What's New for 2008
The 2008 Aston Martin DB9 adds a few welcome standard features, including cupholders, iPod integration, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a windshield-embedded radio antenna and an upgraded premium sound system. Satellite radio has been added to the options list.
A quick perusal of the Microsoft Word thesaurus shows the word "exotic" as being synonymous with striking, interesting, glamorous, colorful and out of the ordinary. If Bill Gates and friends had bothered to plug the 2008 Aston Martin DB9 into that thesaurus, the exact same words would pop up. Like all exotics, the DB9 stands out in its own special way -- defying comparison by catering to the specialized tastes of Aston Martin's devoted clientele and the aficionados who yearn for the keys to one of these instant-classic automobiles.
Under those sexy lines resides Aston Martin's venerable "VH" aluminum platform, which underpins all its models. Although the DB9 is hardly a light car (the heavier Volante convertible tips the scales at 4,000 pounds), this aluminum architecture does manage to keep weight in check. This in turn allows for greater agility and less taxed acceleration from the 6.0-liter V12. By comparison, a Bentley Continental GT weighs 5,300 pounds.
The DB9 is available in coupe and convertible body styles, the latter of which is known as the Volante. With its roof lopped off, the DB9 loses much of its structural rigidity, resulting in cowl shake over rough pavement and the need for Aston Martin to soften the suspension to compensate. As such, the DB9 Volante should be considered more of a boulevard cruiser than a sporting GT, as the coupe is. Folks who are most interested in performance and handling should keep this in mind, knowing that top-down motoring comes at the price of the coupe's taut structure and sharper handling. They'll also want to consider the optional Sports Pack, which includes stiffer springs, shock absorbers and antiroll bars along with an additional rigidity increase and weight savings.
Regardless of body style, though, all DB9s have a few very important aspects in common. First, they are simply breathtaking to look at. Second, their interiors are impeccably crafted and benefit this year from a few welcome additional features. And third, the 6.0-liter V12 is superb. Although 450 horsepower may seem on the low side given the Bentley Continental's 552 horses, the Aston's significant weight advantage produces equal-to-better acceleration.
Among exotics, the fellow Brit Bentley Continental GT is the closest competitor to the DB9 in terms of power and character, but even that comparison is a stretch. To a further degree, cars like the Mercedes-Benz CL600 and SL600, Maserati GranTurismo, and to a lesser extent, Lamborghini Gallardo and Audi R8, are in the general price and performance ballpark, but offer vastly different styles and various degrees of handling acumen. In other words, if you have your heart set on the 2008 Aston Martin DB9, it's highly unlikely you'll care that exotic A is quicker or exotic B has 18 additional yards of Connolly leather. If the DB9 is your definition of exotic, nothing else matters.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Aston Martin DB9 is available in coupe and convertible (Volante) body styles. Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, HID headlamps, rear parking sensors, cruise control, power-folding exterior mirrors, an auto-dimming interior mirror, automatic climate control, power and heated front seats with driver memory settings, Bluetooth, a hard-drive-based navigation system and a premium audio system with six-CD changer and iPod integration. Being an Aston Martin, it offers a high degree of available paint and interior color customization. Options include front parking sensors, differing interior trims and wheels, satellite radio and a Sports Pack (coupe only), which adds firmer spring, shock and antiroll bar settings along with lighter-weight 19-inch wheels.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive Aston Martin DB9 is a powered by a 6.0-liter V12 capable of 450 hp and 420 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission and a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters are available. With either transmission or body style, acceleration is prodigious. According to Aston Martin, a manual-equipped coupe gets from zero to 60 mph in a scant 4.6 seconds, while the automatic betters it with a 4.3-second run. The heavier convertible is a few ticks slower.
Safety equipment on the 2008 DB9 includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags (that protect head and torso) and rear parking sensors. Front parking sensors are optional. The Volante convertible comes standard with automatically deploying rollover hoops.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside the DB9's cabin, you'll find wide expanses of sumptuous leather and unique wood trim. The milled-aluminum instrument panel and distinctive wood finishing are particularly breathtaking. There are some foibles, however. Aston's penchant for having the speedometer and tachometer needles rotate in opposite directions might not strike everyone as cool, and the speedo features such a huge range of numbers that it's rendered practically useless. Also, the center stack has small, tightly spaced buttons adorned in an unbecoming silver finish. An improved design taken from the new DBS is said to be scheduled for next year.
With regard to practicality, both the coupe and convertible have a rear seat, but the laughable dearth of legroom and headroom renders it useful only to Hobbits and shopping bags. The latter is important since the coupe's trunk can only accommodate 6 cubic feet of stuff. The Volante actually has a slightly larger cargo hold, and its power-operated cloth top retracts in just 17 seconds, stowing under its own body-color tonneau cover.
The DB9's V12 engine is quite tractable while driving through city gridlock, and its low-rpm response is nothing short of thrilling. The DB9 coupe's ride quality is a blend of firm control and supple response. American speed limits don't allow for a true show of the coupe's abilities, which is too bad because this car is perfectly happy to whoosh along at speeds well in excess of 100 mph. Much the same can be said of the 2008 Aston Martin DB9 Volante, though it feels noticeably softer and less rigid at speed, resulting in a busy ride over rough pavement.
As exotic GTs go, though, both Astons are generally exhilarating to drive, as they change direction easily and respond smartly to steering and braking inputs. Still, committed DB9 coupe buyers should make sure they specify the Sports Pack option, as it's only with these modifications that the DB9 really rises to the occasion on back roads. Compared to the standard setup, a DB9 with the Sports Pack exhibits better steering feel, sharper turn-in response and better ride control over midcorner bumps.