DRIVING ON CLOUD NINE

It seems Aston Martin know a good thing when they see one. Many considered the old DB7 one of the world’s most beautiful cars and its basic shape became the template for a whole range of contemporary Astons, from the much loved muscular Vanquish supercar, via the DB7’s spiritual successor, the DB9, and onto the compact Vantage, the DBS and the Rapide. Of these product lines, the DB9 is the central focus, the model around which the company has built its range. Fortunately they didn’t back a dud.

Underneath the sleek bodywork resides Aston Martin’s VH platform, upon versions of which the Vantage and the DBS sit. It’s a mixture of extruded, stamped and die-cast aluminium, bonded together into an extremely light yet rigid superstructure. What’s more, experience with the Vanquish has enabled Aston Martin to develop the chassis in a cost effective manner; essential when dealing with relatively low volume production runs. Most of the exterior panels are aluminium, bonded into position by Aston’s sole robot assistant, nicknamed James Bonder. The bootlid and front wings are made of a composite material, helping to keep weight down to a relatively low 1760kg.

In these days of super coupes pumping out five or six hundred bhp, the DB9’s 470bhp output may not seem initially outstanding, but the engine that does the cranking is a thing of beauty. It’s essentially an uprated version of the DB7 Vantage’s V12, and sounds utterly intoxicating courtesy of revised cams, inlet and exhaust manifolds and an exhaust tuned for the enthusiast ear. Although a little more discreet than the banshee wail of the Vanquish, the DB9 is still a car that will have you dropping the windows a few millimetres when you spot a tunnel approaching.

\”The DB9 remains a beautiful, useable, achingly desirable yet sensibly priced GT car\”

What are the DB9’s key rivals? Does it go head to head with outright sports models like the Porsche 911 Turbo and Lamborghini Gallardo or is it cast more in the mould of a high speed super-smoothie like the Bentley Continental GT or Mercedes CL65 AMG? In truth it leans towards the more sporting end of the spectrum, thrusting to 60mph in just 4.6 seconds.

Although the ‘Touchtronic 2′ gearbox may not seem overtly sporting, featuring, as it does, an automatic-style torque converter, there is a manual option to cater for more enthusiast drivers. The latest DB9s also benefit from an ADS Adaptive Damping System which enhances ride comfort while also sharpening the handling when switched to Sport mode.

Facelifts might sound very mass market but even the timeless lines of the DB9 can use an occasional refresh. The fruits of the latest set of revisions are evident on the current cars. The front bumper and air intake are reshaped along with the side sills. There are also revised headlight bezels and clear lenses for the rear lights.

The interior offers a sense of occasion unmatched at this price point with beautifully finished aluminium dials, lustrous leather and quality wood cappings. So many manufacturers fail to get the balance between wood veneers and ‘technical’ finishes correct but the interior of the DB9 is a case study in how to effectively mix traditional and modern materials. As well as the aluminium, wood and leather, there’s even a glass starter button on the centre console. A satellite navigation system is secreted in a pop-up dash top panel. In the unlikely event that you should tire of the majestic engine note, there’s a range of Bang & Olufsen stereo options to keep you entertained.

Everything about the car feels substantial. Take a good look around the cabin and you won’t find the quality wanting. Aston Martin has engineered the ride to be firm and body control is good, although there could be a little more feedback from the steering. With power being directed to the rear wheels, the British car can’t match the all-wheel drive grip of the Porsche 911 Turbo or the Lamborghini Gallardo but a whole host of electronic trickery ensures that power is deployed cleanly on all but the greasiest surfaces.

The DB9 is available in two guises; the coupe and the Volante convertible. Equipment levels are suitably plump, although Aston Martin has thankfully resisted the temptation to load the DB9 with so much standard kit that it needs a manual the size of a phone directory to get to grips with. Count on items such as high intensity discharge headlights, ten-way electrically adjustable seats, DSC stability control, Bluetooth connectivity, heated front seats and an umbrella with holder.

The options list makes fascinating reading, including items such as bamboo fascia trim, personalised sill plaques, a tracking device, different paint finishes for the brake calipers and 19-inch diamond turned alloy wheels. No mention of an ejector seat as far as I could see.

The usual measures of cost of ownership such as combined fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions aren’t particularly valid when dealing with a top end car like the Aston Martin DB9. If you’re really interested, the figures are around 17mpg and CO2 at the best part of 450g/km, but the big ticket cost with vehicles such as this is depreciation. Expect to see back around 55 per cent of what you initially paid for the DB9 if you choose to sell it after three years.

It’s easy to forget quite what a breakthrough the DB9 was for Aston Martin. The company jumped at least three generations when it started work on the aluminium and composite DB9 as its immediate predecessor, the DB7, ran on the same underpinnings as the ancient Jaguar XJ-S. Although the DB9 has been with us since 2004, it’s still a good deal more modern in its architecture than many of its latest rivals. Time has also done nothing to erode the impact of its good looks.

If pressed to identify faults, the prime one would be that the handling doesn’t live up to the intent signalled by a rather firm ride. The second would be that some of the interior fittings are rather a case of style over functionality. The DB9 remains a beautiful, useable, achingly desirable yet sensibly priced GT car. Its remit may be wider than its stablemates but its achievements nonetheless merit huge respect.

Steve Walker. dealerbid.co.uk is the

UK’s cash for cars comparison website.

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