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Reader Drive: Aston Martin DB9

2007-05-25 07:28

Diego, Johannesburg

The first challenge when driving this car is deciding whether to listen to the 950 watt Linn sound system or the beautiful roar of that V12.

No words can describe how balanced and sorted the handling on this car is. I've driven a lot of cool toys and while many have been as good, they've usually had a few tricks to do so. The Porsche 911 Turbo is four wheel drive, the M6 has SMG and adaptive suspension, while the M3 CSL has semi-slick tyres.

By comparison the Aston Martin has an unremarkable power output, big lump up front, rear wheel drive and an auto gearbox. Sound boring... It's anything but!

335 kW, 570 Nm

They've somehow managed to make that V12 "mid engined" by placing it behind the front axle. It also has a dry sump, so it's very low down for a great centre of gravity.

It also drinks like a V12 and hovers between the mid 20s and 30s, depending on whether I'm flooring it or in stop/start traffic.

The gearbox is mounted over the rear axle, which results in a car with balance that is incredibly sharp. The extra weight of the gearbox at the back adds huge stability and is also good for traction. In many ways it has many of the benefits of Porsche's rear engined set up, but it isn't as heavy and the gearbox is balanced by the engine.

The gearbox itself is a peach and really puts SMG to shame. It's a normal auto with paddles on the wheel. It works like the best of the latest generation of autos when left to its own devices however, when switched across to manual operation the changes are sharp, instant and smooth.

The sports button

Mechanically the car comes together so beautifully. There is of course a sports button in the car, which has the usual steering, throttle and gearbox enhancing effects. This makes very little difference to the steering feel and while the throttle response is a bit sharper, it's no big deal. The gearbox becomes even more aggressive with the tiniest of thumps when changing gears - it's difficult to explain but it's a good feeling.

Despite being fitted with a sports pack it handles deteriorated roads well at fair speeds. The steering lets you know what sort of surface you're driving over, but doesn't wrestle in your hands and manages to retain its composure. Suspension is much the same, with the car staying completely in control even through S bends that have a dip and then rise in the middle. But it isn't rock hard and actually delivers a very comfortable ride.

The interior is a similarly simple work of art. The entire cabin is a combination of metal, leather and silky smooth piano wood finishes. There is hardly any plastic to be seen in the interior and even the steering column is wrapped in leather. The roof and pillars are covered in Alcantara trim. The facia is beautiful; simple and perfectly finished off by a crystal starter button in the centre of the dashboard.

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