A quiet and unnoticed getaway is hardly a fait accompli in the auto-centric city of Los Angeles, where street-parked Italian exotics are a given, and even the peons seem to manage to procure a Mercedes-Benz C-class.
The task is made especially difficult when your getaway car is an Aston Martin DB9. But not for any of the obvious reasons.
On Friday morning, the generous folks at Aston Martin tossed me the key — erm, crystallized emotion control unit — to a vermilion example of its refreshed-for-2013 DB9 coupe. Twelve minutes later, I was already on the road, to see if James Bond’s personal transportation would pass muster against the vapidity of style-conscious Angelenos. That’s when I hit my first traffic jam. And then a spot of late-winter drizzle descended from no place in particular, exacerbating the whole mess. The traffic trudged for miles. By the time I reached the outskirts of Santa Monica, my thoughts turned to a parking space and a cold drink, lest a valet attempt to wrest the DB9 from my hands.
That evening, following several rides given to friends, and glamour poses taken in front of homes worth half as much as the car in front of them, I decided to rest the DB9 in the aegis of my girlfriend’s apartment. After an afternoon’s worth of driving, I hadn’t seen as much as fourth gear, or had the opportunity to truly answer the question that seemed to be on everyone’s mind: “So, how fast is it?”
The coupe from Britain with the six-figure price tag sat outside as dusk turned to nightfall. Much to my girlfriend’s disenchantment, I vowed to check on the DB9 every hour until morning. At midnight, I could hear stumbling barflies audibly ogling the carbon-ceramic brakes. An hour later, I swore that I woke up not to the alarm from my phone, but to a pigeon defiling the DB9’s roof from the overhead power lines. My overprotective instincts were working overtime.
Upon realizing that there were no power lines remotely near the DB9, I grabbed my overnight bag and headed for the door. I was entirely sure that this was the same feeling of a nervous parent the first night that a newborn sleeps at home. To my sleeping girlfriend, I texted, “I’ve left you for the DB9. See you in the morning.”
I tiptoed down the staircase and slipped quietly into the cockpit to reacquaint myself with the driver’s seat. For the first time, light shone on all of the gauges and switchgear. The wanton aroma of buttery leather was all-consuming. With tired eyes, I gazed ahead at the suggestive, 220-mph speedometer. It’ll never happen on these streets.
At five minutes to three, the DB9 roared to life with typical, unrestrained aggressiveness from the engine bay that could wake the entire neighborhood. I selected D from the push-button transmission, and slunk as respectfully as possible toward the highway. A gentleman, standing on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard, turned his head up from his cell phone and smiled when he saw the DB9 approaching. Two quick turns later, I approached the entrance to the freeway and depressed the aluminum shift paddle to slow the DB9.
It was a warm night on the west side of Los Angeles, and my night-owl routine from my time spent in Manhattan seemed about ready to pay off. The roads were never this empty.
I couldn’t have been giddier as I stepped hard on the gas pedal to enter the highway. The intuitive feedback gleaned from the DB9’s chassis, in perfect concert with its hellacious powerplant, made quick work of the on-ramp, and the subsequent transition to Interstate 10, which required the negotiation of four lanes of a banked overpass. A rented Corolla sped by in the leftmost lane, doing about 25 over the speed limit, perhaps to the white-knuckled dissatisfaction of its driver. A quick downshift and a blip of throttle caught me up to him. I relished the routine. Smile. Quick turn of the head. Approving but disbelieving faces from the backseat passengers. Smile again.
All this, even as the DB9 nears a decade of production, with few major changes prior to the ‘13’s mostly mechanical refresh.
As I neared downtown, I took pleasure in the fact that I was not confined to the cemented cesspool of interlocking byways, on the daily commute. The Garmin-sourced navigation system was suddenly of no use. The V-12 seemed to have endless power, with no real effort required to access it. I ran my hand along the soft, leather stitching that covered the center console, as well as every surface not bedecked in aluminum or suede. Although the interior design is similarly old, it benefited from the careful restraint that Concours judges might one day commend.
When I finally reached home — following several quick exits, for the pleasure of obtaining screaming on-ramp performances every time — I was wide-awake, and somehow disappointed that the drive felt shorter than usual. My personal car spent the remainder of the pre-dawn hours outside the garage, as the DB9 commanded deference, respect; payment of tribute would later arrive in the form of multiple trips for fuel, to the adoring eyes of passers-by.
I spent the remainder of my time with the DB9 flogging it every which way, making friends titter as the crimson beast sped breathlessly down on-ramps. (You never really know who your friends are until you offer to show up at their homes and places of business with a $207,000 conversation piece.) I marveled at the crispness of Dionne Warwick’s alto inflection, as conveyed through 1000 Bang & Olufsen watts. I loaded its shallow trunk with a weekend’s worth of groceries, and prayed that the baba ghannouj would stay upright. One expeditious adult passenger climbed into the rear seats, but not for long.
After 72 short hours of random acts of automotive kindness performed for friends, family, and total strangers, it became terribly clear that living with an automobile as special as the DB9 was an indulgence unto itself that ought to be shared with as many people as possible. As your senses beckon you out for a joyride, and you simply cannot resist letting all 12 cylinders howl into the night, forget about trying not to wake the neighbors.
Luxury is about tasteful sharing of the wealth. And the DB9 is a top-tier expression of luxury, beauty, and desire, without peer.
Who’s ever tried to make a quiet getaway, anyway?