Throughout its screen history, there have been many Batmobiles. Around eight or so. Originally they were little more than tarted up American land barges. Nowadays they’re a tad more tailored. Take for example, the new one, from Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. New Batman (played by a sore-throated Ben Affleck), new company car. And TG is about to go for a ride.
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TG rides shotgun in the new Batmobile
We climb aboard Wayne's company car from Batman v Superman. Much noise ensues
Jeep has invited TG to sample the Batmobile first hand, and laid on several of the Dawn of Justice edition Renegade crossovers as shuttles (yeah, us neither). They’re supposed to look butch and brooding, but that’s proving difficult next to the Batmobile.
Anyone familiar with the Tumbler from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy will spot the lineage to this ‘car’. The exposed, tread-shaved tractor tyres. The sober matte black bodywork. An open rear end with fire-spewing gizzards exposed, with the driver’s cockpit nestled haphazardly among the armour somewhere in the middle.
It’s more of a classic, art-deco caricature Batmobile – more cartoonish – than the military grade Tumbler ostensibly dreamt up by Wayne Enterprises when Christian Bale was growling away under the mask. Also, it’s utterly mad and quite gloriously absurd.
The finer details are still a secret. Chatting to the car’s minders, we can tell you there is a 6.2-litre LS3 V8 from a Chevrolet Camaro underneath. Immediately up on the Tumbler then, which had a 500bhp 5.7-litre GM V8. The new Batmobile is rear-wheel drive, via a three-speed automatic transmission fitted because it’s rudimentary and bombproof. Ish.
That’s it, though. No word on weight, suspension, performance, or Isofix mountings for a kiddie seat. Only one other pub fact is namedropped before I attempt to find the way in. Three Batmobiles were made for the film, of which two are now runners. This one’s been insured for an apparent £5million. Time to tread carefully, then.
Though that’s easier said than done. There’s a step on the side of the bodywork between the wheel mounts to clamber onto first. So far, so good. The doors are heavy, blade-shaped six-foot slithers that rise from the bodywork vertically, transforming the car into a fibreglass praying mantis. They’re on sprung struts but need a hefty pull to lift them clear of the cramped two-seat cockpit. Tiny, grimy panes of inset triangular glass form the visor-sized windscreen.
Sadly, we can’t show you any pictures of the interior - it’s a secretive film car, remember? But we can say that it has two terrifying looking fans set into the rear bulkhead, a pair of comfy leather bucket seats, and easily one of the most bizarre dashboards we’ve seen. There are buttons labelled ‘Night Vision’, ‘Anti-Police’, and ‘Counter Measures’. Then there are the toggle switches, for ‘Chemical Irritant’ and ‘Harpoon Fire’. Disappointingly, there’s no obvious trigger for the twin machine gun turret bonnet mascot. But there is a hazard light switch. Even Batman likes road etiquette.
ButtonWatch has made us miss the start up. There’s a brief whir from the mid-mounted V8, and then it settles into a rumbly, rather polite idle. This is moderately disappointing. I’d been warned the car is exceptionally loud, but its V8 motor doesn’t grunt or chunter lumpily at low revs. It just sounds like a Corvette.
Turns out the chaps weren’t lying. The V8 might be docile, but the three-speed automatic is not at all happy with its starring role in a one-off road-going stealth bomber. It voices this anger by shrieking the most ear-splitting howl you could imagine.
As the car accelerates the whirring becomes one of those sounds you stop hearing with your ears and begin to feel interfering with your vital organs and vibrating your optics nerve until vision goes blurry. What was Batman trying to do, give Superman tinnitus?
We’re not going fast. This is to nurse the drivetrain, though the engine would likely punt the car along at a suggestible lick. Under the bodywork (weather fibreglass masquerading as armour plating), the car’s built around a welded steel spaceframe chassis, so it’s likely a good chunk lighter than the old Tumbler.
It corners remarkably level, this movie prop with a design lifespan of minutes rather than years. Like a grotesquely evolved Ariel Nomad, you can see the wheelhouses bobbing up and down as the car’s weight shifts around. But it’s about all that’s visible. Even the front guns are obscured though the slit of a windscreen, which you wear like a veil.
Not for the claustrophobic, this car. Especially as the roll bar directly between the two occupants eats into what little headroom there is with two head-height-mounted fire extinguishers. These are not props. Gulp. Frankly, having heard the transmission’s battle cry and noted that breaking out of Wormwood Scrubs would be easier than exiting this cockpit in a hurry, we’re glad of the literally in-yer-face safety measures.
Fortunately, TG survives not only the passenger ride but also the threat of decapitation upon exiting the Batmobile. The car, should it not be eaten alive by its gearbox, is off to the set of the next Batman movie in a couple of weeks. It probably wont be called Batman vs The Noise Cancelling Headphones. But it ought to be.