Flash versus panache

Published: 29 September 2008

I spent a weekend driving an Aston Martin DBS. Lucky fella, I know. Lucky enough to expect an adverse reaction wherever I went. You can imagine the kind of thing: one-finger salutes, being snubbed at junctions, sly glances at petrol stations.

And yet there was none of it. Seems the British public is so enamoured of James Bond’s finest that they all feel like lucky fellas just seeing it. There were thumbs-up rather than birdies, and people wanted to chat about it over the pumps. Most telling of all was the coach-full of schoolkids on the M40, crowding the back seat to get a shot of the Aston with their mobile phone cameras. Then I pulled out to the fast lane, let the traffic clear ahead, dropped it to third and treated them to a snarl of full-bore acceleration. The bus nearly toppled as they crushed together to see me blast past.

A few days later I had a Jaguar XKR on test overnight. Very cool, if hardly as iconic to look at as the Aston and, at £71k, fully £89k cheaper. Not as powerful either (416bhp vs 510bhp), nothing like as loud, less of an occasion to sit in. And not a single member of the British public even twitched a muscle as I drove it. Not one person turned to look.

And you know which car I preferred, the car I’d choose of the two if my numbers came up? The Jag, any time. It’s just so much nicer to drive, easier to thread down British B-roads, more comfortable, less of a liability to park.

Yes, I was genuinely thrilled by the sheer theatrical nature of the Aston, but I’m too selfish to share that with the proles – I’d rather have had the V-signs. I didn’t get on with its clonky gearshift and its cumbersome feel when the going gets tight, or the slightly shaky steering column over rough surfaces. Not good enough, and all of which the Jag betters but, if you want to show off, there really is only one choice.

Click 'Add your comment' below and let us know whether you'd take an XKR or DBS

Jaguar's latest XKR, the XKR-S, and the Aston Martin DBS take part in CAR Magazine's 2008 performance test in our new November issue. Click here for a preview.

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Performance car of the year 2008