While there may be a new James Bond movie every few years—even occasionally a new James Bond—the character’s signature vehicle, the Aston Martin, changes its look much less frequently.
This week at the Geneva Auto Show, the company unveiled the DB11, the first redesign of its DB flagship series in 13 years. “It’s a looker, all right, extravagantly proportioned and carefully tailored,” says Angus MacKenzie, editor-at-large at MotorTrend.
The price tag for the latest Aston: $217,000.
Breaking new ground
Sleek and sophisticated like its predecessors, the DB11 is breaking some new ground. For the first time, it is juiced by turbo chargers–two of them via Mitsubishi–to help the 5.2 liter V12 engine achieve greater fuel economy and low-end torque. The left-handed hand-brake, a quirky throwback to its British heritage and past designs, is gone in favor of a 21st-century electronic brake. The Sports Exhaust comes with a “silencer”—a la 007’s PPK/S sidearm—to quiet the engine’s roar.
“It is the most important car in the firm’s 103-year history,” says Aston CEO Andy Palmer. He’s not kidding. For Aston Martin, sold by Ford Motor Co. (F) to U.K. financier David Richards in 2007, and since propped up with investment by Italian private equity, every car it brings out is a “bet-the-company” adventure.
The Armani black tux of cars
What makes an Aston an Aston, and sets it apart from Ferraris, McLarens and Lamborghinis, is the beauty and simplicity of its lines. Short rear deck, long hood and a no extraneous or showy crease lines in the body panels for road flash. It is as understated in many ways, relative to its super luxe competition, as a properly tailored Armani black tux.
Astons are known for style and substance over raw speed. It punches out 600 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 516 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 rpm. Maximum speed–only for tracks and certain stretches of Autobahn–is 200 miles per hour with 0-62 acceleration in 3.9 seconds. The engine dials back to six-cylinder power on country roads and speed-governed freeways. Like 007’s 9MM, the DB11 comes complete with a silent start-up mode to keep the engine’s noise level down.
The DB11 has car electronics supplied Mercedes-Benz, so finally Aston drivers can connect to a smartphone—without help from “Q.” Bang and Olufson help make it sound like Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett are in the back seat singing. And, yes, there are even ISOFIX mountings in the rear seat for a child seat. It’s an Aston, it seems, for the whole family. But don’t tell that to Mr. Bond.
The DB11 replaces the DB9, which was first introduced 2003. The DB10 was a model made exclusively for the 2015 James Bond escapade, Spectre. Aston Martin made just 10 DB10s for use in the film, with a majority being modified to accommodate the movie’s stunts. Only two production units survived filming.
DB10 goes to auction
In February, Aston Martin auctioned one of the DB10s made for the film for a stunning $3.5 million, especially given that the car cannot be legally driven until factory airbags and other movie-related modifications are reversed. All of the proceeds were donated to the charity Médecins Sans Frontieres, or in English, Doctors Without Borders. Daniel Craig, the current Mr. Bond, signed the auctioned DB10 before it changed hands.
The Aston Martin has been one of the stars of the Bond films since the first 007 Sean Connery appeared in Goldfinger in 1964, when he drove a Silver Birch DB5. It was replaced in a few of the Bond films; Pierce Brosnan, for instance, drove a BMW (BMW-HM) 750iLsedan and Z8 roadster in the 1997 film Tomorrow Never Dies. But when most people think Bond, they think Aston.