Aston Martin sports cars have always been aspirational but, to many of us, too expensive when new and with worries of high insurance and maintenance costs, often considered too much of a risk once they get older. While DBs from the 1960s are out of many enthusiasts reach in prices these days, for many years the 90s Virage Coupe was the only sporting model to consider at a reasonable price. The ‘DB’ is one of the most iconic models, most famously known for its use in the James Bond films. It’s unmistakably British; a combination of flawless design, understated yet elegant.
However, things have now changed. The DB7 was an Aston Martin built in relatively large numbers; the variety of colour and trim options available meant that every one of the 7,000-plus DB7s produced was built to a bespoke order. Production was started in 1994 and continued for nine years; prices have been dropping and they are now very affordable. Looking through the cars in the classifieds shows that some early cars are available from just £17,000, this sounded good but what are they really like in the flesh?
There are two generations of the DB7, the first is the original supercharged six-cylinder power unit – which gave a top speed of 157mph – was replaced by the awesome 6.0-litre V12 Vantage unit with a maximum of 185mph in manual gearbox form, and you have a bloodline that can only be described as thoroughbred. There have been many variants over the years further to the new 6.0 V12 engine; this included the Volante, GT, and finally, the Zagato which due to its rarity still commands top money for the model. Here, we test the later generation standard car in automatic form.
Early Aston Martin DB7 with the straight 6
There was a £30,000 premium on top of the already powerful and equivalent Jaguar XK-R when new which meant that the DB7 would have to be very special. Aston Martin gave the model some steroids and the result was bulging wheel arches hiding adequately large wheels and the high performance brakes behind them; a body that was clean and crisp, smooth and sophisticated. The superb unspoilt frontal aspect of the DB7 stirs the imagination and who would think that the equivalent new car today would cost in the region of £110,000.
It is slightly lower compared to the similar Jaguar XK-R, which adds to the aggressive stance of the car. It also ensures that it is perfect for pointing the car into corners providing a more dynamic drive, though your left with the sense that it was not designed to be a hard core, high performance car that you could throw about in the corners – rather, it is a very competent GT-car.
The interior, expectedly feels dated – though the use of good quality leather and wood means it’s a cossetting place to be. One of the biggest and most annoying problems with the car in general is the laughable attempt of a hand brake – you will rip your arm of trying to get the hand brake to release.
On the road
It was designed to be more driver-focused than all previous models; it is relaxed and refined though a fast, comfortable GT car, in the very best traditions.
The car is fantastic to drive; the automatic five speed gearbox is magnificent, coupled with the progressive power delivery you find the car is faultless even on the limits. It’s like the Jaguar counterpart but with more sophistication allowing you to use it every day with all the power you will ever need.
It’s best not to get confused, the DB7 V12 is not all about performance; instead it just as useable as a BMW 3 Series, but is a much more of a refined car with great exploitable power that allows you to enjoy driving again.
Late Aston Martin DB7 GT fitted with the V12
You find yourself flooring it in maximum attack mode every time there is a gap between you and the car in front; when you do, you will find the exhaust note played from the twin outlets fused to the legendary V12 is magical. If you have an ounce of adrenaline anywhere in your body, the car transforms as soon as you tap the throttle, the dynamics of the car changes, the car becomes much more responsive to a burst of violent acceleration with a smoother power delivery than its predecessor. It puts the monstrous power down so well.
The car has a never ending stream of power allowing you to shoot out of a corner with all its 420 bhp punching its way through the roads. Punch the throttle, kick the tail out, and power slide out of the corner; it is sure to blow you away and the cross country ability is awesome; it’s glued to the road all the way to 185 mph.
The car has a certain je ne sais quoi about it – it is praised by many, regardless of its performance, reliability or anything else for that matter. Jeremy Clarkson stated, “I could go on all day, listing things that are wrong with this car, but think about it, if you had one and you were going out in the evening, you could say, shall we take the Aston? And that sound pretty good doesn’t it?” This sums it up perfectly – it is a car that is highly respected wherever it goes.
There has never been a better time to buy an Aston Martin DB7 V12; prices for clean examples are falling for just a little under £25,000 on independent dealer forecourts and similar for privately advertised cars. It’s practical enough for 2 adults and 2 very small children despite being one of the most extreme Aston Martin’s ever built.
I would try to go for the latest and cleanest example rather than one with the lowest mileage as Aston Martin enhanced the car further with the use of some new toys; small enhancements that make a big difference, like a simple but much more modern grille – though this can be retro-fitted to earlier cars.
Many optional extras were available, most important of which is the Satellite Navigation; though its operational functionality can be questionable. The high end Aston Martin Premium Hi-Fi system is very good for all variants of music.