When it comes to a practical Sports-car I don’t think there is anything finer than a 911. I’ve had 8 of them over the last 27 years.
The problem is they are not the most reliable thing in the world and even though they were all well looked after with main dealer servicing, never driven above 3K when the oil wasn’t hot etc, I’ve still had to rebuild 5 engines. Yep 5, and all ‘known issues’ – love that term.
The last one to go pop was down a ticking time bomb in all M96/7 engines called an IMS bearing. The M96/7 engine was so unreliable that Porsche lost a class action lawsuit against them in the US.
When you shell out £15,000 for the 5th time it makes you re-consider your brand loyalty and I brought my DB9.
A lot of Porsche owners wanted me to compare the two, so a while ago I wrote this which may interest some of you.
How to compare the two? One is a sports car – Possibly the greatest sports car ever made, the other is the most elegant grand tourer on the planet. It’s a bit Apples to Oranges but here goes:
Let's start with the performance.
Now ‘on paper’ the Aston trumps the 911 due to the bigger engine and power. It has a faster 0-60 and can go to the other side of 190mph, but in the real world the 911 will, and does, run rings around the DB9.
The DB9 has masses of torque and depending on the year, around 500 bhp under your right foot, but it suffers from having relatively small 275 rear tyres. You simply can’t put the power down. Once you are moving it can turn into Usain Bolt when you floor it, but by then you are playing catch-up to the 911 that’s already long gone.
The smaller tyres, weight and softer suspension mean you can’t throw it into a bend like a 911 either, and when you’re in that bend the feel that the driver gets from the 911 is also not quite there in the Aston.
Don’t get me wrong, the DB9 is a VERY quick car and feels superb to drive, but it can’t compete against the best sports car ever designed. Game over you say…..Not quite.
There is more to life than racing around a county lane hoping that you won’t wreck your car from a massive pothole or get banned from driving and serve a few months at her majesty pleasure. When it comes to real-world driving which the average 911 does 98% of the time, the DB9 is king.
Having effortless power throughout the entire rev range, whilst being comforted in a cabin that makes the Ritz look like Butlins on a bad day is a very pleasurable experience indeed.
When it comes to comfort, the difference between them is a country mile.
Yes, they both have leather seats etc, but the Aston's hand-stitched leather is as soft as a baby’s bum that’s been soaking in a tub of Nivea for a month. Everything you see and touch feels special (ok there are some Ford bits in there, but Porsche use Audi parts as well – that’s just how things are built in today's world)…. except for the Satnav. The way it rotates to display the screen is fantastic, but once the low-resolution screen finishes displaying the Aston logo you are left with a crappy old Volvo unit. It works better than as a Gen1 997, but let’s face it, they are both crap. The only positive is that map updates are Volvo prices - £24. Whereas the latest update to my 997 cost £230.
When it comes to reliability… The 04-06 DB9’s had some electrical issues with sensors playing up and have tarnished the reputation just as the IMS and borescore issues have damaged the 996 & 997.
In 2006 Ford splashed the cash and resolved a lot of the issues around the car and Aston created a new semi facelift version produced from 2007. Externally it’s the same, but you can tell the difference by the seats. If it has an opening section in the seat between the seatback and the headrest, then it’s the more modern car with better electrics, a revised engine, new suspension (with Bilstein shocks), 8mm lower ride height etc.
I’ve only had one issue with the DB9 – an ABS sensor. It’s a Ford part and cost £28.
Before I brought it I did my homework, talking to lots of real owners (not the ‘my mate had one and it blew up every week. He was so disappointed that he gave it away for free and brought 10 x Bugatti Chiron’s for cash from a geezer up the road - type of people). It seems that mechanically the Aston is in front, The V12 is a lot more bulletproof than even a Gen2 997 with one owner reporting over 258K miles with no issues - but it might turn out that he has a mate with 10 Bugatti’s?
After 2007, things got better but it's still not all plain sailing and the most common issues are electrical - mainly sensors etc, the opposite of Porsche who are known for good electrics and poor mechanics ££££.
On a practical comparison, the 911 comes out on top. The roof can be operated up to 40mph in a 997.2, and although the Aston can do it at low speeds its recommended to be stationary then operation the cabriolet roof.
The Aston boot - on the Volante (cabriolet) at least – is way smaller than the 911. The 911’s glovebox is bigger, the cup holders are better, the door pockets are bigger, and there’s no armrest compartment in the DB9 either.
The 911 is smaller and easier to park, and the cabriolets rear window gives you more visibility than the Astons letterbox.
You can even put kids (or a complaining adult – preferably a jockey) in the back of a 911. To do this in the DB9 you have to move the seats forward so far you think you are about to do a squat thrust and the poor sod in the rear has to have their feet squashed together, and their knees spread as wide as they can go. Do not ask a young girl in a skirt to get in the back of a DB9 or you will end up on a list.
When it comes to creature comforts however the Aston again is king. Front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, dual 3 position memory seats with 2 independent lumber adjustments with two-stage heating, auto-dimming mirrors, Bluetooth, euro sat-nav, heated front and rear screens, switchable sports mode with PSE, headlight wash and a Linn 230w with Limbik 5.1 surround stereo come as standard on the car. The options list is basically the colour. The Swan doors not only look cool but stop the doors grounding out when parked near a kerb on a road with a steep camber. Porsche on the other hand charge extra for everything. They even charge you extra for ‘Extended Leather’- a leather covered dashboard instead of plastic.
Even with a crossover pipe and gundo'd boxes, the horrible sound of the 997.2's DFI engine (like a spanner in a tumble dryer in with a room full of sewing machines) is still there. Whereas the Aston's v12 makes an amazing noise. Remove fuse 22 (from the Aston version of PSE and you get the sound all day long.
I drove 1,500 miles in the Aston taking it to Monza to watch the GP, most of it was on a motorway with the aircon on and cruise control set to 70mph and I averaged 24.8mpg overall – including a traffic jam. Now I think for a car that weighs 1.5tons and has a 6.0L v12, 24.8mpg of Asda’s budget 95ron petrol is not bad at all compared the lightweight 911’s 34mpg of expensive 98ron Shell VPower.
Both cars drink like sailor on payday, and I’m sure with those numbers I’m not going to convert a Tesla owner, but on the other hand, I don’t think the green party will be setting up a blockade on my drive either.
Other people’s perceptions
THE BIG difference between owning them is other people reactions. In the 911, I find that people don’t let you out of junctions, they get up your arse on the motorway and every young lad in a ‘remapped’ Corsa with his mum’s wastepaper bin strapped to the end of his exhaust will try to race you.
Basically, the average person thinks Porsche owners are either absolute dicks or an accountant having a midlife crisis. On the other hand, everyone thinks Aston owners are rich old men who wear salmon-coloured chinos.
Joe public loves an Aston.
In the Aston everyone lets you out, everyone is courteous, people approach you in the petrol station (I tend to go there a lot) and ask questions about the car, kids shout, ‘nice car’ and women (mostly between 25-45) will give you a little wave, a wink and a nod from the pavement (which doesn’t impress my wife sat next to me). You get people taking photos of the car all the time and every now and then you notice that someone in the car next to you on the motorway is videoing you, which can be quite embarrassing when you're picking your nose. You do get bored with people shouting ‘James Bond’ though.
To sum it all up
I was hoping to write a comparison between the 911 and a DB9 and find out which one is best but, in a way, I don’t think that is possible. They are two different cars made for two different purposes and both of them in my option are undoubtedly the best in their respective class.
911’s are best compared to BMW M4s, and a DB9 should be compared to a Bentley GT.
If you want a car that's practical, doesn’t really turn heads (unless you modify it like a Corsa in McDonald’s car park), that can be used every day doing the school run and at the weekend can be taken out to hit the twisty bits, then there is no better driving machine than the Porsche 911.
But, if you want more than just 'another Carrera’, If you want a car that will seriously impress everyone, a car that makes YOU feel as cooler than Nat king Cole in an Ice bath and can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and at the same time can cover the distance in a way that makes you and your passenger feel very special indeed, then it’s got to be an Aston Martin.
When you turn it on the dash says ‘Power, Beauty, Soul’... I think that and Clarkson below sums up the Aston.