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£140,887 when new
What is it? The Aston Martin DB9 GT. Think of it as a facelift, not an addition to the range, as it replaces the standard DB9. Nevertheless, the ‘GT’ bit is important as it means more power. Like the GT12 we drove last week, the venerable 6.0-litre V12 has received a boost – although here it’s not magnesium and titanium parts, just a tweak of the electronics to liberate an extra 30bhp. What else distinguishes the GT? The trim. The GT has had a stealth makeover: black splitter and diffuser, black brake calipers, revised lights, new 20-inch, ten-spoke dark alloys, GT badges etc. If you want, Aston Martin will make you the splitter and diffuser out of carbon fibre – for £3,995. Given the age of the DB9 (it first appeared in 2004), you’d be forgiven for expecting this to be a somewhat pointless, almost undignified, exercise. Not so. The DB9 GT looks utterly tremendous. The new additions are subtly, tastefully done, and the sheer elegance of the DB9 still shines through. It’s one of the very, very few new cars that can be considered timeless.
Hardly a radical makeover, though, is it? No. Viewed from a business perspective, the GT is a way of garnering a few more sales from an ageing product. But it’s hard to view any Aston so coldly. It may not be face-ripplingly fast, it may not be able to corner like a stunt plane, or respond with the zap of a bolt of electricity, but the DB9 is achingly cool. It just is. Maybe it’s this way because it isn’t capable of the extremes of speed and g-force that other sports cars are, or, more generously, because it doesn’t actively go in pursuit of them. I think that makes it cool – that it doesn’t try too hard.
It’s smooth, cultured, urbane: forceful in a very understated waySo is it slow then? Depends what you call slow. 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and a 183mph top whack don’t strike me as particularly slow, but it’s the DB9’s delivery that sets it apart. With 540bhp, it’s the most powerful DB9 ever, but the languid V12 never appears to work that hard. It’s smooth, cultured, urbane: forceful in a very understated way. So, yes, it will propel itself along any given road with as much vim and vigour as you dare deploy, but you’ll never get the feeling that the car is having to work particularly hard for its speed. This makes it a very relaxing car to pilot. Torque hasn’t climbed at all – still 457lb ft at a highish 5500rpm – but a heavy percentage of that is available much lower down. So you don’t have to bother faffing about with the paddles too much, just press go, and you go. I have to say this Touchtronic torque converter auto is a much more pleasant gearbox than the GT12’s sequential manual, too. Ratio-shuffling is much less obtrusive, and response times are pleasingly brief. Anything been done to the suspension? Nothing. It’s still the same double wishbone set-up all round, with three stage adaptive damping. ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ modes cover all the bases – there’s no need for the ‘Track’ setting, not least because it’s not very Aston-ish. It sounds as though you actually want to try and go fast. Heaven forbid. ‘Sport’ is as taut as an Aston should be on the road and, if you haven’t figured it out already, the DB9 is not a track car. It’s just a lovely, brisk way of getting about. The steering is as geared just right and has just the right amount of feedback (hydraulically assisted, amen), ride and refinement are where they should be, handling is crisp. The DB9 GT driving experience has no sharp edges – which can be viewed as both a good and bad thing. It’s just very charismatic, with all components honed to deliver the same relaxed, yet commanding, feel. Mind you, they’ve had over ten years to get it right.
The DB9 GT driving experience has no sharp edgesIndeed. Isn’t Aston lagging behind? What is clear is that while other firms have moved in specific directions – pursuing turbo technology, double clutch gearboxes, 4WD traction, vastly complex electronic systems that allow you to slide about in theoretical safety – they’ve vacated the area occupied by Aston Martin. It’s easy, and probably correct from most viewpoints, to see this as Aston Martin being left behind. But it’s been left behind in a very happy place, to build cars unlike any others. OK, quite like Bentleys, just a bit lower, lighter and lither. What’s important for Aston Martin going forward is that it doesn’t lose this appeal, whatever new technology or design emerges. So the DB9 still has a role to play then? For the time being, it does. Part of me bemoans the fact that Aston is dropping behind the likes of Porsche and Ferrari, but I worry that if they weren’t, the cars would no longer be ‘proper’ Aston Martins. And the DB9 GT is a proper Aston Martin. The interior has been tidied up no end – the AMi II touch sensitive infotainment that debuted on the Vanquish is now just about logical, for instance – and the quality, design and materials used are stunning. Our test car, replete with Bronze Metallic leather, Copper thread, Flint seatbelts and Piano Black trim to complement the Scintilla Silver paintwork, was just glorious. I could never have specced anything half that tasteful myself. How much money? £140,000 basic, just £6,500 more than the now-discontinued DB9. Pretty much the price of the optional B&O hi-fi upgrade. Whether you think its worth it depends on whether you attach value to technology or craftsmanship. Whichever side you come down on that debate, you can’t deny the world is a better place for having the DB9 GT in it.