Few automakers have as strong a sense of tradition as strong as Aston Martin. Sure, the Porsche 911 has been constantly (and gracefully) evolving since 1964, but Aston’s entire lineup follows a direct line of evolution dating back to the early 1950s. As a result, there’s nothing else in the world that can be confused with an Aston Martin; you can spot one from a mile away, no matter what decade it was built. But while these styling hallmarks are a huge part of the Aston mystique, it also puts designers in a bind. How do you improve on a design that’s already considered by millions to be perfect?
Aston’s designers have answered that question with the refreshed for 2016 DB9 GT, the final version of a car that’s been the anchor in the company’s lineup since it debuted in 2003. Even though the fastback profile and hexagonal grille carries over to all of the company’s cars, there’s a lot at stake each time the company updates its “DB” line – a series of cars better known as James Bond’s ride of choice.
This is the second refresh for the aging DB9, and will also be its last. The grand tourer bowed in 2003 to replace the DB7, an iconic car that was hailed as the savior of the brand when it debuted back in 1994. Now entering its 13th model year, the DB9 is still strong enough of a grand tourer to run with the world’s best, but 13 years is an eternity in the automotive world, and its competitors from Bentley and Porsche aren’t exactly getting any slower. With its sharpened design and increased power, the DB9 GT should be more than able to hold its own until a next-generation DB car arrives in 2017.
With the new DB9 GT, Aston says that “Nearly 50% of all parts and more than 70% of all body panels are new,” but instead of a few big changes, the car benefits from a host of minor revisions that make the DB9 that much sharper. While it was never the quickest car in its segment, the DB9’s 6.0 liter V12 gets a power boost from 510 to 540 horsepower, which should help to make it keep up in a segment where cars regularly top the 600 horsepower mark. There’s also a little less car for the engine to pull – the DB9’s chassis has been revised and strengthened, resulting in a tidy 33 pound weight loss. With these upgrades, the DB9 GT has a factory-claimed zero to 62 time of 4.5 seconds, and a top speed of 183 miles per hour.
Inside, Aston has tastefully updated the interior, resulting in what it calls “the most luxurious Aston Martin DB9 in history.” A number of different color leather and trim options are offered, but the big news is the company’s new AMi II infotainment system, with a faster processing time, and a new feature that can display horsepower and torque in real time. All told, the new DB9 GT is available to order immediately, and starts at a cool $198,415.
There aren’t many cars that could age as gracefully over 13 years as the DB9 has. But the writing is on the wall, and Aston Martin has been busy testing the replacement car (expected to be called the DB11) in preparation for its debut at next year’s Geneva Motor Show. Aston has already built a gorgeous DB10 model for the upcoming James Bond film Spectre, but the company has committed to keeping that car a strict one-off.
Things are changing quickly for Aston Martin, and by the time DB9 GT production ends, the company will be a very different place. Aside from the next-generation DB11, the company will be on its way to building an American factory, and preparing to send the DBX, a high-end luxury crossover into production. With the DBX, the company hopes to increase sales from 4,000 to 15,000 cars a year. Critics may bemoan the idea of an Aston SUV (especially an American-built one), but as Porsche has shown, a profitable mass-market model allows a company to push the envelope with even more advanced sports cars. And if the DB9 GT is any indication of the company’s direction, then the future looks pretty bright for Aston Martin.