It almost feels like a sin to take delivery of a shiny new Aston Martin DB9
in the midst of one of the worst economic disasters in the history of the country, but it seems even more ludicrous to turn down time behind the wheel of one of the most gorgeous cars on the road, so we spent a weekend cruising around Los Angeles in a titanium silver DB9 coupe.
The first thing you'll notice when you attempt to drive a DB9 is the key (or Emotion Control Unit, as Aston calls it); it's hard to know where you're supposed to put it. There's an interesting opening in the center of the dashboard that looks more like a clock than a place to fire up the V-12 lurking under the hood, but it also looks quite chic when the ECU is present. Push down for a few seconds and the V-12 roars to life. For best results, do this in a garage or under some type of canopy to experience the full effect.
Cars equipped with the traditional six-speed manual transmission have a rather heavy, finicky clutch, but it takes surprisingly few miles to become comfortable. There's enough torque on tap (443 lb-ft for 2009) to run as low as 1000 rpm and not lug the engine, which comes in quite handy on the crowded streets and highways surrounding Hollywood. Despite our best efforts to escape to the canyons around Malibu, we were forced to crawl through traffic for a few hours. The narrow canyon roads are a little intimidating in an Aston, but the chassis begs for more speed around the tight curves. Eager to listen to the V-12's growl, we give in and add speed as traffic permits. An impressive 470 hp propels the car forward and it's impossible not to grin.
It may not look quite as hot as the DBS, but this DB9 drew more than a few looks around Los Angeles and everyone who inspected the car up close loved the exterior. Cities like Los Angeles have so many Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, and Porsches running around it's very difficult to stand out from the crowd. Anything painted Titanium Silver is bound to blend in with traffic, but the Aston's lines were special enough to alert neighboring drivers of the car's value and there was always a little extra space around us, even on crowded LA highways.
Inside, the Aston looks and feels special, yet durable. The tachometer is to the right of the speedometer and the needle follows a counter-clockwise path, which is confusing as you wring out the V-12. We hit redline several times in first gear, but it's likely owners would become accustomed to the unusual tach and not have this problem. Sadly our DB9 was not equipped with the new Bang & Olufsen sound system, which would have made sitting in traffic less painful, but the V-12 put out plenty of great music of its own. The 700-watt "premium audio system" wasn't quite as impressive as the name implies, so audiophiles will probably want to upgrade to the Bang & Olufsen unit.
The real Achilles heel of the DB9 is the navigation system. We never had a problem getting to our destinations, but the process for inputting an address and selecting a route is painful at best. Too bad Aston no longer has direct access to Ford's technology and can't just borrow the new Ford corporate navigation system with its easy-to-use interface. Another knock against the navigation unit is that it doesn't look very integrated in the car. The flip-open screen never looks like it's fully open and several passengers asked if it was broken - not the effect you want in a $200k ride.
2009 Aston Martin DB9 Coupe
Base price: $183,800 (including gas guzzler tax and destination)
Engine: 5.9-liter Quad Overhead Cam 48-valve V-12
Horsepower: 470 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 443 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
L x W x H: 185.5 x 74 x 50 in
Curb weight: 3880 lbs