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Live the dream, minus the cost

ASTON Martin makes a car priced at more than €1.4m. And that's before you add in taxes. It'll only make 77 examples of the gazillionaire's plaything, so the One-77 is the ultimate expression of the brand. I'm not so sure though: hyper-cars are all well and good, but the 750bhp machine just wouldn't work well in Ireland.

Aim lower then, at the V8 Vantage S. Sure, it's four cylinders and a roll or five short on carbon-fibre in comparison to the One-77, but it's not short on looks or performance. It's not cheap either, at €190,000, but it's a comparative bargain.

There's 430bhp on offer from its 4.7-litre V8 engine, which should allow it to reach 100km/h in 4.5 seconds. That's only a second slower than the One-77 -- and what are the chances of you meeting one at the traffic lights anyway?

The S is a development of the V8 Vantage, mainstay of the Aston Martin range.The V8 Vantage is a bit pricier than the equivalent Porsche, but while the German cars shoot off a mechanised production line in Stuttgart, the Astons are lovingly hand-assembled in England.

The changes that make a regular V8 Vantage an S are relatively subtle, with Aston taking the usual performance-enhancing route of slightly bigger air intakes, re-profiled bumpers and side skirts, revised exhausts, and a modest boost in power.

It's not the small bhp increase that makes the most difference to the S though; it's the gearbox and steering. Feel is crucial too when it comes to the steering, which is beautifully weighted and offers plenty of feedback at the wheel's chunky rim. The steering rack's been quickened up as well, making the S's nose super responsive to inputs at the wheel.

It's all quite brilliant really, enough to make you wonder why you'd ever want a Porsche 911, or indeed be one of 77.

Sunday Independent Supplement