It seems that it’s impossible to write any article about an Aston Martin, without a least one (or six) reference to James Bond. And while the early Bond movies kept to the books with Bond driving a Bentley, it was the magical Aston Martin in the Goldfinger novel and movie that made the British marque a household name on this side of the pond.
|1. Power has been increased for 2009 with 470hp and 443 ft-lbs of torque.
2. The DB9 Volante is priced from $197,850. The coupe goes for $182,450.
3. Additional ’09 updates include a new 5-slot grille, a revised suspension, stiffer chassis and a faster shifting transmission.
The Goldfinger Aston Martin had an open roof, but rather than a “drop top,” that car had more of a “pop top,” as one of the unfortunate bad guys found out the hard way.
The convertible model I found myself in on a sunny Summer day was the mid-range DB9 Volante, which I had the opportunity to put through its paces on the country roads surrounding Road America in the hinterlands of Wisconsin.
Let’s face it, just owning a DB9 won’t necessarily give you the skills to chase down and assassinate bad guys, or save the world from evil, but unless you look like a forest troll, driving this car should make finding a beautiful woman with an exotic foreign accent to fill the passenger seat a simpler task. In my case, Aston Martin was kind enough to provide not just the car, but also just such a companion – a young lady with a British accent who works for the factory. Needless to say, I was not looking for the ejector seat button.
SLIGHT STYLE REVISIONS FOR 2009
For 2009, most of the changes to the Volante are under the hood or hidden. The sensuous lines of the car remain the same, and judging by the admiring looks from a group of auto journalists and the local population, no alterations were necessary.
The DB9 is stunningly beautiful and well proportioned. It has a long hood, sits low to the ground, and there is an anticipation of excitement just looking at it. There is a new grill with five slats instead of seven, making it look less fussy, and the side mirrors were lifted off the DBS model. The rich looking cloth top, as all proper convertibles should have, adds to the elegant look of the car, and leaves more trunk space for golf clubs or luggage than a retractable hard roof would. The downside is that the rear window is just a slit of glass, but this car was meant for top down driving, so some accommodations must be allowed for.
The DB9 has no key, but rather a jewel like glass fob with an Aston Martin holograph emblem embedded in it, which fits into a slot in the dash. Push it in, and the Volante is ready to fire up. And what an aural delight when the engine turns over and settles into a low growling burble!
EVEN MORE POWER FROM THE V12
The 5.9-liter 48-valve V12 has been given a power boost this year, up to 470 horsepower and 433 ft-lbs of torque. Stomp on the accelerator and the motor roars to life with a loud and authoritative exhaust growl, and the Volante takes off like a scalded cat.
Despite it’s nearly two ton heft, the DB9 Volante will hit 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds as your shoulders are pushed back into the plush leather seats. It seems strange to talk about the exhaust note on anything other than a motorcycle, because these days even high performance cars are designed for quiet (boring) operation. But this beast lets you know that there are forces under the hood at work and ready to go at even the slightest input from your right foot. And yet when you ease off the throttle and settle at the desired speed, the engine quiets down for relaxed cruising befitting a luxury car.
There is a new hydraulic control unit in the transmission that enables quicker shifts, especially at low speeds. The paddle shifters, which are properly located on the steering column rather than the steering wheel, work well, especially in the Sport mode.
I must admit that I still prefer my tiptronic shifting to be accomplished by using the console mounted gearshift lever, but alas, the Aston Martin has no gear shift lever, just paddles. The P, R, N, and D controls are just buttons on the center stack, a feature that I’m not wholly on-board with. In any event, the transmission was up to the task of harnessing the engine’s power and putting it to the pavement without complaint.
Steering felt light and precise, moving through a set of twisting turns on the two lane rural roads. The Volante achieves a good balance of taut handling with flat cornering and supple GT ride quality, so that even broken pavement and potholes don’t upset the driver or loosen his fillings.
SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS UPDATES, BUT STILL TOO MUCH COWL SHAKE
The chassis boasts new upper suspension arms, revised suspension bushings and Bilstein shocks, as well as some reinforcements to add to the torsional rigidity. Unfortunately, I was dismayed to feel excessive cowl shake while traveling over railroad crossings, which I had not felt with some other convertibles, like the Bentley GTC, Mercedes SL, or even the Ford Mustang, over the same tracks earlier in the day. The Aston Martin rep acknowledged “a bit of a shudder,” and attributed it to perhaps an unbalanced tire problem, but I doubt that.
Unlike the sensitive throttle, the brake pedal is mushy and uncommunicative. There is a lot of pedal travel before getting any initial bite, although when pushed the brakes are competent.
Overall, however, I’d have to say that the on-road driving experience of the DB9 Volante is everything you’d expected in a $200,000-plus car – power, handling and refinement, coupled with the visceral feeling you have while driving a legendary marque.
Adding to the psychological pleasure you get from the car is a sumptuous cabin with bespoke amenities that delight and coddle you with visual and tactile pleasures. There is a certain patrician air of aristocracy that oozes from all corners of the intimate interior, from the richly polished wood on the center stack and door panels, to the hand stitched, sumptuous leather seats and dash and on to the thickly padded Alcantara headliner.
It’s almost impossible not to want to touch every surface, from the polished alloy make-up mirror surrounds to the magnesium paddle shifters, and even the perforated metal speaker grills. Like the aroma of the leather, this Aston Martin cabin has a tangible fragrance of grandeur that the owner will enjoy each time he drives the car.
The Aston Martin DB9 Volante lists for $197,850. The test car had $7,100 in options, and most of them seemed to be nickel and dime stuff that should have been built into the price. It just seemed silly to list a charge of $145 for a First Aid Kit, or $220 for Contrasting Color on the floor mats, and another $220 for Contrasting Color stitching on the seats, and $220 for the Smokers Kit (ashtray insert and cigarette lighter). Add those all up and it’s less than James Bond would wager on a single hand at the baccarat table. (Only the second Bond reference of the article). Add in some extra charges for paint finishes and 19-inch wheels, along with destination and gas guzzler tax (12 miles per gallon of premium petrol in the city and 19 on the highway – if anybody is interested) and the bottom line is $208,970.
Whenever I drive a car in this price range, I am painfully aware that this is no treat for the masses, but rather, for a small and exclusive club. I feel like the golf caddie who gets to play the main course on Mondays when the members are gone. And I’m reminded that membership has its privileges. Driving an Aston martin DB9 Volante is one of those rare privileges and, unfortunately, I’ll never be a member.