What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Aston Martin DB9 gets a very mild refresh to the front and rear styling -- you'll need side-by-side photos to tell the difference. More important, the DB9 receives the active dampers found in the DBS, further closing the gap between the two models. The Sport package has been dropped.
There will surely come a day when the car is no longer our preferred means of transportation. Hard to fathom, but then someone would've said the same thing 200 years ago had you told them horses would become mere playthings for wealthy little girls. On that day in the distant future when we finally succumb to the allure of dilithium-powered hover pods, humanity shall look fondly back at the Aston Martin DB9 as one of the prettiest cars to roam the Earth. It shall serve as proof that the automobile was so much more than a preferred means of transportation.
In the here and now, the 2011 Aston Martin DB9 has more to worry about than its place in a future museum. Beneath all that pretty is a car that has to compete with some of the finest exotic automobiles now in existence: Audi, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, all likely to share space in the same future museum.
The DB9 brings to the table the same lightweight yet structurally rigid all-aluminum platform that underpins every Aston Martin. This relatively lightweight package fosters greater agility and quicker acceleration from the 470-horsepower V12, which propels the DB9 coupe to 60 mph in what Aston Martin estimates to be 4.6 seconds. That's pretty darn quick, but some of its fellow future museum pieces are quicker still and cost less money.
Even so, Aston Martin has never claimed the DB9 is the ultimate automotive thrill machine. If you want to carve a canyon or visit a track, a Ferrari or Porsche will provide a far more involving experience at the ragged edge of performance. Instead, the DB9 coupe and the DB9 Volante convertible deliver sharp handling, yet both are comfortable and spacious enough to drive from Miami to Los Angeles without making your butt go numb, your ears ring or your luggage remain at home. The interior's masterful collection of fine leathers, rich woods and even sapphire crystal make such a trip all the more enjoyable.
We give the 2011 Aston Martin DB9 our whole-hearted enthusiastic endorsement, but with a significant caveat -- there are a lot of wonderful cars available for the same or less money than the DB9. They're all wildly different in look, character and ride/handling balance -- an apples-to-apples comparison just isn't realistic. So the DB9's place in our hypothetical automotive museum is assured, but whether it belongs in your garage is an entirely different story.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Aston Martin DB9 is an exotic GT available in two body styles: coupe and Volante convertible.
Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, xenon headlights, a two-mode (street and track) active suspension, power-folding mirrors, a limited-slip differential, rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic climate control, heated power front seats with memory functions, a full leather-trimmed interior, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth, a hard-drive-based navigation system, a battery deactivation switch (for extended parking), an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a premium audio system with six-CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface and satellite radio. The Volante adds a wind deflector.
Options include front parking sensors and a Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system. The DB9 is also highly customizable, especially when it comes to exterior paint. There's a rather large selection of colors to choose from (including Volante roof colors), plus you can request any paint code Aston Martin or any other manufacturer has ever used. There are also plentiful interior trim types and leather hues available.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive DB9 is powered by a 5.9-liter V12 that produces 470 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic with shift paddles on the steering wheel is available. Aston Martin estimates that the DB9 will go from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds regardless of transmission. The heavier convertible is likely a few tenths slower. Fuel economy with the automatic is 13 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined (in case you care).
The 2011 Aston Martin DB9 comes with antilock brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, front side airbags (which protect head and torso) and rear parking sensors. The Volante comes standard with automatically deploying rollover bars. Front parking sensors are optional.
Interior Design and Special Features
It's difficult to find a surface in the DB9 that's not covered in soft leather, while wood, piano black, alloy trim and even sapphire crystal fill in the blanks. Easily deciphered buttons combine with a central LCD screen to create a more-user-friendly and better-looking interface than the first DB9, which first rolled out of the factory in 2004. Still, the navigation system is one of the worst in the business, and the way the needles of the electroluminescent gauges rotate in opposite directions (the speedometer goes clockwise, the tachometer goes counter-clockwise) also is another bad idea. The speedometer's tiny numbers also render it useless, although there's a digital speedometer in the trip computer as a backup.
The driver seat is marvelously comfortable, with ample leg- and headroom for taller drivers. Unfortunately the four-way power passenger seat doesn't offer the same amount of adjustability and comfort. The two rear seats are glorified parcel shelves, while the trunk offers enough room for a set of golf clubs and a suitcase. The cabin's decent outward visibility makes the DB9 less onerous to drive than some other exotics. The Volante's visibility is understandably worse, and wind buffeting can be a little tiresome.
The 2011 Aston Martin DB9 is striking in the ease with which it drives down the road. With the manual transmission, the clutch action is light and the shift lever snicks through the gates. The automatic transmission is remarkably smooth, and its manual-mode gearchanges via the shift paddles come quickly. The steering is light and precise, although don't expect Ferrari accuracy and feel.
You might consider this a trade-off, as the DB9's compliant ride makes it one of the few exotic sports cars that you'd drive cross-country. With its new active dampers for 2011, the DB9 manages to hang onto that compliant ride even as its ability to handle the corners has been enhanced. The DB9 has always been exhilarating to drive, changing direction easily and responding smartly to steering and braking inputs, but now the Sport setting of the two-mode active suspension gives the car a dimension of ultra-high performance, making the discontinued Sport Suspension package unnecessary.
The DB9 Volante was once criticized for being a flaccid, jiggling mess over broken pavement, but Aston has made revisions over the years to largely correct this problem. You'll still get the odd rumble through the steering wheel, but it's gentle and probably well worth the delight of hearing the burbling thunder of the V12's exhaust note with the multilayered roof peeled back. While the coupe remains the choice for drivers, the Volante is now closer in capability.