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.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Senior Infrastructure / Network Engineer (VMware, Windows, LAN/WAN)

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Primary teaching jobs in Thetford

    £1036224 - £1513056 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Educatio...

    Primary teaching jobs in the Swaffham area

    £21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Are you a fully quali...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week