8 Things we learned after getting up close and personal with Bond’s Aston Martin DB5

The greatest realization: We want one
by Jack Rix | Nov 7, 2020
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1) It’s an E46 BMW M3 underneath.

Let’s get straight to the juicy bit: Although Aston Martin refuses to do little more than raise a knowing eyebrow when you ask them directly, this car might look like a mega-money classic, but underneath it has the powertrain from an E46 BMW M3. This is what’s known as a ‘very good thing,’ and not entirely inauthentic. It has no turbos, like the DB5; it has six cylinders in an in-line configuration, like the DB5; it has a manual gearbox, like the DB5; and it sounds glorious, like the DB5. More on that in a bit.

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Cradling one of M Sport’s finest ever engines is a bespoke space-frame chassis, built to fit the DB5’s dimensions, but with an integral roll cage in case things get a bit...well, Bond. And they will, whether you want them to or not, because what we have here is essentially a drift car wearing a period-correct top hat.

2) It wants to go sideways...all the time.

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There’s a reason James Bond looks like a demigod behind the wheel, because he’s rarely pointing in the intended direction of travel...and has a talented team of stunt drivers to do the driving for him. Stunt drivers like inherently unstable cars, which is why this car’s double-wishbone suspension, Öhlins dampers, and radial tires (period tread pattern, but modern compound) are all set up to encourage instability at the rear. Oh, and there’s a hydraulic handbrake to really coax it into shapes that your eyes simply won’t believe.

Problem is, while those tires have decent grip, there’s very little directional feel. Twin that with a large, shiny wooden wheel and a slow steering rack, and it’s hard to know which way the front tires are pointing—part of the reason you tend to keep it pinned. Everywhere.

3) It sounds glorious.

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To be fair, it was always going to. An E46 M3 at full chat is already one of the finer sounds in motoring with its rasping, gnashing tone. This removes the silencer boxes underneath your bum and fills the cabin with a noise you don’t so much listen to—you drink it in, savor the crescendo before you reach for another gear and go again. Mechanical sympathy? Nah, it can take it.

4) It’s an immaculate replica.

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When you’re watching Bond sideswipe a market stall, land a 25-foot jump, or drift lazily through a piazza in his DB5, you have to believe you’re looking at an actual DB5. In the metal, the impersonation is freakish. A few months back, we drove one back to back with a perfectly original DB5, and kept getting confused as to which one was which in the car park. It’s that good.

And so it should be, because Aston Martin’s special ops digitally scanned an original DB5 before recreating the outer panels, lights, glass, and trim with millimetric precision.

5) It’s made out of carbon-fiber.

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Probably weren’t expecting that, were you? Why on earth would you use an expensive material that shatters on impact for a Bond car that’s likely to be liberally trashed, when you could use sheet metal that gives you a fighting chance of popping dents out?

Firstly, it brings lightweight benefits (the stunt car weighs around 1,000kg all-in), which is beneficial to its agility and speed. But the main reason is that these days, it’s simply an easier material to work with for ultra-low-volume production. You don’t need tooling to stamp out the panels, or a wizened craftsman to painstakingly hand-roll the metal—you simply make a mold and lay the carbon into it. Simples.

6) It doesn’t have any gadgets.

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Well, apart from that hydraulic handbrake mentioned earlier and a fire extinguisher in case everything goes horribly wrong. But who needs smoke cannons, rotating number plates, and machine guns in the foglights when you have over 300hp under your right foot, a flat-topped gearstick in your left hand, and a car that just wants to have fun?

7) Climbing in and out is a bit of a pain.

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A combination of that full roll cage, with only a modest opening for humans, deeply sculpted modern racing seats, and a six-point harness that require dislocating both shoulders to put on, means this is not a graceful machine to enter and exit. Let’s put it this way: Even Bond in a tailored tux would have a hard time looking suave getting out of this at the opera house. Once you’re inserted, though, and assuming you can filter out the wall of noise bouncing around the stripped-down interior, it feels suitably supple—perfect for those smokey sideways shots with plenty of lean.

8) We want one more than we do a modern supercar.

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This is the problem with bringing along a custom-built, drift-enabled stunt car to a modern performance car test: We all walked away wanting the DB5. The one car you can’t actually buy. No matter how much we pleaded with Aston Martin.

In total, the British carmaker’s special projects team built eight cars for the latest Bond filmNo Time to Die, the one that’s just been delayed for a second time until April 2021—and all in just six months. That’s a rapid turnaround for a car that had to be properly engineered top to bottom and look flawless from all angles. In terms of price, well, it’s irrelevant, isn’t it? But we were asked to insure ‘ours’ for £150,000 (P9.5 million)—a true bargain compared to the £500,000 (P31.7 million) price tag of an original DB5.

NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: TopGear.com
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