WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: There are some cars that make you spontaneously spout poetry. In the case of the2014 Aston Martin DB9 coupes, it is 18th Century English romantic poetry: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
While Keats never got a chance to drive a DB9, he certainly would have appreciated just looking at one. The lines of this 2+2 coupe are beauty made more beautiful by a subtle but precise restyle that resulted in 70 percent new sheetmetal. Who cares if the look of an Aston Martin hasn't changed radically over the years? It has evolved, and evolved in a wonderful, fluid and soul-stirring way. So even if you never drove this car, but just hung it on a wall in your English manor house and looked at it, you might still be happy.
But do drive it. This is something that performs as supremely as its looks promise you it will.
Thanks to subtle engine tuning last year, the 6.0-liter V12 now makes 510 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque.
Power is routed from the front-longitudinally mounted engine through a phone-pole-sized alloy torque tube to Aston's Touchtronic2 rear midmounted six-speed automatic.
The whole thing sits in an aluminum cage to which are hung aluminum, magnesium and composite panels -- mostly aluminum. It weighs in at 3,935 pounds. That's good for a 0-62 time of 4.6 seconds, according to Aston, though I'm guessing it could go even quicker than that.
Like many supercars, it has its quirks. I still don't like the slippery crystal jewelry key thingy that you have to slide into the dash-mounted slot and push without breaking all your fingernails. And I still think the push-button shifter setup is just plain silly. You can use the paddle shifters to really operate the transaxle in a more sporty fashion, but to get reverse, neutral or park you have to push those big, fat buttons on the console. The rear seats are ridiculous even for little kids, but must be necessary for insurance purposes. And the new carbon front splitter scrapes at even the suggestion of a driveway divot.
On the road, at first, the DB9 comes across as far more of a gran touring car than a sports car. There's nothing wrong with that. Its comportment is supremely composed in any of the three settings you chose for the adaptive damping, though the differences between normal, sport and track modes may be too subtle for many drivers unless you push it hard. Likewise the sport button, which increases steering response and exhaust sportiness, is also subtle.
I got a chance to push it hard on some of my favorite local twisting two-lane and found that it performed better the harder I pushed it. In fact, it felt more and more like a sports car the faster I went. The paddle shifters changed gears instantaneously. The speed-sensitive Servotronic rack and pinion steering was precise without letting too much road bounce in. The Pirelli P Zero tires never got to the point where they squealed at all, but just quietly and efficiently held on to all the pavement they could reach. Likewise, the carbon ceramic brakes were never really put to the test, either, but performed flawlessly as hard as I flogged them with no fade at either hot or cold temperatures. The body itself was stiffer than I was able to twist, that torque tube never got torqued out of line.
As I said, the harder you push this thing, the better it feels.
If I was in this segment of the market (ha!) and had to choose between this, the Maserati Gran Turismo and theMercedes-Benz SLS GT AMG why I'd… uh… I think I'd pass out. Those are all splendid cars that I have been very lucky to drive and I loved them all, each in their own way. So I really have no advice there. Apart from some silly cockpit awkwardness, I'd live happily ever after in a DB9. Or either of those other two cars. But the Aston Martin is certainly the best-looking of them. So, as Keats said, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty -- that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
2014 Aston Martin DB9 Coupe
Base Price: $185,400
As-Tested Price: $207,365
Drivetrain: 6.0-liter V12; RWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 510 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 457 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,935 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 13/19/15 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 13.5 mpg
Options: Exterior carbon package ($9,090); BeoSound audio system ($8,330); 20-inch 10-spoke graphite diamond turned wheels ($4,545)
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