Power, Body and Soul
By Lou Ann Hammond, Tue, 8 Mar 2005 08:00:00 PDT
Sometimes it's the last statement of the day that catches my attention. When others have put their pens down and stopped taking notes, waiting to go to dinner. That was the case this week at the first North American Aston Martin launch for the DB9. Dr. Ulrich Bez, Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin was describing the DB9 and its competitors.
"I want you to see the same difference in Aston Martin as one does when they look at two people. Both people may have two legs, two arms and a head, but what makes up the character of that person or that car?" said Bez, the ex-Porsche, now CEO of Aston Martin engineer. It reminded me of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Will was asked what part of Jada's body he liked the most. " I like that little groove right above her hip." The minute I heard this I yearned for that little groove right above my hip. I wanted the hand of my man on my hip caressing that groove that took time, determination and a collaboration of body and spirit to meld into a form that said that I wasn't just two legs, two arms and a head. I was power, body and soul. I was an Aston Martin.
Alas, it takes more than desire to have such a sculptured work of art. It takes the collaboration and devotion of all involved. To sculpt a body is easier than sculpting a car, though there are some days I don't think so. According to Bez, they are not just building a car, they are building a brand; a brand that can be recognized by a car; the unique sculpture and pinings of that car, so that whether you are driving the car or looking at it the brand is discernible.
Bez was adamant that he wanted a car that embraced the past, but recognized the future of Aston Martin. A future that includes advanced technology and refinement of design and quality. To stress this point, there is no DB8.
Jada Pinkett Smith could work all day and not get the sculpting in her body that she does with 30 minutes of weight lifting. There are just times when using advanced technology is better than doing it by hand. The '86 Lagonda was the last design drawn entirely by hand by a David Brown (DB) company. The DB9 is the first design drawn entirely by Computer Aided Design (CAD).
The DB9 is the first Aston Martin not to be hand produced. It is however, 100 percent hand assembled. Technology that is used in todays cars to meet all of todays standards cannot be produced by hand, they have to be produced by machinery.
Aston Martin has incorporated many of Volvo's safety features. According to Aston Martin it takes 202 hours to assemble a DB9 from start to finish. Twenty of those hours are devoted to the nine layered hand painting.
The styling of the DB9 is an Aston Martin tradition of understated elegance and strength. The large grille of years gone-by has been replaced with a grille that conveys power without being overbearing. The old Mazda taillights on the DB7 were replaced with a more distinguished look that says Aston Martin.
The A-pillar is a continuous piece that contours in a 3-D effect that gives the impression that it is curving from both directions. The wood in the center console is one-piece that took years to figure out how to cut because wood changes shape when it is cut.
The GPS navigation system and control knobs have to be laser cut then inserted back into the console. The DB9 takes advantage of the reflection of light in places that one didn't realize there could be light. The headlights have iridescent rainbows running through them, as though there truly is a pot of gold.
The DB9 is powered by the latest version of Aston Martin's 6.0-liter/441-hp V-12 (developed from the engine found in the Vanquish). The DB9 promises a top speed of 186 mph and 0-62 mph in 4.9 seconds. Two transmissions are offered: a six-speed ZF automatic paddle-shifter and a conventional six-speed manual gearbox.
Instead of the traditional spot welding the DB9 is built entirely from bonded aluminum for strength, torsional rigidity, and light weight. This is the same bonding - without the riveting - that is used on an airplanes fuselage.
The DB9 is the first front mid-engine layout with an 85 percent of total mass between the two axles with the car maintaining a 50/50 weight balance. This lends itself to an incredibly sweet suspension that sings through the sweepers.
Aston Martin might not have made it to today had it not been for James Bond and David Brown. In 1964 the DB5 appeared in Goldfinger and in 1965s Thunderball as James Bond's company car. In 1995 Bond used an Aston Martin as his own private car in GoldenEye. 1969 a DBS made a cameo in Her Majesty's Secret Service.
A Volante was revealed in The Living Daylights in 1987 and the Vanquish appeared in Die Another Day in 2002. Expect to see another Aston Martin in the next Bond film. The Bond films brought Aston Martin to the movies, but who is David Brown and how could such a no-name be on the level of James Bond?
Aston Martin has had its troubles and gone into virtual bankruptcy numerous times. Sir David Brown bought Aston Martin out of a newspaper ad and salvaged the fledging company. In honor of him, the cars are named DB.
It was during the muscle car period that Aston Martin took another dive and in 1975 Ford Motor Company took a majority share and acquired Aston Martin in full in 1994.
Dr. Bez is a perfectionist and passionate about what he wants an Aston Martin to be and will fight for that vision. In 2000 he delayed the introduction of the V12 Vanquish for twelve months, saying " It just wasn't ready and there was no way we could make it right without delaying it."
The biggest complaint about the delay came from the PR department because they had promised the press the car would be done at a certain time. Bez was more concerned with his paying customers than the press. Funny, that.
There are some minor issues with the car. The sun visors are too small. Even with the mega positioning seats I couldn't pull my seat up enough to get my eyes out of the sun, of course we were going west right at sunset.
I was joking with Christina Cheevers, Communications and Marketing Manager, about the list of options that can take the Coupe from $160,000 or the Volante from $173,000 base prices.
The list of options are long, including heated seats at $450, my personal favorite. I thought for sure heated seats would be ordered by all DB9ers, but Cheevers said only 40 percent of DB9ers ordered them, but that 80 percent ordered cruise control.
The bad news about this car is that the designer Henrik Fisker has left Ford Motor Company, the parent company of Aston Martin to start Fisker Coachbuild which is based in Southern California. Fisker was just as passionate, but more importantly, he saw the same vision that Bez held.
That collaboration is hard to find. Fisker and Bez designed a car that fit into the company and its product line. It is a beautiful, distinctive car that is nimble and fast
I have to go work out now, as I'm still trying to achieve that groove above the hip. It would be easier if I could just get Fisker to draw it for me but I'm into power, body and soul.