Lighter, faster and sharper to look at, the new Aston Martin DB9 bridges the gap perfectly between the V8 Vantage and Vanquish – replacing the poorly-judged Virage in the line-up. But are the changes enough for it to keep up with much newer rivals?
On the outside, the DB9 is essentially a rebadged Virage, right down to the grille, LED running lights and chunkier side-skirts. In fact, a more pronounced boot lid ‘flip’, which it shares with the Vanquish, is the only major change to the bodywork. Gorgeous 20-inch alloys are now standard, though, and the overall effect is a beautifully proportioned, and slightly softer, alternative to the Vanquish.
Inside, the DB9 has new hand-stitched leather quilting across the doors and seats, with Alcantara used on headlining. Fit and finish is excellent, with the same clean, well-designed console finish as in previous models – although the more user-friendly interface on the Vanquish highlights how fiddly the climate and stereo controls are in comparison.
Yet the DB9 is all about "active driving", Aston Martin says, which is apparent from the moment you sit in the driver’s seat. Push the crystal key into the starter slot and the revised 6.0-litre V12 fires into life.
Dr Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin’s CEO, says that his engineers know the difference between ‘noise’ and ‘sound’, and the DB9 is the perfect example. The new V12 has 510bhp - a 40bhp increase - while torque is up by 20Nm to 620Nm. With its standard six-speed paddle-shift gearbox, the new DB9 is now two-tenths of a second quicker from 0-62mph, at 4.6 seconds.
Despite the potent performance, the DB9 is an extremely easy car to drive around town, with a comfortable ride and steering that has feel but isn’t too heavy. The gearshifts are smooth in both auto and manual modes, as is the power delivery. Stretch this engine, though, and the swell of acceleration still leaves a lasting impression.
Like the Vanquish, a new three-stage adaptive damping system adds depth to the DB9’s abilities. By firming up the suspension and adding weight to the steering as you toggle through the Normal, Sport and Track modes, you can create a steadily more ferocious character. If you want to leave the suspension and steering alone, a separate Sport mode changes the gearshift-points, sharpens throttle response and opens up the exhaust baffles permanently.
In keeping with the DB9’s more relaxed demeanour, the default suspension setting is slightly softer than that of the Virage and Vanquish. The result is a supple ride and super refinement on the move. To get the most from the DB9, we reckon the softest suspension with Sport mode engaged strikes the best balance, so you can cruise along comfortably and enjoy the engine note in all its glory.
Even in Normal mode, the DB9 turns in sharply and lets you push hard both into and out of corners, thanks to its supreme composure and lack of body roll. The Sport suspension mode tightens things up that little bit more, while the Track setting isn’t quite as hard as the Vanquish but is probably still too firm for public roads.
Where the DB9 really impresses, though, is under heavy braking. Carbon-ceramic brakes are now fitted as standard (as they were on the Virage) – and offer brutal deceleration along with brilliant feel. They also save 12.5kg, a major contributor to a total weight loss of 15kg.