By on May 8, 2013



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?

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22 Comments on “Capsule Review: Aston Martin DB9...”

  • avatar

    How did you get the keys to this? I can understand the emotion, I would love to drive one of these for the first time.

  • avatar

    Why would anyone want this when for similar money they could have an S class that looks like every other S class or 911 turbo that looks like every other 911 from the past 50 years?

  • avatar

    Leaving your girlfriend for a DB9? Sounds like a fair cop. In the long run, the DB9 will be less expensive. And less trouble.

  • avatar

    Although it’s probably a residual-cost-of-ownership nightmare, I have to admit, this car is visceral and desirable in a way few other cars/marques can match. Almost as sexy as an Alfa Romeo 8C (but surely faster).

  • avatar

    A stint behind the wheel of a DB7 showed another aspect of V-12 Astons — it remains the only vehicle I have ever driven where I could see the fuel gauge needle move relentlessly toward “E”. Truly a vehicle for the over-priveleged few.

  • avatar

    Ferrari/Lamborghini fans will disgree, but there is nothing on Earth like the sound one of these V12 Astons makes when you insert the “Emotion Control Unit”. “Unrestrained aggressiveness” is a good way to put it; the mill sounds like it’s going to rip itself out of its mounts and eviscerate the first thing it sees. Best engine note EVER.

  • avatar

    So is the DB9 reviewed here essentially the same car as last year’s Virage?

    • 0 avatar

      Close to. The Virage was DISCO’ed as redundant after the 2012 model year…the range from the DB9 to the then-available DBS (now Vanquish) was never so wide that it really warranted a “middle trim” version. Peculiar strategy by Herr Bez, but Aston Martin has been accused of overspecializing ever since he got there.

  • avatar

    “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.”

    Well, actually, Bond drives a DBS, but close enough. Nice review!

  • avatar

    Note to TTAC:


  • avatar

    Maybe this just isn’t my sort of review or I’m in a foul mood, but…

    I never would have guessed that a fast car that looks good and sounds great is fast, good looking and great sounding?!?!!! 3 days and that’s all you got out of it?

  • avatar

    You captured the feeling of having an Aston all to yourself exquisitely. Could feel your emotions. Fun.

    Such a car is wasted on the rich, who can sit back dispassionately and make logical decisions like, “Hmmm, DB9 or SLK 63 AMG? I dislike long names, so it’s the DB9 for me”.

  • avatar

    Bond was reduced to driving his old DB5 after the debacle in Italy. (In a capsule review of that car, “M” was said to have described it as uncomfortable, to which Bond threatened to eject her.)

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      I remember reading hype-y articles before Skyfall came out that the new Vanquish would be his car. I was disappointed to see it was not in the movie. What debacle do you speak of?

  • avatar

    Jeff is it still cashing in on the legend or can it carry its own worth?

  • avatar

    I enjoyed the piece, as it was more about the emotion of driving this automotive work of art rather than the nuts and bolts of the usual car review. One doesn’t purchase such a vehicle unless it can deliver exactly what Jeff experienced, so I take it that Aston Martin nailed it.

    I’ve seen exactly one of these in real life, and that was behind a velvet rope at a museum in Stuttgart. Like the great classic cars, this one exudes style, grace, and beauty. If we as automotive enthusiasts can’t appreciate this car for what it is, then we have to question ourselves and our perceptions of what would ever satisfy our passion for automobiles.

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