Aston Martin will be waiting more anxiously than most to discover who is recruited to play the next James Bond. “When Daniel Craig was announced in 2005, we were ecstatic—he is a man’s man and fitted perfectly with our new, more aggressive DBS styling,” says Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s vice president and design chief. “The outgoing DB9 was a softer, more genteel car. The DBS Craig first drove in Casino Royale was a V-12 with bulges in all the right places. We called it a brute in a suit—which mirrored a new era for Bond too.”
Reichman is talking in a windswept pit lane at Silverstone, the home of British motorsport. Parked nearby is a mouth-watering fleet of Aston Martins that span six decades and all featured in the latest Bond movie, No Time to Die, currently set to debut in November.
“I think fans would jeer if the next James Bond didn’t drive an Aston, whoever he or she is. It’s one of the longest brand associations in cinematic history,” notes Reichman.
The showstopper in the upcoming film promises to be the legendary DB5, complete with machine guns, ejector seat and smoke capsules that first appeared in the 1964 classic Goldfinger. A muscular V8 Vantage from the late 1970s and the current DBS Superleggera complete the famed operative’s garage. There is also a cameo appearance from the marque’s forthcoming Valhalla supercar.
One Aston that doesn’t get screen time, however, is the DBX. The latter is the company’s first SUV—a 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged all-wheel drive. It would seem the perfect weapon for any secret agent fleeing over rough terrain but Aston says the model simply didn’t fit the script.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to drive alongside the iconic MI6 hero for real, his stunt driver double is also with us at Silverstone. Mark Higgins won the British Rally Championship three times and has stood in for Craig for the last four films.
Even though he’s a few inches shorter, Higgins is definitely licensed to thrill. His movie credits include Star Wars, Fast & Furious and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. And he’s currently filming a new Batman adventure.
“I didn’t believe it when I was first approached to be a stunt driver in Quantum of Solace in 2007,” says Higgins. “Nothing happened for months and then suddenly they called again and I was on set being James Bond. “Once you are on set, it’s like living in a bubble for three months at a time. No Time to Die has a fantastic car chase and a lot of amazing stunts.”
We are hurtling down the straight as Higgins explains the stunt-specific DB5 we are in is actually a replica powered by a modern, normally aspirated straight-six engine, not the standard double-overhead cam version fitted to the original DB5.
“It’s much more flexible and allows me to make stunts that I simply wouldn’t be able to achieve with that lovely old engine. It’s also fitted with beefed-up suspension and a straight through tailpipe which sounds fantastic,” mentions Higgins. Aston should really consider a replica version like this with an array of modern upgrades because compared to the venerable original, this upgraded DB5 is outrageously good fun on a racetrack.
We also were given a view of the V8 Vantage that Bond drives in the latest movie. One of the first British muscle cars, the 5.3-litre V-8 is also a perfect fit for Bond’s macho image. “It’s a very potent car with almost 400 bhp, a dog-leg gearbox and a very large steering wheel to cope with on the corners. A modern GTI would see it off these days,” says Higgins.
Unfortunately, the Aston Martin Valhalla seen in the film isn’t available to drive, but the mid-engined hypercar looks more Batmobile than Bond. Built in collaboration with Red Bull Racing, the machine features a twin-turbo V-6, Formula 1 hybrid technology and eye-popping design. The futuristic styling is so extreme that it makes even the gorgeous DBS Superleggera look ordinary.
The 25th installment of the Bond franchise also features the superlight version of the DB11 as 007’s daily driver.
Higgins says Craig is good behind the wheel and often drives cars on set when there isn’t a stunt involved. “He takes a long time to get to know people but we’ve had a few beers over the years and he’s a great guy. I’ve tried to give him some driving tips but he hasn’t given me any acting lessons.”