2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster
As stereotypes go, Texans are about as big as the Lone Star state they live in, so a drive in search of the real Texas should have been easy pickings.
DALLAS–As stereotypes go, Texans are about as big as the Lone Star state they live in, so a drive in search of the “real Texas” should have been easy pickings.
Especially when the locale is the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolis, which, in my mind, should have been about as “Texan” as a chicken ranch whorehouse and growing up to be president.
My ride, however, was a car seemingly the antithesis of everything that is Texas: a little, itty-bitty two-seat British sports car: namely an Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster convertible.
Where the majority of Aston’s range is made up of larger, more expensive 2 + 2 grand touring models, the V8 Vantage Roadster is strictly for you and a friend. Based on the brand’s $131,500 entry model V8 Vantage Coupe, the ability to go topless will cost you an additional $15,300.
I asked for location suggestions from one of the principals in the lone Aston dealer located in downtown D-Town, who didn’t seem to pick up on the irony that I was going to drive a “vedy British” car to find “the real Texas” in Dallas.
”If you’re looking for some stereotypical `Texas’ spots, I have the perfect place for you,” he said.
Now, Dallas has grown a little from the 678 people who lived here in 1860 – to more than 1.2 million today.
But after driving the Roadster for almost an hour, following the directions north out of town up TX 75, urban sprawl was still blocking any signs of cattle ranches or tumblin’ tumbleweeds.
Following directions, I took an exit that dumped me off the freeway onto a Rodeo Drive-mimicking boulevard lined with tony suburban boutiques.
A couple of blocks later, I reached my “Texas” destination: an urban pasture surrounded by neatly kept fences and sidewalks – kind of like Ottawa’s Experimental Farm, but with a couple of dopey long-horned cattle roaming around.
While planning my next move back at the Gucci/Prada/Louis Vuitton/Hermès mall, the Fire Red Aston was getting lots of love from the various bleach-blonde women who seemed to be spending the day blowing their husband’s oil money.
What they probably will never know is the V8 Vantage, even in drop-top form, is the most driver-focused car in the brand’s lineup.
Arguably, the Roadster looks equally enticing with its roof up or down – the whole power cloth roof/double blister tonneau cover package looks better integrated than its primary rival, the $118,400 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet.
Inside, the Roadster’s cozy cockpit is a nice place to be with contrasting leather stitching and straightforward ergonomics. Except for the power mirror controls and key fob shared with the Volvo V50, most of the design is bespoke, highlighted by the intricate aluminum-trimmed driver instrumentation.
Giving up on local intelligence, I thought the only way to find any “real Texas” in Dallas was to head out of town on my own.
I didn’t have a map, and except for a highway drive-by 15 years ago on a solo road trip to New Orleans, this was my first trip to the Big-D.
But I did have the Aston’s pop-up nav system. So I simply jumped on the North Dallas Parkway, hoping to extract myself from the sea of clone-like neighbourhoods that could have been Denver or Dartmouth, N.S.
After another half-an-hour or so, the tract housing started to peter out, and I did reach some of the wide-open spaces of Texas.
To tell the truth, it doesn’t look much different than a drive up the 410 north of Brampton.
With the afternoon sun blazing, the Roadster’s external temperature gauge was reading 27C. So to cheer myself up for the inevitable drive back into Dallas proper, I peeled back the top.
Because the Roadster’s chassis is formed from the same all-aluminum architecture that underpins all of Aston Martin’s cars, it’s as solid as the tin top V8 Vantage coupe.
Trouble is, the Roadster makes a full-size heifer look anorexic. With a 1,710 kg curb weight, the Aston adds 290 kg more to the scales than the Porsche. With 385 hp and 302 lb.-ft. of torque from the 4.3 L V8, the Roadster lunges from 0-to-100 km/h in just over five seconds, so at least it’s no slow poke.
Available with a $4,000 automated sequential gearbox with shift paddles, my Roadster was equipped with a six-speed manual transaxle that delivered quick and assuring shifts. Combined with one of the most velvety exhaust notes you can buy, the Aston is much more involving from the driver’s seat than its larger siblings.
Before returning the Roadster to the dealer, I made a last ditch chance in my hunt for Texas stereotypes.
Ending up in a part of downtown Dallas my mother would not have approved of, between Hwy. 35E and the Trinity River Greenbelt, the best I could do was find a bankrupt “Cowboy Bail Bonds” shop on a street filled with “gentlemen” clubs and auto repair garages.
Like a “real New Yorker” in Manhattan, there seems to be little “Texas” left in Dallas.