The 2013 Aston Martin DB9 Volante
Taking stock of the revised Aston Martin DB9 is a little bit like revisiting a classic Corb chaise or Aalto stool, or even something as ubiquitous as an iPod. From the outside, not a lot appears to have changed. But with materials, manufacturing techniques and muscular forms all given a steady, ongoing and almost imperceptible improvement over the years, the car you see here is very different to the DB9 that debuted back in 2004. Lighter, faster, and more efficient, it has undergone the automotive equivalent of a chemical peel, rolling back the decades and keeping things fresh.
That said, our familiarity with the fundamentals mean that the DB9 is as welcome as a well-worn leather glove. Step inside and the primary controls fall instantly to hand (providing you don't need to tune the radio or adjust the temperature at speed). The steering is crisp and accurate. The leather oozes all the right kind of olfactory triggers. And the shape remains one of the purest, most elegant and timeless sports car designs of all time. But more than anything else, the DB9 gives you an unrivalled sense of occasion, effortlessly burnishing your inner glow regardless of the mundanity of your journey.
Aston is celebrating its centenary year in 2013, with some upheaval promised in the months ahead. Most important of all is the news that CEO Dr Ulrich Bez will be retiring. Having helmed the company for over a decade, the ebullient German engineer has transformed AM into a major global player, a brand name celebrated around the world with cars to match the long-hallowed image. It's a journey that began two decades ago with the introduction of the DB9's precursor, the DB7, a glimmer of modernity that paved the way for the current generation.
Although the company makes much of its evolutionary design philosophy - still the most-swung critical stick at its name - there are physical changes in the offing as well. Last month, AM showed off its CC100 concept in Germany, a sculpted two-seater that referenced racing classics from decades past while also previewing a tougher, more chiselled face for future road cars.
Whatever happens to the company in the years to come, it seems likely that the DB9 - or something very like it - will remain in the company's line-up, a perennial classic that looks to the future with a welcome eye to a glorious past.