Full 2012 Aston Martin DB9 Review
What's New for 2012
The Aston Martin DB9 is no longer available with a manual transmission. The previously antiquated navigation system has been replaced by an improved Garmin-powered unit. Finally, there are two new special editions for 2012 known as the Luxury and the Sport.
Some day the car will cease to be our preferred means of transportation. Perhaps it's hard to even imagine, but then again, someone would've said the same thing 300 years ago had you told him horses would become mere toys for wealthy little girls. Yet on that day in the distant future when we fully switch over to automated hydrogen hover pods, humanity shall look back fondly at the Aston Martin DB9 as one of the prettiest cars to ever roam the Earth. It shall serve as proof that the automobile was so much more than just a way to go from A to B.
Yet the aesthetic merits of the 2012 Aston Martin DB9 are not in question. If this was a beauty contest, we wouldn't even get past Regis Philbin's opening monologue before the crown would be placed upon its hood. Instead, the DB9 competes with a lineup of exotic cars that are all newer in design, mostly superior in performance and occasionally cheaper as well. Plus, its rivals from Audi, Ferrari, Maserati and Mercedes-Benz aren't exactly ugly.
That's not to say the DB9 is all show and no go. It brings to the table the same lightweight yet structurally rigid all-aluminum platform that underpins every Aston Martin. Though it dates back to 2004, this platform has continuously been updated over the years. For instance, the DB9 convertible (Volante) was significantly strengthened to eliminate the shuttering and jiggling that used to occur when traveling on broken pavement. Just last year, the two-mode adaptive suspension from the DBS was added to simultaneously improve the DB9's handling and already compliant ride.
Under the hood, you get a 4.7-liter 470-horsepower V12, which propels the DB9 coupe from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. That's certainly quick, but a Porsche 911 will match that for $90,000 less, while the similarly priced Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is about a second quicker. The DB9 also comes standard with a traditional six-speed automatic transmission, which is smoother in operation than the occasionally jerky automated manuals found in most of its rivals, but slower to respond to paddle shift inputs.
Unfortunately, a manual transmission is no longer offered on the DB9. While it was a rare choice among owners, when a car company specializes in allowing customers to specialize their cars, it seems odd that it would eliminate the manual for those who'd want one. If you really want to row your own gears, you'll have to step down to a Vantage or up to a DBS.
If anything, the lack of a manual backs up the notion that the 2012 Aston Martin DB9 is not intended to be an ultimate automotive thrill machine. Instead, the DB9 coupe and the DB9 Volante convertible are considered GT cars. While boasting a more dynamic driving experience than a Bentley Continental GT, both DB9s 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. The DB9 is one of the rare everyday exotics, and although it will be forever remembered for its beauty, it's pretty good at going from A to B as well.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Aston Martin DB9 is available in coupe and convertible (Volante) body styles. Both have two seats, but the two rear ones are tiny and barely fit for children.
Standard equipment includes 19-inch cast alloy wheels, two-mode adaptive suspension, a limited-slip differential, xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, power-folding mirrors, cruise control, automatic climate control, heated power front seats (eight-way driver, four-way passenger, includes memory functions), full leather interior, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a battery deactivation switch (for extended parking), a trunk-mounted umbrella, Bluetooth, a navigation system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a premium Aston Martin sound system with a six-CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB audio jack and an iPod interface. The Volante adds a fully powered soft top and a wind deflector.
Options include forged alloy wheels 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.
The Luxury Special Edition available on both the coupe and Volante adds to the base DB9 10-spoke forged alloy wheels, silver brake calipers, Morning Frost (white) paint with a silver contrasting hood and special metallic bronze leather. The Sport Special Edition available on the coupe only gets a sport exhaust, black-painted 10-spoke forged alloy wheels, black brake calipers, Carbon Black or Quantum Silver paint, and special semi-aniline leather in Obsidian Black (coupe).
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Aston Martin DB9 features a 6.0-liter V12 that sends 470 hp and 443 pound-feet of torque to its rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission rear/mid-mounted for optimum weight balance. Aston Martin says the coupe will go from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, while the convertible should be a few ticks slower. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 13 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined.
The 2012 Aston Martin DB9 comes with antilock brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, front side airbags (which protect head and torso), and front and rear parking sensors. The Volante comes standard with automatically deploying rollover bars.
Interior Design and Special Features
It's difficult to find a surface in the DB9 that's not covered in soft leather, while veneer, alloy trim and even sapphire crystal fill in the blanks. Easily deciphered buttons combine with a central screen to create fairly simple and user-friendly audio/climate controls. Thankfully, the DB9's previously antiquated navigation system has been replaced by a new Garmin-powered unit that's much easier to operate.
One ergonomic quibble is the way the needles of the electroluminescent gauges rotate in opposite directions -- the speedometer goes clockwise, the tachometer goes counter-clockwise. 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 2012 Aston Martin DB9 is striking in the ease with which it drives down the road. The automatic transmission is far smoother in operation than the automated manual gearboxes found in most of its competitors, though its manual-mode gearchanges via shift paddles don't come as 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 active dampers, 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 Aston Martin 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.