Road test: 2016 Aston Martin DB9 GT

As with the very best things in life, there’s more to the appeal of the DB9 GT than initially meets the eye. It has always been, and always will be, special and rare.

The 2016 Aston Martin DB9 GT, which will be the model’s last version before it’s replaced by the DB11. Photos courtesy Aston Martin Lagonda
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Thirteen years after the DB9 transformed Aston Martin, it’s game over. The GT model you’re looking at here is the very last iteration of a grand tourer that has steadily and subtly been honed and refined to the point where, despite the age of its underpinnings, it still feels as fresh as the day it first came to light.

Later this year, the replacement car, the DB11, will be here, and the order book is already filling up rather rapidly. And when it does arrive, it will probably move on Aston’s game several levels, but the DB9 still represents an excellent potential purchase for anyone in the market for a competent, drop-dead-gorgeous sports car that can cover entire continents as though they aren’t there.

As run-out models go, the GT doesn’t really offer much in the way of new design or tech. There are a few new options for trim, and there’s a neat front splitter that matches the one at the rear.

The dashboard and centre console are now identical to those in the range-topping Vanquish, but there’s still only a six-speed automatic, when the Rapide and aforementioned Vanquish have eight cogs each. And that gearbox, more than anything in Aston Martin’s recent history, is what has transformed its cars.

Driving the GT, even without those two extra ratios, is never anything other than a joy. Although anyone occupying the front passenger seat might find the limited legroom a bit of a challenge, and those rear seats are best left for shopping bags – both areas where the new DB11 will be much improved.

Aston Martin’s critics moan that all the models look the same (it’s true, they all look like variations on the DB9’s original design), but as I stand back to drink in its form, I can’t fathom why that might be a problem. Complaining that too many cars look like this is akin to saying that too many women look like Monica Bellucci, or there’s an oversupply of George Clooney doppelganger. We need more beauty in this world, and the DB9 has never been anything other than stunning to behold, despite the constant tweaks made by the designers to keep it looking updated.

Dynamically, however, this model didn’t always hit the sweet spot, and depending on what version you were in, it was either too harsh and stiff or too soft and ponderous – neither one thing or the other, it had a bit of an identity crisis.

Those days are long gone, however, and the car’s adaptive damping couldn’t be more adept at reading the conditions of the road and the inputs of the driver, making constant ­adjustments to the suspension’s settings. Get on the ­power, on the right back road, and this thing will provide entertainment aplenty. But point it from Rome to ­London, and it will swallow the kilometres in smooth, refined and quiet progress. It isn’t called GT for nothing, after all.

Its steering is another area in which quiet improvements have been made over the years, and it feels perfectly judged for the type of driving the DB9 is built to cope with. The brakes are carbon ceramic, and squeal like a banshee, which is embarrassing in front of pedestrians, but hardly a unique problem for this car – they all do it.

But once the exhaust valves open up to liberate that epic soundtrack, nobody will remember a bit of brake squeal. It’s a glorious voice that I can’t imagine ever tiring of – one of the finest in the automobile world – and it actively encourages you to hit the Sport button as soon as you climb inside, and get that right foot pressed against the bulkhead.

When you do that, 547hp is unleashed (well, once you’ve reached 6,750rpm); peak torque of 620Nm is to be had from 5,500rpm, so it does like to be properly worked. And if you’re a fan of normally aspirated, large-capacity engines, this will be the last of its kind before turbo­charging enters the fray, and brings efficiency and a little bit of sadness to the range.

There are better cars out there, don’t get me wrong. Bentley’s latest Continental GT, Porsche’s ungainly Panamera and the new Mercedes-Benz SL are all wonderful grand touring machines in their own right, and in some respects, better than this ageing Aston could ever hope to be. But as with the very best things in life, there’s more to the appeal of the DB9 GT than initially meets the eye. It has always been, and always will be, special and rare.

In Aston Martin’s 103-year history, it has built fewer cars than Porsche throws at the market every six months. So if it’s exclusivity you’re after, you need look no further, and you can rest assured that you will have bought the very best version of a car that will go down in history as an absolute standard-setter.