Even eight years after its debut, the DB9 is the embodiment of automotive cool. Not as hard edged as a Ferrari or as flamboyant as a Lamborghini; not as plummy as a Bentley or as proletarian as a Jaguar. It is today, as it was forty years ago, a wonderful car for the discriminating enthusiast -- an athletic grand tourer that's stylish enough to attract a crowd and fast enough to leave it behind. The 190-mph speedster is powered by a V-12 engine that develops 470 hp and endless bragging rights -- unless you're parked next to a DBS or a new Virage. Those two cars offer all of the DB9's best attributes with a firmer ride and more power. You won't hear any apologies from the DB9, though. It drives with a dynamic sharpness yet is elegantly refined, masterfully combining luxury, sport, and comfort. With the manual out of the picture, the DB9's only transmission is a six-speed, paddleshifted automatic. Four push buttons at the top of the center console select park, reverse, neutral, or drive and add to the sense of occasion you feel when driving an Aston. Unfortunately, the gearbox is neither as smooth nor as quick as those found in the best six-figure sports cars. The most memorable aspect of the DB9 is its sleek, flowing sheetmetal, which makes the coupe look as if it had been milled from a block of aluminum. The convertible version of the DB9, known as the Volante, has an incredibly stiff structure; Aston Martin designed its VH architecture for open-top duty from the start, and it shows.
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