Winter down south feels like a dental check-up, weeks of built-up dread punctuated just briefly by a cold finger and some mild effluvia.
We chatter about it more than we chatter from it. We rail against the seldom-seen sleet. We pre-game the fleeting, fully formed flake that dares drift through the atmosphere in a larval stage, living on the verge of verga, before it makes a touchdown less welcome than any non-SEC scoring drive.
That it only happens once or twice a year is beside the point. It's the watching, the waiting, the anticipation of the dreaded wintry mix that fuels us through maybe sixteen days of grey skies in all.
Steeling for the dismal season steers us away from driving our good cars, too, except for the brave and crazy among us, or the recent arrivals who've never been on the Perimeter in a whiteout, gleefully sliding a Saab 9000 in absolute solitude, drunk with e-brake power. (Check, circa 1993.) Drive through one rush hour with a storm descending, and you'll pray for Tokyo traffic, with Roman police unsnarling it. Or for Walkers.
What to do then, when the only slot for driving the only steel-grey Aston Martin DB9 Volante opens up--in a December gone sharply cold? You take it anyway, and hope for the lead in the sky to hold under its own weight.
Just over a year ago, we took off for southern Spain--under mysteriously identical circumstances--to drive the Virage, the car that once would have replaced the DB9. Architecturally similar, separated only by degrees of swank, the older DB9 made retirement noises when the plusher Virage appeared in the 2011 model year.
And then the threat disappeared. The Virage drifted in, and drifted out, why left unclear. The DB9 had never left, so it never was resurrected--but it has been re-dressed in Virage form. It's more difficult to discern how it's changed, than to show how clearly the DB9 has telegraphed the intent of a whole generation of Aston Martins. It laid out the blueprint, with its ageless proportions, expertly underplayed details, classic grand-touring stance. The new fillips and touch-ups are grace notes on a timeless look: the tight decklid spoiler curls up at the ear, the fender vents now are LED-bedazzled. Aston's grille is now widely mimicked, but nowhere else does it taper into a hoodline like it does here. The door handles still take a recess into the doors, almost invisibly, when they're not needed.
Consistency is Aston's armor and its fontanelle, just as much in evidence in the cabin as in its elegantly drawn skin. Whether it's trimmed in wood or carbon fiber, the DB9's cabin doesn't venture too far from the one in the Vantage or the Rapide. Still, it's serene, leathery, and undisturbed by the growing presence of LCD screens. Restraint would never work on a Lamborghini. It's the franchise here.