What is it?
Strange how car makers often leave the best until last. Here’s Aston Martin’s five-year-old DB9 Volante going through its second mid-life tweak, with just a couple of years of life left, and it has hit the jackpot.
The changes are minimal, really, but what an effect. Visually, there are a few external styling tweaks to the grille, bumpers and tail-lights.
But crucially, the Volante also gets new computer-controlled Bilstein dampers, managed by mapping that shows Aston’s engineers can create a nicely balanced yet compliant chassis still capable of very good body control.
What’s it like?
In so doing, they’ve fed some Jaguar-style sophistication into the DB9’s chassis. What a contrast to the first-gen Volante, a soggy and ill-disciplined machine.
The foundations for this transformation were laid in the DB9’s 2010 model year revisions late last year.
A new cross-car beam with beefed-up support for the steering column sharpened the steering and a shear panel stiffener for the front subframe eradicated front-end waywardness.
Aston introduced Bilstein dampers in place of Multimatic units back then, but they still operated with distinct bump/rebound steps. And there was just one setting. For better body control, you needed to spec the sports chassis, with the inevitably compromised ride.
These new infinitely variable dampers get rid of those steps, and bring a much better standard setting or firmer ride at the touch of a button.
For some drivers, the body control still might not be sufficiently Germanic and iron-fisted, even in the sports setting. But everyone else will regard it as a great step forward.
In fact, the ease with which the Volante now carries speed through corners throws the spotlight on the ZF auto, which, at times, seems non-plussed by the Volante’s new alacrity.
It’s a minor point, but it gives clues to where Aston will be going with the new DB9, out around 2012/13. That car will be based around today’s underpinnings.