BY ANDY ENRIGHT
The Aston Martin DB9 is a car that creates a physical ache of envy. It's effortlessly beautiful, still reasonably rare and is a car that's far from an obvious choice. All of these factors have boosted its desirability and make well looked after used examples worth tracking down. It's a car at a vintage stage in the company's development, retaining a lot of character of the older Astons but adding a welcome dose of quality control and 21st century technology.
Models Covered: (2 dr coupe, 2 dr roadster 5.9 petrol)
The Aston Martin DB9 was introduced as an effective replacement for the last-of-the-line DB7 GT and although it carries over much of this car's V12 engine, even the most cursory inspection will show how far quality and modernity were improved. Both coupe and Volante cabriolet models were launched in late 2004, with the car receiving a mixed press, most observers seduced by the styling but relatively unenthused by its Grand Touring agenda and automatic gearbox. The DB9's position in the Aston Martin firmament was very much underlined with the latter introduction of the more aggressively sporting V8 Vantage model and as a sop to DB9 drivers who loved the car's looks but wanted a more engaging driving experience, the company introduced a Sports Pack suspension upgrade and the six-speed manual gearbox expected from the outset. The manual 'box is an Italian-made Graziano six-speed and specifying it turns the DB9 into a much more engaging driver's car, with the added benefit of shaving £3,000 off the list price of the automatic version. Aston Martin clawed most of that back with a £2,495 Sports Pack that features stiffer springs, roll bars and dampers, revised alloy wheels with titanium bolts and an aluminium undertray that acts as an additional bracing member.
What You Get
Underneath the sleek bodywork resides Aston Martin's VH platform, upon versions of which the V8 Vantage and the eventual Vanquish replacement will sit. It's a mixture of extruded, stamped and die-cast aluminium, bonded together into an extremely light, yet rigid superstructure. What's more, experience with the Vanquish enabled Aston Martin to develop the chassis in a cost-effective manner; essential when dealing with relatively low volume production runs. Most of the exterior panels are aluminium, bonded into position by Aston's sole robot assistant, nicknamed James Bonder. The bootlid and front wings are made of a composite material, helping to keep weight down to a relatively low 1,760kg. Although the asking price may seem heady, when judged in context, it almost seems underpriced. The interior offers a sense of occasion unmatched at this price point with beautifully finished aluminium dials, lustrous leather and quality wood cappings. So many manufacturers fail to get the balance between wood veneers and 'technical' finishes correct but the interior of the DB9 is a case study in how to effectively mix traditional and modern materials. As well as the aluminium, wood and leather, there's even a glass starter button on the centre console. A satellite navigation system is secreted in a pop-up dash top panel. In the unlikely event that you should tire of the majestic engine note, there's a 1300 watt Linn stereo system to keep you entertained. Everything about the car feels substantial. Take a good look around the cabin and you won't find the quality wanting. Aston Martin have engineered the steering to feel meaty with a decent amount of heft to the helm. The ride is firmer than you might expect, especially if you opt for the Michelin Sport rubber rather than the preferable Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tyres but body control is reported to be superb as a result, the Aston by no means left struggling against some of the best handling cars in the class. With power being directed to the rear wheels, the British car can't match the all-wheel drive grip of the Porsche 911 Turbo or the Lamborghini Gallardo but a whole host of electronic trickery ensures that power is deployed cleanly on all but the greasiest surfaces.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The switch to a more modern manufacturing plant at Gaydon has done wonders for the consistency of output, especially where the DB9 is concerned. These cars are relatively sturdy for a vehicle with supercar performance and appeal, years of expertise in V12 engine production giving Aston a serious amount of experience to fall back on. Some of the early 2004 cars did have some niggling paint issues but these have largely been ironed out under warranty and the paintwork on later cars should be mirror smooth. Brake squeal is an issue some DB9 owners have identified and in a few cases brake pads have needed to be replaced in as little as 4,000 miles. It's worth asking the keeper of any prospective DB9 if they have 'uncorked' the exhaust valve. This is a job that takes a few minutes and makes the car sound noticeably sportier and consequently louder without affecting the fuelling. If you want drama and a magnificent exhaust note, it's definitely recommended, although if you're a higher mileage driver who does a lot of motorway work, you'll find it a little wearing. Otherwise there's not a lot to look for. The alloys are prone to kerbing, and the front end can pick up stone chips and spoiler scrapes very easily but the interior is hard wearing. One issue that has proved a common fault is the top-spec Linn stereo not releasing CDs and there have been gripes about electric window reliability, faulty dash sensors and juddering steering, all ironed out on later cars.
(approx based on a 2005 V12 coupe) Most services will cost around £700 with the big expense of any enthusiastically driven DB9 being rear tyres. The rears are usually sourced at around £450 a pair although prices can vary. Some report being charged up to £750 for a set of identical rear boots. Brakes also take a hammering with pads being around £400 a pair. The bumper, bootlid and front wings are all lightweight composite parts and are very expensive to replace. Finally, a tip about replacing wiper blades. When the wiper is in its rest position, it sits in a lip behind the leading edge of the bonnet making it impossible to change the blade. To make this replacement possible, turn the key to the second detent and depress #'s 7 & 8 on the infotainment center and the arms will come up half way on the windshield. It won't work if the bonnet is open.
On the Road
In these days of super coupes pumping out five or six hundred bhp, the DB9's 450bhp output may not seem initially outstanding, but the engine that does the cranking is a thing of beauty. It's essentially an uprated version of the DB7 Vantage's V12 and it sounds utterly intoxicating courtesy of revised cams, inlet and exhaust manifolds and an exhaust tuned for the enthusiast ear. Although a little more discreet than the banshee wail of the Vanquish, the DB9 is still a car that will have you dropping the windows a few millimetres when you spot a tunnel approaching. In truth, it leans towards the more sporting end of the spectrum, thrusting to 60mph in just 4.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 186mph. Although the 'Touchtronic 2' gearbox that accompanied the first production DB9 models may not seem overtly sporting, featuring as it does an automatic-style torque converter, the change is slick and positive enough to please keen drivers via steering wheel paddle controls. It actually handles automatic changes a whole lot better than sequential manual units. In 'manual' mode, it holds onto gears throughout corners, never shifting up and leaving the car wallowing mid-bend without drive as some less intelligent units are wont to do. It matches downshifts with a sharp blip of the throttle and has a neat trick up its sleeve as well. Knock the left paddle to downchange a little too early and the engine's electronics will remember this input and only downchange when the speed drops to an acceptable level.
The Aston Martin DB9 is a car that rewards careful consideration when buying used. Our tip is to speak to as many current owners as possible and buy as late a model as you can sensibly afford, sticking to the classic colours.