Can it really be 10 years since the DB9 was launched? I remember my first drive like it was 10 days ago, sharing the car with the inestimable Gavin Green, charging up and down the Col de Vence just because we could and marvelling at how much better it was than the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti I’d driven earlier that week.
This new one doesn’t look much different, does it? While Ferrari has gone all post-modern and replaced the Scaglietti with the FF shooting brake, through choice or circumstance Aston has chosen a resolutely conservative approach. Its looks are little changed inside or out: there remains a 5935cc V12 under the bonnet (still built in a Ford factory in Cologne) while the essential architecture Aston Martin likes to call V/H (vertical/horizontal, to reflect its high adaptability) remains, albeit in updated form. Its power finds its way to the rear wheels through the same six-speed slushmatic ZF gearbox it used all those years ago.
Arm yourself with this knowledge and sit in the car. Once you’ve noted just how space-inefficient the interior still is, how little room is provided for the legs of tall drivers and how awful the ergonomics remain, you might well conclude its time is up. The DB9 had a good run, but after a decade what is needed is not a mild update but a new car. This the DB9 is emphatically not.
But tarry a while longer and ponder for a moment some of the changes that cannot be seen. The engine, for instance, displaces the same number of cubic centimetres, but is fully 40bhp more powerful and now has the same steam as the DBS, Aston’s flagship until the new Vanquish came along. It has new suspension settings and carbon ceramic brakes, which previously weren’t even an option. Its structure has been stiffened to the tune of 20 per cent, its spring and damper rates carefully rethought with the latter now driver programmable into Normal, Sport or Track modes.
What hasn’t changed much is the price: it’s almost £4000 more expensive than the old DB9 (which the brakes alone would explain) and fully £18,000 cheaper than the now defunct and still less powerful Virage, which used to plug the gap between DB9 and Vanquish.
This is an unexpectedly impressive car. It’s faster than I was expecting or than its figures suggest: blame that sluggish gearbox and the lack of launch control for modest on-paper pace. The engine has never sounded better and spreads its power evenly across the rev range.
But the surprise is that it really handles. DB9s have always steered well and been at home in the corners, but this one feels alive to your every whim. It turns in sharply, grips hard and, if you so choose, drifts beautifully. Yet when you reactivate the traction control, it cruises as well as any DB9 ever did.
The biggest question it throws up is what possible reason can there be to spend another £58,000 on the Vanquish? It is quicker (although the figures are launch control-assisted) but little more fun to drive and a less convincing tourer, too, thanks to its firmer ride. In the end it’s only the exclusivity created by its £189,995 price tag that puts clear air between it and the DB9. If you don’t care about that, get a DB9, a Porsche Cayman R and put the rest in the bank.
Engine: 5.9 litres, 12 cylinders, normally aspirated
Top Speed: 183mph
Power: 510bhp at 7200rpm
Fuel/Co2: 19.8mpg, 333g/km