First Drive: Aston Martin DB9 GT

No, Mr Bond, I expect you to drive!

James Bond gets all the fun, driving the Aston Martin DB10 in Spectre. You and I won’t be able to buy one of the 10 specially made models though, even if we had the money to do so.

Instead, I’m driving the next best thing; the last DB9.

When it first graced the stage at Frankfurt, Tony Blair was Prime Minister, Elton John was at the top of the music charts and the iPhone hadn’t even been thought of. However, the last 11 years have been incredibly kind to the DB9, the car being bestowed with a timeless elegance that few other cars get close to.

All good things come to an end though, which means the DB9 GT I’ve got the keys to is something of a run-out special, although put aside thoughts of jazzy seat trims and free air-conditioning. Instead the GT is bestowed with three-stage adaptive dampers, a new infotainment system with Garmin sta-nav and some subtle tweaks around the car.

Oh yes, they’ve also taken the time to upgrade the hulking 5.9-litre V12 engine so that it now produces a mighty 547bhp.

Pretty much everything else stays the same, so there’s that lightweight aluminium chassis that helps make the DB9 more boxer than wrestler, while the stunning bodywork remains virtually untouched. If it’s right, then don’t fiddle too much, seemingly.

Do, however, fiddle with the drive mode selector. Switch the car to sport mode and the DB9 starts making a deep rumble from the exhausts that resonates within you, vibrating at different frequencies as the revs rise and fall. It’s intoxicating enough on its own, but those adjustable dampers stiffen the suspension while the throttle response is sharpened.

It takes 4.5 seconds to get from a standstill to 62mph; undoubtedly quick, but there are other cars that can outrun the Aston. Few can compete with what happens beyond 62mph though. The rear mounted automatic gearbox bangs through ratio after ratio, keeping the engine in the centre of its power band, accelerating the car towards the horizon. It feels unstoppable, long after the view gets a little blurry.

It gets a little jittery over some of Bedfordshire’s bumpier back roads, but the tyres don’t give up their grip easily. Seriously anti social speeds are possible, not something ideally suited to the UK, but such is the adaptability of the GT that a cross-continental jaunt to more accommodating venues could be carried out without a second thought.

That’s when you hit the Comfort setting and the DB9 relaxes in to a comfortable cruiser more befitting its GT moniker. That adaptive suspension works more wonders, softening the ride to a degree that would make the DB9 a viable proposition as an everyday car. You’ll then get the time to enjoy the hand-built cabin, something that takes 200 hours for each car.

It’s not quite perfect though; imperfections in the stitching are pointed out to prove its hand-built nature, but where one person sees character another might see imperfection. There are a few surprisingly cheap bits of plastic used in the cabin, while the instruments are a tad difficult to read at a glance.

Being really picky, the rear seats are nothing more than a token gesture. Even a toddler would feel cramped back there, and I’m not convinced an adult would actually fit. A tall adult would struggle to fit in the front too, as the seats are mounted higher than you might expect. The boot’s also a tad small thanks to that rear-mounted gearbox, so you won’t be going away with more than a few nights luggage.

Finally, economy is officially the wrong side of 20mpg, although scraping in to double figures would probably be considered a success under normal use. That means CO2 emissions of 333g/km, putting the Aston in the highest car tax band at £505 a year. Company car drivers will be facing a 37% BIK burden.

Does any of that matter though? I could find 140,000 other reasons not to buy the DB9, but that would be missing the point.

Aston Martin owners get the point, which is why many are on their third or fourth DB9. Even though the car is reaching the end of its life and the DB11 can’t be far off, they’re still coming in and putting their deposits down.

Simply owning the car is the point. It’s an artwork that you appreciate, a piece of British engineering that shows the rest of the world that we can still make things that are both exciting and beautiful.

The head might appreciate the useability of the DB9 GT, but it’s the heart that will lead the purchase decision.

You can have beauty and the beast, with a bit of Bond thrown in.

Model Tested: Aston Martin DB9 GT Coupe
Price: £140,000
Engine: 5.9-litre V12 petrol
Top speed: 183 mph
0-62 mph: 4.5 seconds
Power: 547 PS (540 bhp)
Torque: 620 Nm (457 ft-lb)
Official fuel economy: 19.8 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 333 g/km
VED Band: M / £505 per year
Car insurance group: N/A
Kerb weight: 1,785 kg

Phil Huff

Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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