Aston Martin has really nailed it with the latest DB9. This is a much improved and more focused car than its predecessor
Tweaked for more power and boasting an edgier range of technology, the 2013 Aston Martin DB9 marks more of an evolution of the car’s soul rather than its beautiful body.
From the front the new DB9 is the spitting image of the now discontinued Aston Martin Virage - adopting the same elongated headlamp assembly with LED daytime running lamps.
Aston says it’s made subtle improvements to the front splitter for improved airflow to the carbon-ceramic brakes, but seriously, you’ll be hard pressed spotting those.
The similarities extend to the rear of the car too, except the latest Aston Martin DB9 gets a new ‘flipped up’ boot spoiler for reduced lift, along with more muscular rear haunches for slightly stronger differentiation between the two models.
Inside, we were hoping for Vanquish-grade ergonomics with its lowered centre console and new centre stack, but the layout remains largely unchanged from the outgoing DB9, except for the proper polished glass switchgear.
You can smell the leather-infused aroma oozing out of the Bridge of Weir hides, as you sink into the most perfectly cocooning sports pews - only this time there’s a hand-stitched welt running down either side of the console, which requires a 1.8-metre continuous piece of leather.
The low-slung seats and small-ish diameter steering wheel in the DB9 combine to provide the prefect driving position, ensuring the driver feels at one with the car.
Everything is special inside here. It’s all real metal, real glass and real carbonfibre – several levels above luxury.
The real surprise, perhaps, is that it actually costs less than the outgoing DB9. Priced from $349,500 for the Coupe and $380,500 for the Volante (tested) the latest iteration of Aston Martin’s grand tourer offers savings of $12,455 and $12,463, respectively.
Mechanically, there’s more of the same under the DB9’s alloy bonnet, with Aston’s 6.0-litre V12 that’s powered it since launch.
The difference is this time there’s a revised block, new head and various other tweaks that bump power and torque up to 380kW and 620Nm – increases of 30kW and 19Nm respectively.
That’s enough to propel the Aston Martin DB9 from 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds and onto a top speed of 295km/h.
But even with the engine upgrades, the DB9 Volante is outgunned by several lower-priced rivals – at least from a standing start. The BMW M6 Convertible is priced from $308,500 and can reach 100km/h in 4.4 seconds, as can the $299,000 Jaguar XKR-S Convertible.
The brakes have also been uprated to massive cross-drilled, carbon-ceramic rotors with six-pot Brembo calipers up front, and four down back, for proper fade-free stopping, all day long.
The DB9 boasts the same ‘Gen4’ VH architecture as the more expensive Vanquish, which is not only stiffer than the previous car, but also includes Aston’s next-generation adaptive damping and all-round double wishbone suspension.
Push the crystal-tipped glass key fob into its spring-loaded slot and hold firm until the V12 lets out its signature bark. While we love the aural component, it all feels a bit too theatrical in this age of keyless entry and push button start.
Like all current Astons with the electronically controlled Touchtronic2 six-speed transmission, drive modes are engaged by a series of glass buttons at the top of the centre console (P, R, N and D), rather than a conventional shifter.
Below these are three more glass buttons that control the suspension damping (Normal, Sport and Track modes) along with a sport button.
There aren’t many corners along Miami’s South Beach strip, so we set off with the suspension locked in its most comfortable setting.
As far as we can make out, potholes and busted-up roads don’t exist in the Miami Dade County, but those insignificant-looking expansion joints are properly felt in the DB9, even in the normal suspension setting.
They’re not enough to unsettle the chassis (that’s rock solid stable), but it’s a very firm setting to be classed as ‘Normal’.
We tried the other two settings and frankly, they may as well have been labelled Firmer and Firmest. It’s not quite in the bone-shattering category, but still way too stiff for anything other than billiard-ball-smooth US highways.
The upside is that body roll is simply non-existent in the DB9 allowing for high-speed cornering while remaining utterly composed and planted.
Tap the Sport button, load up the throttle and start throwing the big Aston into a few corners and the DB9 suddenly morphs from a capable GT to bona-fide sports car.
The DB9’s hydraulic steering is extraordinarily good – Astons are like that. Perfectly weighted, very quick and with scalpel-like precision for racecar-like directness and feedback, which only serve to enhance the driving experience.
You’ll need more than twisty canyon roads to get anywhere near the handling limits of the DB9 – it’s a tremendously well balanced machine that urges you to keep piling on the power for more of that deeply emotive V12 howl.
Wind it up to 5000-plus-rpm on the dial and you’ve got 620Nm of twist for all the overtaking grunt you could ever need. Its all the more enjoyable in the soft-top Volante.
It feels properly quick from anywhere in the rev range and there’s a tonne of grip, but dial up a moderate dose of over-zealous throttle and the DB9 will light up the P Zeros down back.
Better still, pull the magnesium-fashioned right paddleshifter and you’ve got full control of the transmission.
There are no electronics to shift gears for you in this mode (definitely a good thing) – hold any ratio long enough, and you’ll be bouncing off the rev limiter until you shift up - manually.
The DB9’s Touchtronic transmission is certainly smooth-shifting, but it can’t match the more common (in this class) dual-clutch transmissions for sheer gearbox response and driver involvement.
But these irks don’t spoil what is essentially a class-leading GT-slash-sports car that has been bolstered for even better performance.
Aston Martin has really nailed it with the latest DB9. This is a much improved and more focused car than its predecessor, a figurehead of English automotive styling with a bit of added grunt.
Throw in the cut-down pricing and it’s all the motivation cashed-up punters will need to stake their claim on a classic.