Grand Touring Icons: Aston Martin DB9

Grand Touring Icons

Although it may not be the fastest or most powerful GT car out there, the DB9 is second to none with its absolutely gorgeous design.

None of the cars in this series are ugly, not even close, but neither are any of them quite as gorgeous as the Aston Martin DB9. There is, of course, more to a GT than that, but the DB9 has all of that too. The Vanquish supercar might have grabbed more headlines at debut, but it was really the DB9 which brought the brand back from the brink of obscurity. It has also been suggested that it is the coolest car in the entire world, and there is some evidence to support this claim.

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The design of the DB9 was started by Ian Callum, before he left for Jaguar, but was finished by Henrik Fisker. Both men have designed some truly beautiful cars both before and since the DB9, and this collaboration of sorts also worked out extremely well. The car is built using quite a bit of aluminum, but it is not really a very light car, weighing about 3,900lbs. The engine is a reworked version of the V12 out of the older Vanquish. It is a 6.0-liter aluminum V12 which produces 470 horsepower. Its 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds and quarter-mile time of 13.2 seconds aren't exactly industry leading, but this brings up a good point.

Simply put, if speed is that important to you, buy a DBS. The DBS is based on the DB9, and it takes a trained eye to spot the difference between the two. This actually works out well. The DBS inherited the DB9's good looks and the DB9 gets to cash in on the more hard-edged DBS's cache of cool. Quite a lot of this coolness comes from James Bond, who drove a DBS in the two most recent movies and never actually drove a DB9. Thanks to the DB5, all Astons have a certain amount of Bond cool, but the DBS/DB9 is the current hot item. Top Gear declared it the coolest car in the world, and gave it its own special fridge next to the cool wall.

Truthfully, we're also of the opinion that the DB9 is actually cooler than the Bond machine. Not only is what Jeremy Clarkson says about it needing to impress Kristin Scott Thomas true, but the DB9 is also the more refined machine. The DBS's track focus and hard, crashing suspension takes something away from the GT experience. The DB9 is the Aston which offers the appropriate level of comfort and usability to be considered for actual touring in the real world. This coolness is important, because the DB9 is now eight years old, and it would otherwise be getting a bit long in the tooth.

The V12 engine in particular seems nearly obsolete, especially when you consider that Ferrari got 612 horsepower out of a V12 with the same displacement without forced induction in the competing 599 GTB Fiorano. That's a difference of 142 horsepower, and you will definitely feel the difference when you step on the gas. Now, the Ferrari costs more than a DB9 and a half, but the Aston still costs a bit over $200,000 and for that price, you don't want something obsolete. That is, unless its coolness makes up for it, and for quite a few buyers, it does. And of course, as we mentioned earlier, the DB9 isn't all about speed anyway.

The DB9 was still a pretty big improvement over its predecessor as it is. Although both the DB9 and the preceding DB7 were both developed during the Ford years, the approach taken to the two cars could not have been more different. The DB7 was, in reality, a Jaguar. It was an XK8 with a slightly different look to it and different engine options. It was even built in a Jaguar factory, the same one which had just stopped building the XJ220. At launch, it was powered by a supercharged straight-six and yet still cost $140,000. A V12 was eventually offered, and the DB7 was actually the best-selling Aston ever at the time. But the DB9 blew it out of the water.

That record set by the DB7 was for selling 7,000 units over a ten-year period, but Aston has actually had to expand their facilities since the introduction of the DB9 because their 5,000 units per year capacity has proved to be inadequate to meet demand. That's a huge increase in sales, and it serves as one more example of how people really would prefer to buy a car which is made properly over a badge engineered rolling logo. The DB9 has received some criticism over the years for not offering the kinds of speed and/or driving dynamics offered by some of the other cars in its price range. But that's because there is no chart to accurately compare comfort or aesthetics.

The things which make the DB9, or any true grand touring machine, great are all intangible. That ability to combine the crassness of speed and power with sophistication and comfort is not an easy thing to do, but it is even harder to quantify. But this does mean that any time someone criticizes the DB9 for being slower than the Lamborghini Gallardo, you can take comfort in the fact that they have completely missed the point.