Aston Martin has done exactly the right thing with its new DB9.
This is the handsome devil the brand first debuted in 2003 as the modern successor to the vaunted DB4 through DB7 models (there are 14 “DB” variations in all, some of which have helped make James Bond famous).
Named after David Brown, the entrepreneurial engineer who bought Aston in 1947 and created the first, DB1, a year later, the line has proved so perfect as to require only few adjustments. But each passing year requires something novel on which to spend. And, as people of means know, it would never do to have last year’s Aston.
So the old British brand must develop something exciting enough to pique interest but true enough to the original so as not to offend those rather more sensitive to the slightest change in a long-held favorite.
For the 2016 edition, then, Aston has given us a DB9 GT, a 540-horsepower machine as precise and lethal as the Excalibur sword. This GT shares the 6.0-liter V12 engine with its standard sibling, an all-alloy, quad overhead cam contraption that is mounted toward the front of the car and paired with an automatic six-speed transmission and rear-wheel drive. It goes to 60mph in four and a half seconds; top speed exceeds 180mph.
What does it feel like to drive? Like the perfect silver grey Tom Ford suit Daniel Craig wore in Spectre. Like the steel grey sky in the city right before a thunderstorm. Potent. Powerful. Passionate.
As you drive though city streets, the steering on the DB9 is tight—not tight like a German-engineered coupe but tight in a quicksilver fluid way. The (standard) carbon-ceramic brakes are sensitive—very. There exists in this car no body roll whatsoever. As you accelerate everything moves together; there’s no hesitation, no apparent separation between the (optional) 10-spoke diamond-turned alloy and gloss black wheels, the vaunted chassis, and the aluminum body.
Fuel consumption on the DB9 is extreme: it gets only 13mph in the city, although that improves upon the petrol-thirst of its earliest predecessors, if barely.
Good Looks Will Get You Far
You really won’t care though, will you? The DB9 is meant to please you, the driver, from the moment you see it waiting for you in your underground lair to the moment you slip behind the thick sport-racing steering wheel.
Despite a straightjacket-tight back seat, the DB9 GT has a large trunk, dynamic undulations along its sidebody as the eye goes from front to back, and the lanky roofline of a longer touring car. (It was designed by designed by Ian Callum and Henrik Fisker, the famous minds responsible for the Jaguar F-Type, Aston Martin Vantage, and BMW Z8, among others.) I don’t give much credence to car commercials, but Aston’s official note on this GT—“a potent distillation of DB9’s intoxicating blend of agile sports car and elegant grand tourer”—rings true.
Thing is, this 2016 version is hardly different aesthetically from its predecessor, so you’re going to have to put in some work to make it your own. The new single bi-xenon headlamps with integrated LED sidelights and direction indicators are standard, which is a good start. So are the gloss black painted splitter and diffuser, rear lamps with a black border surrounding them, and the deliciously loud (adjustably so) sports exhaust system. It’s all very effective: A shot of adrenaline lit my veins every time I’d hit the gas on the loudest exhaust setting or whip past the crowds eating along Sunset Boulevard. (Note: This is not how to endear yourself to the neighbors.)
For you, do choose something unique from multiple kinds of wheels (five-spoke, 10-spoke, gloss black, silver, etc.) and brake calipers (black, red, yellow) on offer here. The carbon fiber splitter and diffuser, carbon fiber side strakes, and carbon fiber rear lamp linings are new for the GT and options worth choosing as well—they all help give it a personalized edge.
The Finer Things, No Back Seat
The interior here is lovely. It feels elegant but not stuffy, modern but not nerdy-weird, simple not sparse. But do not invite many friends along with you as you drive this on your midnight excursions. As I alluded to before, the “back seat” is unbearable.
That said, rear parking assist, LED interior lights and auto-dimming mirrors come standard, thanks god. The 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system is well worth the $8,330 extra it’ll cost you to get it; the fluted micro-perforated leather seats, seat heaters, Aston Martin-branded high-quality umbrella are, too. I’d also highly recommend the unique fluted perforated headliner that spans the inside of the roof like the dark inside of a scallop shell. I’ve never seen that effect in any of the hundreds of cars I’ve driven—it’s very special. Forego the (optional) GT headrest embroidery. There are already enough “GT” badges on the exterior. No need to belabor the point.
The options, should you choose to accept them and I hope you do, will push this puppy well over its $199,950 list price. It’s certainly a chunk of change, on par with the Ferrari California T ($202,723) and Bentley Continental GT ($198,500).
The DB9 GT is neither as razor's-edge raw to drive as the California, nor as stately inside and out as the Bentley. But it’s in fact a happy medium between those, with arguably less brand baggage than either. Consider it the Goldilocks choice—not too hot, not too cold. Just right.