Aston Martin DB9 manual
By Chris Thorp
Real sports cars are fitted with manual gearboxes. That's the view held by driving enthusiasts right across the world - and it is a serious problem for Aston Martin.
Since its launch last year, the firm's DB9 has come in automatic guise only. And predictably, the system has been criticised by some drivers, who want greater involvement. The good news is that the message has got through to the Ford-owned maker, which has finally added a manual to the line-up. We took control to see if the new box can shift the supercar's thrills up a gear.
The heart of any Aston is its engine, and the DB9 manual shares the same 6.0-litre V12 unit as its self-shifting brother. With 450bhp and 570Nm of torque fed to the rear wheels, the auto is very fast. However, enthusiasts will be pleased to find that the manual gearbox makes the DB9 even faster.
Slot the short-throw lever into first and unleash the power via the accurate clutch pedal, and the Aston accelerates like a drag racer. The company claims a 0-60mph time of 4.8 seconds, which is 0.1 seconds quicker than the auto.
But more than that, the DB9 offers true supercar performance in any gear. In fact, sticking to the 70mph motorway limit is a challenge. We still have one or two concerns, though. Driven on some of the best roads in Wales, the Aston proved that despite its incredible pace, it is far from perfect.
As with every DB9 we have ever tested, the manual's rear suspension damping leaves the two-door feeling unsettled in corners. While we have never suffered an unexpected loss of traction, the set-up does not inspire confidence.
However, most of the time the DB9 will be driven well within its limits, leaving owners to enjoy its true sense of occasion. The styling is breathtaking, making rivals from Porsche and Bentley seem sterile in comparison.
Inside, the sharp design continues, but the build quality on our model was hardly befitting a car costing more than £100,000 - some of the trim was coming loose by the driver's seat.
Buyers who choose the manual do at least get a £3,000 discount over the auto, although at £103,000 this DB9 is not cheap. Yet while your average grand tourer might be better off with an automatic gearbox, we reckon swapping the DB9's cogs yourself is a wise move.
Driving any Aston is special, and the extra involvement offered by changing gear manually ensures the DB9 is even more memorable. A short, accurate shift and well weighted clutch pedal are an indication of the new transmission's quality, but the suspension set-up still leaves us unsure of its high-speed cornering abilities.
At a Glance
* On sale in the UK now, the DB9 manual aims to offer buyers a more involving drive. But Aston's new V8 Vantage is likely to be more of an out-and-out sports car.
* Engine: 6.0-litre V12, 450bhp
* Top speed: 186mph
* Price: £103,300