- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2004

Although the Aston Martin DB9 could be used solely as transportation from Point A to Point B, doing so would undermine the incredible aesthetic achievement that Aston has pulled off. The DB9 is a spectacular piece of work, both inside and out.

Here, the term “vehicle” applies in a broader, more conceptual sense. That is, the lucky few who experience the DB9, aside from arriving at their physical destination, will also be transported to the narrow realm of unparalleled automotive execution.

Aston Martin’s design philosophy is simple: build a beautiful, elegant and modern interpretation of a traditional sports car. In addition, make it a worthy successor to the DB7, Aston Martin’s best-selling vehicle ever.

This British marque chose a minimalist approach with the new model, leaving off extraneous trim, hiding the front and rear bumpers, and extending the hood right to the front edge of the supercar.

To make it look like the DB9 was milled from a single piece of metal, Aston Martin has set the headlights into the front fenders and made the door handles flush. Curves appear everywhere — the roof line, the rear clip, the fender flares, the hood — and suggest “a supremely fit person,” according to AM. Designers strove for this image over the hard, jagged, body-builder-type look. Aluminum 19-inch wheels and tires fill the fenders and maintain athletic proportion. Both Coupe and Convertible (called Volante) versions are offered.

The transition into the 2+2 cockpit has been paid special attention, because the doors are engineered to swing upward slightly when opened to ease occupant entry. Closing them takes advantage of gravity and the shutting process is gentler than if they were slammed conventionally.

Once inside, occupants will find the DB9 just as dazzling as they did standing beside it. Twenty new leather colors are available to juxtapose against the wood trim in the center stack. Aston Martin employs large single pieces of wood rather than small strips, hoping they will appear more structural and furniturelike. Walnut, mahogany and bamboo are offered, and each is finished will oil instead of high gloss. The oil provides a natural, fit appearance compared with the plastic, artificial look produced by gloss. Aluminum is used to accent the door handles, instrument cluster and dashboard.

A special feature is the glass starter button, in the top row of the center stack. Rather than using a plastic button, Aston Martin etched its logo into a clear glass one. While the engine is running the button glows red, and while off a light blue. The main instrument cluster is another innovation, and uses organic electroluminescent displays instead of regular LCDs. Comparatively; OELs are easier to read, especially at an angle. Optional interior features include cruise control, seat heaters, navigation, tire-pressure monitoring, and park distance sensors. Cup holders are available as an accessory, as well.

A crimson starter button indicates that the 6-liter V-12 is spinning. That 48-valve mill was developed from the Vanquish’s existing 12-cylinder. New parts include four camshafts, both the intake and exhaust manifold, the crankshaft, and the engine management system. An impressive 450 horsepower boils at 6,000 rpm while 420 foot-pounds of torque twists at 5,000 revs. That’s a lot of revolution for maximum torque, but Aston says that 80 percent is queued up at just 1,500 rpm. By locating the power plant in a midfront location, weight distribution is an equal 50:50.

Aston Martin will bolt one of two transmissions to each V-12 engine. A traditional six-speed manual uses a twin-plate clutch, and a six-speed automatic gets shift-by-wire gear changing. Rather than using a conventional lever to pick a drive mode, different buttons engage park, reverse, drive, or neutral. Manual shifting via paddles behind the steering wheel can also be activated on the automatic box.

In the interest of ultimate handling performance, a frame made primarily of aluminum was used to underpin the DB9. Although 25 percent lighter than the DB7’s body shell, the new frame is said to be twice as stiff torsionally. Ultrasonic welding is used in place of normal spot welding and is approximately 90 percent stronger. Even the driveshaft is made of carbon fiber to make the transfer of power to the rear wheels as rigid as possible. Body parts are constructed of both aluminum and composite.

Fully independent suspension uses double-wishbone configurations and, again, the components are fabricated from aluminum. The steering rack is mounted ahead of the front wheels to increase performance, especially under hard braking. Four-piston calipers bind 14-inch rotors in front and 13s out back. Those discs are not cross-drilled, but instead ventilated and grooved. Additionally, ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, and Brake Assist provide electronic assistance. Ultimate stopping power relies on 19-inch tires, measuring 235/40 at the bow and 275/35 towards the stern.

If the unthinkable occurs, and the seamlessly designed DB9 body acquires crumples, air bags assure occupant safety. Dual-stage units emerge in front of the driver and front passenger, while seat-mounted ones provide lateral buffering. The seat belts also include pretensioners. Volante models deploy roll hoops from the rear seat headrests in the event of a rollover. The A-pillars are also built to support twice the weight of a DB9.

So what do you get when you combine the latest and best structural technology, a potent but refined powertrain, a quirky yet extravagant cockpit, and one the most unencumbered body designs ever? You get the all-new DB9. Nearly all of the 2,000 DB9 models being produced for this model year are spoken for.

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