DRIVEN: ASTON MARTIN N420 ROADSTER
400 'sub-zero' miles with the roof down. Whose idea was PH Open Season anyway?
Until I clocked her standing by the bedroom window that is, face pressed against the glass and positively leering at the black Aston N420 roadster on the drive. The regular Vantage roadster is pretty compelling in standard form, but with extended sills and funky carbon bits, riding on those wheels, and all in glossy black... Suffice to say there was ice on the windowpane, and I'd not be at all surprised to learn the missus had her tongue stuck to it.
Or rather BRRRR-RAAAPPP! It wouldn't have been only the immediate neighbours who heard our early morning departure for the PH Sunday Service at M-B World, as the Roadster's war-like exhaust rattled tiles across Brighton's suburban rooftops.
Forget the exhaust (not that you could), and those eye-catching sill extensions and carbon-fibre bits, because the N420's raison d'etre is to showcase the advantages of the Vantage sports suspension package.
Damper, spring and anti-roll bar rates have all been subtly revised, and there's 1kg less un-sprung weight at each corner thanks to those super-light (and spectacular) alloys. (In fact there's a 27kgs weight saving overall thanks to the adoption of carbon-backed sports seats, but that's a benefit easily lost to a few good lunches as some fellow PH 'gourmands' might attest.)
Road conditions were intermittently slushy or frozen when we had the car, and with nearly 400 (roof down - yay!) motorway miles to squeeze into a weekend the opportunities for pushing hard were limited. Still, I managed to find a few hours for a glorious wintry blast around some of our local lanes and was impressed at the suppleness of the N420's ride over the sort of twisty undulating sections of tarmac that can prove so unsettling to less sorted machinery. Aston really does seem to have found a great balance of ride and refinement with this car, and the wickedly strong (but not outrageous) power delivery helps create a sense of completeness around the N420 package that's really hard to fault on the road.
It may not be the most expensive (from circa £107k), fastest, hardest or most exotic supercar on the block, but I reckon that if an open-topped Aston Martin N420 and the open road doesn't take you as near as it's possible to get to the undiluted joy of motoring - well, it's hard to imagine what might.
Winter tyres - or not?
Never having sampled a supercar on winter tyres in the UK before, I was looking forward to trying the N420 so-equipped to see whether it made using the car in winter a more practical proposition. Winter rubber features wider grooves and extra sipes in the tread to disperse water, but is also made from a different compound so 'stickiness' is improved over standard tyres in temperatures below 7 degrees.
Yet when I took a look at the tyres, it was to discover the car was actually running its standard summer rubber (Bridgestone Potenzas). Rather than being out of their depth, they seemed perfectly viable in about as tough a set of conditions that I'd want to take an Aston out in. It would be interesting to hear other drivers' views.