I remember it well. A glorious summer’s day, I was still in my 20s and somebody casually threw me the keys to the Aston Martin DB9 Volante parked outside. ‘Try it,’ they said.
Then I headed out onto a road I knew well, roof down, firing through the gears with the big paddles that operate the smooth Touchtronic ‘box. I hit a bump. Maybe two. The structure buzzed like a tuning fork, the suspension clattered loudly, the body floated and crashed uncomfortably and the glamour disappeared with a resounding thud. The next few miles were perplexing and disappointing. The DB9 Volante was a bit of a mess.
So it's with a sense of trepidation that I try the latest Aston Martin DB9 Volante. Has Aston Martin improved the car enough to impress since that fateful first drive in 2004? Read our Aston Martin DB9 Volante review to find out.
Haven't they done a fair amount of development to the DB9 over the years?
Since its 2003 launch, the DB9 Coupe has matured into something very, very desirable. As sorted now as it was a work-in-progress in the early days. It’s smooth and refined but can play the stonking supercar with surprising enthusiasm and with a manual ‘box it’s an absolute riot. But what of the Volante?
It still looks the part. Althought that basic DB9 shape is now eight years old, it still manages to look elegant and desirable. It may well have been elbowed out of the spotlight by the new Virage and the DBS, but the DB9 has a certain understated charm in comparison. The latest edition received a minor visual refresh in 2010, along with adaptive dampers as the key mechanical upgrade. Otherwise, it's the same basic ingredients - 6.0-litre V12 engine, six-speed ZF automatic with paddle shift, rear wheel drive and an electrically-retracting soft-top.
Driving the Aston Martin DB9 Volante
Although the V12 getting long in the tooth (it was first seen in the DB7 Vantage of 1999) it still sounds the part. And the DB9 still feels very much like the smooth GT you expect. The ride on the adaptive dampers is ‘sporting’, a sensation built upon by very quick steering, that responsive auto ‘box and the V12’s effortless gait. On smooth roads it rolls along with a lovely easy momentum. There’s still the odd rumble through the steering column, still the odd shake from the structure, but it’s a gentle trait rather than an obvious fault.
Up the pace a bit and the Volante copes well. You can hustle it pretty quickly for a big, heavy GT and although it’s not iron-fisted like the Coupe there’s plenty of fun to be had. The V12 sounds gloriously exotic and expensive, too. It’s almost unrecognisable from that early car I drove.
The DB9 Volante plays the role of relaxed GT cruiser extremely well. Its biggest problem is the new Virage: essentially a DB9 with more power, another layer of visual polish and the next round of refinements. You get the feeling the DB9 range will be leaving the building sooner, rather than later.