Aston Martin DB9 car review
PUBLISHED: 13:34 17 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:38 28 February 2013
IT isn't every day you can reach into God's toy box and choose whatever you want - but the opening of P1 North gave me exactly that opportunity.
Since being founded by F1 World Champion Damon Hill and his business partner Michael Breen seven years ago, the prestige and performance car club has been allowing its mainly Southern members to pick and choose from a garage of the world's most exciting cars.
Now it has opened a branch in the North West with an initial selection of cars worth more than 1 million and I was lucky enough to be able to sample one of them in Lancashire.
I walked past rows of gleaming machinery - a mighty Ford GT, Ferrari 430s coup and convertible, a variety of Porsche 911s Turbo, even a stunning Bentley Continental GTC. But I headed for the ranks of Aston Martins, lurking in rather a discreet fashion at the back.
I have to admit to a soft spot for the Vanquish, the modern equivalent of Sean Connery in a DB5 - a thug in a dinner jacket - and the new V8 Vantage is quite possibly the most beautiful car in production today. But the sun was shining and a drive along Lancashire's Riviera beckoned so I asked Nick Bailey, P1 North's affable General Manager, for the keys to the DB9 Volante.
It just felt right to be driving a car as urbane as the DB9 Volante as I headed through an early morning Southport, listening with ever greater amusement to the impressed noises coming from our resolutely southern snapper, who wasn't expecting Southport to be 'as nice as this...'
The Aston's 450 bhp V12 was purring away happily in front of us, as civilised as the daughter of a couple of Essex brawlers, made good and sent to a Swiss finishing school. That isn't quite as tortured an analogy as you'd think when you discover the V12 was created by bolting two Ford Mondeo V6s together.
Through the traffic, I was happy enough to leave the gearbox in D, selected by a button on the dash rather than a gearstick, leaving what Jeremy Clarkson scathingly refers to as the 'flappy paddles' alone until the road opened up.
Heading out of Southport towards Lancashire Police's HQ at Hutton didn't seem to be the most sensible place to stretch the Aston's legs either but the gentle cruise did show the Aston's gait at its most fluid, the car loping along in the sunshine in a seemingly effortless way.
Roof down, the buffeting was perfectly acceptable at these sorts of speeds, and the traffic through Preston, as we headed inland to cross the Ribble, gave a chance to admire the finer points of the interior. The dials are based on them faces of upmarket watches and glow in an exquisitely expensive way.
The leatherwork is fine and it is only the minor details, like the rather jarring Volvo satnav and the electric motors in the hood mechanism that whirr in a way that gives you little faith in the prospects of their longevity, that leave you wondering whether a few more months in the development cycle wouldn't have been well spent.
In Lytham, the car seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and it felt like the residents reciprocated. Most ostentatious cars draw less than appreciative receptions from passersby and other road users but the Aston seemed to be immune from this. It is just so handsome, and in gunmetal grey, so quintessentially English that it garners nothing but friendly nods or even thumbs up.
The only negative reaction I got all day was one of obvious disappointment from the girl who nearly cricked her neck to see who was being photographed next to it.
As we headed through Blackpool, the thumps in the road showed up the only small fly in the DB9 Volante ointment - that of scuttle shake over sharp bumps in the road. As the low profile tyres hit a transverse ridge or pothole, the whole car judders in a way that a Bentley Continental GTC, or even the far cheaper Jaguar XKR doesn't. That said, you would have to be a motoring journalist, or I suppose a member of P1, to be able to drive cars like this back to back in order to notice the difference.
Out of Blackpool and the road finally opens up across Cockerham Moss. A couple of paddle-operated downchanges are briskly delivered with perfect automated blips of the throttle, the valves in the exhaust open and the old girl fair throws herself down the road. It's not quite as bad as asking a dowager to jive, but it does still feel somehow inappropriate.
As we pulled up in front of the Stork Pub in Conder Green for a well deserved cold drink and a sandwich at the most northerly part of our drive, opinions are still divided as to whether the car is worth its 115,000. But there is no denying its beauty.