A great deal of time has been spent ensuring that the new Graziano manual gearbox has a smooth and fast shift action. "It is one of the best manual gearchanges in the world," says Chief Programme Engineer David King. "Driving enjoyment is a very important quality of the DB9, and part of this is a superb gear change action."

The manual uses a twin-plate clutch, compared with the DB7 Vantage's single plate unit. It is more compact, has lower rotational inertia and is more robust. The clutch effort is also reduced.

The 'swan wing' doors are unique and will become one of the car's trademarks. They open out and up (by 12 degrees) making for easier access, especially for the driver's feet into the footwell. This also improves clearance for the driver's (or passenger's) head between side glass and roof, further easing access. The 12-degree angle also means there is less chance of the doors scuffing high pavements. As they are angled, the doors are easier to close: they shut partly under their own weight, rather than relying on the driver having to slam them. Beyond 20 degrees opening angle, there is also infinite door checking. This means that the door will stop and hold at whatever position the driver (or passenger) chooses.

The door handles feature LEDs that illuminate when the car is unlocked, allowing the handles to be located easily in the dark. The exterior handles lie flush with the door, to improve appearance and aerodynamics.

The new DB9 has enjoyed the most thorough testing programme of any new Aston Martin model. Ninety-three prototypes were built and tested in locations as diverse as Nardo in Italy, Death Valley in the USA, and inside the Arctic Circle in Sweden, as well as in laboratories around the world.

As well as using the Cranfield University's state-of-the-art 40 per cent model wind tunnel, Aston Martin also used Ford's Environmental Test Laboratory in Dunton, which features one of the most advanced climactic wind tunnels in the world.

Other testing took place at Volvo's world-renowned crash test safety centre in Sweden, and at the vast and superbly equipped Ford test track in Lommel, Belgium.

"Producing the DB9 in small volumes allows us to retain our handcrafting skills," says Aston Martin Product Development Director Jeremy Main. "It also allows us to use bespoke engineering solutions, such as the bonded aluminium structure and the aluminium instrument pack and the Linn ICE system. You just can't do this in mass production.

"The problem with small volumes, though, is that you typically have to use other manufacturers' components, and that usually compromises your car. But there are technologies that need high volume processes - ABS and electrical architecture for example - and we are lucky to be able to choose the best available components and then modify and adjust them to suit our needs.

"We've been fortunate in not having to compromise. Higher volume systems that we are using - such as the electrics and air conditioning - have actually made the car better."There has probably never been a 2+2 sports car that started with fewer compromises. The result is that the DB9 is a pure, beautifully honed sports machine."

Says Dr Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin: "We're confident that it is the finest 2+2 sports car in the world, and will continue the Aston Martin success story that is one of the highlights of the British motor industry in recent years."


Published : 09/01/04 Author : Melanie Carter

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