The instrument pack is particularly attractive and innovative and all dials are made from aluminium. Microperforations allow the warning lights to illuminate through the aluminium. The rev counter runs anti-clockwise to maximise the visible area for the central electronic display, in the main instrument cluster. It’s also a nice reminder of earlier Aston Martin models such as the Atom and the DB2.
There is no conventional red line on the tachometer. A red warning symbol will be displayed when maximum revs are reached but - thanks to the high-tech electronics - the ’red line’ varies, depending on the engine’s mileage, how recently the engine has been started, and ambient temperature.
The electronic message displays in the main instrument cluster, and in the centre console, are organic electroluminescent displays (OEL). This is another car industry first.
There are many benefits to OELs compared with conventional LCDs, including higher resolution and greater contrast, and improved clarity, particularly when viewed from an angle.
The ICE system is state of the art. It’s been developed by Scottish-based Hi Fi experts Linn, and includes its own amplifier and speakers that are specially designed for the DB9. It also benefits from the DB9’s high-quality fibre optic electronics, which pass signals with total clarity. The top-of-the-range 950W Linn Hi Fi system uses 10 speakers and a 200W sub-woofer controlled by an in-built accelerometer that even compensates for changes of pressure in the car’s interior.
"The goal was to make the finest ICE system of any car in the world," says Sean Morris, "and I think we have succeeded."
Aston Martin wanted to make the DB9 one of the safest sports cars in the world. For this, as with the electrical architecture, Aston Martin’s engineers turned to Volvo for assistance.
"Volvo is renowned as the automotive safety leader," says Chief Programme Engineer David King. "It was the perfect partner to assist in delivering the DB9’s outstanding safety performance.
"This car was developed in-house, by Aston Martin’s small but highly skilled engineering team," says King. "Yet there were some areas where it made sense to draw on the expertise of other members of the Premier Automotive Group.
"Safety is one example. We are very fortunate to have Volvo as a partner. This partnership has given us access to the latest safety technologies, best-practice design guidelines and advanced computer aided engineering."
All crash testing was done by Volvo in its state-of-the-art safety centre in Sweden. The VH platform was designed to provide a supremely robust passenger cell that cocoons its occupants. The cell is protected at the front and rear by extruded aluminium crumple zones. Dual-stage driver and passenger airbags, and seat-mounted side airbags, offer further protection, as do seat belt pretensioners.
"When you’re attempting to build the world’s greatest 2+2 sports car - and that’s certainly the goal for the DB9 - there really is no substitute for a V12," says Aston Martin’s Chief Powertrain Engineer Brian Fitzsimons. "Aston Martin’s V12 is acknowledged as one of the best in the world, so was a very good starting point."
The engine is developed from the V12 used in the Vanquish. The advanced quad-cam 48-valve engine has been designed by Aston Martin engineers in partnership with Ford’s RVT (Research and Vehicle Technology), and is unique to Aston Martin.
The crankshaft is new, as are the camshafts, inlet and exhaust manifolds, the lubrication system and engine management. The result is more low-down torque and a more seamless power delivery. Maximum power is 450bhp and maximum torque 570Nm. Even more impressive, 80 percent of that maximum torque is available at only 1500rpm.
"This car will overtake in any gear, at any revs, more or less any time. It really is that good," says Fitzsimons.
Comparing the Vanquish’s engine to that of the DB9, Fitzsimons comments: "The Vanquish offers more ultimate performance, the DB9 has more torque over a wider rev range," says Fitzsimons. In the new DB9, the V12 - which is a significant 11.8kgs (26lb) lighter than the Vanquish V12 - has been fitted as far back and as low as possible, to assist agility and handling. This helps the DB9 achieve its perfect 50:50 weight distribution.
Engine note is also very important to the driving experience. "The Aston V12 engine has been described as having the best sound in the world," says Brian Fitzsimons. "We spent a great deal of time getting the ’music’ of the DB9 just right."
The DB9 is fitted with a rear transaxle to help achieve the ideal 50:50 weight distribution. The front mid-mounted engine is connected to the rear gearbox by a cast aluminium torque tube, inside which is a carbon fibre drive shaft. The use of carbon fibre prevents any flex and ensures low rotational inertia, improving response and cutting both noise and vibration.
Two transmissions are offered: a six-speed ZF automatic gearbox and a new six-speed Graziano manual gearbox. The ZF automatic used in the Aston Martin DB9 is particularly innovative. The DB9 is one of the first cars in the world to use a shift-by-wire automatic gearchange. The conventional PRNDL gear lever has been replaced by a system of buttons that select park, reverse, drive or neutral.
"It’s easy to use and gets rid of the clutter associated with the automatic gear lever on the centre console," says David King.
Those choosing the ZF automatic can drive the car in full auto mode, or can change gear manually using the paddle shifts. The paddles are made from lightweight magnesium and are directly behind the steering wheel, at the 10-to-two position. They allow instant Touchtronic gearchanging.
A great deal of time has been spent ensuring that the new Graziano manual gearbox has a smooth and fast shift action. "It is one of the best manual gearchanges in the world," says Chief Programme Engineer David King. "Driving enjoyment is a very important quality of the DB9, and part of this is a superb gear change action."
The manual uses a twin-plate clutch, compared with the DB7 Vantage’s single plate unit. It is more compact, has lower rotational inertia and is more robust. The clutch effort is also reduced.
The ’swan wing’ doors are unique and will become one of the car’s trademarks. They open out and up (by 12 degrees) making for easier access, especially for the driver’s feet into the footwell. This also improves clearance for the driver’s (or passenger’s) head between side glass and roof, further easing access. The 12-degree angle also means there is less chance of the doors scuffing high pavements. As they are angled, the doors are easier to close: they shut partly under their own weight, rather than relying on the driver having to slam them. Beyond 20 degrees opening angle, there is also infinite door checking. This means that the door will stop and hold at whatever position the driver (or passenger) chooses.
The door handles feature LEDs that illuminate when the car is unlocked, allowing the handles to be located easily in the dark. The exterior handles lie flush with the door, to improve appearance and aerodynamics.
The new DB9 has enjoyed the most thorough testing programme of any new Aston Martin model. Ninety-three prototypes were built and tested in locations as diverse as Nardo in Italy, Death Valley in the USA, and inside the Arctic Circle in Sweden, as well as in laboratories around the world.
As well as using the Cranfield University’s state-of-the-art 40 percent model wind tunnel, Aston Martin also used Ford’s Environmental Test Laboratory in Dunton, which features one of the most advanced climactic wind tunnels in the world.
Other testing took place at Volvo’s world-renowned crash test safety centre in Sweden, and at the vast and superbly equipped Ford test track in Lommel, Belgium.
"Producing the DB9 in small volumes allows us to retain our handcrafting skills," says Aston Martin Product Development Director Jeremy Main. "It also allows us to use bespoke engineering solutions, such as the bonded aluminium structure and the aluminium instrument pack and the Linn ICE system. You just can’t do this in mass production.
"The problem with small volumes, though, is that you typically have to use other manufacturers’ components, and that usually compromises your car. But there are technologies that need high volume processes - ABS and electrical architecture for example - and we are lucky to be able to choose the best available components and then modify and adjust them to suit our needs.
"We’ve been fortunate in not having to compromise. Higher volume systems that we are using - such as the electrics and air conditioning - have actually made the car better."There has probably never been a 2+2 sports car that started with fewer compromises. The result is that the DB9 is a pure, beautifully honed sports machine."
Says Dr Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin: "We’re confident that it is the finest 2+2 sports car in the world, and will continue the Aston Martin success story that is one of the highlights of the British motor industry in recent years."
|Lightweight suspension, brakes...|