Aston's DB9 bows out of its 13-year run with GT edition. We drive it on UK roads and to Le Mans to see if it's the best yet

What is it?

To call the Aston Martin DB9 GT a run-out model would be a gross over-simplification, but there’s no denying that it will be the last and final version of the seminal V12-powered flagship grand tourer that appeared in 2003 and ushered its manufacturer into the modern era, soon after it had relocated to its present Gaydon factory.

Nowadays, Aston Martin people are busy in the back rooms expanding their model range for the years beyond 2020, yet even after 12 years in production the DB9 shape and specification still look deeply impressive - especially in this GT guise, with a unique black splitter at the front that matches the one behind.

Some will see the DB9 era as a golden period in Aston history and will want to plug into it before it ends. This new GT is for them.

What's it like?

Familiar, mainly, but the DB9 has had huge improvements over the years and this car continues the trend right to the end.

There’s a feeling, typified by the new nav screen, touch-sensitive console switchgear and a myriad more conscientiously applied improvements, that Aston Martin is using this last of the DB9s to ramp up to its replacement, called DB11 (shown at Geneva next March; on sale late in the year), because the DB10 label has already been used up on the forthcoming Bond film.

The 5935cc quad-cam V12 appears for the last time in normally aspirated form, punching out another 30bhp and thus delivering 540bhp at 6750rpm, not far short of the output tipped for the cleaner, twin-turbo version that’s coming next.

But again, there’s a strength and a simplicity about the way this engine delivers its power, good enough to be remembered long after it’s gone. It still sounds wonderful in the cabin and the always smooth power and torque delivery are second to none, even if the paddle-controlled automatic transmission is only a six-speeder as opposed to the eight-slot ’box everyone else is adopting (including Aston itself for the DB11).

There aren’t many other headline changes in the GT, barring the name, but the colour and trim options are modern and varied (Aston prides itself on meeting customers needs here). The looming fascia and somewhat confined cabin don’t really match the best modern designs, but the whole thing is built with obvious love and care, and it’s a pleasure to run your eye along the flawless hand-stitching of the dash

Dynamically, the car is a peach. The ride is flat and controlled - perhaps a few percent softer than hard-nuts would like - but ideal for the use we put it to on test, which included a drive to Le Mans. There’s a pleasant feeling of tautness about the whole structure, but the damping delivers near-perfect body control with subtle comfort.

The steering has been improved in steps since 2003 and now stands pretty close to perfect for a fairly quick and intuitive car such as this. If this feature crosses the divide to the DB11, it’ll be good news.

On a long trip you might feel a bit constrained by the paucity of interior space. Some will never notice (and compared with the previous DB7 it’s like a mobile ballroom) but the footwells are no bigger than they need to be and the fascia intrudes into occupants’ personal space in a way the DB11’s creators have avoided.

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The rear compartment, while handy, isn’t really big enough even for kids for very long, but that's another criticism that is due to be corrected.  

Should I buy one?

If you want to get aboard the DB9 express before it leaves the station, this is your final opportunity. There’s no disputing you’ll be choosing a fine driver’s car and best of the DB9s, with dynamic standards bang up to date even if the basic underpinnings are a dozen years old.

But if you can wait, the DB11 may well be the more exciting choice, because it’ll usher in a new Aston 'look and will be a bit more practical. Best choice of all? Buy them both.

Aston Martin DB9 GT

Location UK and France; On sale Now; Price £140,000; Engine V12, 5935cc, petrol; Power 540bhp at 6750rpm; Torque 457lb ft at 5500rpm; Kerb weight 1785kg; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; 0-60mph 4.5sec; Top speed 183mph; Economy 19.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 333g/km, 37%

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Driving 21 August 2015

eight speed to transform

why dont aston martin just stuff an 8 speed auto??? too cheap
Driving 21 August 2015

eight speed to transform

why dont aston martin just stuff an 8 speed auto??? too cheap
gillmanjr 20 August 2015

The DBS was still the best

The DBS was still the best looking of them all...