You want an Aston Martin. But maybe you don’t have the smoldering desire to own one of the company’s 300 DBS flagship vehicles to be produced this year. That’s fine. Pick up a DB9 Volante instead. Think of the DB9 as the DBS’ more reserved, better-educated sibling. Sure it doesn’t have the ultra-limited availability of its supercar stable mate. But what it does have — fluid refinement, a hand built engine, a top speed of 191 MPH — is hard to resist. You’d have to be named Dr. No to refuse a ride in this sucker.
The first day we took the car for a spin we kept the front-mounted 5.9 liter 470 BHP vehicle on a strict diet of city driving: no freeways, no tightly coiled back roads. Trudging through heavy traffic almost felt sadistic — kind of like taking a thoroughbred racehorse and giving it polio. But after exiting the city limits and tearing down a stretch of asphalt connecting San Francisco with Napa Valley, the DB9 snapped up, greedily devouring 90-degree curves with just a hint of oversteer.
Our DB9 came with a 6-speed automatic transmission smoother than a cue ball. Sport mode, which shifts gears at higher revs, also delivers a harder punch. If you’re someone who likes to take matters into his own hands, column-mounted paddle shifters let you up- and downshift with a finger flick. This manumatic is produced by a company called ZF which also creates OEM slushboxes for Jaguar and Porsche. For an automatic tranny, it’s about as smooth-shifting as you’ll find. But if you’re suffering from severe clutch-withdrawal syndrome, a 6-speed manual is also available.
Aston Martin is the automotive equivalent of a befuddled, Luddite uncle. Despite this, they’ve made a genuine effort to outfit the DB9 with tech that slides toward the geeky end of the spectrum. A hard-drive-based GPS system is plunked in the middle of the dash; Bluetooth lets you chatter on your cell hands-free — there’s even an iPod adapter. The standard 700-watt stereo is actually pretty impressive with especially deep low thump and great separation in the mids. Aston offers a 1,000-watt Bang and Olufsen stereo for an extra 7,000 bucks. We didn’t test it, but no matter, the stock stereo had us swooning.
The rest of the cabin is appointed like a Mad-Men era gentleman’s club. Hand-cut wood paneling composes the dash while hand-stitched leather seats predictably lend a loving cup to your posterior. Taking hard turns, our butts never slipped or slid out of the comfy buckets.
The DB9 isn’t without a few flaws, though. Syncing up an iPod proved to be head-scratchingly difficult. Here’s what setting it up is like: Plug in iPod, wait two minutes for music library to appear on GPS screen, poke through a menu tree that divides songs up by playlists. Fail to find song. Swear and shake fist at dashboard. Eventually find song buried in backwater area of menu tree. Play one song, and switch to satellite radio.
Oh and let’s not get into the rear seats, physically or figuratively. They’re so tight, you’d be lucky to fit a sack of groceries in the back. Forget about a full-bodied person.
So, really, who would get the DB9? If you’re in need of a method of transportation that will get you from San Francisco to Napa Valley or Manhattan to the Hamptons, the DB9 will do it with a healthy dose of style, class and sophistication. You just might have to cash in a few bonds to afford one — if they’re still worth anything.