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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Testing James Bond's Rides

There are two ways James Bond’s cars are portrayed in film: seductively sitting still (often draped with beautiful women) or blazing across the screen in some of the most exciting car-chase sequences ever made for the big screen. But in many cases, there’s got to be some serious lens trickery going on: upon reviewing our test data for some of James Bond’s coolest cars, we found that not only are Bond’s rides seldom the fastest cars of their time, some of them couldn’t catch a bad guy on a bicycle. This could explain why some of those chase scenes take so long.

So, as the latest James Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, is set to open soon, now seems like a great time to present the most famous cars we’ve seen in the 22-film James Bond series, along with performance figures gathered from our own road tests over the years.

Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger (1964)

  • 4.0-liter inline-6 (282 hp, 288 lb-ft)
  • 0–60 mph: 8.1 seconds
  • Quarter-mile: N/A

If Double-O could pick a favorite among his many slick rides, it might be the silver Aston Martin DB5 first seen in 1964’s Goldfinger. Appearing in many subsequent films and setting the standard for every clever, gadget-laden four-wheeled sexpot he has driven since, the DB5 is also one of Bond’s slowest rides ever: its 0-to-60-mph time of 8.1 seconds—before the machine guns and smoke-screen equipment were strapped on—would allow it to be outrun by a villain in a VW Rabbit. No wonder he’s upgraded to the DBS since then.


Toyota 2000GT Convertible – You Only Live Twice (1967)

  • 2.0-liter inline-4 (150 hp, 130 lb-ft)
  • 0–60 mph: 8.2 seconds
  • Quarter-mile: 16.3 @ 87 mph

Two icons met in the Far East in 1967’s You Only Live Twice: Sean Connery and the exquisite Toyota 2000GT. And the latter was no ordinary 2000GT, but a convertible—one of two ever built (both of which were made specifically for this fifth James Bond film). We tested the coupe and found it to be none too quick—0 to 60 mph took more than eight seconds—but certainly, the 2000GT convertible was one of the most timeless rides to appear in a James Bond movie.


Lotus Esprit S1 – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

  • 2.0-liter inline-4 (140 hp, torque N/A)
  • 0–60 mph: 9.6 seconds
  • Quarter-mile: 17.3 @ 79 mph

Another of the most-famous Bond cars, the white Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me turned into a submarine after Roger Moore drove it off a deck in Sardinia. Once in the water, it could spew smoke like an octopus and unleash depth charges. Back on land, however, it needed nearly 10 seconds to hit 60. Subsequent Turbo models would cut that time nearly in half, as Bond himself found out four years later in For Your Eyes Only.


Aston Martin V-8 – The Living Daylights (1987)

  • 5.3-liter V-8 (hp/torque N/A)
  • 0–60 mph: 7.8 seconds
  • Quarter-mile: 15.9 @ 92 mph

Timothy Dalton drove an Aston Martin V-8—a car that some of us have called the “British Barracuda” on account of its brawny muscularity—in 1987’s The Living Daylights. But with a lazy 0-to-60 time of 7.8 seconds, Dalton’s V-8 could have been whipped, buttered, and served with crumpets by a 1987 Buick Regal GNX. Then again, no Buick we can think of has ever come with spiked tires, outrigger skis, lasers, and missiles under the foglamps. Advantage: Bond.


BMW Z3GoldenEye (1995)

  • 1.9-liter inline-4 (138 hp, 133 lb-ft)
  • 0–60 mph: 8.1 seconds
  • Quarter-mile: 16.3 @ 83 mph

Among the memorable aspects of 1995’s GoldenEye is the now-laughable vision of freshman 007 Pierce Brosnan bounding down a sunny road in a narrow-bodied, four-cylinder BMW Z3 It was perhaps Bond’s most egregious case of product placement gone awry—the new 2009 VW Jetta TDI casts roughly the same performance footprint. We might have had more respect for the little Z as a credible Bond ride had it actually used its alleged headlight-mounted Stinger missiles, parachute braking system, or better yet, its self-destruct function.


BMW 750iL – Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

  • 5.4-liter V-12 (322 hp, 361 lb-ft)
  • 0–60 mph: 6.3 seconds
  • Quarter-mile: 14.8 @ 98 mph

Having learned, perhaps, that 138 horsepower is woefully inadequate for someone with James Bond’s velocity (and dignity) requirements, BMW supplied Britain’s most famous secret agent with a car boasting twice the mass, three times as many cylinders, 236-percent more horsepower, and about 10 times more machismo than the wimpy Z3 he drove in the previous flick. No wonder he had two Bond girls this time around.


BMW Z8 The World is Not Enough (1999)

  • 4.9-liter V-8 (394 hp, 369 lb-ft)
  • 0–60 mph: 4.5 seconds
  • Quarter-mile: 13.0 @ 111 mph

It only took three films, but BMW finally gave James Bond a suitably flattering ride in the form of the stunning, then-new Z8 roadster in 1999’s The World is Not Enough. Of course, Denise Richards also appeared in the movie, but, frankly, we’d rather have seen Richards sawn in half than the Z8. Oh well, the M5–powered sports car was fast while it lasted and is still Bond-girl beautiful today.


Aston Martin VanquishDie Another Day (2002)

  • 5.9-liter V-12 (460 hp, 400 lb-ft)
  • 0–60 mph: 4.4 seconds
  • Quarter-mile: 12.9 @ 115 mph

Bond spent his 40th anniversary in film by returning to Aston Martin as his favored marque after a few stints in BMWs. In Die Another Day, Bond drove the muscular Vanquish, his fastest car yet. However, at more than two tons, the Vanquish was none too dainty (which contributed to its loss to the Ferrari 550 Maranello in our 2001 comparison test). But it was much quicker and far more debonair than the coral-colored Thunderbird driven by Halle Barry, who played the seductive Jinx.


Aston Martin DBSCasino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008)

  • 5.9-liter V-12 (510 hp, 420 lb-ft)
  • 0–60 mph: 4.3 seconds
  • Quarter-mile: 12.6 @ 117 mph

Bond’s quickest ride ever also made one of the poorest showings of them all, meeting its demise in a series of spectacular pirouettes and somersaults within about a minute or so of first appearing, steered off the road by novice 007 Daniel Craig in order to save his hapless female interest, who had been tied up and left in the Aston’s path. The DBS gets a chance to redeem itself this year in Quantum of Solace. We hope Daniel Craig has learned how to drive by now.