Auto connoisseur Simon de Burton reviews a selection of the hottest new luxury automobiles on today’s market
Aston Martin DB10
“The car was from the pool,” wrote Fleming in chapter seven. “Bond had been offered the Aston Martin or the Jaguar 3.4. He had taken the DBIII. Either of the cars would have suited his cover — a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good, the fast things of life. But the DBIII had the advantage of an up-to-date triptyque, an inconspicuous color, battleship grey, and certain extras, which might or might not come in handy….” But it was the Silver Birch DB5 that Sean Connery’s Bond drove in the 1960s film versions of “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball” that truly cemented the connection between Aston and 007, which has since led to six different examples of the marque’s cars appearing in the various movies — the latest being the DB10 driven by Daniel Craig in the 2015 release, “Spectre.” It’s very unlikely, however, that you’ll see a DB10 on the road — this is the first Aston ever created specifically for a Bond movie. Based on a production V8 Vantage, the DB10 has an entirely bespoke, aluminum body with special lights, wheels, grille and interior trim not used on any other car. The development of the DB10 took more than a year and was carried out in close collaboration with director Sam Mendes.
Part of the reason for using the 190-mph V8 Vantage as its basis is, as Aston Martins go, it’s about the simplest car in the range. It also is the lightest and probably the most robust — both important considerations in view of the fact that the DB10 was driven hard and fast in every scene in which it appears. The man at the controls was triple-British-Rally-Champion-turned-official-Bond-stunt-driver Mark Higgins, for whom two examples of the 10 DB10s built were specifically adapted with features such as high-performance hand-brake systems, built-in roll cages and, of course, controls for the all-important Q-Branch gadgets. Although the DB10 is not destined for production, it is likely that some of the car’s design features will be carried forward to future road-going models. And, although you won’t be able to buy one in to your local Aston showroom, there are plans afoot to offer a DB10 show car for charity early next year. If you fancy being a bidder, keep an eye on astonmartin.com.
Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn
In my school days, the father of one of my closest friends owned a magnificent Rolls-Royce saloon built in 1951. Painted a striking combination of black and yellow, it was considered a particular rarity due to its uncommon small-boot feature. The model name was Silver Dawn and this particular car had first belonged to the governor of Gibraltar. Just a few weeks ago, my friend sent me an email. It contained an advertisement for his father’s actual car, which, having long been sold out of the family, had turned up on the website of a classic car dealer in Germany, still wearing that distinctive livery.
The bizarre aspect of the story lies, however, in the fact that just a few minutes later I also received an email from Rolls-Royce Motor Cars announcing the long-dormant Silver Dawn name was to be revived on an all-new model. It’s rare that Rolls-Royce launches a new model (in the 11-year history of the modern marque, it has created but three: Phantom, Ghost and Wraith) so news of the Silver Dawn’s arrival in early 2016 is worthy of some excitement. The original Silver Dawn, which was produced from 1949 to 1955, was the first Rolls-Royce to feature factory-built bodywork (previous models had all been “coach-built” cars with, essentially, one-off bodies crafted by independent makers). Of all the Silver Dawns built, a mere 28 were in the “drophead” or convertible style, but that is the configuration chosen for the newly revived automobile.
At this stage, few details of the 21st century Dawn are available, although it will, of course, be built at the Rolls-Royce factory on the Goodwood estate in England’s West Sussex. And we can safely assume that it will be one of the more, if not most, exquisitely crafted, most elegant and most luxurious “dropheads” on the market.
Bentley Flying Spur Beluga
The “Flying Spur” name first appeared on a Bentley back in the 1950s when it was chosen for a line of essentially bespoke, four-door saloons with a sporting bent built to order by the celebrated British coachbuilder H.J. Mulliner. The name was revived in 2006 when the rejuvenated Bentley brand, by then under the ownership of Volkswagen Group, sought to attract buyers from the chauffeur-driven executive class with a “stretched” four-door version of the hugely successful Continental GT coupe, which had placed the once-ailing marque well and truly back on the map. With a twin-turbo, six-liter W12 engine under the hood (as used in the GT) the new car certainly offered all the pace any tycoon in a hurry could wish for, with its sub-six-second zero-to-60-mph time and a top speed of more than 170 miles per hour.
Last year, however, the “Continental” prefix was dropped from the Flying Spur’s title to coincide with a major makeover, which included the adoption of the smaller, lighter and more efficient four-liter, twin-turbo V8 engine, which debuted in the two-door GT. And, as of this fall, the Flying Spur will become available in a new, premium edition called the “Beluga” — a name that one automatically associates with caviar and, of course, all of its rare and expensive connotations. Available only with the V8 power plant, the Flying Spur Beluga is, essentially, a racier version of the outwardly staid, standard sedan. Much of the transformation has been brought about through the use of stealthy black finishes for the 20-inch wheels, for example, on the radiator grille and inside the cabin where special, piano black veneers make the already luxurious interior seem even more decadently habitable. The traditionally sporting character typical of cars carrying the Flying B logo is further enhanced through the presence of knurled-steel gearshift paddles and contrast stitching to the hand-finished leather upholstery. When the Mulliner Driving Specification is requested, buyers get even larger, 21-inch “Extrovert” road wheels, diamond quilted hides, a knurled gear lever and racecar-style drilled-alloy pedals. Despite the car’s undeniable size, it’s a mean performer thanks to the V8s 500-horsepower output, which enables it to sprint from standstill to 60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds. Yet it is designed more for crossing continents than racing between the lights — as evinced by its 500-mile fuel range and, of course, that luxurious, Wi-Fi-enabled interior, which is guaranteed to make any journey pass very quickly indeed.
BMW 3.0L CSL “Hommage”
There are two types of Batmobiles: the one kept in Bruce Wayne’s “bat cave” and driven by his alter-ego Batman and the classic BMW coupe that proved a dominant force in touring car racing during the early 1970s. The latter was built by German tuning house Alpina and was based on BMW’s partly aluminum-bodied, three-liter CSL (L for lightweight) coupe. One of the most striking features of the car was its rear wing, which led to the “Batmobile” nickname, but because a certain number had to be produced in street-legal guise and such wings were not permitted for use on German roads, the cars were supplied with them neatly packed away in the boot. An original CSL with its racing wing still present is highly prized by collectors, and its almost mythical status has now prompted BMW to create what it is calling a homage to the model. Unveiled in May at Italy’s prestigious Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza, this achingly covetable concept car revisits the screaming golf-yellow hue, which was available on the 1970s original. Beyond that, however, it is entirely up-to-the-minute with bodywork made from carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), distinctive air deflectors, bulging wheel arches, spoilers to the roof and, of course, the tail. “Air Curtain” and “Air Breather” systems ventilate the wheel housings while emissions are dealt with by a pair of vast, oval-shaped, side-exit exhausts. Under the bonnet there’s a silky smooth six-cylinder engine with electric “e-boost,” while the pared-down interior reflects the car’s lightweight, sporting nature. Again made largely from CFRP, it eschews high-tech entertainment systems in favor of a simple, race-inspired instrument display showing gear position, shifting point, road speed and engine revs. Other race-inspired features include hand-stitched bucket seats, six-point harnesses, a fire extinguisher and two console-mounted, emergency cut-off switches.
A special space has even been created in the rear of the transmission tunnel for the storage of a pair of crash helmets.
“For BMW designers like us, the BMW 3.0 CSL is a style icon,” says the marque’s head of design, Karim Habib. “Its combination of racing genes and elegance generates an engaging aesthetic that continues to win hearts even today.” There seems little doubt that the design team succeeded, but now the world’s CSL fans want to know if the Hommage concept will actually make it in to production. Judging by the reaction it received at Villa d’Este, BMW shouldn’t have much difficulty selling plenty of “real” versions, so here’s hoping it’s brave enough to go ahead and make them.