The N400 is a car with an exhaust note even louder than its paint job, writes Jon Quirk
When an Aston Martin V8 N400 Roadster decides to clear its throat past 5000rpm, there are few exhaust notes that come close to inducing such giddy hysteria as this. Roof down, the shrill disdain of the 4.3-litre V8 barking through two stainless pipes will resonate in places you haven’t even visited. It sounds illegal.
The noise fills everywhere, bleeding through my nose, my ears, seeping through my pores and overwhelming the unexpected audience I discover ahead, now gawping uncontrollably. Sure, a revised Roadster may now be in the pipeline - expected to gain the same 4.7-litre V8 as the new V8 Vantage – but this 240 limited edition N400, available in Coupe and Roadster bodyshells, is Aston’s final hurrah to the current version.
The ‘N’ stands for Nurburgring but don’t worry, it isn’t as cynical a marketing campaign as you may think. Aston has been pretty ballsy this past year, tweaking production-based V8s and competing in global endurance race competitions, including the legendary 13-mile circuit. Even Aston’s main man, CEO Ulrich Betz has been getting in on the action - apparently, he isn’t too shabby either. The ‘400’ completing the moniker stands for the number of bhp waiting to be unleashed under the bonnet.
Truth be told, the noise could be enough to make you sign the £102,000 cheque there and then. That’s right, you’re paying a £10k premium for this special edition (or the same price as a 911 Turbo) but Aston has made some significant revisions. Mechanically, the N400 has been given up-rated springs and dampers and an extra 20bhp, bringing the total power to 400bhp. There’s also re-profiled side sills, a limited edition plaque and a boot badge of the Nurburgring track.
The N400’s most memorable visual coups are undoubtedly the smoked rear light clusters inherited from the DBS and the lightweight 19in gunmetal alloys. They look incredible, especially when set against this blood orange paintwork. Speaking of that ‘You’ve Been Tango’d’ paint job, it’s actually called Karussel orange, named after the ‘Ring’s most memorable corner. There are also two more subtle colours available, Lightning Silver and Bergwerk Black, which, you guessed it, also mark two other famous corners.
Inside, the dash has been tastefully furnished with a mixture of brushed aluminium and chrome. Less tasteful is the central arm rest which sports an orange-stitched outline of the ‘Ring. Honestly, it’s like spotting your mrs wearing a beautiful pair of heels, only to be accessorised with a couple of blood-stained plasters. Listen Aston, we get that it’s a Nurburgring edition, easy on the ephemera next time, ok?
The lack of roof may not stand scrutiny with some ‘Ring fans but the V8 is even more desirable in this state of semi-undress. At the press of a button, the fabric hood can be tucked away in 14-seconds and even when driving at speeds of up to 30mph. It may be British, but the Aston doesn’t lend itself to a stupid, buttock-clenched kind of formality either. The ride is supple, steering precise, and the back end will play if provoked.
It certainly feels a lot more rigid than Aston’s other drop-top, the DB9 Volante, and for that reason it’s by far and away the better driving proposition. The manual six-speed ‘box may feel notchy at first, but like all transaxle mounted gearboxes, it receives no heat from the engine taking it longer to warm up. Persevere and it’s a far better transmission than the optional Speedshift flappy-paddle gearbox.
With the additional 20bhp, there is a much better top end now, too. Previously, the V8 Roadster’s 4.3-litre V8 sounded better than it went. Now you feel every additional horse working through from the mid-range with fuel consumption and emissions ratings not that badly affected.
The N400 Roadster may be the same money as a 911 Turbo Convertible but these are two entirely different beasts. The 911 is much quicker, more precise but more anonymous and impersonal. If your currency is one of presence and drama, there’s really only one way to go.
Aston Martin N400 Roadster
On sale: Now
Engine: 4.3-litre V8
Transmission: Six-speed manual
0-60mph: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 177mph