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Time to buy Aston Martin DB9 range (2004 to 2012)

2015-08-06 Read: 801x

The Aston Martin DB9 is a car that creates a physical ache of envy. It's effortlessly beautiful, still reasonably rare and is a car that's far from an obvious choice. All of these factors have boosted its desirability and make well looked after used examples worth tracking down. It's a car at a vintage stage in the company's development, retaining a lot of character of the older Astons but adding a welcome dose of quality control and 21st century technology.

Models

Models Covered: (2 dr coupe, 2 dr roadster 5.9 petrol)

History

The Aston Martin DB9 was introduced as an effective replacement for the last-of-the-line DB7 GT and although it carries over much of this car's V12 engine, even the most cursory inspection will show how far quality and modernity were improved. Both coupe and Volante cabriolet models were launched in late 2004, with the car receiving a mixed press, most observers seduced by the styling but relatively unenthused by its Grand Touring agenda and automatic gearbox. The DB9's position in the Aston Martin firmament was very much underlined with the latter introduction of the more aggressively sporting V8 Vantage model and as a sop to DB9 drivers who loved the car's looks but wanted a more engaging driving experience, the company introduced a Sports Pack suspension upgrade and the six-speed manual gearbox expected from the outset. The manual 'box is an Italian-made Graziano six-speed and specifying it turns the DB9 into a much more engaging driver's car, with the added benefit of shaving £3,000 off the list price of the automatic version. Aston Martin clawed most of that back with a £2,495 Sports Pack that features stiffer springs, roll bars and dampers, revised alloy wheels with titanium bolts and an aluminium undertray that acts as an additional bracing member.

What You Get

Underneath the sleek bodywork resides Aston Martin's VH platform, upon versions of which the V8 Vantage and the eventual Vanquish replacement will sit. It's a mixture of extruded, stamped and die-cast aluminium, bonded together into an extremely light, yet rigid superstructure. What's more, experience with the Vanquish enabled Aston Martin to develop the chassis in a cost-effective manner; essential when dealing with relatively low volume production runs. Most of the exterior panels are aluminium, bonded into position by Aston's sole robot assistant, nicknamed James Bonder. The bootlid and front wings are made of a composite material, helping to keep weight down to a relatively low 1,760kg. Although the asking price may seem heady, when judged in context, it almost seems underpriced. The interior offers a sense of occasion unmatched at this price point with beautifully finished aluminium dials, lustrous leather and quality wood cappings. So many manufacturers fail to get the balance between wood veneers and 'technical' finishes correct but the interior of the DB9 is a case study in how to effectively mix traditional and modern materials. As well as the aluminium, wood and leather, there's even a glass starter button on the centre console. A satellite navigation system is secreted in a pop-up dash top panel. In the unlikely event that you should tire of the majestic engine note, there's a 1300 watt Linn stereo system to keep you entertained. Everything about the car feels substantial. Take a good look around the cabin and you won't find the quality wanting. Aston Martin have engineered the steering to feel meaty with a decent amount of heft to the helm. The ride is firmer than you might expect, especially if you opt for the Michelin Sport rubber rather than the preferable Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tyres but body control is reported to be superb as a result, the Aston by no means left struggling against some of the best handling cars in the class. With power being directed to the rear wheels, the British car can't match the all-wheel drive grip of the Porsche 911 Turbo or the Lamborghini Gallardo but a whole host of electronic trickery ensures that power is deployed cleanly on all but the greasiest surfaces.

What You Pay

Where the DB9 does differ significantly from its predecessor is in terms of production volumes. During the first decade of DB7 production, a mere 5,000 cars rolled from the gates at Newport Pagnell. Fully 2,500 DB9s are built every 12 months which, coupled with the fact that it only has one genuine competitor car in the Bentley Continental GT, means that according to simple supply and demand, depreciation is going to be significant. Early DB9 coupes are currently retailing at around £90,000 with later 2005 model year vehicles fetching around £115,000. Volantes tend to add another £10,000 to those prices.

What to Look For

The switch to a more modern manufacturing plant at Gaydon has done wonders for the consistency of output, especially where the DB9 is concerned. These cars are relatively sturdy for a vehicle with supercar performance and appeal, years of expertise in V12 engine production giving Aston a serious amount of experience to fall back on. Some of the early 2004 cars did have some niggling paint issues but these have largely been ironed out under warranty and the paintwork on later cars should be mirror smooth. Brake squeal is an issue some DB9 owners have identified and in a few cases brake pads have needed to be replaced in as little as 4,000 miles. It's worth asking the keeper of any prospective DB9 if they have 'uncorked' the exhaust valve. This is a job that takes a few minutes and makes the car sound noticeably sportier and consequently louder without affecting the fuelling. If you want drama and a magnificent exhaust note, it's definitely recommended, although if you're a higher mileage driver who does a lot of motorway work, you'll find it a little wearing. Otherwise there's not a lot to look for. The alloys are prone to kerbing, and the front end can pick up stone chips and spoiler scrapes very easily but the interior is hard wearing. One issue that has proved a common fault is the top-spec Linn stereo not releasing CDs and there have been gripes about electric window reliability, faulty dash sensors and juddering steering, all ironed out on later cars.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2005 V12 coupe) Most services will cost around £700 with the big expense of any enthusiastically driven DB9 being rear tyres. The rears are usually sourced at around £450 a pair although prices can vary. Some report being charged up to £750 for a set of identical rear boots. Brakes also take a hammering with pads being around £400 a pair. The bumper, bootlid and front wings are all lightweight composite parts and are very expensive to replace. Finally, a tip about replacing wiper blades. When the wiper is in its rest position, it sits in a lip behind the leading edge of the bonnet making it impossible to change the blade. To make this replacement possible, turn the key to the second detent and depress #'s 7 & 8 on the infotainment center and the arms will come up half way on the windshield. It won't work if the bonnet is open.

On the Road

In these days of super coupes pumping out five or six hundred bhp, the DB9's 450bhp output may not seem initially outstanding, but the engine that does the cranking is a thing of beauty. It's essentially an uprated version of the DB7 Vantage's V12 and it sounds utterly intoxicating courtesy of revised cams, inlet and exhaust manifolds and an exhaust tuned for the enthusiast ear. Although a little more discreet than the banshee wail of the Vanquish, the DB9 is still a car that will have you dropping the windows a few millimetres when you spot a tunnel approaching. In truth, it leans towards the more sporting end of the spectrum, thrusting to 60mph in just 4.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 186mph. Although the 'Touchtronic 2' gearbox that accompanied the first production DB9 models may not seem overtly sporting, featuring as it does an automatic-style torque converter, the change is slick and positive enough to please keen drivers via steering wheel paddle controls. It actually handles automatic changes a whole lot better than sequential manual units. In 'manual' mode, it holds onto gears throughout corners, never shifting up and leaving the car wallowing mid-bend without drive as some less intelligent units are wont to do. It matches downshifts with a sharp blip of the throttle and has a neat trick up its sleeve as well. Knock the left paddle to downchange a little too early and the engine's electronics will remember this input and only downchange when the speed drops to an acceptable level.

Overall

The Aston Martin DB9 is a car that rewards careful consideration when buying used. Our tip is to speak to as many current owners as possible and buy as late a model as you can sensibly afford, sticking to the classic colours.

Aston Martin DB9 range

The DB9 has long been the Aston Martin of choice for those craving something sleek and graceful rather than overtly aggressive. The classiest car in the Aston range has refreshed its look for this year. Andy Enright reports.

Ten Second Review

No, the Aston Martin DB9 isn't on the same technical plane as the latest crop of GT cars but most owners won't care. When it comes to styling and sheer satisfaction of ownership, little can touch this revised package. Once more Aston Martin demonstrates that in this market sector, the subtle intangibles count for so much.

Background

Few were prepared for how massive a step forward the Aston Martin DB9 proved when it was launched in 2003. Replacing the DB7, a car that ran on Jaguar XJ-S underpinnings let us not forget, it ushered in a new era of technical sophistication and high concept design. A year later, the V8 Vantage arrived on the scene and Aston Martin's sales went off the charts. Despite the company's success, it could do very little to contribute to the bottom line of then-parent company Ford, and the global financial meltdown of 2007 saw Ford start selling any assets it could find a buyer for. Aston Martin was sold to a consortium led by Prodrive chairman David Richards and while many industry observers kept their fingers crossed, they feared the worst. The launch of the V12 Vantage, the DBS, the Rapide, the One-77 and this, the refreshed DB9, shows that those in charge of product decisions seem to making an even better fist of things than when Ford held the purse strings.

Driving Experience

With other more overtly sporting attractions in the Aston Martin range, the DB9 fills a role of raffishly elegant GT car. In order to discharge these duties, the following ingredients are required. A big engine and fuel tank, sleek good looks, a comfortable and elegant interior and a certain sense of occasion, and few better the DB9 in any of these regards. A Porsche 911 will outcorner a DB9 on an entertaining road and a Mercedes SLS will outdrag one in a straight line. But will a DB9 owner care? Doubtful. Aston Martin haven't overlooked the way that the latest car drives, though. The DB9's passive damping system has been replaced by a clever Adaptive Damping System (ADS), which offers enhanced ride comfort together with sharper handling when switched to Sport mode. The ADS system is offered as standard equipment across both Coupe and Volante (convertible) models. As before a rear mid-mounted six-speed manual gearbox comes as standard but the DB9 feels better suited to the optional 'Touchtronic 2' six-speed automatic transmission. The changes don't radically change the abilities of the DB9 and it remains a big car to hustle along, but the dampers give the car a usefully binary character switch when Sport mode is engaged. Think of it as another string to the car's bow. The 5.9-litre 470bhp V12 still goes and sounds as magnificent as ever, propelling the Coupe to 60mph in 4.6s and on to a top speed of 190mph.

Design and Build

When the DB9 was first launched, it set new standards in interior design values. The materials used, the depth of thought that had gone into the detailed aesthetics and haptics, and the sheer elegance of the design language put it miles ahead of the chasing pack. The styling has been refreshed in this latest round of revisions, with a Rapide-style front under-bumper assembly and sharper-looking side skirts. Those staples of the mid-life facelift - lights, wheels and grille - have also been modernised. The overall shape has worn extremely well and the DB9 is still probably the classiest looking car in its class, and the exterior changes are sympathetic enough not to look desperate or gauche. The interior of the car is one area where the years do show. What looked so breathtaking back in 2003 still looks striking, but it's less easy to overlook the fiddliness of the minor controls, the scattering of buttons and switches on the centre console and the lack of an integrated control system that many of the prestige manufacturers are now perfecting. Aston Martin has reaped the benefit of a long experience curve with the DB9 and build quality is tight and reliability has proven extremely good.

Market and Model

Whether just over £125,000 for the Coupe or £135,000 for the Volante convertible represents good value for money is a tough call. From a purely objective perspective, there are more capable rivals around, but none seems to offer quite the sense of occasion of the Aston Martin. This then begs the question: can you put a price on a sense of occasion? How much is image, heritage and exquisite styling worth? Perceptions will vary on that one but if you have the funds to run to a DB9, it's doubtful that few, if any, are going to castigate you for your choice. The car just generates too much goodwill for that, in stark contrast to a Porsche Panamera or even a Bentley Continental. Equipment levels are a tad more generous these days, with the fitment of an electronic tyre pressure monitor and a revised Bluetooth microphone system. Additional options include a Double Apex bright alloy interior finish and Bang & Olufsen stereo loud enough to trip seismographs in Fiji.

Cost of Ownership

If you've managed to shinny up the greasy pole far enough to be able to afford an Aston Martin DB9, it's doubtful that you'll be overly concerned with the trifling matters of economy and emissions - but they mean a great deal to Aston Martin and here's why. The company needs to reduce the average CO2 output of the models across its range or face punitive EU fines. It's the reason for the launch of the controversial Cygnet city car - essentially a rebadged Toyota iQ. The latest DB9 doesn't make a major contribution to this reduction, chugging out a decidedly old-school 389g/km and averaging 17.2mpg. Of more concern to typical buyers are the potential residual figures. While we enjoy the latest shiny bits added to the DB9, those who calculate future used values are supremely dismissive of this sort of thing and will instead point to the fact that the DB9 has been on sale for many years and that used buyers will look for newer and more exciting options. Residual values hover at around 43% after three years which trails many key rivals. Think of that as the true cost of entry to DB9 ownership.

Summary

The Aston Martin DB9 will not be the first choice for those looking for the highest technology, the sharpest handling or the cleanest, greenest grand touring car on the market. In fact it lags some way off the pace in these regards. But these shortcomings aren't as terminal in this market sector as they would be when choosing, say, a family hatchback. Instead the DB9 still sits at the front of the pack when it comes to pure GT-style elegance and as an all-round ownership proposition. This is a car with personality in spades and no small amount of talent to back it up. The latest round of revisions are tastefully executed and while most are mere window dressing, they might be enough to remind those that have forgotten quite what a charismatic car the DB9 remains. It would have been welcome to see a little more of the budget spent on modernising the interior but that's about the only quibble. When you've got miles to put on the clock and want it to feel special rather than just effortlessly rapid, it's hard to think of anything much better than the Aston Martin DB9.

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