You felt it, right? That frisson of chill in the air, the overnight temps nudging down to the low ’60s, the drop in debilitating humidity. It can mean only one thing; fall in Florida.
It also means car lovers’ thoughts once again begin bubbling-up with images of sporty, sexy, drop-top convertibles. Cool wind in the air, warm sun on the face, the faint aroma of diesel fumes wafting-up from that 18-wheeler in front.
To kick-off droptop season with a bang, I’m clutching the keys to Aston Martin’s spine-tingling new Vantage Roadster; $147,000-worth of rolling thunder that packs more thrills than a day at Disney.
There’s been a coupe version of the Vantage around for a few years now, so it was natural that a drop-top Roadster would follow. And while I don’t think the convertible is quite as pretty as the hardtop, it’s still a feast for the peepers.
Just gaze at the thing – especially in our tester’s retina-searing shade Aston calls Yellow Tang. That mile-wide hood, the ski-slope windshield, those massive fender arches and towering 20-inch Snowflake alloys at each corner. It has the faintly-menacing stance of an angry pitbull.
As a convertible, it’s a dream. Toggle a switch – weirdly set near the door armrest – and the heavily-insulated cloth top lowers in a staggeringly-rapid seven seconds. And at speeds up to 30mph. So no worries about being caught halfway through lowering the roof when red light turns to green.
But what sets the Aston apart from other luxury roadsters out there – Porsche 911 included – is what’s under the hood.
Here there’s a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 nuclear reactor – sourced from the engine wizards at Mercedes-AMG – that cranks out a stupendous 503-horsepower and 505 lb-ft of torque. Hook it up to an eight-speed ZF automatic and, off-the-line, it can catapult itself to 60mph in just 3.5 seconds.
Yes, there are plenty of mini-supercars that can reach 60mph in the same time. Electric Teslas included. But what sets the Aston apart is the car’s thunderous, manic, Russell-Crowe-in-full-meltdown soundtrack that accompanies the torrid acceleration.
Yes, I know it’s mildly obnoxious, anti-social, even call-the-cops intrusive. But the sound of the Aston as its big V8 exhales through its quartet of tailpipes, is one of life’s wonders.
There are so many layers to the sound. Deep and bellowy, snarly and raspy, AC/DC meets KISS cranked up to an 11. It is nothing less than an aural explosion. And with the top dropped, it’s even more of a treat for the ears. Don’t approve? Buy a Prius.
As you’d imagine, it takes laps on a racetrack to discover the outer limits of the Aston’s handling. But on the twistiest ribbons of Florida blacktop – we’re talking freeway on-ramps – the Vantage carves curves like it’s running on rails.
The weighty steering is surgically-precise, the grip from the tires immense, and the poise and balance as the car settles into a turn, just sensational.
It’s not light and nimble like a new 911 – tipping the scales at almost 4,000 pounds, the Aston is almost in need of a WeightWatchers program. But I secretly loved the feeling of heft and substance.
Inside, you sit low and protected in a tightish cabin slathered with lovely hand-stitched, glove-soft leather. Yes, much of the switchgear you’ll recognize from the Mercedes parts bin, and features like the dashboard air vents look downright cheap and cheesy. But it all works.
As for that $147,000 sticker, three words: Beware the options. Our tester was slathered with a staggering $53,000 worth of extras. Like $5,000 for the special paint, $10,600 for the carbon fiber trim, $3,100 for the carbon hood vents.
And the there were the plain silly things, like $5,300 for “leather color”, $300 for an umbrella, and $200 for a first aid kit. All in, with destination, the total came to $203,886.
Just keep it simple, skip the bulk of the options, and just revel in that amazing soundtrack. Think of it as ad-Vantage Aston.