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Car and Driver: Aston Martin’s Long-Serving DB9 Finally Dips Below the Horizon

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After 13 years in production, Aston Martin is bidding farewell to the beautiful DB9. While the design is still jaw-dropping, the bones of the car were getting old, outpaced by newer, more high-tech luxury sports coupes. But while we’re thrilled by the shiny newness of the DB11, we really ought to stop and celebrate the DB9. It might be the most important car Aston Martin ever made.

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The DB9 was a beacon of hope for Aston Martin when it debuted in 2003. The 1970s and 1980s hadn’t been kind to Aston Martin. The automaker had a much-needed hit with the DB7, which debuted in 1994 and sold more than 9000 examples over the next 10 years, but it was not without flaws. The DB7 was the first new Aston developed under Ford’s stewardship, but it was based on a Jaguar platform that was nearly 20 years old by the time it debuted in 1993.

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The DB9, though, was the closest thing to an all-new Aston Martin in years, the car that finally brought the company into the 21st century. A version of Aston’s V-12–which was derived from Ford’s mid-1990s Duratec V6–was carried over from the DB7 Vantage and V12 Vanquish, but everything else was thoroughly modern.

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The centerpiece was Aston’s aluminum-intensive Vertical Horizontal (VH) platform, previously used only in the limited and very pricey V12 Vanquish, and was both lighter and stronger than the DB7’s hodgepodge platform. Design, courtesy of Ian Callum and Henrik Fisker, was a significant step forward from the DB7, and set the template for Astons to come. It was a jaw-dropper.

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Finally, Aston had a car that could provide a truly compelling alternative to its competitors, and the company’s future looked bright. Until it didn’t.

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Aston Martin always intended to build three further models besides the DB9 on the VH platform. But when Ford sold the marque in 2006, Aston’s limited finances forced the automaker to use the DB9’s underpinnings in every one of its subsequent offerings. From the DB9 came not only the DBS, Virage, and Vanquish, but also the V8 and V12 Vantage and the four-door Rapide. The Vanquish, Vantage, and Rapide are still in production in revised form.

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Amazingly, the cars derived from the DB9 were still great, even if their competitors benefitted from more modern engineering and technology. Final versions of the Vanquish, Rapide, and Vantage—especially the manual-transmission V12 Vantage S—are some of the best Astons ever made.

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Last week, Aston Martin posted a picture of the final nine DB9 GTs to roll off the assembly line. While DB9 bones will live on in the Vanquish and Rapide (the Vantage will be replaced next year), it still feels like the end of an era.

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The DB11 of 2016 represents the same thing to Aston Martin that the DB9 did in 2003: A bright and hopeful future. With the DB11 comes a new platform, a new twin-turbo V12, and hopefully, enough sales to keep the brand alive.

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The DB9, and the many derivatives spun off from it, deserve credit for keeping Aston Martin afloat as the brand shook off past failures and soldiered into the 21st century. The DB9 goes out of production years after it past its prime, but without it, there’d likely be no Aston Martin at all.

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So, raise a toast to the DB9, Aston Martin’s gorgeous, long-lived savior.

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This story originally appeared on Road & Track.

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