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Aston Martin DB9 - 24th November 2007

Quick Drive

Following on from Gav’s article on his visit to Aston Martin as a kid (see the features section), the part the Director of Engineering of Aston played in my love of driving (see my about me page) and the DB5 article (see here) you could form the opinion that we are a little bit biased towards said brand. Well just to confirm your fears, here is another Aston piece.

The lucky gent with the DB5 also owned a DB7 and a DB9 (not at the same time). He had built a very successful business and the DB7 was his thank you to himself. It was beautiful but flawed; a good design and a great engine that helped re-establish the marque as a true premium brand. Trouble is, I never got to drive it, thanks to my Dad.

Like me, my Dad likes a drive. Max was so pleased with his new car and, being a very generous man, he wanted to share it. He knew my old man was a bit of an Aston fan so handed over the keys. Popper H (his street name when he’s hanging with his homies) looks like your average, late 60 year old; tidy pair of slacks, cheque shirt, stout slip on Clarks shoes. Max had no fears so they settled into the DB7 and off they pottered. They turned up half an hour later with Max a distinct off-white colour and my dear old dad grinning like a Cheshire Cat. "Boy does it go" were his words as he sprang from the car like a twenty year old. It turns out that he asked Max if it was OK to "give it a go" and Max, expecting a sedate run, had said yes. Dear Old Dad dropped it down a cog or two and gave it death! Top speeds were not discussed but I believe it ran well into three figures and the upper limits of the rev range were explored. As I am younger, Max figured I would only be worse. So I never got to give the DB7 Vantage its head.

When the DB9 was first announced Max placed an order and was one of the first to take delivery of one of the most stunning cars to ever grace this planet. Just after he collected it I got the call to go up and see it. It sat there in the afternoon sunshine oozing all those visual details that make a car truly stunning. I was like a kid again, I just couldn’t stop grinning, running my hands over the shape, drinking in the lines - oh, Mr Callum you are a talented man. The interior was another two or three classes above the DB7 with its bespoke dials and switch gear, exquisite hand stitched leather covering every surface, the seats promising and delivering real support and the comfort needed on long journeys. The slightly home-spun fit and finish of the DB7 had been replaced with Audi standard quality. Yes, if you were being picky you could still see the odd Ford bit, but the overall effect was one of class with detailing to make you proud that this car was built in Britain. I had to smile thoughas the sound system fitted was by Linn and, in keeping with the rest of car, was suburb - I couldn’t help but think the best sound was not to be had from there but from what lay under the bonnet!

After a brief spell in the passenger seat, I got to drive. Max gave me the keys in a crowded pub car park and I completed a three point turn in front of the packed beer garden - not easy with those bloody gear paddles, a fly-off handbrake and a nasty slope to the tarmac. Well I can tell you it was as good as it looked. I didn’t get to extend it that day but you could feel that latent power just awaiting its moment to hurl you forward at your bidding, a real iron fist in a hand-stitched kid glove.

A few weeks later Max asked if I would like to take two friends out for a little run in the ’9, silly question, but I graciously accepted and the keys were placed in my ever so slightly sweaty palm with the words "enjoy it". My first impressions were confirmed and then some. One minute we were wafting along in near silence cocooned in leather and luxury, then a good firm shove of the pedal to compress the wilton and all four horsemen of the apocalypse rode into town; the noise was breathtaking and intoxicating and just a little bit addictive. It was different from the Ferrari or Lamborghini V12s, their spine-tingling yowl being replaced by a deeper and more guttural bellow. And it wasn’t all mouth and no trousers; the way it gathered speed was stunning - smooth, linear, like an unseen hand was pushing you through the air - not neck-snapping like a light weight sports car, no, this was that classic big capacity blend of power and torque. Yep they’re right, there’s no substitute for cubes.

The handling was tight, it rode the appalling third-world roads we have round here with serene control, only getting slightly ruffled over the sharpest of ridges and deepest of dips. The steering was the only area where I felt short changed. The trouble is I have a reference point when it comes to steering, my Caterham, and after that anything else feels a little detached. You just weren’t sure what the front wheels were doing, yes loads of grip but lacking in real feel. It probably doesn’t matter because when you hit that apex and squeeze the throttle a touch harder it hunkers down on those gorgeous rear haunches and fires you towards the next corner. That’s when those flappy paddles come into their own - when you are really on it, pedal buried to the floor, tacho needle chasing the redline, slight lift, flick of the paddle and bang, that relentless force is back. That sonorous voice accompanies your charge for glory and it promises to bring you to the horizon quicker than you could have imagined.

I am not going to commit to posterity how fast we went that day but it was fast, just so effortlessly fast. Speed is not the be all and end all of driving, although it is a big thrill, but it was the delivery of that speed that I enjoyed. The DB9 never felt anything other than controlled, it always felt like it was measured and deliberate in the way we made rapid progress.

How does it compare to the DB5? Different eras, I know, but I think the DB9 and the DB5 are so close; both cars reflect a confident Aston Martin, a company blessed with great designs and strong engines. Both cars loved by the "In Crowd" and praised by the motoring journalists of their times. The DB5 was the pinnacle of Aston Martin in the ’60s, a stunning version of it’s predecessor followed by a more powerful but less cohesive evolution of the design - for the 60's it was the DB6, in 2007 it’s the new DBS. In 1965 it was the only way to drive across Europe to get to those holiday playgrounds where the beautiful people partied. Today the DB9 should be your choice for that same long distance trip, let’s face it "Flying is so yesterday darling".

Nick.

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