2009 Aston Martin DB9 Volante

If the $199,200 base price doesn't give it away, let me be the first to say this is quite a special car. There are faster cars, there are more practical cars, and there are more luxurious cars, but the Aston Martin DB9 is unique in the market.

All of its materials are what they look like: what looks like leather IS leather (there's not just a small square of leather right where your butt hits the seat; the entire seat is covered in leather). The wood is genuine walnut, and there's very little plastic in the cabin. Everything feels luxurious but also durable enough to be used every day if one is so inclined.

The V-12 is magnificent and the Touchtronic transmission is surprisingly good. I had the good fortune to drive a DB9 coupe with the six-speed manual in Los Angeles earlier this year, but I found it a bit annoying to drive in the city. The Touchtronic certainly makes the car easier to drive in traffic, but I wish the means of engaging P/N/R/D was better looking than the cheesy plastic buttons in the dash. Sure, you forget all about it once you start driving, but it doesn't look as special as the rest of the car.

I'm thrilled Aston is using a soft top. Unfortunately, the folding top kills some of the DB9's gorgeous looks from the rear, but it really lets the V-12's voice be heard. It also kills rearward visibility when the top is up, but things are surprisingly quiet inside.

We're very fortunate to have a car like this in our fleet. It's a rare occurrence to see an Aston on the road, which makes driving one all the more special.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

Marek Reichman has firmly taken the design reins at Aston Martin, leading the iconic brand on from the years of Henrik Fisker and the man who really set the stage for a modern Aston Martin - the immensely talented Ian Callum, who's now the head of Jaguar design.

Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief

This Volante looks especially gorgeous with its creamy white paint and brown interior. I agree with Phil that the cabin materials are wonderful. The extravagant, handcrafted wood and leather are perfectly accented by the large aluminum pieces used for the center console and door handles. However, the switchgear doesn't quite make the cut. The power mirror controls are straight out of our old long-term C30, and the window, roof, and lock switches all have a similar Volvo aura. Punching a gear-selection button reminds me of riding an elevator - or Junior Mints - but either way it's not good. It is certainly a world-class cabin, but just a bit shy of perfection.

The suspension character, on the other hand, is perfect. I drove the DB9 home on the back roads over some seriously broken pavement and it never flinched. Bumps are damped quickly without ever being harsh. The V-12 provides a wonderful exhaust note and on-demand power. Passing is possible at any speed in virtually any gear. The transmission is good but can be abrupt during low-speed, off-throttle downshifts.

Like Phil said, this is a unique car. It might not carry the air that similarly priced exotics do, but it's a beautiful package that offers uncompromised sport and luxury.

Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

Ditto on all the praise for the Aston Martin DB9 convertible's interior, which is absolutely stunning. I note the luscious brown leather, the exquisitely crafted, leather-lined cavity in the center console that seems to have been custom-designed to accommodate an iPhone or BlackBerry, and the relative absence of plastics. Unlike others, I found the round shift buttons at the top of the center console to be rather endearing. If not for idiosyncrasies like these, what's the point of Aston Martin's existence, other than for its cars to look pretty?

And, boy, do they look pretty.

The powertrain is less impressive. It doesn't sound great, and there is little of the snarling, visceral character that one gets in a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. I know, I know, an Aston Martin is supposed to be elegant and understated, but I'd like a bit more vocalness from the V-12. Ride comfort and structural integrity are impressive, though.

All in all, though, the Aston DB9 is a splendid automobile and one that any person of discernment could be proud to own, especially if they've already done the German/Italian exotic-car thing.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

I'll echo the praise for the DB9's interior - the walnut wood trim is especially attractive, and the rich brown leather feels top-notch. I couldn't find a comfortable position for the seats, however, and I was somewhat surprised to find a manual steering-wheel adjustment rather than an electrically operated one. The exterior design is quite striking and is especially attractive in white. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain after work on the day I drove the DB9, so I wasn't able to lower the top. It did, however, give me a chance to become intimately acquainted with the windshield wipers - not that there's anything terribly special about them, but they do tend to run with a rather herky-jerkey motion, and for one five-minute interval or so, they were making an odd noise that sounded like a squeaky spring. Clearly this is a fair-weather car - if you own a DB9 Volante, you've probably got other vehicles in your fleet that are more suited to bad weather conditions.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

2009 Aston Martin DB9 Volante

Base price (with destination): $199,200Price as tested: $208,970

Options:High speed alarm $295Carpet binding $220Contrast stitching $220Leather colour $750Carpet colour $750Hood colour $750Exterior paint colour $750First aid kit $145Optional front grille $450Walnut veneer door cappings $750Perforated leather seat inserts $295Clour keyed steering wheel $29519" 15 spoke wheels $1,510Smokers kit $220Gas guzzler $2,100

Fuel economy: 12 / 19 / 14 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Engine:Size: 5.9L V-12Horsepower: 470 hp @ 6,000 rpmTorque: 443 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed touchtronic

Weight: 3880 lb

Wheels/Tires:19x 8.5 in. front 19x9.5 in. rear wheels235/40R19 front 275/35R19 rear Tires

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