Aston Martin Vanquish S

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The best Vanquish yet? Perhaps so, but there are better Aston alternatives

It has got there. Aston’s doughty old V12 has finally been coaxed and cajoled into giving 100bhp for each litre of its capacity. Or as near as makes no difference. Even if you trim its claimed 600PS to a true 592bhp, that’s all but dammit 0.1bhp for every one of its 5935 cubic centimetres (0.0997 if you have to know), or put another way, 100bhp per litre.

Bearing in mind this engine was first used in the DB7 Vantage some 18 years ago and that it was itself the result of marriage between two Ford Duratec V6 engines, the fact that it remains on such fine form today does credit to the essential rightness of its original design. OK, Ferrari’s new 812 Superfast gets almost 200bhp extra from just over half a litre’s additional capacity, but that is likely to be £50,000 more expensive than the Aston Martin Vanquish S which, even at this level, is a significant sum.

Anyway, the perhaps more interesting modifications that justify Aston hanging an ‘S’ on the end of this Vanquish concern suspension that appears to have had a complete rethink. It has slightly firmer springs front and rear, more rear roll stiffness, a new damping strategy and even modified steering. All this to keep the Vanquish attractive to customers until its all-new replacement appears in a couple of years.

And in isolation, it’s a wonderful thing. The interior with its state-of-the-ark nav still irritates, but as a device simply to get in and drive it has charm oozing out of every slat and strake. The engine has never been on better form and I’m not just talking about its power: it seems to be spread more widely, unexpected given its higher state of tune, and the sound is wondrous.

The handling is no less impressive. At almost 1.75 tonnes this is a heavy old bus, but it’s not one of those cars you feel only works on wide-open roads. I took it down some of my toughest, tightest testing roads and it always felt poised, always felt balanced, always felt fun.

It has just two problems. The first is called the DB11: if you want an Aston Martin as a GT car, it’s not just streets ahead of the Vanquish, it’s in a different county. Its interior works beautifully, its ride is sublime and the torque of its twin-turbo engine something of which the Vanquish could scarcely dream.

And if you want an Aston Martin purely to enjoy, a V12 Vantage is not just cheaper still, it will be quicker point to point and even more engaging to drive. Only if you want an Aston that covers some of both these bases does the Vanquish S start to make sense. Or, of course, if you just happen to want the current Aston Martin flagship.

I’ve always had my admiration for the Vanquish under quite close control but this is the best yet, a car I really enjoyed. But given the choice I’d still have the V12 Vantage, and the brand new Porsche Panamera you could almost buy with the change for those days when I just wanted to cruise.

FACTFILE

Price £199,950

Engine 5.9 litres, 12 cylinders, turbocharged

Power [email protected]

Torque 464lb [email protected]

Transmission eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

Weight 1739kg

Power to weight 340bhp per tonne

0-62MPH 3.5sec

Top speed 201mph

Economy 21.6mpg

CO2 201g/km