|Aston Martin DB9|
Aston Martin DB9
Launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show on Tuesday, 9th September 2003, the Aston Martin DB9, is first car to be produced at the company's facility in Gaydon, Warwickshire. The innovative Aston Martin DB9 heralds an exciting new era for Aston Martin as it reflects the direction that the company is taking with all future models. Using a radical new aluminium bonded frame, the 2+2 Aston Martin DB9 is one of the most sophisticated and technically advanced sports cars in the world. It successfully balances the attributes of a sports car with features normally found on luxury cars.
The Aston Martin DB9 is a modern interpretation of a traditional Aston Martin sports car, representing a contemporary version of classic DB design elements and characteristics.
"We wanted an elegant, beautiful car - in keeping with Aston Martin tradition," says Director of Design Henrik Fisker. "I was of course acutely aware that Aston Martin is renowned for its superb styling. It has launched some of the most beautiful sports and GT cars ever seen."
Key traditional Aston Martin features incorporated into the Aston Martin DB9 include the distinctive grille, side strakes and clean, crisp, uncluttered lines.
Clean and elegant surfacing
"Aston Martins are not edgy cars - they don't have sharp surfaces or pronounced power domes," says Fisker. "The bodywork is elegant and gently curved, like a supremely fit person, with great muscle tone. But it is not like a body builder, who is bulky and out of harmony."
2004 Aston Martin DB9
The side profile is very clean, with a single-sweep roofline. There is a pronounced boot - a noticeable feature of the Aston Martin DB4 and Aston Martin DB5 - and the haunches on the rear wings are wide and curvaceous.
"A great deal of time was spent on the detailing," says Fisker. "In particular, we wanted to cut down on fuss. There are very few cut or shut lines. Each of the headlamps is set in single apertures in the front wings."
Nor is there a separate nose cone, another typical source of sports car design fussiness. The aluminium bonnet runs all to the way to the leading edge of the car. "This accentuates the length of the bonnet and the power of the car," says Fisker. All front cut lines emanate from the grille. The Aston Martin DB9's bumpers are invisible. The front number plate is part of the crash structure and computer modelling has enabled Aston Martin to use invisible 'hard pressure zones' to cope with bumps.
"We wanted the Aston Martin DB9 to look like it was milled out of a single solid piece of aluminium," says Fisker. "No fussy detailing and a minimum of shut lines have helped."
The side strakes - an Aston Martin DB signature - are made from metal. The door handles are flush with the body opening the unique 'swan wing' doors, which rise at a 12-degree angle for improved access.
There are no visible gutters on the roof panel, and no visible drain channels at the front or rear windscreens. Nor are there any plastic 'dressing' plates.
The importance of good stance
"The way the car sits on the road is crucial," says Fisker. "A sleek, long look is what we wanted."
The wide track and long wheelbase are further advantages. Compared with the outgoing Aston Martin DB7 Vantage, the Aston Martin DB9's wheelbase is 149mm longer, yet the track is 52mm wider at the front. Yet overall length and width are only marginally increased.
"The 19-inch wheel has taken into account the optimal size for this car's design and dynamics," says Fisker, "although different wheel styles will be available."
This low bodywork, relative to the wheels, is possible because of the suspension design. The front suspension uses wishbones that 'fit' within the diameter of the wheels. This narrow spacing, between top and bottom wishbones, means the bodywork can be low - because there is no high suspension to clear. It also improves camber stiffness, improving handling.
"The Aston Martin DB9 had to have the best quality and most luxurious cabin in the 2+2 sports car class," says Fisker. As with the exterior, the design is simple and elegant and a premium quality look and feel are crucial.
"The latest technology is also essential, and that's exactly what the Aston Martin DB9 customer gets," says Fisker. "But in an Aston Martin, the technology is aimed at increasing the driving pleasure. There are no computer gimmicks. You don't buy an Aston Martin to play games on the in-car computer, or to send emails." Aluminium is used for door handles, on the dashboard, in the instrument cluster, and for some trim panels. The most distinctive use of aluminium is probably in the instruments. The dials are made from aluminium, and are of noticeable 'three dimensional' design. They are flood lit, not back lit - making them especially attractive and clear at night.
There are 20 new leather colours, supplied by Bridge of Weir in Scotland. The hides are particularly soft and supple. The leather skins the seats and is used widely throughout the rest of the cabin.
"We spent a lot of time considering how best to use wood," says Interior Designer Sarah Maynard. "Today wood is typically used as an appliqué, strips of highly polished veneer simply adding decoration to the car. We wanted the wood in the Aston Martin DB9 to look more structural, as it does on avant-garde modern furniture. We also wanted to use large pieces of wood, rather than little strips - again, as in top furniture."
Maynard adds: 'Wood is used in two places only: on top of the centre of the dashboard and, if the customer chooses, for the door caps. Three types of wood are offered: walnut, mahogany and bamboo. The wood is one piece, so it looks completely different from burr strips, and can be oiled rather than high gloss. Glossy wood invariably looks like plastic."
Maynard, a former fashion designer, attended numerous international fashion, furniture, leather and fabric fairs, as she, Fisker and the design team, conceived the cabin.
Her favourite cabin design feature is the clear glass starter button. "It seemed wrong to us that most car starter buttons - the first point of contact between driver and engine - is a plastic button. We wanted something better so decided on crystal-like glass. The Aston Martin logo is sand etched into it. It's lit red when the ignition is on, and afterwards changes to light blue. I think it's a really cool piece of design."
A great deal of effort has been put into ensuring that the Aston Martin DB9 is stable at high speed and has excellent front-to-rear lift balance. Aerodynamic performance was tuned using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), at Volvo's studios in Sweden. This is one of the most advanced and effective ways of ensuring good drag figures and excellent stability.
Aston Martin also used England's Cranfield University's state-of-the-art 40 percent model wind tunnel, which is widely used for motor sport.
Just as much effort was put into the underside, as the top side. A full undertray reduces lift and drag, and wheel arches are carefully profiled to allow for good airflow. Even the exhaust silencer has been shaped to be as aerodynamic as possible.
The designers of the Aston Martin DB9 balanced beauty with aerodynamic performance. Sharp corners and chiselled profiles can reduce Cd figures, but can also lead to bland and unsightly styling. Pushing wheels out to each corner, in the Aston Martin tradition, improves stability and handling but also means 'Coke bottle' curves down the car's sides, which can have an effect on the Cd figure. The Aston Martin DB9's drag coefficient is 0.35, similar to that of the Aston Martin Vanquish.
"A low Cd figure was not an absolute priority," says Fisker. "The goal was superb styling with high speed stability and great front-to-rear balance."
The Aston Martin engineers' goal was to make a beautiful, distinctive car that was also outstandingly nimble and fast, and a car that was a worthy successor to the Aston Martin DB7 - the best selling Aston Martin in history.
In every case, technology is used to make the car better and to make the driving experience more enjoyable. In most cases, the technology is invisible, always there, always helpful, never intrusive.
In a long list of technological innovations, the most important is the bonded aluminium frame. Aston Martin believes it is the most structurally efficient body frame in the car industry. The new Aston Martin VH (vertical horizontal) aluminium structure gives immense benefits. It is very light, aiding performance, handling, economy and durability. It is also enormously strong. Despite being 25 percent lighter than the Aston Martin DB7 bodyshell, the Aston Martin DB9 structure has more than double the torsional rigidity.
This is the car's backbone, the skeleton to which all the mechanical components are either directly or indirectly mounted. Drawing on the experience and technology pioneered in the Aston Martin Vanquish, the Aston Martin DB9's frame is made entirely from aluminium. Die-cast, extruded and stamped aluminium components are bonded using immensely strong adhesives, supplemented by mechanical fixing using self-piercing rivets.
"It is far superior to the conventional steel saloon-based floorpan often used by high-value brands," says Aston Martin DB9 Chief Programme Engineer David King.
"The torsional rigidity of a car is a key factor in driving enjoyment and good handling. Any flexibility of the body compromises the performance of the suspension, delays vehicle response and corrupts feedback to the driver."
The frame is made in aluminium and the body panels are then fitted, again using adhesives, in the advanced body assembly area at Aston Martin's new Gaydon facility. This adhesive is applied by a robot - the only one at Aston Martin. Computer controlled hot-air curing ensures the highest standards of accuracy and repeatability.
The bonding has enormously high stiffness, so that shakes and rattles are obliterated. Bonding also has excellent durability offering better stress distribution than welding - which is more prone to crack. The process is also used in the aircraft industry and Formula One.
There are also advances in the welding procedure. On the Aston Martin DB9, the upper and lower C-pillars are joined by advanced ultrasonic welding. It works by using a vibrating probe, called a sonotrode, which oscillates at 20,000 Hz. This high frequency of vibration agitates the molecules of the two aluminium panels to be joined, allowing them to form a molecular bond.
Because the bond takes place at a molecular level, it is 90 percent stronger than a conventional spot weld. It also requires only five percent of the energy of conventional welding, and as it generates no heat, there is no contamination or change in the characteristics or dimensions of the metal. Aston Martin is the first car company in the world to use this technique.
In addition to the aluminium frame, other lightweight or high-technology materials are used extensively. The bonnet, roof and rear wings are aluminium. The front wings and bootlid are composite. Cast aluminium is used in the windscreen surround, another industry first. Magnesium alloy, which is even lighter than aluminium, is used in the steering column assembly and inner door frames. The driveshaft is made from carbon fibre. It is part of the torque tube that rigidly connects the front engine to the rear gearbox. This arrangement helps the Aston Martin DB9 achieve perfect 50:50 weight distribution, further improving handling.
The Aston Martin DB9 uses all-round independent double-wishbone suspension. As the body frame is brand new, the chassis designers were able to start from scratch - rather than be forced to develop a suspension for an adapted saloon car platform. The front suspension is mounted on a cast aluminium subframe. At the rear, another subframe carries the rear suspension as well as the rear transaxle. Forged aluminium wishbones are used front and rear, as are aluminium-bodied dampers. This is rare, even on top-end sports and GT cars.
The steering rack is mounted ahead of the front wheels, which provides better control under extreme steering loads and heavy braking. Magnesium alloy is used in the construction of the steering column. Even the wheels have been specially designed to save weight. The 19-inch alloys are made using flow forming rather than casting. This saves about 1kg per wheel, benefiting unsprung mass, overall vehicle weight, and reducing rotational inertia. The tyres have been specially developed by Bridgestone.
On a 180+ mph performance car, superb brakes are essential. The large discs are ventilated and grooved, rather than cross-drilled.
"Grooving is more efficient than cross drilling," says David King. "The pads are kept cleaner and work more effectively. Also, brake pad dust can block cross-drilled discs, which reduces braking performance."
The calipers are made from a single casting, rather than being fabricated in two halves and then bolted together. This increases strength and rigidity and gives superior braking performance at high speeds.
"This project was such a pleasure to work on," comments King. "We really could start from scratch in just about every area which rarely happens in the car business. We were not fighting compromises, such as having to adapt a saloon car component into a sports car."
Braking is improved by Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), which is computer controlled to optimise the front-to-rear brake balance, and by Brake Assist - in which the car's electronics detect when the driver wants to emergency brake and automatically applies maximum braking force, cutting stopping distance. There's also the latest anti-lock (ABS) system, which prevents the car skidding or sliding out of control.
LED tail lamps improve rear lighting performance and also react quicker - in braking, for example - than conventional incandescent bulbs. Their design in the Aston Martin DB9 is novel: the tail and brake lamps project through a reflector, which disperses the rays more evenly, further improving lighting performance. This also gets rid of the little 'hot spots' that make up most LED tail lamps. Rather than a series of clearly visible dots, the light is one solid block.
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) is standard. DSC is an advanced electronic control system that continually analyses wheel speeds, steering angle and yaw rate. It reduces the risk of skids by automatically applying braking to individual wheels, or reducing engine torque.
The Aston Martin DB9's entire electrical architecture is state-of-the-art, the result of a partnership with fellow Premier Automotive Group member Volvo, which uses multiplex electrical systems in its product range. "It's a high volume but very advanced system, exactly what we wanted," says Aston Martin's Chief Engineer for Electrical and Electronics Sean Morris. "Every module on the car talks to every other module."
The air conditioning and climate control system is one of the most compact and efficient units in production.
The instrument pack is particularly attractive and innovative and all dials are made from aluminium. Microperforations allow the warning lights to illuminate through the aluminium. The rev counter runs anti-clockwise to maximise the visible area for the central electronic display, in the main instrument cluster. It's also a nice reminder of earlier Aston Martin models such as the Atom and the Aston Martin DB2.
There is no conventional red line on the tachometer. A red warning symbol will be displayed when maximum revs are reached but - thanks to the high-tech electronics - the 'red line' varies, depending on the engine's mileage, how recently the engine has been started, and ambient temperature.
The electronic message displays in the main instrument cluster, and in the centre console, are organic electroluminescent displays (OEL). This is another car industry first.
There are many benefits to OELs compared with conventional LCDs, including higher resolution and greater contrast, and improved clarity, particularly when viewed from an angle.
The ICE system is state of the art. It's been developed by Scottish-based Hi Fi experts Linn, and includes its own amplifier and speakers that are specially designed for the Aston Martin DB9. It also benefits from the DB9's high-quality fibre optic electronics, which pass signals with total clarity. The top-of-the-range 950W Linn Hi Fi system uses 10 speakers and a 200W sub-woofer controlled by an in-built accelerometer that even compensates for changes of pressure in the car's interior.
"The goal was to make the finest ICE system of any car in the world," says Sean Morris, "and I think we have succeeded."
Aston Martin wanted to make the Aston Martin DB9 one of the safest sports cars in the world. For this, as with the electrical architecture, Aston Martin's engineers turned to Volvo for assistance.
"Volvo is renowned as the automotive safety leader," says Chief Programme Engineer David King. "It was the perfect partner to assist in delivering the Aston Martin DB9's outstanding safety performance.
"This car was developed in-house, by Aston Martin's small but highly skilled engineering team," says King. "Yet there were some areas where it made sense to draw on the expertise of other members of the Premier Automotive Group.
"Safety is one example. We are very fortunate to have Volvo as a partner. This partnership has given us access to the latest safety technologies, best-practice design guidelines and advanced computer aided engineering."
All crash testing was done by Volvo in its state-of-the-art safety centre in Sweden. The VH platform was designed to provide a supremely robust passenger cell that cocoons its occupants. The cell is protected at the front and rear by extruded aluminium crumple zones. Dual-stage driver and passenger airbags, and seat-mounted side airbags, offer further protection, as do seat belt pretensioners.
"When you're attempting to build the world's greatest 2+2 sports car - and that's certainly the goal for the Aston Martin DB9 - there really is no substitute for a V12," says Aston Martin's Chief Powertrain Engineer Brian Fitzsimons. "Aston Martin's V12 is acknowledged as one of the best in the world, so was a very good starting point."
The engine is developed from the V12 used in the Vanquish. The advanced quad-cam 48-valve engine has been designed by Aston Martin engineers in partnership with Ford's RVT (Research and Vehicle Technology), and is unique to Aston Martin.
The crankshaft is new, as are the camshafts, inlet and exhaust manifolds, the lubrication system and engine management. The result is more low-down torque and a more seamless power delivery. Maximum power is 450bhp and maximum torque 420lb ft. Even more impressive, 80 percent of that maximum torque is available at only 1500rpm.
"This car will overtake in any gear, at any revs, more or less any time. It really is that good," says Fitzsimons.
Comparing the Vanquish's engine to that of the Aston Martin DB9, Fitzsimons comments: "The Vanquish offers more ultimate performance, the Aston Martin DB9 has more torque over a wider rev range," says Fitzsimons.
In the Aston Martin DB9, the V12 - which is a significant 11.8kgs (26lb) lighter than the Vanquish V12 - has been fitted as far back and as low as possible, to assist agility and handling. This helps the Aston Martin DB9 achieve its perfect 50:50 weight distribution.
Engine note is also very important to the driving experience. "The Aston V12 engine has been described as having the best sound in the world," says Brian Fitzsimons. "We spent a great deal of time getting the 'music' of the Aston Martin DB9 just right."
The Aston Martin DB9 is fitted with a rear transaxle to help achieve the ideal 50:50 weight distribution. The front mid-mounted engine is connected to the rear gearbox by a cast aluminium torque tube, inside which is a carbon fibre drive shaft. The use of carbon fibre prevents any flex and ensures low rotational inertia, improving response and cutting both noise and vibration.
Two transmissions are offered: a six-speed ZF automatic gearbox and a new six-speed Graziano manual gearbox. The ZF automatic used in the Aston Martin DB9 is particularly innovative. The DB9 is one of the first cars in the world to use a shift-by-wire automatic gearchange. The conventional PRNDL gear lever has been replaced by a system of buttons that select park, reverse, drive or neutral.
"It's easy to use and gets rid of the clutter associated with the automatic gear lever on the centre console," says David King.
Those choosing the ZF automatic can drive the car in full auto mode, or can change gear manually using the paddle shifts. The paddles are made from lightweight magnesium and are directly behind the steering wheel, at the ten-to-two position. They allow instant Touchtronic gearchanging.
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 Aston Martin 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 Aston Martin 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 percent 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 Aston Martin 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 Aston Martin 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."
All alloy quad overhead cam 48 valve 5935cc V12
Maximum Power: 335 kW (450 bhp) @ 6000rpm
Maximum Torque: 570 Nm (420 Ib ft) @ 5000 rpm
Compression ratio 10.3:1
Visteon engine management controlling fuel injection, ignition, diagnostics and misfire detection system
Stainless steel by-pass valve exhaust system.
Shift by wire six speed auto transaxle
Six speed manual transaxle
Limited slip differential
Final Drive Ratio: 3.15:1 (auto) 3.54:1 (man)
Steering: ZF Rack and pinion, servotronic speed sensitive power assistance 3.0 turns lock to lock. Column tilt and reach adjustment.
Front - Ventilated grooved steel discs 355mm diameter with alloy four piston Brembo monobloc calipers
Rear - Ventilated steel discs 330mm diameter with four piston monobloc calipers and separate handbrake caliper
Conti Teves stability control system including anti-lock braking activation system (ABS), electronic braking distribution (EBD), traction control (TC), electronic brake assist (EBA) and dynamic stability control (DSC).
Front - Independent aluminium double wishbone incorporating anti-dive geometry. Coil over aluminium bodied monotube dampers and anti-roll bar
Rear - Independent double aluminium wishbone, coil over monotube dampers and anti-roll bar
Two door coupe body style with 2+2 seating
Extruded aluminium bonded monocoque
Aluminium and composite skin panels
Extruded aluminium door side impact protection beam
Wheels and Tyres
Unique lightweight aluminium alloy wheels 8½J x 19 (front), 9½J x 19 (rear)
Bridgestone REO 50 235/40 ZR19 tyres (front), 275/35 ZR 19 (rear)
Boot Volume: 0.172 cu m (6.074 cu ft)
Turn Circle: 11.5 m
Fuel tank capacity: 85 litres, 95 RON unleaded fuel only
Length: 4710 mm
Width: 1875 mm
Height: 1270 mm (Coupe)
1710 kg (Coupe - Manual)
1800 kg (Coupe - Automatic)
Front Track: 1570 mm
Rear Track: 1560 mm
Cd: 0.35 (Coupe)
Fuel Consumption (Coupe Automatic)
Urban: 24.9 l/100km (11.4 mpg)
Extra Urban: 11.7 l/100km (24.2 mpg)
Combined: 16.5 l/100km (17.1 mpg)
CO2 Emissions (Coupe Automatic): 394 g/km
0-60 mph: 4.7 seconds (Coupe Manual)
0-100 km/h: 4.9 seconds (Coupe Manual)
0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds (Coupe Automatic)
0-100 km/h: 5.1 seconds (Coupe Automatic)
Top Speed: 186 mph (300 km/h)