2016 Aston Martin DB9 GT

The art of aging gracefully

"Aston's old school V12 is one of the last supercars that sounds like it belongs on a Formula One circuit," said David.

"If the reason you don't buy a DB9 GT is that it isn't ‘super' enough, then you're just an idiot."

"The interior remains the same: licentious and fondly crafted."

"The DB9 feels faster than Aston says it is."

In Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles's famed Angeles Crest Highway is the home of a thousand switchback turns and almost as many spitting superbikes. I'm chasing one, a Michelin-tired, Akropovic-exhausted Suzuki Gixxer 1000, ably piloted by a knee-dragger who's obviously clipped these apexes before. The 20-inch Pirelli PZeros are squirming, the sound of the barking V12 threatens even 1000 watts of Bang & Olufsen and I am giving many thanks to our Lord God Brembo for the wonders of carbon ceramic disc brakes. This is why, I conclude (while storming out of yet another decreasing-radius hairpin smirking like Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List), the independently foolish buy supercars.

Later, ruminating about speed and adrenaline at Sunset Boulevard's trendy Skybar (the valet parking chock-a-block with the latest in Ferrari and Lamborghini fashion ware), I can't help but come to a more sobering conclusion: the rich buy cars for all the wrong reasons and, worse yet - because I might be ascribing way too much importance to the advice I provide - I think we auto journalists are giving them very poor counsel.

The impetus for this revelation is that the car I was hooning about in is Aston Martin's "new" DB9 GT, those quotations mark denoting just a tinge of sarcasm, since as any card-carrying enthusiast knows, the word "new" applied to any Aston Martin is very much a relative term. The basic platform is now 12 years old, a run of engineering "consistency" - that's sarcasm again - roughly double the average age of a modern motorcar. Even the most rudimentary of sedans is completely redesigned every four or five years. Indeed, since the DB9's VH platform was first shown at the 2003 Frankfurt auto show, Honda has gone through three generations of Civic and is just about to launch its fourth. If the DB9 had hair, it would be grey; were it an actor, it would be Christopher Plummer.

It will come as no surprise then, that DB9 - even in this new ‘roarier' guise - can't compete, at least on paper, with the latest from Ferrari, Lamborghini and even BMW. Ferrari's 488, its V8 newly turbocharged, boasts some 121 more horsepower (661 hp versus 540) than the GT'd DB9. Lamborghini's Huracan claims 70 more ponies and throws in a high-performance all-wheel drive system to boot. Heck, BMW's i8 gives up nine cylinders - yes, nine cylinders - and 4.5 liters of displacement to the aging British 6.0 liter V12, yet its combination of a 128 horsepower electric motor and 228 horsepower 1.5 liter three-cylinder engine powers the carbon fibred hybrid to exactly the same performance (4.4 seconds to 96 km/h) as the hot-rod DB9. By any objective measure, the DB9, newly GT'd though it may be, is well past its prime.

And yet I couldn't be happier. There's power-a-plenty. Indeed, roaring as I was up the Crest, I never once got the big V12 past five grand, the 540 horsepower it now pumps out at 6,750 rpm un-needed and, perhaps more surprisingly to those who can only dream of driving a much-muscled supercar, unwanted. Even Sebastien Vettel couldn't use all 540 of the 6.0 liter V12's horses on a road so twisty (and public). More would simply be a distraction or, for those lacking in driving talent, a crutch.

Meanwhile, the 245/35ZR20 front Pirelli's stick like glue and the six-piston front brakes are so powerful - eminently important when "cruising" the back slope of the Crest - that they border on touchy. The steering wheel is "talking" (no sarcasm implied this time) to me, keeping me abreast of every little creak and crack in the road. Ditto for the suspension, which, Adaptive Damping System flipped into Track mode, allows precious little body roll. By any measure, the DB9 GT is a supercar, if not quite the latest supercar. Perhaps more importantly, the GT is proof positive that even the oldest and slowest supercar - and the DB9 is certainly the former and amongst the latter - is more car than anyone needs.

So, here's my advice for anyone with a spare $211,150 ($226,525 if you want the B&O audio system and my tester's 10-spoke, diamond-turned wheels): don't buy the DB9 GT if its wonky infotainment system - Aston's AMi computer interface, version 2.0, still looks like it was purloined from a five-year-old Kia - doesn't meet your elevated standards. Drop it from your shopping list because Aston persists with its damnably awkward parking brake (you need to pull it up before it will release and if you don't get it just right it locks the brake even more). Hell, I suppose it's even plausible - though I would deem you an automotive Philistine - that you don't find the DB9 comely enough to pry open the vault.

But, if the reason you don't buy a DB9 GT is that it isn't "super" enough, then you're just an idiot.

Pros: Still sleek, swift and sexy after all these years
Cons: Older than the hills
Rivals: Lamborghini Huracan LP580-2, Audi R8, Porsche 911 Turbo, McLaren 570S
Engine: 6.0 L, V12, 540 hp @ 6,750 rpm, 620 Nm @ 5500 rpm
Transmission: 6 speed paddle-shifted manual, RWD
Performance: 0-100 km/h: 4.5 sec, top speed: 295 km/h, 15.6 L /100 km
Weight: 1,789 kg

One word: long-standing
3.5 stars

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