If the devil is in the details, he has found himself incredibly busy in the English Midlands of late; specifically in the environs of Gaydon in Warwickshire, the new home of Aston Martin. As founding father, Lionel Martin, considered manufacturing a sports car replica of his successful racecar, he announced that it would handle like a Bugatti and be finished like a Rolls Royce. Thus the performance, style and attention to detail that is Aston Martin nearly a century later, remains a legacy of the founder.
The second half of Mr. Martins edict has been raised to a level of accomplishment to embarrass the original target. The quality of leathers, alignment and location of stitching, fit and finish of interior components and panels, and invisible but certainly not least important, the structural material that supports the occupants, all illustrate the level of attention paid to time on the road. This last is worthy of comment. In some European makes, the control of the human participant becomes so restrictive that bolster bruises are a predictable result of a long drive. Interior designers at Aston Martin have created a structural foam that creates a firm support during moments of automotive entertainment while offering luxurious accommodations during the remaining 97 percent of the journey. All interior components are manufactured in the Gaydon facility. Ones hands can only come in contact with leather, wood (hand-finished single piece components, there are no veneers think fine furniture) and satin- or bright-finished aluminum. Only the crystal block officially called an ECU (Emotion Control Unit) masquerading as the starting key, is made by a fine jeweler in London. It too is what it seems to be. Even the telepathic steering wheel is carefully sheathed in matching leather and stitched together in the interior department at the works. The upholstery shop alone is worth a visit.
While the DB9s 700-watt Premium Audio System with Dolby Pro Logic II produces remarkable quality sound, for 2010 the option list will include Bang & Olufsens complex integrated acoustic system developed for the DBS. It includes B&Os proprietary Acoustic Lens Technology that produces 180 of horizontal dispersion of high frequencies and a complete interior structure created for elimination of irrelevant sound and augmentation of the electronic output. It gives the listeners an improved sense of space, staging and realism anywhere in the car. Not to overlook the relevance of that sweet V12 voice when the system is switched off.
There is nothing annoying or obnoxious about the sound of the DB9 at full song either. There is a sweetness to the output of its DOHC 6-liter V12. Its volume increases as a direct proportion to its activity, but its 470 horsepower is delivered at 6,000 rpm without irritation. And with its sudden arrival in the second of six gear ratio choices comes 60 mph in less than 5 seconds from a standing start. All six of those gears are in a mid-mounted transaxle that creates the optimum 50/50 dynamic balance and sites 85 percent of the vehicles mass between the axles. The drive train delivers its 443 lb-ft of torque to 275/35 ZR Bridgestone Potenza-mounted 9.5 x 19-inch rear wheels with anti-dive and anti-squat geometry by aluminum double wishbone suspension. At the front are more aluminum double wishbones to secure anti-dive geometry for the 8.5 x 19-inch wheels carrying 235/40 ZR Bridgestones. To rein in all that acceleration, Aston has included ventilated and grooved steel discs at all four corners, with 355mm diameter at the front and 330mm at the rear. Four-piston monobloc calipers are radial-mounted for all four discs. All of that power and grip is controlled by Servotronic; a speed-sensitive, power-assisted, rack and pinion steering system. The result of all this dynamic precision is a large, comfortable 2 + 2 with the performance and sensitivity of a super sports car.
After two successive years of GT1 victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in 2009 the Aston Martin V12 took fourth overall and effectively won the Petrol Class as the first gasoline-powered LMP1 car across the finish. In his post-Le Mans comments Dr Ulrich Bez, Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin, reminded us, In the same month that we launch the new V12 Vantage and DBS Volante, it is fitting that the same 6.0-litre V12 heart powers our LMP1 cars to such an outstanding Le Mans debut. I am thrilled for the whole team.
Your ever-diligent scribe was offered the opportunity to drive the 2009 DB9 across France in both directions; from Le Mans to Alsace and back to the Channel ferry for an additional run into the English midlands to visit both Aston facilities; Newport Pagnell, where it all began and Gaydon, where the new age is being created. The interior appointments were exactly as they will be in the 2010 edition. After hours on the road at a varying range of speeds and conditions, the cars spacious interior was much appreciated. Even at the drivers busiest nothing interferes with elbows, foot space, or vision. And at the Auto Route limit of 120 km/h for a couple of fuel-tank-range segments, I actually bettered the suggested fuel consumption of 17 mpg on the highway. The suggested city mpg is 11 and I doubt that I could have exceeded that, because the sweet song of the V12 was too tempting to hear in higher rev ranges, even briefly.
My recent drive in California reinforced my first impressions. The Aston Martin DB9 is a remarkable touring sports car that offers breathtaking potential with a high degree of luxury and civility for the journey and the satisfying attention of beautiful design upon arrival.