Nicolas Stecher jumped in the Aston Martin DBS Volante Carbon Edition to find out why Mr. Bond loves his Astons so. With 510 horsepower and a 190 mph top speed growling forth from its 5.9-liter V-12, that should seem obvious. But despite — or perhaps, even because of — its many quirks, the car belongs to Bond unlike any other. All photos taken exclusively by Robert Kerian.
James Bond has employed the services of many a car in his illustrious career, careening from submersible Lotus Elise S1 to mobile phone-driven BMW 750iL to Bentley Mark IV with the same careless bravado that he swaps paramours. But unlike his endless romantic parades, 007’s automotive heart — and those of his fanbase — devotedly belongs to the exotic, yet ever-so-British, Aston Martin.
It is a love affair that began in the third installment of the franchise, Goldfinger, when James is first introduced to the DB5 by a rather condescending Q. There the surly gadget master takes 007 through the litany of weaponized accessories and tools of evasion that he has installed in the gorgeous GT: revolving number plates, oil slick, smokescreen, twin rifles that pop from the headlights, Ben Hur-style tire slashers. Production Designer Sir Ken Adam and Special Effects Supervisor John Steers stuffed so many outlandish gadgets into the two-seater that, literally, the movie could not contain them all. Had the script allowed, one would have also seen James enjoy a radar dish in the mirrors, exploding nail dispensers, a weapons tray and even (gasp!) a car phone hidden in the handrest. Luckily for Bond, the DB5 did famously keep its passenger eject button hidden in the gear shift — perfect for jettisoning an abductor while avoiding Chinese soldiers blessed with the marksmanship of drunken rednecks. But I digress.
What no one could predict in those naïve early years of franchise filmmaking was just what an effect that singular car might have. Despite being hesitant to even give the producers a vehicle, once Goldfinger hit screens Aston Martin’s DB5 became the most successful commercial tie-in of all time, its beloved Corgi Toys miniature cars — complete with ejecting seat and figure, naturally — selling more toys than AM has sold cars in its lifetime. The public outcry for the DB5 was so great that the actual car went on a public tour for years, and remains the most beloved of all the Bond cars. In the world of product placement, it makes E.T.’s Reese’s Pieces look like the Mountain Dew Decepticon in Transformers.
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The DB5 reappeared in Thunderball, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and Casino Royale, and once again returns in the upcoming Skyfall. This appearance is perhaps most telling of all, as the current Daniel Craig-lead reboot rarely succumbs to the uninspired and kitschy self-referring head nods that previous incarnations of the 007 films have made. And there is a simple reason why Aston Martin returns time and time again to the franchise: because it is one of the most coveted vehicles on planet Earth. “The DB5 is part of my boyhood, and it’s part of my generation’s boyhood,” notes Skyfall director Sam Mendes. “I mean I had the toy, I had my ejector seat. I lost the little man that flew up out of it, and I spent the rest of my childhood looking for it!” In a videoblog about the DB5?s presence in the film, Mendes underscores not just the innate beauty and timelessness of the car, but the priceless patina that James Bond imbued on the vehicle — as if Goldfinger himself had laid his Midas touch on it.
But as much as the Aston Martin logo has been engraved in the founding stones of the Bond Canon, it has been made equally indelible in the fabric of the current Daniel Craig reboot. Since Casino Royale, Bond has preferred no vehicle more than the Aston Martin DBS — the spiritual successor to the DB5, and currently the most powerful car in Aston’s pedigreed stable (this will change with the introduction of the Vanquish in 2013). Take the DBS Volante Carbon Edition out on the roads, and you begin to understand the supercar’s charms. Summoning 510 bhp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque from its 5.9-liter V-12 engine, the DBS sprints from 0-60 in a mere 4.3 seconds on the way to a 190 mph top speed. But this is not the violent surge of the Lamborghini Aventador, nor the ruthless precision of the Audi R8. It is an Aston, which means the ride is comfortable even on the war-torn back alleys of Los Angeles. It is a true Grand Tourer: front-engined, rear-wheel driven, and lavishly appointed to ensure even long drives are honey smooth. And because it’s the Volante, you can drop the top and let the wind cool your silencers.
In James Bond’s secret layer, replete with Icon’s folding A5 escape plane…
James Bond is, if nothing else, a man full of quirks and personal idiosyncrasies. He’s fastidious, almost OCD if he were diagnosed in the 21st century. There’s of course his dogmatic spirit of choice: martini, dry. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shaken over ice, with a thin slice of lemon peel. Never stirred. There’s his nearly biblical book of seduction etiquette, with rules never to be broken. He’s conquered Dr. Holly Goodhead, Honey Ryder, Octopussy, Plenty O’Toole, Pussy Galore, et al. The list is long, the wordplay heavy-handed. Yet despite his sexual promiscuity, he is deathly loyal to his weapon of choice: a Walther P99. The man has his eccentricities. And like Bond himself, the Aston Martin DBS is a car of quirks, of quixotic idiosyncrasies and at times headscratching ergonomics.
First off there’s the parking brake, located to the left of the driver as opposed to the right. When engaged it rests on the floor, not upright, giving the user no clue as to its activation state (deactivating it is a game of nuance that will require dozens of lifts to perfect). The key is a $2,800 beveled glass fob that you joyfully insert into the center console like the identification key of an ICBM launcher, instantly sending the V12 into a throaty purr. Should you ever stall your DBS, however, you’ll need to fully remove the key and re-insert it, as opposed to simply pushing it in again as you would with a power start button. Then there’s the radio info, which instead of displaying on the 5” screen that rises from the dashboard is shared via a tiny monochromatic digital screen — it’s so small it cannot even display Adele’s name as you play the Skyfall soundtrack over the superb 1000W Bang & Olufsen soundsystem. All that is to say, the Aston martin is about as intuitive as a Sudoku puzzle.
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