The Aston Martin DB9 is a bit of an enigma. Introduced in 2003, the Henrik Fisker–designed two-plus-two was rightly heralded as a triumph for the esoteric British sports-car brand, boasting a solid, aluminum-intensive structure; a glorious, high-revving V-12; and those drool-worthy looks. That form language has since been applied to the two-seat V8/V12 Vantage, scaled up for the Rapide sedan, and used on the faster and pricier Virage and Vanquish models. Now, after a dozen years of subtle but constant refinement, the DB9 finally is approaching the end of its run, with its replacement, the DB11, arriving by the end of 2016.
But Aston is not letting the DB9 go gentle into that good night. Henceforth, the car will be sold in DB9 GT form only, boasting a V-12 with 30 more horsepower than before, for a total of 540, effectively splitting the difference between the outgoing DB9 and the 568-hp Vanquish. The result of this and a few interior refinements makes this perhaps the most charming and desirable DB9 yet.
Here’s Looking at You
Honestly, regardless of how much power resided under its long hood, this car wouldn’t have lasted this long if it weren’t so damn pretty, and the GT’s nominal exterior changes (new 20-inch wheels, standard carbon-fiber accents, and GT badging) leave the DB9’s enduring beauty unmarred. Last updated for 2013, the design is as lovely as ever, still able to elicit slack-jawed, pic-snapping reactions from fellow motorists and passersby. Perhaps more than any car on sale today, the Aston Martin DB9 GT is ageless.
The interior remains the same decadent and lovingly crafted—although space-challenged—environment it’s always been, only now it has vastly improved dashboard switch gear courtesy of the Vanquish. Banks of capacitive-touch buttons and gorgeous knurled knobs replace the DB9’s slapdash pieces, and a new infotainment system is worlds more intelligent than before. Numerous other touches dress up the space, including a standard microsuede steering-wheel rim (on the coupe, at least), a padded headliner, and, of course, yards of hand-stitched leather. If Aston’s intention was to create an interior environment that looks as special and expensive as the outside, well, mission accomplished.
There remain a few gnats in the clotted cream, however. Some folks might recognize the window and mirror switch gear, as well as the air vents, from lesser brands that once were part of Aston Martin’s corporate family when it was a part of the Ford Motor Company prior to being sold off in 2007. The navigation screen is too small by today’s standards and can’t quite bring itself to stand up straight, but rather faces slightly downward. While Aston has perfected the seats in front, the “plus two” rear seats remain unfit for most humans (although they make lavish shelves for briefcases, purses, and petite canines), and the cupholders can grasp nothing girthier than a Starbucks Tall. And we can’t fathom that after all these years Aston has never set a junior designer to the task of redesigning the unsightly steering-wheel hub.
Most if not all of the Aston’s shortcomings fade to irrelevance, however, the instant one depresses the glass-capped key fob—ahem, “emotion control unit”—into the illuminated ignition slot. Fitted with a new exhaust system and tweaked slightly to deliver the extra ponies, the 5935-cc V-12 engine roars to life with a lusty snarl before settling into a calm, confident burble.
Unfortunately, the DB9 does not get the Vanquish’s sweet ZF eight-speed automatic transaxle, and we found its Touchtronic 2 six-speed automatic a bit flat-footed when left in drive. To arouse the GT—and indeed, anyone inside it—simply press the Sport button located on the console, at which point a raucous driving character far closer to that of the more extreme Vanquish emerges. Throttle response is sharpened, upshifts happen higher in the rev range, and the V-12’s hearty low- and mid-range torque is served as if on a proverbial platter. Keep that right foot buried and you’re likely to emerge with the seat’s stitch marks firmly embossed on your backside. All the while, the V-12 sings a hymn ranging from inspiring to inebriating in direct correlation with the rev counter.
Aston says the DB9 GT can hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, but we wouldn’t be shocked if that number is about half a second too shy. We hit 60 in just 3.6 seconds in the Vanquish, and even though the DB9 GT carries about 100 more pounds than the carbon-intensive Vanquish, has two fewer gears, and trails it by 28 horsepower and 8 lb-ft of torque, we can’t imagine those minor disadvantages costing the DB9 GT a full 0.8 second. In any case, the DB9 feels faster than Aston says it is.
But to say the DB9 GT is merely fast in a straight line is to say that James Bond is merely a good shot. The DB9 GT’s chassis is surprisingly alert. The steering is seriously chatty—all hail hydraulic racks!—and turn-in is quick and sharp. For all its elegance, the DB9 GT is quite firmly sprung, the Sport suspension setting in particular very much so—you’ll be shaken, not stirred—so we suggest using that only on the track. Also helping the DB9 GT feel lighter than it is are a set of standard carbon-ceramic brakes that were at times grabby as well as noisy.
In the DB9 GT’s $202,775 neighborhood, there are several other compelling sports cars, namely the revised Porsche 911 Turbo S, the new second-generation Audi R8 V10, and on the entry-level exotic side, the sensational McLaren 570S and the Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2. What this car offers over all of those is a sparkling, naturally aspirated V-12; its immortal styling; and last-of-its-kind collectability. Aston has had plenty of time to determine the DB9’s evolutionary path, and the GT certainly is the most evolved of all DB9s, as well as a fitting capper to the line.