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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Even with its 510bhp motor, the DB9 is not that quick. It hits 62mph in 4.6sec, which is about the same as an automatic base-level Porsche 911 costing little more than half the money the Aston requires. But the nature of that performance? Well, that remains something else again.

There's still nothing to match the sound of a large capacity, normally aspirated V12 engine in full flight, and whatever little the DB9 may lack in pure punch, it more than makes up for in automotive theatre.

The Aston Martin's gearbox smacks of cost saving measures

Aston's engine is actually quite peaky. It develops maximum torque way up at 5500rpm, which is just 1000rpm below the point at which it makes peak power. However, while that may irritate in a saloon, in an Aston Martin coupé it feels absolutely correct.

The urge builds as the revs approach the red line, creating a rising crescendo of mechanical music matched by very few cars of any price made anywhere in the world. Ageing and of humble origins though this engine may be, it remains magnificent. Top speed is limited to 183mph.

If it is let down at all, it is by the retention of the same old XF six-speed automatic transmission. When the DB9 was new in 2003, this gearbox was state of the art; now, rivals offer either more ratios and a slicker shift or a proper dual-clutch transmission.

Aston Martin actually has such a gearbox and uses it on the Vantage S, but it is thought not to fit the more gentle character of the DB9.

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It seems almost certain that, like other ZF customers, Aston Martin will in time switch from six gears to eight, but until then the transmission will remain a weak link and a slight but clearly sour note in an otherwise still sweet and memorable powertrain.