motoring: the verdict: Vantage point

The new DB7 has the power to rival Ferrari - but it still has the luxury and style our readers expect of an Aston Martin

Britain finally has a supercar to take on Ferrari. TVR came close and Jaguar has tried and failed, but serious hopes of competing against the Italians have always lain with Aston Martin. At last they have risen to the challenge. You may think that my patriotic fervour is misplaced - after all, the new DB7 Vantage looks suspiciously similar to the standard DB7, which attracted some hushed criticisms of its performance when it was first unveiled at Geneva in 1993. But, under that silky, sensuous bodywork, some heavy-duty changes have been wrought. Ferrari had better get off its high horse and back to the drawing board.

The six-cylinder engine of the standard DB7 has been replaced by a massive six-litre, V12 engine (two highly modified Ford V6s stuck together) capable of generating 420bhp. The new car is still no out-and-out racer, like the ballistic Ferrari 360 Modena, but it does boast a 0-60 time of 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 185mph to compete with the Ferrari's figures of 4.5 seconds and 183mph. Some would say that this makes the pounds 85,000 standard DB7 redundant - either way, this new DB7 Vantage will be the Aston Martin flagship for the 21st century.

But I can tell what you're thinking: "Why should I ask for my deposit back on the Modena and buy a Vantage instead?" Well, for the difference in price (pounds 92,500 for the British car, pounds 101,000 for the Italian) you could buy a VW Polo for use around the estate; the Ferrari only has two seats, whereas the Aston has room for at least two nuclear particles in the back; and, under the quality control of parent company Ford, the Aston will probably last longer.

Ultimately, the choice comes down to taste and how you plan to use the car. The Ferrari is a frenetic, highly strung buttock-clencher. The Aston, while still supernaturally fast, is refined and comfortable around town. Buy Italian and you'll drive it once a month. Buy British and you will never leave the driver's seat.

Jacqui Lee

32, freelance graphic designer, from Hove, Sussex. Currently drives a Land Rover 90

"Fantastic! Absolutely gorgeous. It's great to drive - the acceleration is completely out of this world, but it is controllable. The only trouble is that you can't lose concentration for a second or you're over the speed limit. The bonnet is long, and I'm not used to that, but it handles really well. If you're into Astons, I'm sure it's worth the price. It would appeal to women, or to somebody who wants to be the coolest bloke in town - around here that would be Chris Eubank. The handbrake was awkward to use, though."

Andy Buchanan

Aircraft engineer, from Cocking, Sussex. Currently drives a BMW 3-Series

"It's so far out of the realm of the cars I'm used to, but it is really easy to drive and it's very comfortable. It looks lovely and the engine sounds incredible - actually I'd like to hear it more, there's too much sound-proofing. But the switch gear is made from nasty plastic and the steering column looks like it's out of an Escort - if I'd spent that much I wouldn't want to be reminded that it's made by Ford. A Ferrari is more an enthusiast's car. This is for company directors having a mid-life crisis - but I'd love to drive it on a racetrack."

John Knight

56, entrepreneur, from Coolham, Sussex. Currently drives an Alfa Romeo 75

"It strikes a good balance between road driving and track racing. It doesn't exactly have exciting, raw power, but I feel confident with it. It's got good mid-range punch. The finish is superb inside, though I'm not too sure about the wood - it's too shiny. I liked the little red starter button, it's a nice link to the past. I could imagine they'll sell to older people - it would turn heads at the polo club. If I had boundless money, I wouldn't mind one of these as part of a collection. The badge and history are worth the money."

David Ward-Streeter

41, director of design company, from East Chiltington, Sussex. Currently drives a BMW 3-Series

"It's the bee's knees - I had a grin from ear to ear driving this. Visually it reminds me of the E-Type, very sensual and aggressive. But it's not for poseurs, it's got to be used. It felt safe at high speeds but the clutch was heavy and, at slow speeds, so was the steering. I'd buy one if I had the money. I was brought up on British cars and I love the wood and leather - and compared to Italian exotics it's not expensive. The only negative thing is that the handbrake is badly placed, you're always scraping your hand on it." n

Road test

If you would like to take part, write to The Verdict, The Independent Magazine, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, giving a contact phone number, your address and details of the type of vehicle, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26, and have a clean driving licence.

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