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0-60 aston martin db9 volante convertble roadster droptop ragtop 2013 virage review driven test drive
BY: Bix

Test Drives - 2013 Aston Martin DB9 Volante

Damn, it feels good to be a gangster.

Story: Will Sabel Courtney

Photography: Andrew Link

These days, it seems like every big-name sports car company you can think of has some even bigger name brand behind ’em: Ferrari has Fiat; Porsche has VW; Lamborghini has Audi...which in turn is owned by VW as well. Aston Martin, though, goes it alone. Ford owned the company for a while, but a decade or so ago, Aston struck off on its own and hasn’t looked back. (And for what it's worth, the cars have only gotten better since they ditched the Blue Oval.)

Why are we mentioning this? Well, consider it context for why some of the smaller details in the DB9 don’t quite live up to what you’d expect from a car that costs north of $200,000. The navigation system is a Garmin—albeit one in a very attractive retractable carbon-fiber housing. The radio screen is the anti-Retina display—black and white, with pixels so large you can pick them out five feet away. The windows roll up automatically when you open the door with the car off, but they don’t roll back down when you start the car again. Little things like that.

here in 2013, in the golden age of automotive quality and features—when you can by a Ford Focus with leather seats and Jaguar makes cars that don't short-circuit when it gets humid—We call those sorts of things flaws. But with an Aston Martin, these aren't flaws. They're just part of the car's character.

The DB9 is a throwback to an earlier time, when luxury cars were made by hand in small batches, and every car had its flaws—but you didn’t care, because they were your car’s flaws, and you loved them because that was part of the package. Perfection is characterless. Perfection is boring.

So if you can look past those…character traits, the DB9 is a sweet ride, indeed. Practice walking backward, because you’ll never be able to park this car without staring at it as you walk away. It’s one of the finest-looking cars ever—period. Stack it up against the E-Type, the 300SL, your preferred generation of 911—the DB9 has a fighting chance of coming out on top. The interior upholstery looks like it was put together on Savile Row. The naturally aspirated V12—that beautiful dying breed of engine—makes music when you put your foot down.

And with 510 horses, it moves the decently heavy Aston with serious oomph. We took it to some of our favorite mountain roads and let it loose alongside a new Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, only to be pleasantly surprised to see the old-school, drop-top, “character”-filled DB9 stick to the lighter, all-wheel-drive-equipped, technological wündercar like Carl Weathers to a ham bone.

No car is perfect, but some make a business out of coming as close to it as possible. (We're looking at you, Lexus.) But y'know...maybe we could use a little more imperfection in the automotive world. Especially if the results wind up as beautiful and as fast as the DB9 Volante.


Price as Tested: $222,505

Power: 510hp, 457 lb.-ft.

0-60: 4.5 secs.

Fuel Economy: 13 city, 19 hwy

Miles Driven: 295

May 24, 2013 at 02:29 PM
0-60 aston martin nurburgring Nürburgring parade cc100 anniversary speedster one-77 db5 race racing concept
BY: Bix

Shots Of the Day: Aston Martin Reunion At The Nürburgring / CC100 Speedster Concept

Bringing you the finest shots found in the depths of the Internet.

Aston Martin celebrated their 100 year anniversary with a new concept car, the CC100 Speedster, and with a parade of Aston Martins at the Nürburgring Nordschlife. You may have just found your new iPhone 5 wallpaper, folks.

The Aston Martin CC100 Speedster Concept, in case you were wondering, is a concept inspired by the DBR1 race car that Sir Sterling Moss drove 667 miles to an endurance race win back in 1959. Based off the same basic platform that underpins all of Aston Martin's production cars, the CC100 uses a naturally-aspirated V12 and a six-speed sequential manual gearbox. 0-60 goes by in a little less than four seconds, with a top speed of 180 mph. If anyone actually is willing to drive 100 mph in this thing without a helmet, we'll give them an award.

[First image via Teamspeed, subsequent images via Aston Martin]

May 23, 2013 at 03:00 PM
bmw m5 m6
BY: Bix

2014 BMW M5, M6 Score A Competition Package

You will want to check this option box.

The BMW M5 is only a year or so old, but the F10-model 5 Series it's based on has some decent miles under its belt. And with the regular old 5 Series due for a mid-life cycle refresh, it seems BMW said, "What the hell, let's spruce up the M5 and M6, too." (more…)

May 20, 2013 at 07:04 PM
0-60 2014 mercedes-benz s-class s550 s63 amg s65 s600 s350 s400 new
BY: Bix

Meet The All-New 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class (w/Video)

If you can only have one car, this might be a good choice.

A new Mercedes-Benz S-Class doesn't come around all that often—the last one popped up in 2005—so when one does show up, it's a big deal. So let's give it up for the all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class—the car of tomorrow, today. (more…)

May 16, 2013 at 05:39 PM
0-60 porsche 918 spyder production orange black sweet walter rohrl
BY: Bix

Porsche Reveals The Almost-Production Ready 918 Spyder

Hope you have your million bucks lined up.

After years of teasing and tempting us, the Porsche 918 Spyder will finally enter production on September 18th, 2013. But the looming launch date doesn't mean Porsche needs to close the tap on their steady stream of media updates. In fact, Porsche has just given us our best look yet at their entrant into the Supercar War of 2013. (more…)

May 16, 2013 at 03:14 PM
0-60 holden gen f hsv gts lsa v8 supercharged cadillac cts-v chevrolet ss camaro zl1
BY: Bix

Holden Reveals New HSV Gen F Range, Includes 585 HP GTS Sedan

Forbidden fruit from the land down under.

GM must really like Australia, because their Aussie division Holden gets all the best affordable V8-powered practical sports cars. And even when GM brings a few RWD, V8-powered Holdens over here—like the Pontiac G8 and the Chevrolet SS—the versions they get in Australia are still better. (more…)

May 14, 2013 at 05:32 PM
BY: Bix

Lamborghini Egoista: The Supercar So Exclusive, No One Can Have It

And only one person can sit in it.

Ego. If your mom and dad were like this humble writer's, they probably taught you that ego is generally a negative thing. As you get older, you start to realize the value of having a healthy one—but you also learn the value of keeping it in check. Suppress it too far, you wind up a pushover. Let it grow too large, though, and you wind up naming buildings after yourself. Or building one-off supercars with gonzo styling and room for only one person—oh, and that nobody else will ever get to drive. (more…)

May 14, 2013 at 01:00 PM
0-60 aston martin v8 vantage v12 gt4 gt3 race car monticello motor club track new york
BY: Bix

Drive An Aston Martin Race Car On The Track? Why, We'd Love To.

When we're invited to drive GT4 cars at Monticello Motor Club, who are we to complain?

Photography: Andrew Link

The following article is presented in two parts. 'Cause we classy like that.

Sometimes, things just go so right. Like, say, being pulled aside at the New York Auto Show a month ago to be invited up to Monticello Motor Club to check out Aston Martin's Vantage-based GT4 race cars. Like the weather finally remembering it’s supposed to be spring and delivering up a cloudless 75-degree day. Like finding out that not only will you be able to ride around the track in said Aston Martin race car, you'll also be able to drive it. Not right away, of course. Race cars are finicky things, requiring a lot of T.L.C. between laps. Tires must be checked, noise levels measured, napalm-grade fuel shunted into the tank. Better-known journalists with bigger audiences must go first. So you wait. You watch. You lean up against the Armco like a trackday Tom Sawyer and watch the black Aston you’re gonna drive tear past over and over again, spitting out a roar like God after He stubs His Toe. Until your time comes. The Aston pulls into the garage—a stealth fighter covered in corporate logos—the doors pop open, and your coworker scrambles out, grinning and sweating in equal measure. You pull on your balaclava, jam the helmet on your head, and - if you're like me - grumble under your breath as you try to finesse, finagle, and finally force your glasses onto your face through the helmet's gun slit. But once they're on, it's into the Aston. Not the driver's side, not at first; the club’s pro driver has first crack, to show you what this thing is capable of. He tells you his name is Corey. As you introduce yourself, a technician who is almost certainly not paid enough reaches between your thighs like one of the Hustler Club’s finest to hook up your five-point harness. Corey tells you he's been doing this for 16 years, which impresses you. Then he tells you he started when he was four. Suddenly, you’re feeling rather insecure. And old. Corey winds the Aston up the road to the entrance to the north track; the marshal waves him on, and he punts it. It's the speed he carries through the corners, the impossible way the car tracks straight and level through bowline knot bends without a note of protest from the tires, that startles you. Every turn sends your helmet slamming into the sides of the racing seat, every hard shift sends it back into the headrest. A spec Miata makes the mistake of being on the course at the same time; Corey slices its line in two on a tight right turn, jumping in front of it en route to what the speedo says is an 185 kph top speed on the back straight. 115 mph. (It seemed faster at the time.) The two warm-up laps wind down, and Corey brings the car back to the. An awkward clamber from the passenger's seat is followed by an even more awkward climb into the driver's seat - complete, again, with the stoic technician fumbling around near your junk. But finally, the belts are on, the steering wheel in place, the door closed. It's time to drive a goddamn race car. Turn the key to on. Pull the red nipple on the dash that starts the flow of fuel. Press the glass Start button. The V8 lives. Push the button for reverse. Follow the technician's directions to back out - the sight lines are only slightly better than the view out of a submarine. Pop the car into drive, and purr up the hill to the track. This seems easy enough. The paddles control the gears; just don't downshift too fast, Corey says, or else it won't shift at all. Oh, and don't hit the brakes hard enough to engage ABS. Up pit lane now; the marshal gives the go-ahead, so you punch it in second gear. The mighty roar is all but muted in the cabin, inside the helmet, but you know it's there, the way you know the moon is yanking on the seas. The Aston picks up speed with linear fury, but honestly, you've accelerated faster. A McLaren MP4-12C, a GT-R, even a CLS63 AMG or a Corvette Grand Sport - they all build speed faster, if the seat of your pants is as a reliable calculator. And then you hit the first turn, and you realize why this thing is a race car. The grip seems absolute, body roll absent. Cones along the track indicate where to point the car’s blunt nose; just look, point and squirt. Corey flashes hand signs like a Navy SEAL, indicating when to downshift or hit the brakes. The first corners pass by slowly. You’ve seen what the Aston Martin can do in the hands of a professional, but you’ve spent more time on the john in the last month than you have on a track in your life, and you don’t want to be That Guy who stacks the six-figure race car because he thought he was better than he was. Everybody in the auto journalism world knows That Guy. Nobody likes him. But once the back straight rolls into view, you mash the throttle to the firewall, and unleash the thunder. Up to the top of second—bang—shift. Up to the top of third—bang—shift. Towards the top of fourth…the braking point is coming up fast…why the hell didn’t Aston put a red line on this damn tachometer, brake brake BRAKE… You turn harder, you brake later, you push the gas pedal further. The rear end goes squirrely for a fraction of a second before the traction control catches, suddenly making clear why Aston Martin elected to keep it on for the journalist test-drives. You’d bet good money that somebody would have spun it by now otherwise. But it wouldn’t have been you. No, you know that for sure as you power through the turns on your second lap, onto your third, and then into the last one; as you kiss 110 mph at the end of the back straight; as you wind through the final turns at what feels like the knife’s edge of control, hands spinning, eyes scanning, synapses firing as fast as that glorious-sounding V8. And just like that, it’s over. Corey signals to pull into the pits and head to the garage; you flick on the blinker, downshift to second, and pull off the track and onto the access road. Hands trembling as the adrenaline ebbs from your blood. It hits you that you’re incredibly warm, and the air you’ve been breathing is thick and stale. “What’d you think,” Corey asks? You give it a second. “That’s one hell of a job you’ve got there,” you reply, aiming for John Wayne-like understatement. Pull into the garage. Put it in park. Turn the ignition switch and kill the fuel. The crew opens the door; twist the harness loose and scramble out. You pull off the helmet—and, sure enough, you’re wearing a shit-eating grin. Sometimes, things just go so right.

-Will Sabel Courtney

__________________________________________________________________________ Going into turn one at Monticello’s North course I thought it would be faster. Granted, I have driven other, faster, cars before so knowing what kind of thrust large amounts of horsepower can provide is nothing new, but The Racing Group (TRG)'s Aston Martin Vantage GT4 didn’t provide that initial “What did I get myself into?” scare. Uphill into the first turn I was asking for more grunt. The initial startup procedure offers a reminder that yes; this is a racecar that demands strict operating guidelines in order to fully realize it’s potential on track, and avoid an ill-fated mistake. Fuel pump on, buttons pushed here and there, key twisted, then one of the most satisfying sounds to a gear head, that turbine sound of the starter turning over the motor that usually comes from an Aston Martin and the je ne sais quoi it produces. But when it comes to racing, horsepower isn’t the only thing that matters and even horsepower doesn’t guaranteed winning. The Vantage GT4 gets by with a thing that has produced results ever since racing was a sport: Grip. You associated racing with speed, and granted they usually have tons of it, but without grip they’d be victims of gravity’s harsh tendency to not forgive. So with almost 300 kilograms (roughly 660 pounds) shaved off the road-going Vantage the tires have the innate ability to produce loads and loads of grip, one thing that can overcome speed. Being a little hesistant through turn 1, I brake way too early—the four-piston monoblock calipers matched to steel rotors provide tremendous, fade free braking—and I have to power through the turn 50 feet before reaching the apex. It’s not the most traditional racing line, but I get a feel for the capabilities of the car quickly. Most noticeably, rotation under throttle lift is direct and predictable, even if you come into an apex a bit too vigorous and have to lift, the car will follow the steering with no complaints. It’s a nice reminder that you have multiple ways of getting from A to B. Using the road-going Vantage’s six-speed automatic transmission with torque converter, shifts aren’t dual clutch quick, but they are violent—imagine being hit with a football in the head with Drew Brees QB’ing. You’ll never mistake a shift, but after repeated laps, I feel like the brute force would wear you down more quickly than in competing cars. By the third lap I’m really starting to get into a braking, turn-in rhythm so I figure the time is right for more throttle towards the exit of the turn, however, due to traction-control (I thought his was a race car!) I’m severely limited to how much power I can put down. By all accounts, the local hot shoe who was providing hot laps for orientation would’ve been 200 feet ahead by the time the Aston actually started putting full power down. I understand why the “insurance switch” is on there (considering they allowed five journalists with no track time in the car drive) but it would’ve been exciting to see the difference. Not having a writer stack an Aston racer is definitely TRG’s prerogative for the day. Another quirk that kept me from ultimately going as fast as nerves would have allowed was the extremely low seating position. I’m 5’8” and I could barely see out of the front screen. Low center of gravity, I totally get it but this was almost unnecessarily low. Not seeing the apex on certain turns is not only sketchy, but really discomforting. After the allotted five laps I was starting to become quite comfortable in the car, the learning curve is subtle enough to wring out some fairly fast laps within the first few minutes of piloting the car. However, this is still a race car and it still demands not only mental ability but physical endurance, something which takes years of practice and the willingness to put this before family, friends and free time. Seriously, it’s not easy. Yes, these cars can only be afforded by the wealthy or the truly talented who are lucky enough to get sponsors, but you get money from being a hard worker and that dedication is what it takes to squeeze the most out of the GT4. Sure, you can buy anything with money but you cannot buy skill and dedication to a sport, which requires an insane amount of skill. The Vantage GT4 is the perfect stepping stone for the few that can get in one.

-Michael Crenshaw

May 10, 2013 at 03:27 PM
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