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Aston Martin DB9 facelift (2008) driven review

Published:07 May 2008

Aston Martin DB9 facelift (2008) driven review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
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The suave DB9 has formed the backbone of Aston Martin’s revival in the noughties under the rein of the company's German boss Ulrich Bez. Now, some five years into its life, there’s a revised model, polished with post-DBS thinking and the dividend of steady yearly development.

A facelifted Aston Martin DB9? It looks pretty much exactly the same!

Yes, but then this is surely one of the most graceful and well balanced cars in production. Admittedly, every Aston might look the same, but come on... just look at it!

Perhaps Aston’s recent wares have overshadowed its less showy beauty, but there’s nothing wrong with the form of the DB9 grand tourer. Having said all that, there are minor differences if you look hard enough: the door mirrors are of the more delicate DBS type; the wheels are new, and the grille has new ‘teeth’ within its traditional gape.

What else has changed then?

Best to answer this in two parts: what’s new on the spec sheet, and what’s changed on the DB9 through gentle evolution. The former is easy to quantify, of course. There’s an extra 20bhp from that 6.0-litre baritone of a V12, and a slight jump in torque to 443lb ft, not that the ‘old’ DB9 was a slouch; a raised compression ratio in a rethought cylinder head generates these improvements, along with a deeper sump to cut drag on the crank.

In addition they’ve improved the Touchtronic gearbox with a new hydraulic control 'box, the benefit is claimed to be quicker, smoother shifts and less driver irritation at what was often slothful parking-speed behaviour. Bilstein dampers appear for the first time on the spec sheet, complemented by the promise of careful tuning of the suspension bushes. Inside, the DB9 adopts the DBS centre stack, but sticks with the Volvo-sourced navigation system. Which is a shame...

But this car is also a showcase for the constant development that Aston Martin has been carrying out on the DB9 over the past years: both subtle and more fundamental engineering changes that don’t feature on any press material.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Aston Martin DB9 facelift first drive

So, are the changes to the DB9 facelift a success?

Absolutely. The schizophrenic nature of a good GT isn’t an easy thing to achieve – relaxed one moment, an able sports car the next – but this DB9 makes a far more convincing attempt than an early example. Particularly impressive is the new Bilstein suspension, which tackles all manner of roads with a genuine pliancy that never degenerates into a wallow. Along with greatly reduced road and wind noise, this is now a comfortable car for long distances – much more so than the over-firm original - and yet it’s still engrossing on the right road thanks to light but accurate steering and a chassis always ready to be steered from your right boot.

Of course, a hefty chunk of that B-road appeal stems from the charismatic V12, and with the latest tweaks it’s in ruder health than ever. You’ll never tire of the noise, and it now breathes heartily at the top end, scrambling from 0-60mph in just 4.6sec and rifling on to 190mph all-out.

There’s good news too with the Touchtronic ‘box, as the shifts are certainly faster and smoother when you’re going flat out, plus there’s noticeably less time taken to swop cogs at walking pace - when you’re executing a three point turn for example.

So it’s close to the perfect GT then?

Not quite. Pity the poor cow that bequeathed its hide to furnish the ludicrously small rear-seat compartment, the space would be more useful as a dedicated luggage area. And although the interior is inspired at times, with rich leathers creating an aura beyond any German rival, the new centre stack controls are no more convincing here than they were in the recent DBS. The plastics simply feel too cheap, are easily marked, and the morass of buttons is initially unfathomable and then pedantic in operation. And don’t get us started on the ‘Emotion Control Unit’…

Verdict

These latest tweaks provide real lustre to the DB9, broadening its appeal as a GT and adding bite to its ultimate performance. An already desirable car just got that bit more desirable…

Specs

Price when new: £116,950
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 5935cc 48v V12, 470bhp @ 6000rpm, 443lb ft @ 5000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual control, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.6sec 0-62mph, 190mph, 18.2mpg, 368g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1760kg/aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4710/1875/1270

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Photo Gallery

  • Aston Martin DB9 facelift first drive review: side photo
  • Aston Martin DB9 facelift first drive review: rear three-quarter photo
  • Aston Martin DB9 facelift first drive review: interior photo
  • Aston Martin DB9 facelift first drive review: interior photo
  • Aston Martin DB9 facelift first drive review: interior photo
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