James Higgs
It's no time to be subtle in the red-hot sports-car market. David Wilkins thrills to the new Roadster's throbbing V8 and flashy, sassy, soft-top styling


Price: £91,000

Engine: 4.3-litre petrol

Performance: 0-60mph in 5.0 seconds, 18.8mpg

CO2: 358g/km

Worth considering: BMW M6 convertible, Jaguar XKR convertible, Maserati Spyder

Acouple of weeks ago, I was explaining – in connection with our test of the Bentley Azure – how the big German carmakers had, for various reasons, ended up building their most expensive and sophisticated cars in the UK. Aston Martin, probably the jewel in the crown of British prestige carmaking these days, has somehow escaped German ownership, although it's worth bearing in mind that Aston is a gem that's been polished to its present glittering state under the leadership of a German boss.

Until recently, Aston Martin, like Bentley, was owned by a big group – in this case Ford, rather than one of the German outfits – but now it's free once more. And the starting position for the newly independent company couldn't be better.

The DBS has just been introduced to replace the Vanquish, and the car tested by our readers this week – the Vantage V8 Roadster – is, with some justice, one of the most lusted-after models of the moment.

Naturally, the Roadster is very similar to the closed coupé version of the Vantage that we tested a few months ago. It has the same snug, sporty interior and the same gloriously willing V8 engine. And, like the coupé, it is wonderful to drive. But which is the better of these two extremely desirable cars?

That largely boils down to personal taste, in particular about the two cars' looks and style. If you enjoy the experience of driving an open car with the wind in your hair and the sun beating down on your forearms, you'll plump for the Roadster every time. And in the Roadster, whether its roof is up or down, you will hear more of the Vantage's thrilling engine note.

Personally, I very slightly prefer the coupé, the flowing roof-line of which was inevitably lost in the development of the soft-top. When the hood is down, however, the Roadster regains all its lost looks.

Is it really worth arguing the toss over which of these two gorgeous cars is the easier on the eye? Perhaps. Because what's probably at stake in a beauty contest between the fixed-head Aston Martin Vantage and its Roadster counterpart is the right to be considered the best-looking car in production today.

One last thing. When we tested the Vantage coupé, just about the only thing that I and our panel of reader-testers could find fault with was the vivid red stitching on that car's upholstery, which really didn't go with its metallic blue paint. There were no such wince-inducing clashes this time around; the bright stitching made a reappearance, but it matched our Roadster's red bodywork perfectly.

James Higgs, 28, local government officer from Wiltshire
Usual cars: Vauxhall Corsa 2.0, Land Rover Defender

Aside from the obvious improvements – suspension, aesthetics, convertible roof, magical exhaust valve – it's the quality of finish that makes the Roadster so pleasing to drive, having a subtle cabin coupled with a very high standard of build quality. It holds the road very well and is stable at speed, but is equally at home cruising through urban areas at low revs. The Roadster turns an otherwise dull drive into a motoring marvel – out-and-out asphalt alchemy in an age where to own and use something so rewarding is sadly frowned upon by the do-gooders of this world.

Kim Sawyer, 50, container controller for a car manufacturer, from Oxfordshire
Usual cars: Vauxhall Vectra, Renault Clio, Triumph Spitfire

This is a stunning-looking car. From the minute you get in, it feels special. All the instruments are easy to see, especially the speedo. The best part is when you start the engine. At first, the car feels smooth, but take it over 4,000 revs and the noise from the V8 will bring a smile to any driver's face. The only minor irritants were that at 70mph with the roof down, you take quite a buffeting, and also the centre console restricts leg movement. This car was every bit as good as I hoped. Oh, and did I mention the colour? A beautiful red – as all good sports cars should be.

Robert Prince, 33, senior client manager from Solihull
Usual Cars: Porsche 911, Ford Focus

This Aston has presence. I heard it arrive before I saw it – burbling away like a Nascar car. It is gorgeous, taut and muscular lines betraying its power and purpose. Very modern while classically Aston. The cabin, trimmed in leather and alcantara, is fairly tight, and I found headroom lacking with the roof up; but on the road this is soon forgotten. It handles brilliantly, with none of the scuttle-shake you'd expect of an open car. The engine lacks torque low down, which is all the excuse you need to rev hard and beyond the loud switch in the exhaust. Traffic clears quickly in front of you, and you can't help grinning like an idiot – rather shattering those James Bond delusions.

The verdict

If you would like to take part, e-mail: motoring@independent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

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