To the (DB)9s: Aston Martin’s DB7 replacement is dressed to thrill
By JULIAN RENDELL
(Photos © 2003 Charlie Magee)
Everything you need to know about the Aston Martin DB9 V12, the all-new replacement for the DB7, is summed up by the change of name.
By leapfrogging the next logical DB letter-and-number combination—DB8—Aston also vaulted over one imaginary seven-year model cycle from the DB7’s reskinned Jaguar underpinnings to the DB9’s bonded-alloy, new Millennium parts set.
This leap of names represents something else equally revolutionary—a complete upgrade of the company that centers around an impressive new headquarters in Gaydon, England. Behind its soft Cotswold stone façade are the flinty workings of modern glass and chrome offices where key departments of sales, marketing and engineering are together in one place for the first time in recent memory.
Part of this complex houses a new factory that by the end of 2005 should assemble 5000 new Astons a year. Considering Aston once made 14 cars in one year during the dark days of the 1970s, times are changing.
Former Porsche and BWM engineer Ulrich Bez, Aston’s chief executive officer since 2000, has masterminded this revolution. “Gaydon is probably the best facility of its type in the world,” he boasts, “and the perfect showcase for how to design and build innovative sports and GT cars for the 21st century.”
The new DB9 will be its proof. Though the concept for the car is the same as with DB7— to build “an elegant, understated, powerful, nice-handling and comfortable sports car”— the execution will be what sets it apart.
Dimensionally, the DB9 is roughly the same size as the outgoing car, but new underpinnings allow Aston to push the wheels farther to the corners for more cabin space and better handling. The specifics are 185 inches long (0.19 inch longer), wheelbase 109.8 inches (7.8 inches longer) and width 73.8 inches (1.77 inches wider).
That bonded-alloy frame is a next-generation version of the one under the Vanquish, where extrusions, castings and pressings are heat-bonded for a stiff and lightweight structure. Rivets are virtually extinct—a contrast with sister-company Jaguar’s new XJ.
It is clothed in a body penned by Henrik Fisker, Aston’s design chief who now runs Ford’s advanced concepts studio in California. Fisker tightened the lines of the DB7 and Vanquish, making a tauter, more sophisticated look. “Elegant, beautiful and gently curved,” Fisker says.
Manual and automatic transmissions, both six-speed boxes, will be offered. The manual comes from Graziano of Italy, supplier to Maserati and Ferrari, while the auto is ZF’s unit. The latter marks a return to push-button control courtesy of PRND switches on the center console.
Aston claims a respectable 3767-pound curb weight for the manual-equipped DB9 V12—278 pounds lighter than a Vanquish and 48 pounds better than a Ferrari 575M.
Power comes from a version of Aston’s Cosworth-designed 5.9-liter 60-degree V12, uprated with help from Ford’s Research and Vehicle Technology team. The crankshaft, camshafts, manifolds, lubrication and engine management are new.
Peak power and torque are up—to 450 hp and 412 lb-ft, with 80 percent of the torque available from 1500 rpm. Performance, as you might expect, will be strong: Aston claims a top speed of 186 mph, and 0-to-60-mph acceleration in 4.7 seconds.
Weight distribution is 50-50, thanks to an engine set well back in the car and a transaxle gearbox/differential combination—a new development for Aston. A hefty torque tube of cast alloy with a carbon fiber propshaft links the clutch and transaxle.
Aston’s biggest weakness—interior quality— is gone in the DB9. It may still have some carryover bits—Volvo vents, Jag turn stalks— but they are disguised and customized. A hand-stitched leather dash, bold wood trim and complex milled-aluminum instruments ram home a quality message.
The DB9 makes its debut at the Frankfurt show and goes on sale in England next spring, with U.S. availability following next summer. Look for prices to increase by 10 percent, but that $161,000 now buys a much-improved Aston.
2004 ASTON MARTIN DB9
ON SALE: July 2004
BASE PRICE: $161,000
POWERTRAIN: 5.9-liter, 450-hp, 412-lb-ft V12, rwd, six-speed manual CURB WEIGHT:
CURB WEIGHT: 3767 pounds
0-60 MPH: 4.7 seconds (mfr.)
(Photo's)"Elegant, beautiful and gently curved," is how designer Henrik Fisker describes his new baby. We certainly have no argument.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....