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Old 04-21-2004, 07:37   #1 (permalink)
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EU: Aston Martin Vanquish Roadster Blasts Off

Vanquish Roadster Blasts Off

Auto Express
Matt Davies

Summer has arrived early at Aston Martin, and to celebrate, the marque has pulled the covers from its stunning Vanquish Roadster and invited Auto Express to be first behind the wheel.

Designed with the technical support of Italian styling expert Zagato, the model is a road-ready supercar that even Aston's most famous driver, 007 James Bond, would die another day to get his hands on! We beat him to it to sample the thriller capable of nearly 200mph.

Although the roofless Vanquish is mechanically identical to the standard machine, in terms of its design it's very different. Using experience gained from engineering the conventional steel and aluminium Zagato DB7 and DB AR1 limited editions, the styling house carefully modified the Vanquish's more complex carbon fibre body. Fortunately, the simple design of the alloy underpinnings means removing the roof creates few structural problems. Even without it, the Roadster is as stiff as the standard car.

Visually, the results are much more exclusive than a simple roof-chop job. There is tell-tale 'double-bubble' rear glass as seen on Zagato Astons past and present, plus an altered back bumper, and the stylist's trademark circular rear lamps. The wing bulges will be toned down on the production car's tail.

Inside, the rear glass does away with any thought of '+2' seating, while in the front are customised performance seats dressed in leather by Aston trimmers. Instrumentation is standard Van-quish, too, although the metallic red finish is purely for the show model.

However, to ensure the car is as usable as the Coupé, it comes with a hard-top for winter, a glass version for sunny but cool weather, plus a simple soft-top that stows in the boot. All are easily interchangeable, and roof-off buffeting is kept to a minimum. But the best part about this prototype is that it can be driven hard right off the show floor.

And although the engine and gearbox respond just as on the standard Vanquish, there are three entirely new dimensions added over the Coupé. Most practical is the limitless visibility, but it's the intoxicating mix of wind and sun, plus the purest form of engine music yet heard on a modern Aston, that will really make the hairs on your neck stand up. Once the Roadster is on the move, the steering and suspension are every bit as supreme as on its fixed-roof brother and work well together, responding sharply to the driver. There's masses of grip too, and very little body roll - although the ride remains surprisingly smooth.

Sadly, potential customers will have to accept some compromises - and not only the two-seat interior. When it goes into production, it's likely only 99 will be built at the factory in Gaydon, Warks, and most are already spoken for, despite the estimated £240,000 price.







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