Vantage Point

Though striking, Aston Martin's 2021 offering doesn't quite pass the cool test

AN EXHILARATING DRIVE: The 2021 Vantage Roadster, a stunning, classy ride, boasts an eye-catching exterior design.

There’s no way around it: Something’s not right with the 2021 Aston Martin Vantage. And what would James Bond have to say about it? As Agent 007, Sean Connery was often portrayed escaping from criminals and saving the world while driving an Aston Martin. But how could anything but perfection be the vehicle of choice for the epitome of espionage elegance?

Bond film aficionados know the secret agent often drove an Aston Martin DB5 in films, although the tuxedo-wearing purveyor of cool drove other models, including the Vantage. The 2021 edition of the Vantage—the British carmaker’s entry-level vehicle—includes all that’s right with Aston Martin. The Vantage coupe shares an eye-catching exterior design with its more expensive siblings.

It has a power soft top that folds flush behind twin roll bars, meaning a cover isn’t required, and retracts and raises in less than 7 seconds, the fastest-operating cloth roof in the industry. With its top down and the rear glass screen and the side windows up, the Vantage Roadster is at its best. But operating the soft top is among the vehicle’s oddities. Why is the actuator button located low and hard to reach on the inside of the driver’s door?

The Vantage Roadster is best experienced while shifting gears on a country road on a warm, sunny afternoon and with the top down. Exhilarating driving freedom is what Aston Martin is all about in Sport, Sport+ and Track modes. It’s still enjoyable accelerating through the vehicle’s eight-speed automatic transmission—but that’s the only way available. The Vantage Coupe has a manual transmission option, so why not the Roadster? Large paddle shifters are standard but positioned awkwardly behind the steering wheel.

Start-stop engine systems aren’t new, and the idea of cutting an engine to reduce fuel consumption and emissions is keen. But the Aston Martin accomplishes the task abruptly. Nothing’s wrong when the system engages, but it always feels like something’s awry.

The center console stack of gear selectors is arranged in an arch, with the engine button at the center top. It looks like an airplane cockpit. The gearing is convenient, but there’s a learning curve.

Aston Martin vehicles have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the carmaker has endured seven bankruptcies. Its lineup defines exterior and interior automotive beauty. What other manufacturer has cars of such zaftig proportions that simultaneously look stealth? What other carmaker makes its leather-wrapped navigation screen look so classy?

Own an Aston Martin and anonymous driving is unlikely. The Vantage Roadster is stunning; the Optima font used in the car’s logo is perfect. The choice of a ceramic blue metallic exterior matched with a copper tan leather interior radiates sleek elegance.

Still, if James Bond drove the current edition, all wouldn’t be well. It just doesn’t quite come together, and a few of the franchise’s movies may have ended differently.