The Road to Welville

As workout equipment goes, the Aston Martin DB9 Volante is admittedly a bit pricey. But it's guaranteed to get your heart rate going faster than any machine at the gym.

By John Tayman, Business 2.0 Magazine

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Feeling a bit doughy? Down in the workaday dumps? Too much time in the Aeron and not enough taking in fresh air? No worries - I have a cure for what ails you. Just a little something to start the blood pumping, the pounds shedding, the pupils possibly dilating.

Think of it as the $185,000 workout.

First, of course, you'll need the proper equipment. This is obtained by calling 310-659-4050, which happens to be in Beverly Hills. If you don't happen to be in Beverly Hills - pity, that - you can phone one of 32 other outlets that peddle these made-to-order wares. (I placed a call to New Jersey; a few days later my doorman buzzed to alert me of a delivery.) The actual workout begins upon receipt of your equipment.

First off, notice that your heart rate is elevated. This is because a hand-built Aston Martin DB9 Volante convertible is now in your driveway.

Hidden handles, seamless shape

As this is a new and rare product, you are likely unfamiliar with it. Take a moment and circle your vehicle. Though essentially a two-seater, the Volante is an extraordinary 15.5 feet long - about the same length as a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Thus, after several circuits, you'll be covered in a light sheen of sweat. This is perfectly normal and only partly physiological.

The Volante, after all, is arguably the most beautiful convertible offered for sale in the United States, and overheating is to be expected. (Your overheating, that is.)

To achieve its lovely lines, Aston Martin's designers embraced a sort of reductio ad absurdum, shearing all bright work, jewelry, and other assorted fillips from the Volante's silhouette, leaving it as wickedly sharp as a sashimi knife.

There are no visible bumpers. (They're secreted within the chassis.) Headlamp openings are single-cut, meaning no join lines mar their appearance. (In fact, only two seams are visible along the entire front of the Volante.)

Even the vehicle's door handles are camouflaged, as flush-mount, lozenge-shaped nips of metal. (Depress one side and the other emerges to be tugged, whereupon the "swan wing" door gracefully glides open and up, rising 12 degrees off level lest it nick a curb and scuff the velvety paint job that required 25 man-hours to get just right.)

No squeaks, no rattles...all stealth

As with all good exercise equipment, correct use is critical.

If you are portly or slightly out of shape, you may have difficulty at first. The Volante is only 50 inches high, Billy Barty-esque, and to ensure that the pilot sits as low and near to the car's center of gravity as possible, the seats have been placed on the asphalt beneath the floorboard. (Not really, but close.)

Please practice entering and exiting several times. Once comfortable with the process, proceed to the anaerobic portion of your workout.

Begin by placing the key in the ignition. A backlit crystal button in the center of the dash glows.

Push it.

Several things now transpire in rapid sequence: The car's 12 cylinders barrumph to life, your adrenaline spikes, and a fractured koan writ in electroluminescence magically appears in the center of the instrument display, proclaiming "Power, Beauty, Soul."

Despite the shorthand and general creepiness, there's something to this. The Volante's power plant, touted as the best-sounding engine in the world, is a deep-bottomed reservoir of speed, less quick than it is truly fast. (Although, with such cars, these things are relative - the Volante can motor from zero to 60 in 4.9 seconds.)

And as befitting a grand tourer, it offers a power-curve sensation that suggests you could keep accelerating forever and ever, amen. The Aston's engine, built to aerospace specs, is crafted of aluminum, as is the transmission, frame, speedometer and tach needles, air conditioner dials, windshield surround, and pretty much every other thing in the car that is not polished bamboo (dash), hand-stitched leather (seats, etc.), or tingling flesh (driver).

Thus, from both inside and out, the Volante seems as if milled from a single block of aluminum. Everything fits, nothing is superfluous, nothing squeaks or rattles or intrudes.

Living large, for the world to see

It is all unbelievably handsome and refined, and you might be tempted to simply recline in comfort and take it easy. Forget about it. Time to get moving.

Luckily, this part is easy. Arrayed across the dash are four buttons: D, N, R, and P. Press D, otherwise known as drive, and the shift-by-wire gearing engages the first of six speeds.

Off you go. Since the Volante has perfect 50-50 front-to-rear weight distribution, and since, after all, it is a tourer, the steering is responsive but light, with none of the straining shoulders that some supercars require.

You can race through the gears using the paddle shifters or let the onboard systems take over, which is the more civilized approach. Should you opt for the speed-demon approach, the Volante does its best to keep your attention on the task at hand, even deploying a "work load monitor" at high mph to temporarily cancel any low-importance warnings so as not to distract you with pesty pinging and blinking when your attention should be focused elsewhere. (After all, concentration is key to a successful workout.)

Note how your Volante eats up the road, covering huge distances with comical ease. Pay attention to how the wind sweeps over and around the cabin, even at triple digits, allowing for pleasant workout-related conversation. Listen for chord changes in the exhaust as you access the highway, and the bass drop during the off-ramp ride.

Eyeball the faces you pass. Watch that fleeting look of lust. And when you finally make your way back home - if you decide to make your way back home - jump on the nearest scale to see if you've worked off a pound or two.

Nope? Oh well, look on the bright side: At least your wallet's lighter.

John Tayman, a contributing writer for Business 2.0, is the author of "The Colony" (

Details and Photos: Aston Martin DB9 Volante

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