2013 ASTON MARTIN DB9 REVIEW | photography: Jan Glovac.
Vehicle Style: Two-door sports coupe
Price: $349,500 (plus on-roads) $418,083 (as tested, drive away)
Fuel Economy claimed: 14.3L/100km | tested: 21.3L/100km
Marek Reichman must have had more than a few nervous moments. Why? His job was to update the Aston Martin DB9.
Henrik Fisker and Ian Callum, two of the world’s greatest automotive designers, collaborated on the design of the original, and its successor had to live up to some weighty expectations.
You’d have to agree though, Reichman pulled it off.
The hard work was done previously. Reichman designed the Virage and only train-spotters will notice the difference between the Virage and the new DB9. Which is because it’s virtually the same car.
So does the “Viraged” DB9 live up to the brilliant original? We’ve burned through a few tanks of dinosaur juice to find out.
Quality: Like the Vanquish we tested recently, the new DB9 is meticulous in its detail. The feel of the hide, the hand-finished stitching, the leather welts, the way that the different surface textures meet – it’s all just superb.
Sure, it’d be nice to see a Vanquish-like centre-stack, instead of the “same-old, same-old” cluster we’re used to – that mono, single-line LCD in the middle has got to go – but it still looks extremely elegant.
And despite the virtually indecipherable increments on the speedo, the beauty of the Swiss-watch-like instruments replete with reverse swing tacho, makes them both intriguing and attractive.
Comfort: The DB9 has surely the best-looking seats on the market, but they’re built for more than just aesthetics.
Being eight-way adjustable, you can travel for hours on end without back-ache, but the driving position isn't quite perfect - a bit more vertical adjustment on the steering-wheel is perhaps needed.
A neat touch is the leather-covered square pad that sits in one side of the centre console’s “cupholder” tray. Most people are baffled as to what it is – it’s simply an elbow rest.
The back seats, though, will elicit a giggle from most passengers – no-one can fit in them with a reasonable-sized driver up front. They’re simply more storage with bonus seatbelts.
Equipment: The DB9 is the tourer of the range, which is why there are plenty of included conveniences.
Auto headlights, auto wipers, three-preset memory seats and mirrors (both heated), a much-improved sat-nav, paddle shift, three-stage dampers, three-stage ESC, 20-inch wheels, a Lamy pen and integrated holder, umbrella – it’s all there.
And let’s not forget the thumping Bang & Olufsen stereo: audiophiles will be kept in their happy place.
Curiously, while there’s Bluetooth phone connection, audio-streaming is not available, which shouldn’t be the case in 2013.
Storage: Aside from the smallish glovebox, there’s not a lot in the way of storage. Behind the undersized cupholders in the centre console, is a flip-up lid which reveals a very shallow area for a wallet or purse.
Where a gear lever would normally lie is a small recess perfect for an iPhone or business cards and behind is another recess which could house coins. Other than that, it’s the back “seats” or use the small 172-litre boot.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Slot the Emotional Control Unit (ECU) – Aston-speak for glass key – into its recess, push down firmly and the starter motor spins with a whirr and then a huge bark fills the garage as the 5.9-litre V12 bursts into life.
With 385kW and 620Nm, it’s no slouch. It dispenses with 100km/h in 4.6 seconds and goes onto a top speed of 295km/h, which is handy for overtaking B-doubles. But it’s not all fire and brimstone.
The DB9 is the gentleman’s car, so in standard “comfort” mode it uses the V12’s torque to simply slur the gearchanges and move briskly along without much fuss at all.
In fact, as it shuffles through the gears on mid-throttle, trying to conserve fuel, you can barely hear it.
Hit the Sport button, though, and that all changes. Throttle response sharpens up dramatically, exhaust flaps open at 3000rpm and it clears its throat and howls like Chewbacca being tortured - it’s glorious.
While acceleration in gear is quite linear, it noticeably builds power closer to its rev-limiter, which you will hit if you don’t pay attention.
The V12 has such a bassy note, it doesn’t sound like it’s revving as high as it actually does. That means that when you take control using the paddle shifts in Sport mode, you have to be on the ball or you'll have it banging against the limiter.
If you choose to leave the auto to its own devices, it does an excellent job of choosing the correct ratio. But if viewed as a sports coupe, the auto is the DB9’s Achilles heel.
The shift times are very slow (even in Sport) and it takes an eternity - relatively speaking, of course - to respond to the paddle’s downshift request.
Elsewhere, things are much sharper. When driven in the wet, you soon learn that the ESC’s Track setting allows enough slip to keep a slide going, but reins you in when you’ve gone too far. (You can of course go the whole hog and switch it completely off.)
If you do, you’ll be grateful for the extremely quick and accurate steering. Once the back starts to step out, the steering lightens off to alert you to the yaw and with only three turns lock-to-lock, counter-steering is a sinch.
The steering is hydraulic, so it gives you truckloads of feedback, and is extremely quick and accurate - among the best we've experienced in a modern car.
As an involving drive experience, the DB9 is hard to beat.
Refinement: The beauty of the Sport button is you can wake up the V12 (and the neighbours) at your leisure. At idle it purrs away quietly, and throughout the rev range it’s extremely smooth.
With the 20-inch wheels it can exhibit some road noise, but only on the roughest of surfaces.
Suspension: The DB9 uses electronically-controlled dampers with three modes: Normal, Sport and Track. Normal smooths out the bigger hits from below (though they can be heard), while Sport is firmer and Track much more noticeably so.
Track is by far too harsh for normal road use (it gets a bit crashy), so Sport is a good compromise for winding country roads. Overall the suspension compliance is excellent.
Braking: Carbon ceramic discs are standard on the DB9 and apart from being slightly grabby at low speed, the pedal feel is brilliant. Fade is unheard of, especially with six-piston 398mm front discs and four-piston 360mm rear rotors.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with three modes, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and brake assist. The DB9 comes with dual-stage front airbags for driver and passenger and side airbags for both.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Service costs: Servicing costs vary according to vehicle usage. Contact your local Aston Martin dealer for more information.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Jaguar XKR-S ($299,000) – A more track-focused car than the DB9, the Jag is more ostentatious. While it isn’t as well-styled, it’s quicker and sounds brutal. It’s also $50K cheaper. (See XKR-S reviews)
Mercedes-Benz CL 500 ($336,500) – Like the Bentley, the Merc’s bent is about wafting along. It’s quieter and the drive is more isolated. It is built like a bank-vault, though. (See Mercedes-Benz reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While it has a few faults (a slow auto, tiny boot and unusable back seats), the involving drive experience and seductive looks are more than enough to make us overlook them.
The purity of the steering, the level of comfort, the wow-factor of its quality and that intoxicating V12 note make driving the DB9 a pleasure each and every time. And with 380kW on tap, you’ll never hop out feeling bored.
The original DB9 was a ground-breaker for Aston Martin. Thankfully, the new DB9 sticks to its predecessor’s winning ways, while getting enough tweaks to keep it fresh. It’s a stunning car and a stunning drive.
Oh, and the best part? It’s the cheapest V12 on the market.