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Most people like to equate Aston Martin with a certain British spy, but I think it's time to stop looking at Aston's past, because its present is magnificent. The 2022 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster is a two-seat, rear-wheel-drive convertible with seemingly endless power and a thrill factor that is off the charts.
This Vantage Roadster is gorgeous in all its leather-clad glory. My tester wears the stunning color combination of Lightning Silver on the outside and Aurora Blue over Ivory Gold Metallic (a fancy way of saying tan) on the inside. New for this year is an optional and much improved front bumper and grille design. It's much prettier than last year's look, although I feel like the headlights are just a bit too small to make the new front end a true home run. However, I love how the doors tilt slightly upward on opening, a quirk that lends a unique touch to the Roadster without being over the top.
Speaking of the top, the Vantage Roadster's cloth roof is quick. It can be lowered in 6.7 seconds and raised in 6.8 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. The best part is that it doesn't intrude too much into the trunk area. Don't get me wrong, there is still only about 7 cubic feet of space, but that's enough for my hard-sided suitcase and backpack with a bit of space left over.
The interior is also low on storage. There is no glove box, but there is a small storage cubby between the seats. The door pockets are big enough for a water bottle, and two cup holders are hidden in the center armrest. You'll likely keep your phone and your keys in your pocket or purse, and your purse will probably just end up on the floor.
Driven in its default Sport mode, the Mercedes-Benz-sourced 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is happy to toddle along, the eight-speed automatic transmission upshifting early and often to save a bit of fuel. There is a stop-start system that could be smoother, but it helps the Vantage achieve an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 20 mpg combined, which is just so-so.
As I approach proper canyon roads, it's time to switch it up to my choice of Sport Plus or Track mode. The Aston has separate buttons for chassis control and powertrain settings, so I can put the powertrain into Track while keeping the chassis in Sport to keep things from feeling too stiff, but placing everything in Sport Plus produces the most pleasurable driving experience. Track mode, as the name rightfully suggests, is way too bonkers for street driving.
With 503 horsepower and 505 pound-feet of torque headed straight to the rear wheels, I have to earn the right to drive the Vantage Roadster. I take my first canyon-road pass pretty easy, reveling in the pops and bangs every time the transmission shifts. The car will downshift automatically upon braking in Sport Plus but I can also use the giant, fixed-position paddle shifters if I want a bit more control.
I push it a bit more coming up the hill, and this is where the Vantage Roadster shows its true colors: It behaves more like a muscle car than a nimble sports car in all its oversteer-friendly glory. Sure, the stability control system ensures I never get too out of sorts, but this car is a handful. Thankfully, I've got some sticky Pirelli P Zero tires (255/40 front, 295/35 rear) wrapped around 20-inch wheels. The brakes, which are tough to modulate at slower speeds, are wonderful here, slowing me down before hairpins with a confident, linear feel. I'm also 100% here for the electric power steering, which in this car feels surprisingly close to a chatty, old-school hydraulic setup. It's refreshing to be in a doozy of a car where I get all the feedback I need, with a nice weight underhand and accurate on-center feel.
The Vantage Roadster weighs 132 pounds more than the fixed-roof coupe thanks to the folding top mechanism and some additional chassis-stiffening measures. As such, the good folks at Aston tweaked the rear dampers and the stability control system to accommodate those extra pounds. In most situations, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two.
With the canyons behind me, it's time to head to the highway, and long straights are very friendly to the Vantage Roadster, too. Accelerating to 60 mph takes just 3.7 seconds, and it'll top out at 190, but staying within the letter of the law is still a blast. Unlike other convertibles, the Vantage doesn't need an ugly wind deflector to keep the bluster out of the cabin. I'm still wearing a hat, but I feel like I can have a normal shout-free conversation at speed.
However, as much fun as the Aston Martin is to drive, expect the inverse when it comes to in-car technology. The only modern safety system I have is blind-spot monitoring -- there's no lane-keeping assist, no lane-departure warning, no adaptive cruise control. The Vantage Roadster's infotainment system is also woefully behind the times. Like the engine, it's sourced from Mercedes-Benz, but it's the old COMAND system on an 8-inch screen with a rotary dial and clunky handwriting recognition. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are nowhere to be found, and while Aston Martin promises a USB port, it takes a surprising amount of effort to find it. Throw in an overwhelming amount of buttons -- transmission buttons, infotainment buttons, climate control buttons, you name it -- and the whole thing is kind of a hot mess.
Aston Martin will let you customize the Vantage Roadster to your heart's content with an impressive variety of paint colors, interior designs, trim inlays, steering wheel materials and "interior jewelry," but with a starting price of $158,186 including $3,086 for delivery, you'll be spending a lot to turn your mood board into reality. My tester's upgrades include a premium audio system, metallic paint, an optional vaned grille, a two-tone interior and smoked red taillights, sending the sticker to $185,786.
While the Vantage Roadster prides itself on exclusivity, it's not the only droptop performance game in town. If you want an agile sports car that's a little bit easier to handle, get yourself a Porsche 911 Cabriolet. If you're looking for screaming-high revs, go for the Audi R8 Spyder. But if you want to stand out in a crowd with the sun in your face but the wind barely blowing your hair, the 2022 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster should be right up your alley.