David Brown Speedback GT, motoring review: Would this lithe and elegant car impress 007?

 

Price: £594,000
Engine: 5,000cc, V8, 32 valves, supercharger, 510bhp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 155mph, 0-62 in 4.8sec, 23mpg, CO2 292g/km

'What is that?" You can see the words forming on people's lips as you drive past in this shapely grand tourer. It triggers a familiarity in the onlookers' minds, but it doesn't quite tally. An Aston Martin, perhaps? That's the usual best guess.

Given that this car's creator is called David Brown, as was the man behind all the DB-series Aston Martins (of which James Bond's DB5 is the most famous), the connection becomes almost irresistibly obvious. But there is none, apart from some influence in shape and style and the coincidence of the name.

What you're looking at is in fact a Speedback GT. Or rather the Speedback GT, because so far there is only one. The plan is to build around 100, some of them convertibles, and three more are currently under construction, with a further three due to start when the customers have finished choosing specifications. It is Brown's dream-made-real, conceived after a hot classic-car rally in southern Spain in which a hired Peugeot with air-conditioning found itself favoured over a glamorous old Ferrari with a driver-cooking cabin and progress-thwarting fuel vaporisation. A glamorous GT with retro appeal but a modern car's comforts and usability, that was the idea.

Designer Alan Mobberley, with 50 years in the industry and Jaguar and Land Rover on the CV, can't deny the Aston Martin influence. It's a retro-flavoured British GT, he points out, so it could hardly not have something of the look. But while it would just need an Aston front grille to be a complete pastiche, instead it has something slightly Maserati-flavoured.

Looking lithe and elegant, the car is based on the aluminium underpinnings of a Jaguar XKR, which is stripped of its outer panels and reclothed in a retro, but still aluminium, suit. The interior, too, is XKR-based but reshaped and retrimmed with new instrument faces and switchgear surfaces. The windows are unique to the Speedback, and opening the rear hatch reveals a floor panel which you lift up to create a fold-out, rearward-facing "picnic seat". The whole car is built in and around Coventry, outsourced to firms well versed in creating prototypes for major car-makers and aftermarket luxury conversions.

To drive the Speedback is to feel a soft collision of worlds old and new. The view forward through the shallow windscreen is of shapely front wings and the bonnet's air scoop. The surroundings are of rich leather, lavish but restrained wood veneer and polished metal. Rear-seat space might just be enough for a couple of under-eights. You'd expect the performance, handling characteristics and ride to mirror an XKR's, but they don't, quite. Certainly the pace from the 510bhp V8 is on full form, but softer, higher-profile tyres on wire-spoked wheels soften the dynamics. The Speedback actually rides better than an XKR and feels calmer, to the benefit of its grand-tourer role. You can cruise gently without feeling you're wasting the car's potential, yet it will let rip if asked. It's all very pleasant.

There's just one snag: a car as expensively hand-built as this can never be cheap to buy. It costs £594,000, which would buy you eight-and-a-half XKRs. But in the strange stratosphere of luxury brands, a huge price tag can just make an object more desirable. David Brown hopes so, anyway.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

    £28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

    £22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

    £13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

    £20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

    Day In a Page

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory