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(from Aston Martin
Press Release) Launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show on
Tuesday, 9th September 2003, the Aston Martin DB9, became the first
car to be produced at the company’s modern facility in Gaydon,
Warwickshire. The innovative DB9 began an exciting new era for
Aston Martin as it took on a fresh direction with new models.
Using a radical new aluminium bonded frame, the 2+2 DB9 remains 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 in luxury cars.
Dr Ulrich Bez, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin
said: "All cars built at Gaydon are based on Aston Martin's new VH
[Vertical Horizontal] architecture. It's the first time in our
history that we have had a totally flexible yet dedicated Aston
Martin architecture. The DB9 is the first car to use it making it
the most important Aston Martin ever."
The Aston Martin DB9 is
a modern interpretation of a traditional Aston Martin sports car,
representing a contemporary version of classic DB design elements
In true Aston Martin tradition, the DB9 reflects the company’s
reputation for superb styling and continues a long history of
beautiful sports cars
Key traditional Aston
Martin features incorporated into the 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. The bodywork is elegant and gently curved, with the side
profile being very clean, with a single-sweep roofline. There is a
pronounced boot - a noticeable feature of the DB4 and DB5 - and the
haunches on the rear wings are wide and curvaceous.
A great deal of time was spent on detailing,. In particular, focus
was placed on cutting down fuss. There are very few cut or shut
lines. Each of the headlamps is set in a single aperture in the
There is no separate nose cone, another typical source of sports car
design fussiness. The aluminium bonnet runs all the way to the
leading edge of the car. This accentuates the length of the bonnet
and the power of the car, all front cut lines emanate from the
The 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.
The DB9 appears as if it were milled out of a single solid piece of
aluminium, with the absence of fussy detailing and a minimum of shut
lines have which helped create unparalleled elegance.
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
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
The importance of good stance
The way a car sits on
the road is crucial, a sleek, long look is what Aston Martin wanted
The wide track and long wheelbase are further advantages. Compared
with the outgoing DB7 Vantage, the 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,
although different wheel styles are available.
The 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,
The DB9 has the best quality and most luxurious cabin in the 2+2
sports car class. As with the exterior, the design is simple and
elegant and a premium quality look and feel impress upon the driver.
The latest technology is also essential, and that's exactly what the
DB9 customer gets, but in an Aston Martin, the technology is aimed
at increasing the driving pleasure. There are no computer gimmicks.
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 is a wide range of leather colours, supplied by Bridge of Weir
in Scotland. In addition, a customer may specify their own choice of
colour. The hides are particularly soft and supple. The leather
skins the seats and is used widely throughout the rest of the cabin.
Aston Martin spent a lot of time considering how best to use wood.
Today wood is typically used as an appliqué, strips of highly
polished veneer simply adding decoration to the car. The wood in the
DB9 is more structural using large pieces of wood, rather than small
Wood is used in two places only: on top of the centre of the
dashboard and, if the customer chooses, for the door trim. Four
types of wood are offered: walnut, mahogany, piano black and bamboo.
The wood is one piece, so it looks completely different from burr
strips, and can be oiled rather than high gloss.
The driver’s first interaction with the V12 engine rests in the
dashboard with the clear glass starter button. Unlike most car
starter buttons which are plastic the glass adds class to the cabin
inviting the driver with a deep red glow to start the engine.
A great deal of effort has been put into ensuring that the 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
Aston Martin also used England's Cranfield University's
state-of-the-art 40 percent model wind tunnel, which is widely used
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 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 DB9's
drag coefficient is 0.35, similar to that of the Vanquish S.
The DB9 is one of the most sophisticated 2+2 sports cars available
in the world today.
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 DB7 – one of the most
significant Aston Martins 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 architecture 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 DB7 bodyshell, the 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 originally pioneered in the Vanquish, the
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
"It is far superior to the conventional steel saloon-based floorpan
often used by high-volume 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 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 DB9 achieve perfect 50:50 weight distribution,
further improving handling.
The 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 (335mm front, 330mm rear) are ventilated and grooved, rather
"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
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
"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
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 is 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 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
The DB9's entire electrical architecture is state-of-the-art, the
result of a partnership with Volvo, which uses multiplex electrical
systems in its product range. "It's a very advanced system, allowing
every module on the car to talk 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
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
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 in-car entertainment (ICE) system is state of the art. It has
been developed by Scottish-based Hi Fi experts Linn, and includes
its own amplifier and speakers that are specially designed for the
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.
Aston Martin wanted to make the 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 David
King. "It was the perfect partner to assist in delivering the 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 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
All crash testing was done by Volvo in its state-of-the-art safety
centre in Sweden. The VH architecture 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
"When you're attempting to build the world's greatest 2+2 sports car
- and that's certainly the goal for the 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 Brian.
Comparing the Vanquish's engine to that of the DB9, Fitzsimons
comments: "The Vanquish offers more ultimate performance, the DB9
has more torque over a wider rev range," says Brian.
In the new 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 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 . "We spent a great deal of time getting the
'music' of the DB9 just right."
The 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 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
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 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 have 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 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
The DB9 has enjoyed thorough testing programme. 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 climatic 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, it also allows Aston Martin to use bespoke
engineering solutions, such as the bonded aluminium structure and
the aluminium instrument pack and the Linn ICE system. This is not
possible in mass production.
Dr Ulrich Bez, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin
said: "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."
"The DB9 has been
designed as a sports car but with GT levels of comfort and cruising
ability," says Dr Bez. "It is aimed at people who love driving but
also enjoy exclusivity and style.
"It is the perfect vehicle to take you from London to the south of
France, or to drive for the sheer exhilaration. It is fun and very
focused on the driving experience, but also offers all the comforts
you would expect from an Aston Martin grand tourer. "This car is new
from the ground up. We made sure that every solution was the correct
one for the DB9. This is important for a car that we believe will
lead the 2+2 seater sports car class for many years to come." The
DB9 manages to combine all facets of style, quality and useability
of a traditional Aston Martin without relying on retrospective
detail or design. It is a totally modern Aston Martin.