“It’s 2007 and Aston Martin is still building the most beautiful cars in the world – by hand. The DB9 Coupe represents the sum total of 93 years of pure automotive passion, and we feel privileged to have driven it.”
Test Model: 2007 Aston Martin DB9 Coupe (touchtronic auto)
The DB9 Coupe with 6 speed manual transmission is $337,250
Where it sits: The DB9 currently parks in the boss’s space in the Aston Martin garage after production of the super Aston, the Vanquish and Vanquish S, ceased this year. The soon to be released DBS, as seen in the latest Bond movie, Casino Royale, will temporarily fill the top spot in the fleet, until the rumoured return of the Vanquish in 2010.
The DB9 Volante (Roadster) is available at $365,250 with a 6-speed manual and the touchtronic auto for $373,500.
Entry price into the bespoke Aston Martin club is $245,000 for the V8 Vantage Coupe.
A bit of History:
Aston Martin is one tough British car company which has ‘stayed the course’ despite many hard fought battles to keep business alive.
The name Aston-Martin comes from one of the two founders, Lionel Martin, who raced hill climbs at “Aston Hill” in Buckinghamshire, which sadly, is today a Mountain bike venue.
Martin partnered up with Robert Bamford in 1913 to sell “Singer” brand cars as well as servicing other makes before producing the first Aston-Martin badged car in 1915.
Martin’s original specification for the cars was “a quality car of good performance and appearance: a car for the discerning owner-driver with fast touring in mind.” Remember, he wrote that in 1913, but it pretty well sums up what Aston Martin is about today!
But that passion was also the very thing that sent the company bankrupt in 1924 and so began a roller coaster ride of owner after owner after owner, which continues to this day.
By far the most influential owner of Aston Martin was David Brown who bought the company in 1947 after two world wars had once again sent Aston to the wall.
There’s no question that Brown had an ego and a big one. But who’s complaining, he kicked in his initials and the DB legend began.
The DB2 was a superb looking car, still is. The DB Mark III and DB4 followed, which led to the most famous of all Astons, the DB5. Sean Connery as James Bond drove this car in the 1964 Bond movie, Goldfinger.
Aston Martin has been the chosen company car for the British Secret Service agent for most of his missions over the last 44 years, except for a brief but dark period, when the money hungry producers switched sides and ran with BMW. Shame on them choosing the ugly duckling over an automotive supermodel.
The company struggled throughout the 70’s and most of the 80’s until Ford bought a controlling stake in 1987. They picked up the rest in 1994 and planned a road to profit.
Without Ford, Aston Martin may not have survived, so we thank them for Aston Martin’s current success and financial stability over the last few years.
But Aston Martin has always been about the right people and again, it's Ford who installed Dr Ulrich Bez as the Chief Executive. Bez was a former engineering chief at Porsche and BMW who has well and truly sorted things out and intends taking the company to far greater heights.
Let me explain. In 2000, a total of 1029 cars were made. In 2006, over 7000 Aston Martin’s were shipped and the company is on target to move 10,000 cars a year, by 2010.
And here’s the punchline, Ford sold Aston Martin back in March this year. You would too, if it were bleeding cash at the rate of USD$12 billion a year. There was a queue of highly successful business groups (including our own James Packer) ready and willing to fork out just on US$1billion for the company.
The successful consortium paid USD$848million and is headed up by Dave Richards (chairman of successful UK motor sport engineering firm Prodrive) with backing from two Kuwaiti investment companies and a US based Aston Martin collector/banker.
The good news is, Ford have maintained an 8.32% stake in Aston Martin and Ulrich Bez has signed a five year contract to continue running the company.
Prior to Ford’s sell off of the company, some Ford suits were believed to have rated Bez not so highly, the reason – he was too focussed on Aston Martin. Sounds like the prefect man for the job!
To be fair, the Aston Martin DB9 is perhaps the most understated looking supercar there is. Aston Martin don’t even want to call the DB9 a supercar as they feel it attracts a different audience, those who want the elegance and brand value of an Aston Martin with supercar performance and styling to die for.
The DB9 doesn’t have to shout with its looks, like a patient predator, the DB9 can sit calmly next to a café as you enjoy a drink, but when its time to go, it will turn every head with its presence. Initially when we picked up the Aston we nearly walked right past it, it’s a case of a double-take with the DB9, you look, and then you look again and realise that you have just laid eyes upon a masterpiece.
The design was started by Ian Calum and finished by Henrik Fisker. What these two men created is arguably the best looking Aston Martin to date. Far more sophisticated and graceful than the DB7. You can look at it in every which way you want, you can even hang upside down from a tree if you want to, the DB9 is stunning from the front, side and rear.
Here is the truth, while the Murcielago, Gallardo and F430 are all exceptional cars in their own right, the DB9 is a different car altogether. For so long Porsche has dominated the everyday supercar market with the 911 and although the DB9 sits above the 911 in every respect, the concept is the same. The DB9 is what 911 owners dream of and what Ferrari/Lambo owners wish they had bought, it is the ultimate GT car that you can drive from Brisbane to Sydney (try that in your Gallardo) and straight onto a race track the next day.
If you want to compare looks to Grand Tourers from the Italians, let’s have a look at the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti:
You can’t help but associate the DB9 (Aston Martin in general) with the James Bond franchise and it is an excellent association. As a secret agent what you need is a super fast, beautiful, empowering yet comfortable car that can keep up with a jet while at the same time staying under the radar, what you need, is an Aston Martin.
As if performance, handling, a remarkable interior and the sound of a V12 wasn’t enough, rest assured, the DB9’s mesmerising looks will win over not only the ladies but the respect of all car lovers and art critiques as well.
Inside the DB9
Moran leather sofas are expensive purchases, around $9000 for a two-seater. The leather is some of the finest in Australia and I’m told, will last a lifetime.
But you won’t find Moran leather in the Aston Martin DB9. No sir. This fine Scottish leather is from a company called Bridge of Weir, which has been manufacturing leather since 1758!
Its not just the leather seats, there are acres of Bridge on Weir Chancellor Red leather inside the DB9. The dash, the doors, the facia, its everywhere and its all hand stitched.
The sound is astonishing but to tell you the truth, I couldn’t read the tiny print on the audio buttons without my reading glasses.
Titanium coloured aluminium features are a superb contrast to the leather and are again featured throughout the car. The door openers are especially tasty.
Door trim in the test car was the optional Piano Black look, which sat well with the other materials making for a thoroughly contemporary look.
The detail is extraordinary. When I first closed the door, I felt the softest suede on the inside edge of the door handle.
I’m not entirely sold on starter buttons but the polished cut glass unit in the DB9 could only be described as beautiful.
Sitting in the driver’s seat of the Aston for the first time borders on a religious and divine experience, such is the history and reputation behind this car company.
Trivia (When I was last in the UK in 2002, I drove without Sat Nav for 5 hours in an attempt to locate Aston Martin’s (now old) HQ at Newport Pagnel. We ended up arriving at this little village at 10.30pm with not a single Aston in sight. That is, until I decided to climb the fortress like high wooden gates to the service area and behold, one of the greatest collections of Aston Martin cars of all time).
The DB9 is a large car with sizeable dimensions but it’s shorter than both a Jaguar XK and the Maserati Quattroporte. It’s a true 2 + 2 so there’s room in the rear for two small kids or one very slim adult with size 8 feet.
No matter how high the price tag – there is almost always an options list when it comes to exotic marques. Not sure about the Rolls Royce Phantom though, I’ll get back to you on that.
Aston Martin is no different, although standard kit is reasonably complete. Features include; leather and walnut trim, memory seats with exterior mirrors, 11 way electric seats which are heated, auto temperature control (dual zone), organic electroluminescent display (crystal clear day and night no matter what the light conditions), satellite navigation (it does the job, but not the best system we have used, although it's hidden inside the fascia until you need it), powerfold mirrors, alarm system and of course an umbrella and holder for the London weather we have experienced this winter in NSW.
There’s also a battery disconnect switch and a battery conditioner for the no doubt, frequent overseas trips that Aston owners take.
Standout options are the Sports Pack and LINN 950 W audio system.
Driving an Aston Martin DB9 is an experience unlike any other. Not only because of the size of the car, but more so the sheer amount of power available on tap from idle.
The first task is to acquaint one’s self with all the controls and gadgets required to operate the car. Initial gear selections are taken care of by four buttons located on the dashboard – ‘P’, ‘R’, ‘N’ and ‘D’. The handbrake takes the form of a regular handbrake lever – located on the right hand side of the driver’s seat.
The seating position is instantly comfortable and only small adjustments are required to tailor the position from the previous driver. Visibility is adequate in all directions, with speedometer and tachometer – along with digital speed readout – visible in the driver’s peripheral vision.
Steering is taken care of by a leather clad wheel that is amongst one of the best offered in a car. The size is of perfect dimensions and the paddle shifters are static and don’t move with the steering wheel.
Start the Aston up and the benevolent roar of the engine sends tingles down the spine. At idle, it doesn’t sound aggressive like a worked V8 engine – it sounds calm and subdued. After becoming acquainted with the car, we set off.
Driving in traffic is extremely daunting, not so much because of its girth – more so because of its height and price tag. On one occasion, we had an elderly lady leisurely merge into our lane, notwithstanding the fact that there was a sports car worth a cool $350,000 in the lane next to her!
After getting out of the hustle and bustle of inner Sydney, we hit the highway to surprisingly discover a quaint and subdued nature at highway cruising speed. It was hard to pick the ride differences on the highway between the Volvo C30 chase car and the Aston Martin DB9 we were driving - that’s how impressive the suspension compliance was. The Aston really is a GT (Grand Tourer) in every sense of the word.
Ramp up the speed on the eight lane highway – and I do mean ramp up – to a slightly less legal speed and the Aston remains unfussed with the situation. It soon became quite clear that the DB9 had split personalities, as the second we neared the bends – everything changed.
On approach to a corner, the entire physique of the Aston changes. Jam on the anchors and they comply with crisp precision and ample force, start feeding in the steering and every single bump and abrasion on the road is felt. The steering ratio is perfection, as is the weight to the steering. On exit of the corner, care has to be taken when getting back onto the power though.
Jumping onto the throttle in the Aston sends all of the 6.0-litre V12’s power (335.6kWs of power & 570Nm of torqque) through to the rear wheels in a hurried attempt, so gradual application of the power is necessary to keep the electronic nannies at bay. The V12, which sits right over the front axle emits an ear-drum tearing note north of 3000RPM which is impossible to forget and can only be synonymised with an Aston Martin DB9.
During cornering, it’s hard to not notice how stable the car feels. There is barely any body roll to speak of and throughout our ascent and descent of several hilly stretches of road, the entire package remained compliant – such as brakes, engine temperature and grip.
Although our example only had a mere 1000km’s on the clock, crisp acceleration and smooth power delivery were evident throughout the rev range. From a standing start, the Aston Martin DB9 rockets to 100km/h in just 4.9-seconds, and then moves onto a top speed of 300km/h.
The DB9 isn’t exactly a lightweight – weighing in at 1800kg – so throwing the Aston around mid-corner is not an option. As mentioned, gradual applications of the throttle and measured accuracy with the steering are required to get the best out of this road-tearing menace.
There is no gear lever, so forward gear changes are accessed via paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel. ZF Sachs manufactures the '6HP26' gearbox in the Aston Martin and although it’s not as quick as a twin-clutch gearbox – similar to that used in many Audis – it still shifts with immense precision and can hold gears right up to redline if necessary.
The sport mode facilitates for enthusiastic driving by measuring the effort and input from the driver. If the gearbox is in sports mode and notices the driver accelerating with full throttle inputs, along with hard braking, it will actually downshift with braking input to both slow down the vehicle and have the appropriate gear on the ready to shoot out of a corner.
Generally speaking, the ‘Sport’ mode in the Aston does all the work and is a better option than attempting to change gears with the paddles all the time. I’m not really a big fan of paddles for gear changes; I much prefer a well sorted automatic gearbox – much like the ZF – or a traditional full-manual setup.
The noise is often what makes or breaks a car – in this regard it’s certainly not the latter. Below 3000RPM the DB9 sounds nice and throaty – but non intrusive. Head north of 3000RPM and heaven help anyone near the exhaust. The noise it bellows is just absolutely astonishing. It sounds like an F1 car trapped inside a large tin shed at 10,000RPM...it simply melts the ears.
And that about sums up the Aston Martin DB9’s on-road manners and ability. It is a GT in every sense of the word – but at the drop it a hat it becomes a psychotic machine which – just for the fun of it – exceeds every expectation anyone could ever have about a luxury Grand Tourer.
Hand crafted at Aston Martin’s Gaydon headquarters in Warwickshire, the DB9 caters for passenger safety in the utmost respect.
The structure of the DB9 cacoons passengers in a structured cell which features extruded aluminium crumple zones at the front and rear.
Passive safety features include dual-stage driver and front passenger airbags and front side airbags.
Stability control, traction control, ABS brakes, EBD (Electronic Brake-Force Distribution) and BA (Brake Assist) are standard equipment on the DB9 and work in unison with the car to provide excellent stability and cornering control.
Stability control works with yaw rate/lateral acceleration sensors, a steering wheel sensor and an ICU (Integrated Control Unit) to correct understeer or oversteer encountered during cornering. The system can brake individual wheels to bring the vehicle back into the desired line.
The system employed in the DB9 is extremely unobtrusive and caters for hard driving, leaving full control with the driver.
Owning a DB9
Astons are a precious commodity and they are built to last. In the 93 years that the company has been building these works of beauty, they have sold just over 30,000 cars and 10,000 of those, have been sold in the last six years.
But here’s the thing. Of those 30,000 plus cars sold, over 80 per cent are still on the road! That’s a staggering figure which says a lot about the build quality of the cars and the obsession that affects Aston Martin owners and enthusiasts.
Future Aston Martin Cars
Success in racing for Aston Martin means more new road cars, and we couldn’t be happier about that.
The lightweight materials and the various powertrain technologies employed in these purpose built go fast machines, provides a real world test bed on which to develop road models.
The DBS will be a purpose built “go fast’ machine significantly lighter than the DB9. Not all the luxury kit will be dumped though as you can see from the interior shot on the right.
There are no rear seats, instead one of the coolest interior fitouts of all time. Two specially designed pods sit behind the front seats, each with an Arai race helmet in place, so there is absolutely no mistake about the intentions of the DBS.
The company has also given the green light to the Rapide concept which is a 4 door car of superb proportions and should do well up against the hideous Porsche Panamera.