A vision of loveliness on the outside, a growling monster on the inside. The Aston Martin DB9 is the car with everything, says David Wilkins

Price: £103,000
Engine: 6.0-litre petrol
Performance: 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds, 17.1mpg
CO2: 394g/km
Worth considering: Bentley Continental GT, Ferrari F430, Porsche 911 3.6 Turbo

"If it looks right, it is right." As far as I know, there is no rigorous scientific proof to support this common saying but it reflects a belief that is widely held in the engineering and craft trades. In the case of Aston Martin's DB9, there is no doubt: its beautiful bodywork clothes a machine of exceptional ability and appeal. It looks right and it is right.

And external beauty is matched by internal beauty - the DB9's cabin has plenty of the wood and leather that have been used to good effect in the best British car interiors over the years, but the overall feel is thoroughly modern. A fair amount of carefully placed shiny metal is present too, lending a hard, sporty edge.

That internal beauty even extends to the bits of this car that you cannot normally see. Just take a look at the cutaway photographs of the DB9's advanced aluminium structure in Aston Martin's sales literature.

The impression is of enormous style and strength. When you see these pictures and the detail shots of the car's mighty V12 engine and elegant suspension components, you will probably wonder no longer why the DB9 is so expensive but ask yourself instead how the company has managed to put it on sale at a price that strays into six-figure territory by only a few thousand pounds.

The DB9 looks fast and it is but if you only want to keep up with the traffic, rather than exploit its full performance, you can get away with just gently tickling the accelerator pedal back and forth through the first centimetre or two of its travel.

The standard DB9 tested here has an automatic transmission, which works very well, although the usual 'P', 'R', 'N' and 'D' modes are selected via a slightly odd set of dash-mounted buttons rather than a central lever. Paddles attached to the steering wheel can be used to shift manually if you are pressing on.

The DB9's rev counter is a racing style anti-clockwise affair while the speedometer dial extends all the way to 220. That's just the mph scale - in km/h terms it reads beyond 300.

On most other cars, these touches might be seen as evidence of pretension, but in the DB9, they feel entirely appropriate.

A final word on Aston Martin's miraculous space engineering. The rear seats are tiny and offer almost no leg room. As I and our readers discovered, however, despite appearances, they are actually capable of carrying adults or large teenagers - the extreme contortions that the average person is prepared to go through even to be just a passenger in the DB9 are a remarkable testament to its enduring appeal.

Paul Bonsor, 54, and Stefan, 12, ICT adviser from Banbury, Oxon
USUAL CAR: MITSUBISHI SPACEWAGON

Paul: There is a technique required to insert oneself into the driving seat of an Aston Martin DB9 and I'm not sure that I'm young enough to master it. However, once there, there's plenty to do. I loved the button that starts the engine which then utters a little growl, hinting at the 6 litres of energy under the bonnet. Once on the open road one could almost feel the engine's relief as the petrol poured in.

Stefan: The interior was not so spacious for me, folded up in the back, but very nice seats for the front two. When I opened the bonnet I was amazed to see a futuristic-style V12 engine. If it were not in the car I would have mistaken it for something else.

Tim Wilson, 43, and Elspeth, 11, GP from Ewelme, Oxon
USUAL CAR: MINI COOPER S

Tim: If I could find an old primary school exercise book, the doodles of sports cars would look pretty much like the DB9; visually it satisfies completely. It was sometimes annoying to wait for the kick down from the automatic box; far better to shift down a gear in anticipation of overtaking and then get an instant surge of power - what a surge! Driving at low speeds seemed easy; the Aston was quite content to idle along at 20mph. Niggles? There was a poorly fitted wheel arch protector at the rear and a rattle from the sat-nav. Neither very encouraging.

Elspeth: It is a fantastic car, it looks great and has lots of wonderful buttons inside. But why bother with seats in the back?

Mark Shanahan, 41, and Rory, 9, communications consultant from Princes Risborough, Bucks
USUAL CAR: SUBARU FORESTER

Mark: After more than 20 years of driving terribly practical cars, testing the DB9 felt truly decadent. It oozes class and, for the first time, it was my car making heads turn. The sleek lines echo the great DBs of the past. Everything's in proportion; everything just fits. This is pure visual joy. All the toys are there, but what sells this car is a drool-inducing driving performance. At low speed the car displayed excellent manners, and on the motorway the drive was effortless. It's just a shame I can't fit three kids and a team's worth of rugby gear in the back.

Rory: It's perfect. I want one!

THE VERDICT: If you would like to take part, e-mail motoring@independent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

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