This is Why the Aston Martin DB9 Volante is a Future Classic
The DB7 saved Aston Martin. The DB9 brought them into the 21st Century. A day out in a DB9 Volante reaffirmed just how good this GT icon really is.
Delving into the annuls of automotive history will reveal plenty of cars which signified a major turning point in the design and fortunes of the manufacturer which spawned them. Such is the case with the Aston Martin DB9.
Yes, the DB7 before is widely credited for saving the “world’s coolest brand” from certain demise in the early nineties, but it was the DB9 which signaled Aston Martin’s arrival into the modern age. While the DB7 was a sublime grand tourer, and thanks to car design icon Ian Callum, one of the most beautiful British cars of all time, it wasn’t exactly cutting edge.
The underpinnings were from a Jaguar XJS, and the interior was a bit cramped and very last week compared to the equivalent Jaguar XK8. Plus, Aston raided the parts bin of a number of manufacturers when it came to switch gear. Heck, first gen Mazda MX5 owners would easily recognize the interior door handles.
The DB9 was launched at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor-show and people everywhere asked the same question. “Why isn’t it called a DB8?” Well, the answer was simple. Aston Martin then CEO Dr Ulrich Bez wanted to show the new car was so advanced, they decided it would be considered two model cycles ahead of the outgoing DB7. So, no DB8, and well, here we are.
Since inception, Aston Martin operated out of the same factory in Newport Pagnell, but the DB9 was the first Aston to be built out of their Gaydon factory. Ian Callum started the early designs, but the Scottish stylist moved to Jaguar so Henrik Fisker, yes, the same chap who created the Fisker Karma, finished it off, and boy, did it look good. In fact, even by today’s standards, despite being almost 18 years old, it still looks modern. Wow, that last statement really makes one feel old.
Under the bonnet sits a 335kW/570Nm 6.0L V12 mated to a six speed Touchtronic ZF automatic transmission. Zero to 100km/h could be achieved in a claimed 4.7 seconds, while top speed for the hardtop was 300km/h. The open top Volante featured here was restricted to a round 270km/h until around 2007. The reason being Aston was worried what damage 300km/h would do to the soft top when in place.
Underneath is where the DB9 really distanced itself from the DB7. Aston’s VH platform was developed by Ford and was essentially a lightweight bonded aluminium and composite structure which was both stronger and much lighter than the DB7. Also present are anti roll bars and double wishbone suspension.
Weighing in at 1800kg, the DB9 was no featherweight, and thanks to extra strengthening, the Volante weighed 80kg more. Then again, an Aston Martin has always been about being a planted sturdy statement of a motorcar, not a lightweight track weapon.
This example, with 31,000km on the clock, is one of eight DB9 Volantes built world wide in this particular colour. While most DB9’s on New Zealand roads today sport the understated silver, black or dark green, this example seems it would be more at home cruising the US Pacific Coast Highway, or parked outside a restaurant in Beverly Hills.
Hop inside via entry through those lovely open out doors and you are greeted by the kind of sumptuous surroundings an Aston is known for. Apart from some of the switchgear, hardly anything in the DB9 feels dated or last week. Look ahead and you become immediately drawn to those analogue Cartier watch-esque dials, something which is sadly missing from the Aston’s of today.
As the sun was beating down and providing Canterbury with the first hints of spring, naturally the roof would be off for the duration of the drive. Turn key, press the glass engine start button, and noise glorious noise. Owner Nick made a point to remove the fuse which muffles the active exhaust, so now its full 12-cylinder noise all the time, which when you have the roof down, is only ever a good thing.
Select drive and we set off. Around inner-city suburbia to begin with, and the DB9 Volante is incredibly docile. There is just enough weight in the steering to provide a tonne of feedback, but it never feels cumbersome or awkward to manoeuvre. The six speed touchtronic automatic provides quick changes with no jerky behaviour which is nice and the ride itself feels supple and comfortable.
When you leave built up areas and onto the 100km/h zones, the DB9 can stretch its leg and get into the zone of what it was built for, grand touring. Flick down a paddle or two, plant boot, and you ride a wave of torque while that long golden bonnet hunts down the horizon.
However, those with lead feet and hankerings for a V12 at high rpm will need to concentrate hard on traffic ahead. Due to the DB9’s wide ratios, you are very quickly bearing down on slower traffic. Fortunately, a firm foot on the brakes will bring things to a cruise in quick succession.
Approaching the Lyttleton Tunnel, which cuts through the Port Hills on the south side of Christchurch, the hairs on the back of this writer’s neck were beginning to stand on end. Entering the tunnel, sport mode was selected and throttle was applied. The result? An amplified orchestra of 12-cylinder symphonic bliss. Yes, the noise itself isn’t strictly true in a mechanical sense due to that active exhaust, but when a car sounds this good, does it really matter?
Leaving the tunnel after a number of kick downs into third and second gear, the twisty stuff beckoned. While the DB9 is by no means a point and shoot sports car, it does handle sharp coast roads rather well. However, the Volante is a lot softer than the coupe, so you won’t be cornering with the same level of preciseness if you decided to ring its neck.
The best thing to do is drive at eight tenths. A snip over half throttle, a smooth entry and gentle movements on the wheel is enough to coax the Volante into its happy place. The chassis itself is very well sorted and gives you a rewarding feeling when you hit each corner with just the right amount of pace and grace.
The DB9 remained in production, undergoing a number of stylistic tweaks and power upgrades till it was replaced by the current DB11 in 2016. By then it had racked up so many fans and even turned a wheel in anger in GT Pro racing as the DBR9 and DBRS9. The DB7 saved Aston Martin, no doubt about it, but the DB9 took the company and brought it into the 21st century, setting the template for all Astons today.
While the coupe is by far the most popular of DB9, there is something special about the Volante. Because of its slightly softer mor cruising oriented stance, some keen drivers may overlook this V12 open top tourer. Maybe that means in the near future, the Volante will be more sought after and more exclusive as a result? Either way, the Aston Martin DB9 Volante is a future classic. Just remember to lose that active exhaust fuse.
Check out more updates with this DB9 Volante via Nick's Instagram: nick_de_lautor
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