There isn’t a nameplate more synonymous with Aston Martin than the DB series, and we owe a huge part of the company’s modern appeal to the Aston Martin DB9. Introduced in 2003, this V12-powered grand tourer marked the beginning of the marque’s Gaydon Era and quickly became the quintessential 21st century Aston Martin.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the DB9 is a car holding utmost importance for Aston Martin. But, what’s so special about this car? Why did it leave such a strong impact on the recent history of the British marque? And why is there no Aston Martin DB8? We’re setting off to analyze the Aston Martin DB9 and find out.
Without digging too deep into marque’s history, we’ll start off by saying that the Aston Martin DB lineage was named after Sir David Brown, a wealthy industrialist and the marque’s post-WW2 owner. Sir Brown bought the company in 1947, laying the foundations of Aston Martin we know and love today.
Under Brown’s ownership, Aston Martin unveiled a series of DB road and DBR racing cars, most famous being the DB4 and the 007-approved DB5, as well as Le Mans-winning DBR1. The final car wearing the DB badge under Sir David Brown was the DBS, a car departing from the alphanumeric naming, but not straight-six power Aston Martin was known for.
In the post-Brown era, the DB badge was discontinued in favor of the Vantage, while the flagship grand tourer soon got a Tadek Marek V8. During this tumultuous period, the company kept afloat thanks to Victor Gauntlett who reintroduced Aston Martin as a Bond car and modernized the line-up through involvement with Zagato and the Virage range.
David Brown’s initials reappeared under Ford’s ownership with the introduction of the DB7 and thanks to Tom Walkinshaw’s personal involvement in Jaguar. Yes, you’ve read that well; the DB7 started its life as a Jaguar, albeit a rejected one.
In the wake of a big economic crisis, Walkinshaw modernized the Jaguar XJS into Project XX, a grand tourer closer to the E-Type’s classic proportions and philosophy, but given Jaguar’s own hardships, especially the economic downturn of the XJ220, Jaguar rejected the project.
On the other hand, Aston Martin’s CEO Walter Hayes persuaded Jaguar’s young and upcoming designer Ian Callum to alter the Jaguar Project XX into a vehicle resembling an Aston Martin (Project NPX). Enter Jac Nasser – a newly appointed Ford of Europe CEO who was genuinely interested in this project, and the Project NPX concept was shown at the 1993 Geneva Motor Show, where it hands down stole the show.
Given an ecstatic reaction from the public, Aston Martin suits revived the DB nameplate, naming the car DB7.
Since it was a bootstrap project with a modest budget, the DB7 was a glorious compromise of a car built on a mid-70s XJS platform and with a 340-horsepower supercharged straight-six also coming from Jaguar and a host of interior and exterior features borrowed from various Ford-owned marques. Two years later, and thanks to positive market response, Jaguar introduced its own car on the same platform, the XK8.
To keep the DB7 above the XK8, the grand tourer was revitalized in 1999 as the DB7 V12 Vantage, replacing the supercharged straight-six with a naturally aspirated 420 horsepower 5.9-liter V12 engine codenamed AM11. By introducing this twelve-cylinder powerhouse to the DB line, Aston Martin set a new milestone for the company’s future.
Propelled by the DB7’s newfound success, Aston Martin elbowed its way towards becoming Ford’s flagship brand, resulting in more ambitious and properly funded projects.
To celebrate entering the new Millenium, the company released the V12-powered Vanquish, followed by opening a new, purpose-built factory in Gaydon, a small village in Warwickshire.
The Gaydon plant became a defining moment for Aston Martin, marking its headquarters for the era of growth, global recognition, and financial stability.
Upon releasing the Vanquish, Aston Martin set to replace the aging DB7 with a new V12-powered bread and butter car similar to the then-flagship, yet suited for bigger production numbers.
The development process of the new DB car greatly differed from that of the DB7. While Aston Martin was still under Ford of Europe, a far better economic climate and incredible momentum from the DB7 and the V12 Vanquish gave the engineering department free reins.
The new car’s design was signed by Henrik Fisker, who had then left BMW after completely transforming its visual identity with Chris Bangle, although there’s no doubt that Ian Callum had his fingers all over it. In Callum’s own words, the DB9 was “a Vanquish with a dinner jacket on,” and we couldn’t agree more.
Having been provided with a proper development budget, Aston Martin engineers used the chance to properly develop each vital component of the upcoming DB on a modern bespoke platform worthy of a manufacturer of Aston Martin’s caliber.
By using modern construction principles and top-shelf materials and mixing them into a stunning package, Aston Martin matched and properly rivaled other exotic car manufacturers with the DB9.
The new DB9 coupe was finally revealed at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show, with the soft-top Volante expanding the range at the Detroit Auto Show six months later. The duo stayed in production until 2016, enduring several revisions, namely a smaller update in 2007 and more substantial facelifts in 2008 and 2013, and a performance-focused spin-off model called DBS V12.
During the DB9’s lifespan, Aston Martin changed hands, becoming a private limited company in 2007 thanks to Prodrive chairman David Richards who led a consortium of investment bankers and Kuwaiti firms Adeem Investment and Investment Dar. Soon after this acquisition. Aston Martin re-entered racing, making the DB9 a milestone car for yet another reason.
Aston Martin DB9: The Name
There are two reasons why there was no Aston Martin DB8, and looking from a distance, both seem equally plausible today.
The primary reason the new DB car was seen as such a huge leap for the company compared to the compromise-driven DB7 that Aston Martin decided to skip the number 8 and call the new sports car DB9.
On the other hand, the number eight in a car’s name usually implies an eight-cylinder engine, and as a V12 powered the new DB, the name DB8 just didn’t fit the formula regardless of chronology, hence becoming DB9.
The DB9 was the first Aston Martin to be built on the VH platform. The VH stands for Vertical/Horizontal platform, and it was a result of an experience in building the advanced underpinnings of the Aston Martin Vanquish.
But, whereas the Vanquish blended carbon fiber and aluminum, Aston Martin built the production-friendly DB9 platform solely out of aluminum alloy structures.
The VH architecture comprises epoxy adhesive-bonded aluminum panels, resulting in a lighter and twice as rigid skeleton compared to the DB7. Engineers at Gaydon did their best to decrease the weight of the DB9 further, equipping it with more lightweight components such as magnesium inner door frames.
Given that the DB9 was produced from 2003 all the way to 2016, its VH platform received several refinements and upgrades. The first came in 2008, whereas the second and a more radical one followed in 2013. In its final years, the DB9 utilized a Generation III VH300 platform upgraded with carbon fiber components.
Engine and Transmission
The V12 engine that found its place under the hood of the DB9 was a Cosworth-designed 5.9-liter AM11, the only vital part of the car carried over from the predecessors.
Even though this V12 already powered the DB7 V12 and the Vanquish, it was substantially revised for the DB9, and Aston Martin’s employees at Gaydon took over the assembly. However, the production was still entrusted to Cosworth.
The revision’s final result gave the AM11 450 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 420 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 RPM. Over the course of production, the power output eventually grew to 470 horsepower and 443 lb-ft in 2009 and once more to 510 thoroughbreds and 457 lb-ft in 2013. The final run called Aston Martin DB9 GT got 540 horsepower at 6,750 RPM and 457 lb-ft at 5500 RPM.
The V12 was available with two transaxle transmission units, the 6-speed ZF 6HP26 Touchtronic automatic with magnesium paddle shifters, or a more traditional 6-speed manual. The three-pedal layout was an option, and the transmission unit was provided by a revered Turinese gearbox supplier Graziano Transmissioni.
The power was sent to the rear wheels through a limited-slip differential via aluminum alloy tubes and a lightweight carbon shaft. At the same time, the transaxle gearbox itself was instrumental for achieving a perfect 50:50 weight balance.
The ZF 6-speed offered the driver a 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds compared to the manual’s 4.7 run from a standstill to 60 MPH. In 2009, the acceleration time decreased to 4.6 seconds when the DB9 was equipped with an updated Touchtronic 2. Throughout the years, the DB9’s top speed lingered around 190 MPH, and as the 5.9-liter V12 was getting more power, the acceleration times dropped to as low as claimed four-second sprint for the final DB9 GT.
Body and Interior
When it came to the looks, the DB9 was a balanced blend of traditional Aston Martin design cues like the fender-mounted strikethrough vane with a new design direction introduced by Ian Callum and finalized by Henrik Fisker who took over the design department in the final development stages.
Most importantly, each part of the DB9 was bespoke, not shared with any pedestrian Ford-owned product. That being said, the DB9’s body was considerably more modern too even when it came to the construction itself.
Most panels were made from aluminum, except for the carbon composite front wings and trunk lid. Moreover, the DB9 famously introduced swan doors, a slightly upwards-opening solution that was aesthetically pleasing and prevented curbing the aluminum panels.
Combined with the VH platform, featherweight Superform aluminum bodywork enabled the DB9 to weigh a whole 25% less than the DB7, further emphasizing just how much Aston Martin progressed when it introduced the new DB car.
For the 2013 model year, the DB9 received a subtle yet effective facelift that included modernized front fascia and details, adding an optional Carbon Pack. This package added a carbon fiber front splitter, rear diffuser, and side mirrors, upping the DB9 both in looks and aerodynamics.
Inside, the DB9 was nothing short of aristocratic, with ample use of soft leather supplied by Bridge of Weir Leather. It also included crystal glass buttons, a choice of mahogany, walnut, or bamboo wood trim, and era-defining high-tech goodies like iPod connectivity 6-CD changer and satellite navigation on top of the center console.
Now, while all that 2000s tech didn’t age considerably well given the fast-paced development, one feature did. Yes, we’re talking about a ‘reverse’ rev counter, a design quirk we loved on the DB9.
The 2013 DB9 update modernized the interior, but it also introduced sportier options like the 2+0 seating. In addition to deleting the rear seats, this option installed 37lb lighter Kevlar and carbon seats designed for more spirited driving. On top of that, one could also opt for the interior Carbon Pack replacing magnesium gear shifters with carbon fiber paddle shifter, among other interior details.
The DB9 utilized independent double wishbone suspension with coil springs, an anti roll bar with the addition of anti-squat and anti-lift tech on the rear axle.
With technological progress, the DB9 utilized monotube adaptive dampers in its later production years, offering a choice of three modes: Normal, Sport and Track. That way, Aston Martin offered a more versatile driving experience.
Brakes, Wheels, and Tires
The brakes of the DB9 were 355mm front and 330mm ventilated, and grooved steel rotors gripped by aluminum Brembo four-piston calipers in the front and rear. Initially, cross-drilled Carbon Ceramic Material brake rotors were an option.
Given the increase in power and technological progress during the DB9’s production years, this Aston Martin later got advanced carbon ceramic brakes as standard, in the form of 398mm front and 360mm rear rotors, with six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers, ensuring a considerable bump in longevity and braking capabilities.
Upon launch, the DB9 was equipped with 19 x 8.5 alloy wheels in the front and 19 x 9.5 back with Bridgestone Potenza 235/40ZR19 and 275/35ZR19 in the back.
The later versions of the DB9 obtained 20×8.5 front and 20×11 rear alloys clad in Pirelli P-Zero 245/35ZR20 and 295/30ZR20, respectively.
Aston Martin DB9 in Racing
Initially, Ford didn’t have plans to put Aston Martin DB9 on the racetracks. Still, when the company changed hands and Prodrive took over, the stylish grand tourer evolved into a formidable racer.
Clad in historic green hues, proudly displaying the Union Jack flag and accented with yellow or orange details, the DB9 evoked Aston Martin’s rich racing heritage, lighting up the flames of a long-forgotten track-dominating force.
A flagship racer, the DBR9 was the first car Prodrive developed for Aston Martin’s grand return. Aston Martin produced a total of 16 DBR9s, and it raced in GT1 class both as a factory works and a customer car.
The carbon-bodied 6.0-liter 625-horsepower DBR9 won its debut race, the 2005 Sebring 12 Hours, but a class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans had to wait until 2007, followed by another triumph in 2008 when the 009 DBR9 wore the iconic Gulf Oil color scheme.
The DBR9 spawned two roadgoing DB9 spinoffs, one being the 2008 Le Mans-commemorating DB9 LM edition built in 60 copies, while the other was the thoroughly re-engineered DBS.
In addition to the flagship DBR9, Aston Martin and Prodrive prepared an FIA GT3-spec DBRS9 powered by a 5.9-liter V12 modified to produce 550 horsepower. The junior DBR9 could be ordered either with a close-ratio 6-speed manual or sequential manual 6-speed gearbox supplied by Xtrac.
The DBRS9 competed in FIA GT3 Championship, ADAC GT Masters, British, Belgian and Australian GT Championship, and the Speed World Challenge.
In its 12-year production run, the DB9 transformed Aston Martin from a perpetually troubled boutique carmaker with a stellar movie career into a globally present sports car manufacturer.
In addition to attracting executives and 007 aficionados, the DB9 also obtained Aston Martin back on the racing map as well, which is just another reason for it being the most important car coming from Gaydon.
Finally, the DB9 is a coveted neoclassic with numerous specifications to choose from. Whether it’s sheer power output, the driver-centric Graziano 6-speed, audiophiliac B&O system, or special editions like the Quantum Silver, Carbon Black, Morning Frost, or DB9 GT, a selection of pre-loved DB9 is waiting for new caretakers to experience the joys of owning an Aston Martin grand tourer.