Top 007 Cars

With Daniel Craig returning to theaters as James Bond, who once again takes advantage of the power of an Aston Martin in the latest Bond installment, now is a good time to look back on the best cars in 007's long history.

Two Bond experts Lee Pfeiffer, co-author of "The Essential James Bond" and editor-in-chief of Cinema Retro magazine, and Ray Dempsey, contributor to the book "James Bond in the 21st Century" offer their thoughts on the best of Bond's wheels.

Our experts were bound by a few rules: The cars had to be outfitted with some kind of MI6 gadget, Bond had to be behind the wheel at some point, and the car needed to make more than a passing appearance in the film. Here are their picks, including a couple that slip past the rules.

No. 1: 1964 Aston Martin DB5
"Goldfinger," 1965
1964 Aston Martin DB5

1964 Aston Martin DB5

Both agreed that nothing tops this Aston Martin. "The DB5 launched the era of space-aged gadgets that would become a hallmark of the series," Pfeiffer says, "much to the chagrin of Sean Connery, who felt the character of Bond was now overshadowed by the hardware." Dempsey concurs: "Cars have loomed large in films and TV for years, but none have had the panache of the car introduced by M in 'Goldfinger.' It had the audacious passenger ejection seat, oil slick dispenser, machine guns, a bulletproof rear barrier, tire slashing hubcaps and revolving license plates. I think it appealed to every male, from teenager to retiree."

No. 2: 1975 Lotus Esprit
"The Spy Who Loved Me," 1977
1975 Lotus Esprit

1975 Lotus Esprit

Another jointly praised effort. Dempsey calls it "a clever product from Q's laboratory. Not only a car that looked fast standing still, it converted to a submarine capable of laying underwater mines and firing lethal antiaircraft missiles." Kind of beats electronic stability control, eh? Pfeiffer notes that producers needed quite a few Esprits to make the movie. "Six cars were used to achieve these effects, as well as miniature models though none were actually amphibious. One of the remaining vehicles is now owned by the Ian Fleming Foundation."

No. 3: 1997 BMW 750iL
"Tomorrow Never Dies," 1997
1997 BMW 750iL

1997 BMW 750iL

After a BMW Z3 (the first Bond car not built in England) made a fleeting appearance in 1996's "GoldenEye," Pierce Brosnan got an upgrade for his second shot at 007. "The 750iL is the centerpiece for a spectacular car chase through a multilevel parking garage," Pfeiffer says. "Bond controls the speeding car from the backseat by using Q Branch's special Ericsson cell phone that allows him to also engage a weapons system that includes magnetic flash grenades, tear gas, metal spike dispenser, rockets and a chain cutter. And you thought your monthly cell phone fees were sky-high!"

No. 4: 1985 Aston Martin Volante
"The Living Daylights," 1987
1985 Aston Martin Volante

1985 Aston Martin Volante

Our first view of Timothy Dalton as 007 brought with it this sleek, ingenious car. Want options? Pfeiffer has 'em: "Laser beam devices concealed in the hubcaps, bullet-proof windows, a dashboard weapons control system, concealed rockets and a jet propulsion device." Not to mention that nifty self-destruct button.

No. 5: 1930s Bentley Mark IV Convertible
"From Russia With Love," 1963
1930s Bentley Mark IV Convertible

1930s Bentley Mark IV Convertible

Not exactly the kind of car that Bond would become famous for down the road. "Although the car featured no weaponry, it did have one 'high-tech' gadget for 1963: a telephone," Pfeiffer says. "The vehicle symbolizes the old-world elegance that made Bond an icon of style and sophistication and he doesn't need help from Q Branch to lure a willing lady into the backseat of the Bentley for 'lunch.'" Who needs lasers when your car will do that for you?

No. 6: 2002 Aston Martin Vanquish
"Die Another Day," 2002
2002 Aston Martin Vanquish

2002 Aston Martin Vanquish

Both writers have this one on their lists, but damn it with faint praise. Pfeiffer notes that the Vanquish comes "equipped with the usual arsenal of weaponry: retractable shotguns, spiked tires, missiles, machine guns and, in the ultimate sign originality was waning by this point, the reintroduction of an ejector seat." Dempsey likes it for its ability to become invisible, "pun intended," while Pfeiffer thinks that trick "brought the absurdity to levels that made 'Moonraker' look like 'Citizen Kane.'" Ouch.

No. 7: 1999 BMW Z8
"The World is Not Enough," 1999
1999 BMW Z8

1999 BMW Z8

This Beemer (or Bimmer, if you want to get technical but we're not going to get into that debate) can move, which can be "quite useful in 007's profession," Pfeiffer notes. With its V-8 that hits 60 mph in 5 seconds, the Z8 has other goodies as well. "Everyday drivers may find it exciting to discover their new car's cupholder can accommodate a 44-ounce Big Gulp cup from 7-11," Pfeiffer says, "but Q Branch indulges Bond's vehicle with two ground-to-air missiles almost as an afterthought." That'll clear out a lane for you.

Honorable Mention: 1961 Sunbeam Alpine
"Dr. No," 1962
1961 Sunbeam Alpine

1961 Sunbeam Alpine

No, it's not tricked out by Q, but as Dempsey says, Bond "uses his driving skill to save his life when pursued by Dr. No's henchmen. What makes this car particularly appealing is, unlike the Aston Martin or Lotus, the average guy could afford one." Hear, hear.

© Cars.com 4/30/13