fine detail invested into each of those analog dials, their simplicity more likely the muse of watchmakers rather than the other way around, with recent similarly styled examples of the latter being the gray-faced Mido Commander II, the Alpina Alpiner Chronograph Automatic 41.5, and the March LA.B AM3, the latter timepiece’s markers and hands coming close to mirroring the A-M’s speedometer and tachometer markers and needles, albeit the Vantage fitting a duo of digital readouts that pull memories of a Breitling Aerospace Titanium once lusted after in my younger years.
There’s no time for fiddling with the stopwatch pusher of whatever happens to be on your wrist, as mastering the Vantage roadster’s 4.7-second launch from standstill to 60 mph takes focus and finesse. Aston’s naturally aspirated 32-valve, quad-cam, 4.7-liter V8 has no trouble maximizing its full 420 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of twist, but the edgy Sportshift II seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox requires full right foot and right finger attention in order to keep smooth and consistent throughout the process. It’s not the type of transmission you simply select Sport mode, slot into M1 and mash the throttle. Instead, best performance is extracted when slight pedal lift accompanies each shift, which makes for a much more engaging car to drive than most of its peers. The V8 Vantage might look like the epitome of luxurious refinement, but make no bones about it; this car wants to be hustled along by someone with confident capability. Of course, feel free to leave it in D when cruising through town at a more leisurely pace where it delivers a much smoother experience, the V8’s rumble a more muted tone albeit still tingling the senses.
I didn’t have Monterey’s Laureles Grade Road to suss out the results of any upgrades to the Vantage Convertible’s front and rear double wishbone suspension setup, the steep serpentine stretch of tarmac who’s northernmost T-junction suitably finalizes next to Laguna Seca raceway an especially enticing slice of switchbacks, but there’s no shortage of circuitous backroads around my city either, and while few are as spectacular as that memorable ribbon of gray and yellow, the Vantage Convertible’s adept undercarriage and gripping set of 245/40 front and 285/35 rear ZR19 Bridgestone Potenzas ideally combined with its front splitter and rear diffuser-enhanced, wind-cheating but high-speed down-pressure inducing, ultra-rigid yet lightweight extruded bonded-aluminum, magnesium alloy, composite and high-strength steel VH body shell for wholly soulful, viscerally exhilarating, wonderfully balanced and superbly controlled performance that nothing so elegant and stately should be capable of delivering. Its 380 mm front and 330 mm rear discs administer gravity defying stopping power too, something I was grateful for after realizing how quickly speed ramped up. This said it’s not all about speed, the Convertible’s well-sorted suspension amply soaking up nasty bumps and dips with graceful composure too.
As for extended trips for two Aston’s two-seat drop top is fully capable, but its 5.1 cubic-foot trunk will require careful, tight packing considering the sliver’s width of space and abbreviated parcel shelves behind the seats, although the sizable cubby at center was welcome for keeping odds and ends from tossing around the cabin.
While impressive in most every respect, we need to keep in mind that my test car was just a well equipped base model, and that Aston Martin offers V8 Vantage S and V12 Vantage S trims above this (there’s also a GT Special Edition that pays homage to the race-winning GTEs mentioned earlier, based on the chassis of A-M’s GT4 racecar no less). The six-speed manual equipped hardtop starts at just $106,125 and the Convertible at $127,625, although my tester’s many options pushed its price much higher. Still, you can attain such lofty sums and higher with competitive sports cars that don’t offer anywhere near this Aston Martin’s vaunted image, iconic heritage, or hand-built quality, making the V8 Vantage Convertible seem like a relative bargain.
Either way, no serious car collection is complete without an Aston Martin, and the V8 Vantage Convertible is a very good place to start. Despite hardly being the latest fling on the strip, it remains one of the most beautiful sports cars money can buy. Just try to remember when everyone’s attention turns your way they’re looking at the car.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press