Aston Martin DB9
Unless you’ve been comatose for the past few months, it can’t have escaped your notice that Aston Martin is celebrating its centenary this year.
To mark the occasion, a series of events is taking place around the globe – the first of which was actually here in Dubai, when the company airlifted a Dhs365,950 Vanquish onto the Burj Al Arab’s helicopter landing pad in early January.
It was another reminder that every Aston is a focused driving machine. Like Ferrari, the company built its reputation in motorsport, and the new model range has been designed to reflect that heritage. The most iconic model lineage is that of the DB-series, and the current DB9 has been completely worked over for 2013.
As part of the makeover, the DB9 gets many of the styling cues the now discontinued Virage introduced. Aston Martin says that, incredibly, more than 70 percent of the DB9’s body panels have been redesigned, including the ‘boot flip’ aerodynamic lip which is incorporated into the rear panels.
The body design is far more appealing than the original DB9, but it’s the details that really set the car apart. The new LED running lights highlight the new, elongated-shaped headlights encasing bi-Xenon bulbs, while the air outlets on the car’s flanks highlight the car’s sporting heritage.
Hunkered over standard 20-inch alloys, the overall effect is one of a beautifully balanced, well crafted and softer alternative to the Vanquish.
Aston also went to work on the engine. The DB9 is fitted with the AM11, a 6.0-litre V12 that develops the same amount of horsepower that the outgoing DBS did – 510 hp and 620Nm. That’s a ten percent hike in both power and torque of the previous DB9 and comes thanks to innovations like CNC-machined combustion chambers and hollow camshafts. It also has dual variable valve timing, larger throttle bodies, and a new fuel pump, a revised block and a new intake manifold.
Power is fed to a rear-mounted six-speed automatic transaxle via a torque-tube-encased carbon-fibre driveshaft. A limited-slip differential is standard. Aston Martin says 100km/h can be achieved in 4.6 seconds.
The engine is the most powerful ever fitted to the DB9, so it required a beefier chassis to help support that power hike. Engineers reinforced the chassis with aerospace epoxy resin, and say the new VH Generation 4 architecture is at least 30 percent stiffer and 15kgs lighter than the original DB9. Also down below, the new DB9 gets the latest Aston Martin three-stage adaptive damping system and CCM carbon brakes as standard.
Meanwhile in the cabin, the handcrafted interior has also had a going-over. The leather for the dash, seats and other trim pieces comes from Scotland’s Bridge of Weir, a company with its roots traceable back to the 1700s, and with considerable knowledge in producing superior leather for high-end automotive manufacturers. Aston Martin says there are thousands of colour combinations available, making the DB9 a truly bespoke car.
Every Aston is started the same way: by slotting a crystal key into its home in the centre console and holding it in until the engine fires. The DB9’s V-12 is muted and refined in standard mode which makes city driving an absolute doddle.
It cruises well, and never feels laboured. The six speed transmission could do with a longer second gear for twisty mountain work, and seventh speed for cruising – but the engine’s prodigious torque band and response to throttle inputs means you’re never out of its sweet spot.
Prod the S button, and the car’s sinews tighten. The suspension gets stiffer and more responsive, steering weights up nicely. The DB9 switches to Manual mode as soon as you grab a paddle shifter and ask for another gear. Wind the tach around to the dusty end of the gauge and the induction roar is tremendous. The traction control offers up lots of control without hindering your fun, and it can be completely switched off if you really feel as though your brain is better than the engine’s bespoke computer.
As a GT, the DB9 has amazing scope and capability. It straddles the divide between high-end luxury and highly-strung sports cars perfectly, combining brute force and sheer brilliance in one deeply attractive package.