Almost 10 years after making its worldwide debut, the Aston Martin DB9 has received the most extensive re-engineering of its career to date.
Indeed, so confident are its creators that the new car has what it takes to continue its role as the fulcrum of Aston's product line-up as the marque heads into its centenary year, that it’s replacing not only the old DB9, also but the more expensive Virage.
In Aston Martin terms (if few others), the car also looks quite cheap. At £131,995 it's £3845 more expensive than the old DB9, but that deficit is more than accounted for by the new car’s standard carbon-ceramic brakes, which were unavailable even as an option on the previous car.
More interestingly it’s £18,000 cheaper than was the Virage but boasts the new AM11 version of the familiar 5935cc V12 motor, most recently seen in the Vanquish. And while the motor has been deliberately reined in to provide some reason for people to buy the £189,995 flagship, its 510bhp still makes it 21bhp more powerful even than the Virage and fully 40bhp clear of the outgoing DB9.
Its 0-62mph time of 4.6sec may be a full half second off that of the Vanquish, but that’s because big brother has launch control. Its top speed is electronically limited to the same 183mph but the new engine brings better fuel consumption and emissions, although with 19.8mpg and 333g/km it’s still some distance from actually gaining any mercy from the tax man.
When you drive the new DB9, it’s the modifications made to the chassis you notice more than the engine’s new punch or even the sleek new look of its now pedestrian-friendly nose. Its structure is a significant 20 per more rigid, those ceramic discs reduce unsprung weight by 12.5kg and adaptive damping means there’s now a driver selectable Sport, Normal and Track mode. Most of the time, the car’s best left in Normal where true grand touring ride comfort awaits, questioning further the wisdom of spending an additional £58,000 on the stiffer-riding Vanquish.
The Sport setting is fine for country roads where it provides a small but welcome degree of additional body control, although the Track setting probably has more to do with appeasing the marketing department than providing a useful role in the life of the typical DB9 owner.
Problems remain, however. Tall drivers will still find there is too little leg room on board because the DB9 has been denied the latest carbonfibre-reinforced monocoque upon which the Vanquish sits, and the interior design has changed very ltitle. This means the driving environment remains almost as infuriating to operate as it is beautiful to look at thanks to fiddly switchgear and instrument dials no more legible than they were nearly a decade ago.
Dynamically the car is harder to fault, although the ongoing inclusion of a six-speed automatic gearbox smacks either of cost saving or an inability to find a now ubiquitous eight speeder that can cope with the transaxle layout and torque requirement.
Despite these reservations, Aston Martin has done good work in rejuvenating the DB9. In every measure, from performance to economy and from ride to handling, it has made useful progress and for a very modest increase in the asking price.
The biggest question it poses is not to those at whom it is aimed but to the people sniffing around a Vanquish. They should ask themselves whether they wouldn’t really be more comfortable, better entertained and better off with a DB9, a Porsche Cayman S and £10,000 in the bank.