Thunderball – Tom Jones – 1965
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, you could not be accused of being pessimistic for saying that Aston Martin would not survive the decade. Their DB7 was starting to age very badly against its competitors. Especially if you consider that it was based on a 20-year-old platform when it was new. And it had already been in production for another 10 years at this point.
Aston Martin – The Coolest Brand in the World
Then in 2003, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the boys from Aston pulled back the covers on the DB9, and seemingly over-night Aston Martin went from virtually dead, to being voted the “Coolest Brand in the World”. The DB9 is not just a modern- or future- classic, it’s a generational icon. The car we all dreamed of owning one day.
No-one cared that it was built on a Ford platform, using a large number of Ford parts and electronic components. It was rubberneck inducingly beautiful from every angle and sported the 5.9L V12 engine from the Vanquish under its gorgeous skin. Of course, once the makers of James Bond parked 007’s rump in the seat of one in “Spectre” it was suddenly the coolest car in the world.
Unfortunately, as with all expensive cars there are always going to be those people who will point out that maintenance costs on the V12 are a little steeper than their VW Polo. These motoring muggles will drone on about the fact that the DB9 burns more petrol in 5 minutes than their hybrid uses in a week, the boot is hardly big enough for a week’s shop and it’s far too expensive to park it anywhere without having a mild panic attack.
And they are probably right….
Wait… what? – If you measure the DB9 by the same means as you would measure a daily driving car, then it probably wouldn’t score too highly in several important categories. It’s nowhere near as reliable as a Toyota, nor as practical as a Golf, as well built as an Audi or as comfortable as a Mercedes. However, measuring the DB9 against other cars, is simply wrong. Because today I put it to you that the DB9 is NOT, in fact, a car at all.
The Aston Martin DB9 is an experience.
Even as you approach the car you can tell that this is something special. The shape is absolutely captivating, starting with that iconic grill shape and its deep concave top corners that shape the top of the bonnet. Once it catches your eye, you can not stop staring at the superb subtlety of its details. The long bonnet, steeply raked windscreen and the way the entire car seems to sit between its wheels rather than on top of them. It is almost certainly one of the most beautiful cars ever made, incredibly striking, instantly recognisable. Yet it manages to be quite subtle and not vulgar or garish in its execution. The DB9, oozes so much class that once you stand next to it, your R30k designer suit looks like a dishrag.
Everything is either covered in leather, wood or real metal
Step inside and you are greeted with a medley of high-quality materials. Everything is either covered in leather, wood or real metal. Even the stitching appears to have been done with a velvet rope-like, thick, almost fluffy thread. The carpets are so plush you could easily lose your house keys in there, and never find them again. The view in front includes a glance at the vents on the bonnet, and one of the most stunning instrument binnacles ever installed on a car.
The dials remind you of the genuine craftsmanship and meticulous detail you might expect in a very expensive watch. An artform sadly lost these days in favour of screens and displays that are simply designed in software.
When the big V12 fires up, you smile. It’s not voluntary, and it never gets old. At slow speeds (with the exhaust valve fuse on the garage bench) it has a beautiful thunderous rumble. It sounds quite unlike other V12’s, possibly because it has its origins in the welding together of two Ford V6’s. Regardless of where the engine got its DNA – it works. There is so much torque, it makes the big GT car feel almost weightless. In most normal driving, you barely need anything more than idle.
it simply doesn’t matter what gear you’re in
Wind it up a bit and the rumble turns into a glorious howl, with a perfectly judged crackle on gear-changes or over-run. If the DB9 was an ugly square box on wheels with this engine, it would still be a masterpiece. Even the automatic gearbox doesn’t show its age here because the shifts are plenty quick enough. The engine has so much torque and power throughout the rev-range, it simply doesn’t matter what gear you’re in.
The ride is just firm enough that you can feel exactly what each contact patch is doing, but soft enough that you can easily spend 10 hours in the seat without getting uncomfortable. I didn’t really test the handling, since I was constantly VERY aware that this is not my car. I can report though, the steering feels great and quite direct. Body roll is minimal and even in Volante form the chassis feels like it would take a lot to be challenged.
The Aston Martin DB9 Volante is so much more though. There really is an X-Factor that can not be explained. Driving in this car makes you feel so incredibly special that everything else seems to fade into insignificance. There is something about how all the elements come together that simply can’t be put into words. This car really is so much better than the sum of its parts. You can not read about it, you can not see it – you literally have to drive it and FEEL it. Experience it.