December 01, 2015 By Kevin C. Limjoco Pictures: Isabel N. Delos Reyes

2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT Roadster

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Words: Kevin C. Limjoco
Pictures: Isabel N. Delos Reyes

The incredible symbiotic association between the legendary fictional character James Bond and Aston Martin has served both products very well to the point that the mental conditioning should be a popular topic for psychologists and marketing experts. You cannot think of one without the other. Even some of the names of the colors used are derived from the Bond films for extra subliminal neuro implanting. So I’m going to strive to conduct this review with no other references to the movie series or any Ian Fleming novel and simply concentrate on the metal.

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Until we hit the Santa Monica streets like a rock star in the 2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT Roadster, I reflect on my most memorable times behind the steering wheel of an Aston. I have enjoyed the privilege of driving a few of the modern cars but somehow my heart is drawn to the classics almost by instinct. I may not have had the honor of driving the most hallowed of them all, the DB5, but I have driven exemplary units that came before and after it.

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It may have been a decade ago, but I can still hear the engine roar in their own unique tones in my head, remembering every deliberate shift of the stick, the thin yet very tactile wood steering wheels, and the howl of tires fighting to stay on course. Those two cars were the classically beautiful 1963 Vantage DB4 and the 1969 Vantage DB6. Both cars were immaculately restored and then retuned for modern functionality. The DB4 had the 282 bhp 4.0-liter inline-6 with 3three SU carbs mated to a 5-speed ZF manual. The DB6 had the mighty 325 bhp 4.0-liter inline-6 with 3three Weber carbs managed also with a 5-speed manual ZF transmission. Both cars had natural charisma and real-world ability accompanied with that intoxicating orchestra of those wonderful inline-6 engines;, they did not feel like tired old cars that could get stomped by a Prius, they were only held back by the period-faithful tires.

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Fast forward to the blazing hot, present day Southern California sun and dust-filled wind. Traffic was already building early in the morning so Isabel and I had to scurry as quickly as we could from our hotel to the Angeles National Forest mountain area so we couldan test the special edition Vantage GT properly.

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KCL_6498 (Copy)Ever since Aston Martin released the current Vantage series designed by Ian Callum and Henrik Fisker, back in 2005, about the same time I was celebrating its ancestors on one of my favorite mountain roads in Northern California, the “mouth” of the Vantage front grill reminded me of either a manta ray or whale shark. That memory got more pronounced with the N430 design treatment on the Vantage GT. Our Alloro Green (the color scheme is also meant to capture 100 years of Aston Martin racing success as well as echo the CC100 speedster concept) body-color with numerous yellow design accents test unit was the soft-top Roadster with its yellow lipstick, further reinforcing my marine connotation.

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The color palate is refreshingly distinctive,, however, I could go without the rest of the stick-on livery. Our Vantage GT Roadster test unit is actually the North American version of the European N430 special variant created to showcase the success of the Vantage in the Nürburgring 24-hour race and the VLN endurance series. But for the US version, Aston cleverly chose to highlight their domestic successes in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the GT4 Challenge circuits.

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So besides the cosmetic livery, the GT has the same slightly more powerful 430 bhp / 361 lb .-ft of the Vantage S combined with its sportier suspension, tweaked brakes, and quicker steering. On the inside, the unique drama continues with a sea of Plissé Alcantara and carbon fiber with Piano black panels, the real cool crystal glass key ignition starter and the chronograph-inspired instruments. Our test unit was fully loaded. so in the upside Itit also came equipped with the fabulous 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system with ICEpower® technology (the front dashboard tweeters ceremoniously rise up when in use) that compleimented the mechanical orchestra of the energetic 4.7-liter V8,, and it had the single-clutch automated manual 7-speed Sportshift II which is controlled by steering wheel paddles and simple push buttons (Sport, N, R, D) high up on the center dashboard, which was unfortunately not as great. The Sportshift II system was convenient but it was reminiscent of the SMG III gearbox on the BMW M6 E63 but without the ability to adjust trim. Unless you were pushing hard on Sport mode were it would actually shift spiritedly at about 190 ms, the system could get schizophrenic especially on full automatic mode when driving in town.

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On the quick switchbacks and sweeping corners, the GT Roadster felt very planted and composed despite losing some fixed- roof rigidity and carrying a bit more ballast than the coupé. Power delivery was potent but never savage regardless if the GT looked like a race carracecar. The bonded aluminum VH (vertical, horizontal) chassis is still very competent, it feels exactly what it can do, handle more power, hence why it is scaled up to also house the larger V12 engines in the DB9, Rapide S, and Vanquish. The torque band is very linear and smooth when the automated gearbox cooperates, you have very usable power starting just above 2,100 rpm and compounds until you reach the 5,000 rpm peak.

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The brakes are very strong and perform exactly as they should. With the scorching heat and the generous rubber combined with the refined power delivery, the GT Roadster always felt planted and sophisticated to the point that it remained stubborn even when I would deliberately run superfluously fast on corners for some controlled slides. It simply refused to break composure even with all the safety nets shut off. Keep in mind that all this joy is occurring with an extra layer of tangible sensations thanks to 18 short seconds to drop the roof!

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But not all is great with the Vantage GT Roadster;, thankfully, my issues have nothing to do with its performance or aesthetics. The Garmin Navigational system is archaic with its dull graphics and lackluster engagement. It is a good thing that the screen at least works reasonably well as a rear parkingrear-parking monitor. And the trunk, if you can call it that, is just a bit larger than what was used in the 1st generation Toyota MR2. So the irony is that the GT Roadster travels like a fast Grand Touring sports car but it does not allow you to carry much luggage for your proposed long distance travels.

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On our second day of testing, at the very end as we headed back to the hotel, we passed by one of my favorite seaside eateries off the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, straightforwardly called the Malibu Seafood restaurant, for fresh clam chowder and lobster, when I bumped into former Light Heavyweight UFC Champion Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. After a nice chat with him, I walked back to where I parked the Aston, as the sun began to set behind it, to squeeze some camera gear in the trunk. When I closed the trunk and looked up there was Chuck and his family along with a bunch of other folks who you would presume would be accustomed to seeing gorgeous cars, especially in the Malibu area, checking out the car. When I went back to my table to feast on my food, a bunch of these folks took turns taking pictures with the car. Very few cars can elicit that kind of behavior.

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I know that the Vantage model series is reaching the end of its product cycle especially with the partnership with Mercedes-Benz kicking into gear, but having spent three glorious days feeling very special, I can tell you that it won’t matter much to the folks who adore and covet the brand, much like Porsche fanatics. The Vantage GT Roadster is not the race carracecar that it projects itself to be, it is actually quite old school and even analog, which makes the car even more endearing. The mystique and allure of an Aston Martin are very much intact. Then there is how you feel the entire time when you are in it from your actual emotions derived from driving as well as the tactile experience from all the materials that surrounds you and touch which extends to even when the car is parked. So whether it’s encoded in our minds because of the Bond movies or not, the Vantage GT Roadster is a well-designed and engineered sports car with a strong pedigree.

 

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The brand recognition is so strong that most people actually forget that the Vantage series represents the starting point for the brand! Now how awesome is that?

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Specifications:
Engine: V8 90°
Location: Front, Longitudinal, Mid-mounted
Displacement: 4735 cc
Cylinder block: Cast Aluminum
Cylinder head: Cast Aluminum, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, Variable Valve Timing
Fuel Injection: Port Fuel Injection
Max power: 430 bhp @ 7300 rpm
Max torque: 361 lb ft @ 5000 rpm
Transmission: Rear Mid-mounted 7-speed Prodrive Sportshift II™ Single Clutch automated manual with magnesium steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, Rear-Wheel-Drive, Carbon-fiber propeller shaft, Mechanical Limited Slip Differential
Drag Coefficient: .35 cd
Front suspension: Independent double wishbones incorporating anti-dive geometry, coil springs, anti-roll bar and monotube dampers
Rear suspension: Independent double wishbones with anti-squat and anti-lift geometry, coil springs, anti-roll bar and monotube dampers
Fuel Capacity: 80 liters (21.1 gallons)
L x W x H: 4385 mm x 1865 mm x 1270 mm
Wheelbase: 2600 mm
Brakes: Brembo® Front 14.96” (380 mm) vented/grooved discs with 6-piston yellow-painted aluminum Monobloc calipers / Rear 13” (330 mm) vented/grooved discs with 4-piston yellow-painted aluminum Monobloc calipers, ABS, HBA, Traction & Stability Controls
Wheels: 8.5J x 19” Front / 10J x 19” Rear 5-Spoke Alloy Gloss Black Painted Wheels with Diamond-Turned Finish
Tires: P245/40R19 94Y Front / P285/35R19 99Y Rear Bridgestone Potenza RE050
Weight: (kerb) 1690 kg. (3726 lbs.)
Weight Distribution F/R: 52:48
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 4.7 secs.
Top Speed (mph): 305 km/h (190 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 13 mpg City / 20 mpg Highway
Price as tested: US$ 121,300.00
+A very emotional car, fast, surprisingly comfortable, classy, improved craftsmanship and fit-and-finish
-Infotainment systems need updating, trunk is too small, drives heavier than it is

C! Editor’s Rating: 10/10

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