Everything to know about upgrading an Aston Martin DB9

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Welcome to BamfordRose, and a focus on db9 upgrades. We’ve featured v8 Vantage, v12 Vantage, and our exhaust manifold upgrades in two different v12 cars before. But we’ve never done a specific focus on db9 before.

This particular car is from O5, so it’s one of the early cars. It’s got sports pack fitted to it, which is the sport pack wheels.

Slightly quicker ratio steering rack and a slightly stiffer than the surface trace. When db9 came out in 04, the press really raved about the car.

Transmission shifts were quick, and there was a lot of hype about Aston at that time because it was the new v8 and the db9 both coming out virtually at the same time.

And in the media and in customer reviews. In that 04 to that 2010 period, at least db9 could do no wrong. There were no critical comments about its styling, interior, exterior, or any of the performance features of the car.

Apart from db9 Volante, which got a bit of a bad rep on top gear clocks and didn’t like it too much. The factory to blame for some of that, you know they released the car without a rear anti-roll bar, specifically so that Valente was differentiated from the coupe.

There’s no real need to do that, make every car the best you can is my view. But anyway, it’s a slight engine.

So this particular car now 15 years on, it is slightly long in the tube now. And it’s very common to upgrade the cars, just to move them on a bit. Why would you do that? Well, this particular car it’s an 05 car, one owner.

It smells in the cabin exactly the same as the day came out, the production line. It’s got the factory smell of Gayden about it, these cars. The leather is very fresh, the interiors fresh; it all looks brand new. So if you’ve owned this car since new, you’ve got some sentimental attachment to it.

So I can see why people just want to upgrade the mechanics and enjoy a more modern-day drive. Where there are some things now, 15 years later, that really do make the db9 show its age. I will go for a drive and come onto those later. Other owners, maybe they know they’re going to keep the car for a long time, and maybe the suspension wears out.

So instead of fitting the same design level components, you may as well upgrade. The same can be set on the brakes. And then the engine upgrades, something done in isolation. Obviously, the exhaust isn’t really a wearing item apart from the catalyst failure.

Which on that subject, if you click somewhere up here, you can watch a video that we’ve shot in that one to learn about how the catalysts fail on these cars. So let’s go for a drive, and we can talk about how this car drives now some 15 years on.

So we’ll talk about each of the upgrades that we do in turn. And first of all, engine performance. You know this is a 6-liter v12; it’s got 450 bhp and about 5 to 50 rpm. And it’s peak torque is at 5,000 rpm, that’s about 570 Newton meters.

Those are good figures, it’s a big engine, very strong. Iein Clarkson used to do his party piece in the DB7 with this v12 engine, pull away in 3rd gear, and it could easily pull away in third, accelerate quite nicely at low speed, and that gear would take you all the way up to what was it 120, 130 miles an hour, it’s awesome.

This v12 is no different, lots of torque from low engine speed. But it’s throttle responsiveness it’s a little bit slow, and the engine doesn’t punch its way to the red line; it just luxuriously wafts its way to the red line.

So what we do to improve throttle responsiveness, and make the engine punched at a red line in each gear, is we fit our bespoke made exhaust manifolds. High Flow catalysts, remap the ECU and put a three-way switch to control the exhaust valve in either permanent loud, permanent choir, or switching modes.

That performance update really does transform the drivability of the car. Low-speed, two, three, four thousand rpm, 1/2 for all tip-in, the engines got much more urgency. And if you press on full throttle, all the way up to the red line.

Instead of feeling a bit wheezy like it runs out of steam at standard, and it really doesn’t want a rev much past five and a half thousand rpm because you can sense that the engine is running out of puff.

We increased the red limit to about 7000 rpm, and from 5 to 7,000 rpm, this engine it’s now taking a second breath of life, really comes alive, really punches it’s way to the red line.

So this helps the drive, just fit a little bit more energetic. In turn, it brings the shifts on with it. You just go through the box, and the engine wants to rev and hit the red line, and it makes for a really nice drive moving it on from where it was in 2005 to a more modern-day performance standard.

With the highlife inlet cams, with the exhaust manifolds, we’re taking the engine performance from about 450, it’s around about 530 bhp, and that really does make a difference in the performance of this car.

As they say, power is nothing without control. And if you up the engine power significantly, then the brakes either have to be overpowered from standard and can accept that increased performance.

Or they need to be modified. The db9 shares it’s discs and pads with a v8 Vantage, and the extra weight that the db9 carries even standard energy performance, the brakes are really on the limit. It depends how you drive the car.

If you never hold the car up very quickly from high speed, you’re doing some late-breaking, then you won’t encounter brake fade due to the disc overheating, the pad grinding into the disc, the brake fluid heating up.

You know I can break from the little Bramford rose loop that we have, just breaking down from one corner rapidly and in a quick retardation of speed. I can get fade in one press of the pedal. So standard DB9 brakes are on the limit.

So what we do to improve this situation is, the first minor step would be to pad compound change, we can go to an RS29 keeping the standard discs and pads. If that didn’t work, then we retrofit the v8 Vantage S steel brake setup, so that’s a larger Bell mounted disc.

Six-piston calipers instead of four, and that extra contact surface area with the bell mounted disc ensures that the discs never get hot. The brakes never fade, and you can really rely on the brakes to reduce the speed from high speed down to stationary.

And even with the weight of db9, you don’t fade. Next area of the car that we modify is the suspension. 04 DB9 05 v8 Vantage all the way up until when both cars went the glass key, so more or less any conventional key stock car has got dynamics branded dampers on.

These dampers were never great off the shelf, I mean, typically all the cars of that era and massively over damped and under sprung. And this translates into a crash ride low-speed, yet there’s lots of body roll.

And then at higher speed, lots of body roll again in it. It never feels steady in a bend; it never pitches into a corner with confidence. So the upgrade is that Bilstein dampers. Either retrofitting later model Bilstein dampers to db9, or we go with our electronic switchable solution, which gives the best of both worlds.

Obviously, a fixed-rate damper is compromised at one curve. With the electronic damper, we can have stiffer than you would normally set with a fixed-rate damper at one end, press the button, and it goes soft, and it would be softer than you would normally set the compromise at.

So it really is the best of both worlds. The sports pack set up that this car has got, the undersurface trays were thicker gauge metal. But nowhere near the gauge thickness, the 2013 db9 is. So we retrofit front and rear undersurface trays from 2013 db9, and that ties the chassis up quite nicely.

I mean, this is a really, the VH platform is one of the best platforms that has ever been designed and created. But stitching it together with those undersurface chassis tie-in plates really does make a difference.

Especially then when combined with the Bilstein suspension. And really does move these cars on from the handling that they were released with the dynamics dampers. So if you take the dynamics dampers, handling traits, the engine, which yes, it’s not lazy.

But 15 years on now, engines perform a lot better than this one, throttle response a lot sharper. And the breaking which fades quite easily if lent on, those three things in combination have earned the db9 a bit of [Inaudible 00:12:04.16] reputation within the Aston world, it’s not quite deserved because this car isn’t vibrant slippers, far from it.

But modifying just those three areas more or less brings this 05 db9 right up to DBS level performance chassis handling braking characteristics. And as we all know, DBS is a phenomenon driver’s car. So modifying this level db9, it’s really night and day in terms of the car that you get at the end of the process.

So those are the big fundamental upgrades that we do; there are quite a lot of small additions that we can make which really do nudge the car along in terms of the feel to drive it.

And if you’re going to spend quite a significant sum of money upgrading a car, then on those grander scale projects, we like to call it a rebirth. So the plastic buttons inside the dashboard, they can be upgraded to glass, just give a nice, much more luxurious feel when you touch the visual appearance is much better, glass buttons than the plastic.

Tires always fit Michelin pilot sports. These Bridgestone’s, don’t know if you can pick it up on the mic now, but there’s so much wind, road noise generated from these tires. The Michelins run much quieter.

The side-wheel is a bit more supple, and you get greater comfort. When you turn in, you get much more grip and feedback from the [Inaudible 00:14:10.00] over the bridge stones.

There’s a lot of owners out there that really don’t like that deviating from what the factory signed the car off at, and just think, well, the factory AM9 Bridgestone Tire must be the best one because it’s what the factory put into production.

Well, at that time, Aston was governed by forward, and Bridgestone’s relationship with Ford or put that tire on the car. But it was by far the best tire for the car. So now, 15 years on, tire technology has moved on greatly.

There’s absolutely no reason even cops, Michelin Pilot Sport is cheaper than the Bridgestone. That there is not one measure that you could rate the Bridgestone on as being better than the Michelin.

So Mitchell Pilot Sport tires cosmetics, it’s possible to fit the 2013 db9 side sill to the earlier db9 that gives them quite a nice masculine look. These cars got sports packed wheels; you could fit DBS 20-inch rims to them.

I mean we’re not talking about fundamentally transforming the looks of the car, just the odd component, which essentially is retrofitting Aston Martin parts. It’s not like putting a ghastly body kit on the car.

And you wouldn’t want to, because that’s one of the best things about db9. As the automotive world is going angular, shapes, carbon, this db9, as time passes, just looks more classic, more understated, and it’s a really nice, beautiful looking car.

And you certainly wouldn’t want to destroy that.

And that’s another reason why you’d upgrade it. DB 11 has not got the same classic understated presence that db9 has got.

And now, the emissions legislation has forced the automotive world to downsize and pressure charge; you can’t get naturally aspirated six-liter anymore. So there’s lots of reasons to invest in a db9.

On db9, the same as any other car we upgrade, always recommend sticking with the factory back box.

This is because the factory back box retains the valves to give you a quiet mode; most aftermarket back boxes lose that functionality; you just get one exhaust noise without being able to silence it.

The next is the quality of the sound of most aftermarket back boxes. In fact, all of them I’ve ever listened to, I’ve got some sort of error state with them.

They go high-pitched, raspy, engine speed increases. Or there’s some sort of vibration harshness error state pressure, buffeting in the cabin at a certain rev range.

Which is annoying, especially if you’re holding it steady-state on a motorway cruise. The factory back box in any other cars V8, db9 any v12 obviously has been engineered to give the best quality sound in all circumstances.

The best sounding back box for db9 is a DBS. It’s got a raw bass-baritone crackle to it, and it doesn’t go too loud. It doesn’t go high-pitched, and you’ve got the valves to send in silent. In comparison to only the aftermarket exhaust system, that DBS back box beats them all. So to finish off the performance upgrade package, the same on v8.

We always say to a 4.3, 4.7 v8 upgrade, we need to get a vantage S back box. It just puts the icing on the cake and makes the car sound awesome.

Same with a db9 upgrade. As we increase engine power, flow more gas through that silencer, it just makes the original db9 silencer not sound as good a quality as it could. The noise is a bit wallowy, it’s not that raw, deep, bass, baritone crackle of a DBS.

So this car’s completely standard, and we’re just about to strip it to upgrade with all our components. Obviously, we’re going to shoot another video upgraded.

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