Aston Martin’s DB9 is arguably the raciest entry in the stored automaker’s line of exotic luxury sports cars. It combines classically sleek exterior lines with long-standing British heritage and thoroughly modern powertrain and chassis technology. The DB9 is the modern-day version of James Bond’s classic gadget-laden DB5 coupe from early 007 films starring Sean Connery, like Goldfinger and Thunderball.
A relentlessly posh ride that coddles its occupants with British club-like comfort, the DB9 rewards enthusiastic drivers with an aggressive nature yet maintains its upper-crust character over a wide range of road conditions. Over 14,000 DB9s have been built to date, making it one of the most successful cars in Aston Martin’s storied 95-year history.
For model-year 2011 the DB9 receives a number of modest styling enhancements that include a revised front bumper, along with a newly standard Adaptive Damping System (see below). A limited-production Morning Frost edition features a specific pearlescent white exterior paint treatment along with 10-spoke silver diamond-turned wheels, silver brake calipers, magnum silver grilles, and a metallic bronze leather interior with Piano Black trim. Carbon Black and Quantum Silver editions are inspired by the latter-day 007 movie Quantum of Solace, and include a performance-tuned exhaust system, 10-spoke forged gloss black painted diamond-turned wheels, black grilles, graphite tail pipes, a semi-aniline leather roof lining, coarse silver stitching and polished glass switchgear.
The low-slung DB9 replaced the former DB7 in the famed British automaker’s line for the 2004 model year. It remains available as either a two-seat Volante convertible or a 2+2 coupe that comes with a small back seat that’s best thought of as an auxiliary cargo area. Legend has it the automaker didn’t want to confuse buyers by simply calling it the DB8, in that it packs a 12-cylinder engine (why in that case they then didn’t just call it the DB12 remains unknown). The “DB” part of the name stands for David Brown, who owned Aston Martin in what’s considered by many to be its heyday, from 1947 through 1972.
Designed by noted stylists Ian Callum and Henrik Fisker, the car’s aluminum bodywork is appropriately handsome, with a broad deep front grille and large oval headlamps. Graceful compound curves run rearward to a short rear deck, with a steeply raked windshield and low roofline. The car’s “swan wing” doors open up-ward slightly (by 12 degrees) to help make entry and exiting a bit easier.
Pressing a clear glass button on the dashboard engages a 470-horsepower 6.0-liter V12 engine with a sufficient roar. It drives the rear wheels via either a six-speed-manual transmission or a ZF-supplied six-speed automatic that can be shifted manually via racecar-like steering wheel-mounted paddle-shift controls. The car’s top speed is claimed to be upwards of 180 mph with a 0-60 mph time that clocks in at just under five seconds.
The DB9 is constructed from a lightweight, yet rigid, aluminum-bonded unibody frame with a rear-mounted transaxle that helps the car achieve an ideal 50:50 front-to-rear weight ratio. There’s a sophisticated double-wishbone suspension and beefy 19-inch wheels and tires at all four corners (with 20-inch rims and rubber optional), with an Adaptive Damping System on hand that automatically adjusts the suspension stiffness in real time to maintain crisp cornering abilities while preserving a fairly plush ride over bumps and pavement irregularities. Engaging the system’s Sport mode further accentuates the car’s handling, albeit at the expense of a slightly harsher ride. Dynamic Stability Control helps ensure that all four wheels stay firmly planted to the pavement during extreme or emergency handling situations.
Inside, the driver faces both electroluminescent backlit displays and more-conventional instruments that, like the body and frame, are crafted from aluminum. Unlike most vehicles, the DB9’s tachometer runs counter-clockwise (said to be done for the sake of easier visibility) and does not feature a conventional red line to indicate the engine’s rpm limit. Here, the limit varies according to such factors as outside temperature and how recently the engine was started; a red warning light indicated when the current “red line” has been reached.
A well-trimmed leather-clad cabin comes with luxury items like a hard-drive-based navigation system, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone interface, iPod interface, front parking sensors, side-impact airbags and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A 1,000-watt Beosound audiophile sound system from noted home component maker Bang & Olfusen is optional, as are myriad interior trim treatments for the sake of customization.
The Volante’s well-insulated fabric roof retracts in seconds and hides itself under a hard tonneau cover. A hidden roll bar deploys instantaneously to protect occupants if the vehicle senses a roll over is about to occur.
While the current DB iteration lacks some of the handy accessories fitted in 007’s original movie version from the 1960’s, including a front-firing machine gun, passenger-ejection seat, smoke screen and oil slick dispensers, and front and rear retractable ramming arms, at least one then-futuristic feature that was included in James Bond’s DB5 is now commonplace, namely a mobile telephone.
Aston Martin DB9 Quick Facts
Engine: 6.0-liter V12
Horsepower: 470 @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 443 @ 5000 rpm
City/Highway: MPG 11/17
Transmission: 6-Spd Manual, 6-Spd Automatic
Wheelbase: 107.2 in
Overall Length: 185.5 in
Width: 74.0 in
Height: 51.2 in
Curb Weight: 3,880 lbs
MSRP: $187,615 – $201,115
Did You Know?
In the original Ian Fleming James Bond novels, secret agent 007 drove a 1933 Bentley convertible, and not an Aston-Martin DB5 as was depicted in the early films.