BY ANDREW FRANKEI years ago Aston Martin produced the DB9, and around the world all those who’d yearned for an Aston Martin that was at last

as good to drive as it sounded and looked, breathed a collective sigh of relief. No more excuses, no need to rely on old-world charm and men with pencils behind their ears: this was a thoroughly modern Aston, as good as its best rivals could muster. Better, in fact. Ferrari made the mistake of launching the 612 Scaglietti in exactly the same week, and to get out of the Ferrari into the Aston was something of an epiphany: the DB9

wasn’t just far cheaper and more attractive than the 612, it was a palpably better product. Little did we know that while the 612 would be replaced by an entirely new car, the FF, some 18 months ago, a merely updated DB9 would still be with us for the foreseeable future.

Instead, says Aston, its properly new car is the Vanquish you see before you. Designed to replace the flagship DBS after just five years in the market, the new Vanquish is on sale now for just £5 less than £190,000. I’ll address whether it’s worth it or not in a moment. For now however, there is an issue of perception. The problem Aston has faced since it launched the DB9 is that every front-engined V12 coupe it has introduced has appeared

as merely a variation on the original theme. Changing the name to Virage or DBS smacks only of window-dressing, a way of charging more money for much the same car.

Superficially at least, the Vanquish seems little different. Naturally Aston Martin is as keen for its shape to evoke images of the £1.2 million One-77 supercar as it is anxious to distance it from the DB9. But it still looks like a more purposeful but less pretty DB9. When you open the door you’ll see the famously gorgeous but illegible DB9 instrument pack looking back at you, and when you lift the bonnet, there will be a 5935cc V12 motor just as there was not only in the first DB9 but in the DB7 Vantage before that, a car that dates Ell■