2013 Aston Martin DB9: an evening with Dr Bez
Aston boss explains... everything.
I’ve spent the last two days with Aston Martin for the launch of the new DB9, and on Monday night I got to meet the boss, Dr Ulrich Bez, for the first time. Although so much of the conversation was labelled “off the record!” I’m not even sure I should even tell you what I ate, let alone anything that he actually said, I can report that a) he’s extremely passionate about the brand, and b) my kind of car guy.
Dr Bez, then. He’s one of those people who can stop a room full of conversation with the blunt force of his charisma, and his passion for Aston is like a nuclear flame. Defiant in the face of critics, he explained (or defended…) why it’s no bad thing that all the company’s products look largely the same: “As Bond stays Bond with a clear identity, so Aston Martin stays Aston Martin with a clear identity”. The cars should be clearly recognisable without the badge. So long as that means they will be beautiful, why should we be disappointed with that?
Similarly, he was determined to emphasise that just because the cars continue to share the “Vertical Horizontal Architecture” first introduced in 2004 with the original DB9, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions that the products are out of date. The bonded aluminium construction technique was radical then and remains cutting edge now – but more to the point Aston’s engineers are continually evolving the underlying structure, which genuinely means the latest cars are significantly different to earlier iterations. Even if they do look largely the same.
I’m prepared to accept the value of this truth, that the continuous evolution of Aston’s core means it maintains a modern relevance. But the company only has itself to blame for any negative associations – because, as far as I’m aware at least, this is the first time this evolutionary process has ever been properly communicated. I digress.
Dr Bez also takes umbrage with the accusation that Aston is losing out for lack of the latest “driver aids” and other bells and whistles. The new DB9 gets automatic lights and wipers for the first time (apparently some customers are no longer aware there’s a switch for these…), but that’s it for the toy upgrade. As far as the good Dr is concerned, if a technology doesn’t actually improve the experience of driving the car, he doesn’t want it fitted, the extra weight and complication being liable to have the opposite impact.
Though it’s hard to say how much of this position is cost related in reality – the artful engineering solutions Aston has adopted for pedestrian crash protection suggest at least a degree of veracity here, and the DB9 does have such things as standard fit carbon-ceramic brakes – taken at face value, he’s clearly a man after my own heart. While the latest gadgets and gizmos give us all something else to write and / or complain about, how often do they really make a difference to the way we get from A to B? Those high-technology solutions that do are inevitably stealing some of the craft involved in driving from us in the process.
The erosion of driving as a pleasure already seems to have all the inevitability of continental drift – why should we want to accelerate its demise? Especially in the arena of high performance.
Speaking of high performance, I also find myself agreeing with the Aston boss about the sudden and apparently inexorable spike in power outputs. It’s all very well having 7-800hp, but exactly how often are you going to be able to use that kind of violence – especially if you want to minimise the requirement for electronic intervention. Dr Bez’s argument is that Aston gives you as much as you realistically need. This goes some way towards answering criticism the brand has received in some quarters for its comparatively weedy seeming engines. Arguably a highly mature approach – and believe me, the 517hp DB9 is no slouch – here’s hoping real world customers aren’t so interested in playing Top Trumps.
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