In ‘Skyfall,’ James Bond is back in the iconic 1963-65 silver-birch Aston Martin DB5. I do hope the world is in no big hurry to be saved.
2014 Aston Martin Vanquish
Bond’s automotive anachronism can’t go unchallenged. The DB5 was a hot piece in its time: the in-line six punched out to 4.0 liters, triple SU carburetors, a German transmission and a superleggera magnesium-alloy body, which is pretty OMG. The coachwork is sculpturally perfect, the stance heroic, the car’s presence as cutting as a sword of ice.
But by modern standards, the 282-horsepower, five-speed DB5 is markedly leisurely motoring. Actually, the average late-model minivan could run it down. Oh, you wanna go, shorty? Anybody ever tell you look like Deputy Dawg?
Still, I marvel at this automotive disarmament of Bond’s. Is he in some nutty British car club we didn’t know about? You know, Bond? Beefy guy, works for the government, owns two Morgans?
What if, instead of the blazing cyborg superpistol that Bond carries in “Skyfall” (a 9mm Walther PPK/S), we hand him the tiny Walther PP from “Dr. No,” an archaic, yapping popgun, something a massage-parlor manager would carry? What if we took away his mobile and made Bond use pay phones?
Carbon body panels are difficult to paint, so Aston developed a perfecting, glasslike silica coating for a prepaint. The finish on my test car could be measured in fathoms.
Refinements over the DBS—the Bond car in the last two movies, incidentally—include a 25% increase in torsional rigidity, says the company, and about a 150-pound reduction in curb weight, which comes in around 3,850 pounds. With the car transferring power to the ground through a single-clutch mid-rear transaxle, the Vanquish doesn’t cycle through gear ratios with quite as much impact as a car with a dual-clutch automatic manual transmission, the Ferrari V12, for instance, which also enjoys a 165-hp advantage. With the new-for-2014 launch-control system, the Vanquish is probably capable of hitting 60 miles per hour in about four seconds, as compared with the Ferrari’s three flat.
But once the Vanquish is rolling and the road opens up, the sheer, horsey power of the thing is a joy. Romp the throttle at mid-rpm in third gear and you’ll get a huge, hydraulic shove in the back, like God has hit you with a water balloon. Sploooff!
The car’s steering (hydraulically assisted) is obviously highly developed, keen and responsive, and yet well short of dartiness. The Vanquish is at its absolute best tracking straight and true at high speed, an avenging spirit with diamond eyes. The brakes, as near as I could tell, would stop a train: Dazzling 15-inch-plus ceramic discs beam through the wheel spokes.
The one gripe I have with these cars—the center stack and the navigation display—remains unresolved. While the climate and audio controls have been given a techy updating—with peculiar, mini-donut-like rotary dials for climate and audio functions—the navi display remains small, faraway and low-res, integrated into a pop-up panel atop the dash. It’s the one dissonant element in a cabin that’s just insane with quilted Alcantara and stitched leather.
Look, I’m all for suspending disbelief. It’s fun (every time Bond flashes his Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M in “Skyfall,” down a shot). But I’m just not buying Bond’s return to the DB5. If my job routinely involves running gunbattles and desperate escapes, I’m going to want heavier tackle.
That, the Vanquish is.
By DAN NEIL Nov-10-2012 | The Wall Street Journal