JUST A BRIEF MOMENT IN TIME
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Fri, Jul 22, 2005
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
JUST A BRIEF MOMENT IN TIME
By JOHN GRAFMAN
Inside our heads we have two distinct halves. One part is logical, analytical, and number crazy over things like 0-60, price tags, and the number of cylinders. The other half is devoted to more emotional qualities like color, textile materials, and the fun factor. Will there be peace within when the discussion turns to the Aston Martin DB9?
Constantly, we pour over numbers and spec sheet data to give meaning to words, like fast, low, and powerful. Yes, we can cross-reference one machine with another and determine if one is fractionally, numerically superior or inferior to the competitor. LA Car does show comparative figures so the left side of our brains can make sense of it all. In life, some things break down to more than what we can express in just numbers. It's those things that create passion and excitement.
Here's a number: 14,400. That's the number of seconds in four hours. While that might seem like a lot, it isn't. When I take my place behind the wheel of the 2005 Aston Martin DB9 the hours travel past very, very quickly. It's what happens in those 14,400 seconds that really matters.
The DB9 falls into the rare strata that needs no formal introduction to its prowess. The Aston Martin pedigree is well-established. One realizes in a blink that this is as cool as cool gets gets!
The sumptuous shape is mesmerizing. 99.9 percent of the population goes along the highways and byways of life in cars with marginal soul, SUVs that fumble along, or assorted machines designed for utilitarian purposes. The DB9 is sleek and so unlike the vast population that it shares the roads with. This Aston is a shape that is both organic and primal, and at the same time, it reflects the modern capabilities of this brand. Neither youth, nor age is a barrier to comprehending the fine lines of this car.
As the seconds tick by unmercifully, I conclude that I can't go too far away and return in the allotted time frame. If the phrase "a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work" holds any water, I think "a few hours with a DB9 is better than a good day fishing or nearly anything else" certainly holds true. I will make the most of every last second and wring every iota of pleasure from the recent addition to the Aston Martin line possible without causing damage to life, limb, or my license.
Before stepping a foot inside, it's obvious the interior is extraordinary. The exterior door handles recess elegantly in to the body flush. A simple push exposes the handle and a tug opens the door. The hinges swing the door out and upward. The unusual opening allows for easier entry and exit. A quick scan of the interior confirms that those rear seats are not created for children, let alone an adult. Perfect, who needs back seat drivers anyway?
A quick peak at the trunk and it confirms that this is not meant to haul around excess cargo. The hold is just fine for luggage. Packing for a trip might be curtailed, but this is perfect transportation to a waiting yacht or private jet, where the available space is also limited.
Every surface is awash in one beautiful material or another. Our coupe is trimmed in bamboo and flawless leather that is fit for Donald Trump's posterior. The collection of various elements, including the cut glass starter button, produces an interior that has all the hallmarks of an upscale environment. Every detail has been considered and refined. A perfect example is the gauges. While a much simpler solution could have been decided upon, nonetheless, Aston has a detailed metal instrument that is reminiscent of a watch or clock movement in its complexity. Certainly an answer could have been arrived at with less effort, but the driver is to be rewarded with a solution not derived at for the masses.
I do find myself reaching for a non-existent shifter every now and again - until I finally adjust. Across the center console is an array of buttons that start and then engage the transmission into the proper selection. Just a touch of the starter button, and the engine roars to life. A rumble besets the vehicle. A low tone that's so gratifying greets the occupants that it is hard to imagine any problem with the world other than gas prices and speed limits.
Depressing the "D" shifts the machine into drive, which is almost sure to be an experience worth savoring. Like so many cars that have low ground clearance and a long nose, it is necessary to angle out of the driveway. Once on the road and moving forward the fire starts to burn. No matter how much restrain you might have, this car begs for a little throttle. Perhaps if the sound being emitted by the big twelve-cylinder motor wasn't such rapture I wouldn't be as persuaded to push it.
In this day of where the accepted practice of plastic engine covers is seemingly everywhere, Aston Martin proudly displays its motor without any obstructions outside of the hood. Those privileged to gaze at the big twelve that absorbs the available space between the front wheels are treated to a massive power plant that looks as good as it works. One hopes that in the future, other car manufacturers can offer up a similar, albeit size-appropriate, treat.
As I ease out, at even the slightest squeeze of the throttle, the car wants to jet forward. Once the peddle hits the bottom, the car earns its rep. "Amazing" is an appropriate word for the experience. If only all cars were like this, the world would be a better place to live in. As these are but few and far between, I have to preach the gospel. This is the perfect example of time equals money; if you have enough money, this car can save a whole lot of time.
The stiff chassis and suspension are nearly as quickly evident. This DB9 moves with equal aplomb as its looks suggest. The chassis's firmness allows for precise point and shoot driving. I like the set up as it is, but some might have a liking toward a more compliant set-up. The engineers have kept this true to its lineage, and the lucky owners are all the better for it.
Being that I have a tendency to get a little more involved with automotive machinery, I start to play with the paddle shifters. A car that has 450 horsepower really has little need to manually shift to find that extra morsel of power. The difference becomes not one of need but desire - becoming immersed in the driving experience as opposed to just simply experiencing it. Shifting the large paddles that reside behind the steering wheel like two large horns does bring out the devil. Aggressive behavior is part of the package, and I try vainly to maintain civility, but alas, I am weak! I succumb. Oh well, you only go around once.
The six-speed ZF transmission does offer a very unique feature especially evident on manual downshifts. In a manual stick-shift car, I can normally downshift fairly smoothly by matching revs. The DB9, on the other hand, does this with a perfect blip of the throttle every time. I experience no jerkiness at all. The machine makes pushing the car hard with numerous rapid shifting much less of a bother and encourages more sporting activities.
This is not just a pretty face. When I get familiar with the capabilities of the DB, I start to test the boundaries as a child does with its parent. Fortunately, there will be no spankings today. Yes, I do get away with plenty, but in retrospect I think perhaps I was actually shy in reaching any of the limits the car possesses. Still, I dive into turns fast and hard, down-shifting into fast off-ramps, and this thing sticks like superglue! I can't dislodge it, not that I really want to test my luck.
The reaction by even the jaded crowds near the toni South Coast Plaza, home of the busiest of all Nordstrom's, is welcomed. I am glad to see that car enthusiasts are alive and well in The OC. I'm about to pass a crowd of office workers across the street from the plaza, sneaking up while they are at a cross walk awaiting a green light for crossing. I catch then unaware of my approach. As the Aston gets within a half a dozen or so car lengths, I give her all she's got. Sure it's childish (I'll be the first to admit it), but watching all of the 40-50 office workers heads snap left and then swivel to the right in unison (via the rear view mirror) looks as if Paula Abdul is choreographing the whole episode. The thoughts that must be crossing the minds of all those enslaved by their careers! The brief interlude in their routine lives must seem like a glimpse of liberty to a caged bird.
Although the name harkens its British roots, this feels like a world car - a world without boundaries or labels. Build quality of some machines from across the pond have been getting ever better as many of the new parent companies (in this case, Ford) have devoted effort to making them into machines to be revered for years to come. I do notice a small, persistent squeak from over my left shoulder inside the cabin while driving this around. I think any dealer should be able to eradicate this with a little investigating. I am surprised that is the only issue I a came across in a press vehicle that no doubt had been run hard by brutal journalists.
Aston Martin's people are good at numbers. They recognize that I won't want to return this. Even at top speed the reps at Aston know, there is no way I can get this over the border to Canada in the time they allotted us, and the roads in Mexico wouldn't even be worth the effort.
I think they could sense my sadness in returning. While I try to disguise my feelings, I don't think I can hide my enthusiasm or sadness in parting.
That's the thing with the numbers as opposed to feelings. The numbers almost never lie.
Every so often, you get the chance to taste the best of what life has to offer. It's even more of a rare occasion to experience it twice in the same day. This is how I feel when I experience both the Aston Martin DB9 (only 170k and change) and the Sunseeker 53 Portofino" yacht (just under 1.3 million) together in the same afternoon.
When I was asked to participate in this special photo shoot, I jumped at the chance. First off, seeing the DB9 pull up in front of the wharf was a sight to behold. I am blown away by this beautiful piece of machinery, and so is everyone else in the vicinity. People are stopping by to admire the exotic lines and craftsmanship of the car. This is one of those cars that makes you look as good as Brad Pitt, just by standing next to it.
So, to take advantage of the beautiful day in Newport Beach, we took a quick spin around in the DB9, and my main thought is "awesome!" and "where do I get one" and then of course... "How much can I get trading in my wife on one"? The outside lines and style are only a taste of the beauty inside the car. The seats hold your body like soft hands. The leather feels like silk. Everything inside the car is perfectly placed and easy to access.
To top off the whole experience is the 450 hp engine, which makes this beauty a beast.
- Tom Grafman
Price: Base $157,000, as tested $171,545
Engine type: All alloy quad overhead cam 48 valve 5935cc V12. Compression ratio 10.3:1 Visteon engine management controlling fuel injection, ignition, diagnostics and misfire detection system. Stainless steel by-pass valve exhaust system.
Horsepower: 450 @ 6000rpm
Torque: 420 Ib ft @ 5000 rpm
Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive
Transmission: Shift by wire six speed auto transaxle. Six speed manual transaxle. Limited slip differential.
Suspension: Front - Independent aluminium double wishbone incorporating anti-dive geometry. Coil over aluminium bodied monotube dampers and anti-roll bar. Rear - Independent double aluminium wishbone, coil over monotube dampers and anti-roll bar.
Wheels and Tires: Front: Unique lightweight aluminium alloy wheels 8.5 x 19, Bridgestone REO 50 235/40 ZR19 Rear: Unique lightweight aluminium alloy wheels 9.5 x 19, Bridgestone REO 50 275/35 ZR 19
Brakes: Front - Ventilated grooved steel discs 355mm diameter with alloy four piston Brembo monobloc calipers. Rear - Ventilated steel discs 330mm diameter with four piston monobloc calipers and separate handbrake caliper.
Conti Teves stability control system including anti-lock braking activation system (ABS), electronic braking distribution (EBD), traction control (TC), electronic brake assist (EBA) and dynamic stability control (DSC).
Overall length: 4710 mm Overall width: 1875 mm Overall height: 1270 mm (Coupe) Overall weight: 1710 kg (Coupe - Manual) 1800 kg (Coupe - Automatic)
EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 11/17
Maximum Speed: 186 mph (300 km/h)
0-60 mph: 4.7 seconds (Coupe Manual) 0-100 km/h: 4.9 seconds (Coupe Manual)
0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds (Coupe Automatic) 0-100 km/h: 5.1 seconds (Coupe Automatic)