Last fall, I drove the interim Vanquish, a standard car fitted with a Sports Dynamic Pack consisting of the revised suspension and braking package destined for the S (see ec 03/05). Back then I noted that although the ride quality was marginally firmer than before, the quicker steering and more focused setup resulted in a car that was notably more agile. Better too, were the larger, competition derived brakes, which alleviated the old problems of fade and feedback.

The extra power throws these changes into sharper focus. This is so much more than a point-and-squirt machine and whereas its Vantage predecessor had to be manhandled down the road, the Vanquish can be finessed. The S is an extremely talented drive, which is a supreme achievement when you consider it was designed and developed when Aston was little more than a cottage industry.

A strictly objective analysis, though, would dictate the Ferrari 575M remains a better car. The Ferrari is more agile, has a nicer cabin and is more finely honed than the Vanquish. Nor is it possible to escape the conclusion that the vastly cheaper DB9 is a better expression of Aston Martin here and now.

But in this stratospheric sector of the market, soul and character count for almost as much as raw ability. The Ferrari might be a masterpiece but the styling remains questionable and its V12 is strangely muted-put simply, it doesn't have the Aston's soul. And while the DB9 is bonded together by a robot, the Vanquish is still hand-beaten by a talented craftsman.

The standard Vanquish will remain on the official price lists and it will continue to be offered with the Sports Dynamic Pack. Some customers may prefer its slightly more understated character, but Aston expects almost all its customers to choose the S. Those who do will become the proud owners of one of the most exhilarating, charismatic cars of this or any other generation

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