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David Brown Speedback GT (2014) review

Published:01 August 2014

David Brown Speedback GT: the CAR magazine review
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By Steve Moody

Contributing editor, adventurer, ideas pitcher, failed grower-upper

By Steve Moody

Contributing editor, adventurer, ideas pitcher, failed grower-upper

The new David Brown Speedback GT is the result of a 16-month project to turn a Jaguar XKR into a bespoke gran tourismos, a car redolent of ’60s sports tourers and with more than a hint of Aston Martin DB5 thrown into the mix. Yes, that Aston.

David Brown is a successful businessman and car lover and his fledgling manufacturing enterprise is hellbent on making the Speedback a success. They take one Jaguar XKR Convertible and use it as a foundation to create a modern car with all its engineering and technological benefits, but looking for all the world like a blast from the past.

David Brown Speedback GT: prices, spec, stuff

The result of all this tinkering is a £495,000 slice of indulgence. You’ll either get the Speedback GT vibe or think this a terrific waste of money – but hold your judgment until you read about how it drives, feels and looks.

Your dosh buys a car with pretty much identical outputs to that donor Jag XKR. So you get a front-mounted 5.0-litre V8, supercharged to produce 500bhp at 6000rpm and a more modest 2461lb ft at 3500rpm. The bespoke coachbuilding means the GT is a little heavier than the aluminium donor convertible – at 1,976kg – chosen for its pre-strengthened chassis.

All that drive is channeled through a six-speed auto transmission to the rear wheels, sitting on an identical wheelbase. David Brown hasn’t meddled with the engineering, since this car isn’t about going faster or inch-perfect corner carving. It’s about style and touring and standing out from the crowd.

Nevertheless, the Speedback GT is capable of dispatching the 0-62mph gentleman’s race in a discretely dashing 4.8sec and top speed is pegged to 155mph. The company quotes a 23.0mpg combined economy and 292g/km of CO2, should such numbers trouble sir.

David Brown Speedback GT review: how does it drive?

Climb in and things are at once familiar, and yet different. The cabin of the Speedback is a triumph of personal tailoring. Wood and leather abound and the finish is good; it’s done by the same people who do JLR’s bespoke trimming, and we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of home-spun shonkiness we’ve come to expect from generations of Freds in Sheds making low-volume cars across the British isles.

The bespoke switchgear is a touch less successful, the seat controls and door pulls on our early prototype sticking and the infotainment buttons were hyper fiddly. The company has pledged to iron out such inconveniences before the first customer cars land.

Still, we loved the flop-out picnic bench, which pops out of the surprisingly large boot. It’s like having a spot of Range Rover style in a low-slung coupe. Picnic in panache!

On the road in the Speedback GT

Fire up the V8 and there’s a familiar Jag burble. The Speedback is a relaxed drive, the outgoing XKR’s steering relaxed and calm just as I remember it. If anything, there’s a touch more roar from the supercharger when you prod the loud pedal.

The chassis betrays its Jag roots, too: the ride is smooth and controlled – the whole thing feels eerily like an XKR, just one that’s been through a time warp machine. Only a few period grumbles let the side down, such as a pronounced whistle from the driver’s side A-pillar.

To be honest, this car is about ogling from outside more than pointing down your favourite back road. The bodywork’s chrome – of which there’s plenty – is magnificent, with a deep, rich lustre. It glows, rather than sparkles cheaply. Why? Because they apply a thin layer of copper first before chroming the surfaces.

And the handbuilt aluminium body is exquisitely finished – a real surprise. The factory bucks have been digitally produced, so there’s the best of both worlds: the aluminium is rolled by hand, yet using computerised tools. Clever.

Verdict

There will only ever be 100 Speedbacks built, says Brown. And we reckon they deserve to find welcoming homes – here’s a car for those who find a Rolls-Royce Wraith or Ferrari FF too common.

Will they sell out at the heady heights of half a million pounds? That’s the big gamble that David Brown is taking.

Specs

Price when new: £495,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 5,000cc 32v eight-cylinder supercharged, 500bhp @ 6000rpm, 461lb ft @ 3500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.8sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 23.0mpg 292g/km of CO2
Weight / material: 1976kg, aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):

Rivals

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Photo Gallery

  • David Brown Speedback GT: yours for £495,000
  • Based on a Jaguar XKR: the new 2014 David Brown Speedback GT
  • Lashings of chrome on rear of Speedback GT
  • Shades of Aston Martin DB5 mark out David Brown Speedback GT
  • Large boot on David Brown Speedback GT
  • 5.0-litre V8 supercharged provides pep for David Brown Speedback GT
  • First six David Brown Speedback GTs have already been sold
  • Aluminium body hand-rolled on digitally produced bucks
  • Chrome exhausts on Speedback
  • Wire wheels complete period charm
  • Union flags ahoy! A very British vibe on David Brown Sportback GT
  • More Union flags inside Speedback
  • The cabin of David Brown Speedback GT: a few rough edges
  • David Brown shows off the picnic bench seat in the back of the Speedback

By Steve Moody

Contributing editor, adventurer, ideas pitcher, failed grower-upper

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