Richard McComb, Daniel Craig’s unofficial body double, takes 007’s DBS for a spin round Birmingham.
Licence to kill? No. Obscene physical muscularity? Sorry, pass. Fluency in obscure Oriental languages and downhill skiing? Pass again. Pussy Galore? Nope.
Aston Martin DBS? Check.
And before you ask, this isn’t any old billionaire sheik’s Aston Martin, still less the plaything of a Russian oligarch.
This is the Aston Martin DBS, as driven by Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace.
As I nestle into the jolly comfy leather sport seat, it crosses my mind that I am encroaching on the sexual fantasy of a large number of women and a good number of men: for the last set of buttocks to rest where I am sitting belonged to blond-haired Craig.
In the first few hours of taking delivery, I am tempted to open the window and shout out to bemused passers-by: “I bet you’ll never guess who’s been behind the wheel of my Aston Martin? Daniel Craig. James bleedin’ Bond.”
Not that I need to attract anyone’s attention. When you drive this £160,000 beautiful beast of a supercar, everybody looks at you. From starry-eyed schoolboys and crisply suited city workers to party girls and bored executives in S-class Mercedes. Everybody gawps at you, or rather they gawp at the car.
Because this is the coolest car in the world. After driving James Bond’s DBS, everything feels like a Vauxhall Nova.Quantum of Solace opens next Friday and the car I am driving is involved in one of those seat-of-your-pants chases through Italy. There’s fearless Bond fleeing maniacal gunmen, extraordinary feats of daring, that sort of thing.
The only reason such showpiece scenes work – and by all accounts, Bond’s Italian job works well – is because you believe the spectacular DBS is capable of pulling off the impossible.
During the course of filming, several Aston Martins were written off, left riddled with bullet holes and dents. My DBS – mine in the sense that it’s on loan, and isn’t mine at all – was used for Craig’s pouting close-ups.
There are just over 8,000km on the clock, and that’s James Bond kilometres. The car was taken to Italy, and brought home to Gaydon, Warwickshire, by trailer.
Unfortunately, my commissioning editor was reluctant to fly me out to Lake Garda for the Birmingham Post’s photo-shoot, so we had to make do with the next best thing – Digbeth.
Remarkably, we got out alive, with the car, defying the odds 007-style.
Pulling up under some old railway arches, a beefy fellow with a slightly mad grin calls out: “That yours, mate?”
“Yes, it is,” I reply, lying with the aplomb of a secret agent. (I know it is childish, but when am I going to get to do this again?)
“Nice one! It’s like the James Bond car,” says Lurch.
“It is the Bond car,” I say with a deadpan expression, more retro Roger Moore than Danny Craig.
Lurch turns pale, as if struck dumb. He can’t speak. He literally can’t speak.
I soon learn that this awe-struck reaction to the Bond car is the norm. Within a minute of pulling up outside an industrial unit, the DBS, with detachable Milanese number plates, is surrounded by a swarm of workers, all snapping pictures on their mobile phones.
Then everything gets a little too Bond like for my liking. One of the workers tells us to be careful. “I mean it. Honest,” he says.
My man on the inside tells of the aftermath of a gun battle involving the drivers of two Audi TTs, just round the corner from where we are standing. “They’re bloody mad round here,” he says.
Minutes later, as we cruise towards a derelict canal, a gang of hoodies bounds down the middle of the road, mimicking the shape of guns with their hands and fingers, smiling as they open fire. Bang, bang. You’re dead.
I floor the accelerator and make a diplomatic exit.
Due to the filming in Italy, Bond’s DBS is left-hand drive and it comes in a unique colour, fittingly called Quantum Silver, which hasn’t been released on the market. It’s a stunning greyish, silvery, brownish, gloriousness of a colour.
And if you think I’m over-doing the superlatives, it is because it is impossible not to with this car. It’s the stuff of dreams, the ultimate boy’s toy. The DBS leaves footballers’ Ferraris in the slow lane.
Aesthetically, “Danny’s Banger,” as I like to call it, is a breath-taking symbiosis of classic English craftsmanship and restraint – and all out street-fighter snarl.
Smooth lines and curves envelope the sweeping structure, which is punctuated by flared wheel arches and ultra low-profile 20in tyres. Then there is the distinctive much aped, never surpassed, front grille that speaks, in a terribly understated way, of the terror that lies beneath of the bonnet.
It is here that one finds the shattering heartbeat of the car, a 6.0-litre V12 engine. Should you be interested in these things, it is front mid-mounted, rear-wheel drive. But crucially for pub quizzes, this DBS belts out 510bph and surges from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds. Warning: this car eats road.
In layman’s terms, the driving experience is akin to a road-going fighter jet. The car has sufficient oomph to give a flash of lightning a creditable run for its money.
Not surprisingly, the six-speed manual DBS is one of the most fiercesome production cars ever made by Aston Martin, spitting out 40bhp over and above a DB9 Volante, hardly a slouch. The maximum speed is 191mph – and no, I didn’t, not anywhere near it.
The novice Aston Martin driver gets an early warning about the car’s tremendous power by firing up the old girl. For this, one needs an Emotional Control Unit, the DBS version of a key.
The ECU weighs about the same as a small family hatchback and looks like the crystals Superman sticks into a module at his ice palace to activate the voice and image of his long-dead parents. The effect is no less dramatic.
The ignition sparks and the car emits a billowing roar, a Led Zepplinesque mighty thunderclap of a roar. The noise brings a lump to the throat and a not inconsiderable shock to anyone within a mile radius.
This aural blast takes place without any depression of the accelerator. It is simply the DBS’s way of saying: “Wake up, 007. It’s time to save the world.”
And now I will be entirely honest. Taking Danny’s Banger for a crawl round inner city Birmingham is not the easiest, or most pleasurable of affairs. Bond’s supercar wasn’t built with the Bullring in mind, still less cones, bollards and other people.
The DBS, if anything, feels depressed, ridiculously reigned in, as we pootle around Digbeth and its environs. Don’t get me wrong. It does all the things cars are meant to do, like go backwards and forwards and turn around corners.
But later, stuck in a jam in Kings Heath High Street, the DBS feels emotionally bereft, fed up, huffy, the automotive equivalent of Ronaldo being told by Fergie that he’s playing for the reserves at Oldham.
And then we pass through the city limits, wave farewell to benighted urban transport planning and say: “Hello, Hollywood” (the one in south Birmingham, that is).
After hours of crawling round clogged roads, avoiding suburban speed humps (this car is very low slung), we hit the open road. And, oh my, the world really isn’t enough. You want to drive forever.
The sound as you depress the accelerator is like Sir Simon Rattle, in his pomp at the CBSO, conducting Mahler. And then, before you realise what is happening, several hundred of those horses are hoofing like mad under the bonnet.
The acceleration is so smooth, however, that you don’t realise the force and rapidity of the forward propulsion. Your back is rammed back into the seat and thus are you able to gauge the lunatic, inspirational wonder of this machine.
The whole experience leaves one slightly deaf, shaken and curiously stirred. I almost wept when they came to collect it. Very unBond-like.
(Richard McComb wears Paul Smith, courtesy of Harvey Nichols, in The Mailbox)
* Find out where our spy’s mission took him in next week’s friday magazine.