Test Driven: Aston Martin DB9 Volante (8/10)

The Aston Martin DB9 I drove

The Aston DB9 Volante is the very essence of a modern grand touring car. It exudes all basic aspects of a classic GT, speed, luxury, and style, and it added a touch of class to the lineup of vulgar supercars I drove at Gotham Dream Cars last summer. It was a very different flavor than the other cars I experienced that day, and that is likely why it has taken me the better part of a year to put pen to paper on the DB9. Aston Martins are their own special breed, one that vastly contrasts something like a Lamborghini, so it has taken some time for me to isolate the DB9 experience from the others of that glorious day. I found out during the drive than it is not a supercar in the proper sense, but then again it was never meant to be. So, having taken some time to digest its experience, here is what I have to say about the Aston Martin DB9 Volante.

The first thing anyone should do before driving an Aston, is just take a few minutes to sit and look at it. Astons are some of the most beautiful cars on the planet, and the DB9 itself defines automotive elegance. We were at the top of Bear Mountain when I was doing my gazing at the DB9, and what a setting for an introduction; sleek metallic curves mixed with the vast scale of nature, it is a moment I will always cherish. The DB9’s looks grab the eye because they are naturally beautiful, unlike an orange Lamborghini, who’s looks are shouty and abtrusive; something like the difference between Jennifer Anniston and Lady Gaga. The DB9 is a car with a presence that can bring serene elegance to any situation, no matter how hectic or cluttered. Time seems to stop, like the moment Romeo first saw Juliet, and the car’s beauty captures you.

Once you have come out of your trance, and realize you’re holding the keys, you can open the upward swinging door and climb inside. The seat immediately embraces you; it is very soft yet also snug, kind of like a velvet glove. The finest materials surround you, wood grain, soft hides, and the quality metals everywhere. Luxury is definitely a priority in the DB9, something which supercars tend to lack. Everything is beautifully crafted and laid out in a good ergonomic manner with good visibility all around. The only thing I found difficult was judging where the front of the car was because the hood is long and is slopes downward. Other than that the DB9 is a very easy car to be in and enjoy; it isn’t scary to drive around in like a Lamborghini is.

Upon start up the V12 bursts to life with a loud bark. As I set off it is clear that the transmission is much more jerky at low speeds than the other car’s. It kind of just hops forward suddenly, like in a manual if you step off the clutch too fast. It kept doing this throughout the drive whenever I had to set off from a stop, and once I even had to slam on the brakes to avoid possibly rear ending one of the other cars when we were in line for a stop sign. This un-refinement in the gearbox is a serious flaw, and is probably my biggest criticism of the car.

Once on the move the transmission works just fine, with maybe just a little more delay on shifts than I would like. The engine’s soundtrack is a glorious low rumble that bellows off of the surrounding trees. In the pack of cars that day, 450hp made the DB9 the runt of the litter, however this relative comparison does not do the car justice on how quickly it gains speed. The DB9 is properly fast when the pedal hits the floor, with a nice linear power band that intensifies as the engine’s aural fury becomes louder and louder. For most of this leg I was driving hard through the woods wit the top down, and I am quite certain there are few better ways to experience a V12 Aston. It was intoxicating.

Being on such wooded, mountain roads there were, of course, some pretty intense corners to tackle. The DB9’s chassis is pretty well setup for this sort of thing, and certainly offered a great deal of fun, however it was a bit loose feeling, being a convertible. Also, I have to say the brakes were in need of help as well; likely just wear and tear from it being a rental car, though. The steering was responsive, but lacked some in the way of road feel. Overall, with the DB9 Volante, Aston Martin has set it up as best they could, but it has many shortcomings on roads that are really twisty and challenging. It offered plenty of fun for most drivers, but to me it just felt a bit out of its element.

On the drive we had a few areas where we were just cruising through the mountains at a steady, reasonable speed. We were surrounded by a panorama of lakes, hills, and the brilliant blue sky. The wind was in my hair, and the sound of a 6.0L V12 was ever present in the background. This moment here is the one I have cherished the most over time with the DB9. This is the car’s element, cruising, often at high speeds, on an open road in the midst of a breathtaking setting. That is the difference between the DB9 and the other cars I drove that day: whereas a supercar must thrill and impress people, the Aston has nothing to prove to anyone. It is what is, and it is not what it’s not, and it is fine with that. The DB9 has this self confident character about it that other cars in its range really don’t, and I think that has always been the appeal of an Aston Martin. They are the epitome of “cool” because they stay true to their own identity and don’t try to beat everybody else.

At the end of my drive in the DB9 Volante, I opened the door and got out, just like any other car. Then I looked at the car with its sleek, sloped lines and realized I was staring at a masterpiece of automotive art. It has beauty, luxury, and most importantly a soul. Sure it has its flaws as a “pure” driver’s car, but is not trying to be one of those. The DB9 is purely a Grand Tourer, and it really emphasizes the “Grand”. It exudes all of the classic Aston Martin appeal, and may be one of the most beautiful Astons of all time. So, if you want a sharp corner carver to attack mountain roads with, you should look elsewhere. If you want a car to cruise in, than brings an occasion with it everywhere it goes, then the DB9 Volante is perfect. It does of course offer the same high speed thrills on the highway that a supercar offers, so it is plenty capable of getting your heart pumping should you feel the need. Aston Martins are a unique breed, and this DB9 is a prime example.

WoM Score: Aston Martin DB9 Volante

Primary Function: Performance: 1
Secondary Functions: Luxury(2), Practicality(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 1

Final Score: 8/10

-Nick Walker

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