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History is littered with saviours. The RAF saved England in the Battle of Britain, Luke Skywalker saved Princess Leia, heck, even adding a bit of salt to a beef casserole can save it from being extremely bland, and the car featured here saved Aston Martin, the DB7.
To understand why the DB7 was such a monumental success for Aston, we need to go back to the late eighties. In 1988, Aston Martin were in the financial doldrums and needed financial backing fast. Fortunately, the Blue Oval from Detroit stepped in, acquiring the Newport Pagnell based company and set about trying to turn a profit.
With Ford backing, Aston engineers set about creating an new successor to their sterling DB line to complement their new flagship Virage tourer. The initials DB stands for David Brown, Aston’s longest serving chairman and whose initials adorned the company’s most iconic models, including the ultra-rare DB4 GT Zagato and 007’s legendary DB5. The range ended after the DBS V8 went out of production in the mid-seventies.
The production DB7 first saw the light of day at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1993. It stole the show with Aston taking plenty of pre orders. What set the DB7 apart was its textbook coupe lines and gorgeous curves, thanks to Scottish styling guru Ian Callum. Easily the most beautiful car of the era, the DB7’s hips, long bonnet and a sloping rear three quarter makes for a stunning front engine, rear drive grand tourer.
The DB7’s oomph comes from a 3.2 litre supercharged straight six, engineered by Tom Walkinshaw Racing. With a five-speed manual or four speed automatic box, power peaked at 250kW and 489 Nm of torque. Later Vantage versions of the DB7 would pack a thunderous 6.0-litre V12 with 309kW of grunt. Underneath the DB7 wasn’t so cutting edge, as it shared its chassis platform with the Jaguar XJS, meaning its underpinnings at the time were 20 years old!
An open-top Volante joined the DB7 line-up for 1996. Aimed at the American market, the Volante still packed the same powertrain, but featured additional strengthening to counteract the often-inevitable body flex you get when lopping a car head off.
Inside, the whole cabin wraps itself around you, leaving you feeling cocooned by your leather clad surroundings. Everything is within easy reach and the combination of leather, suede and real wood is just so British. However, with the on-board computer mounted under the driver’s seat, it can be a bit cramped for lankier folk and the rear seats are really only suitable for children, excess luggage and amputees. Front and rear visibility though is surprisingly good.
Fit and finish in the DB7 is so-so, with many of the switchgear coming from the parts bin of Ford and other manufacturers. Heck, even the door handles are straight out of a Mazda MX5. That said, there is a real sense of luxury here.
Turn-key and the supercharged six-pot purrs. In typical Aston fashion, the DB7 is loud and bombastic or soft and quiet when you want it to be, a hall-mark of a great long-distance ground coverer. On the move, the DB7 soothes your brow by effortlessly gliding from bend to bend. Plant boot, the bonnet rises, there is a gradual surge from the purring supercharged six, and off you go. While not lightening fast by today’s standards, the DB7 is still faster than fast enough, topping out at 270km/h and will reach the national limit in 5.8 seconds.
However, trying to push this car like that, feels wrong, as its happiest cruising at a brisk yet sedate pace. Ride comfort is supple and soft, another reminder this is no sports car. At 100km/h the only thing you hear is faint tyre roar and despite weighing in at 1800kg, it can manage itself well when the going gets twisty.
Plus, one of the best aspects of the DB7 driving experience, is soaking up the admiring glances. While an Aston shouldn’t try to go out of its way to get noticed like a Ferrari or Lamborghini, the old Sean Connery roguish charm the DB7 emits at every red light gets you the thumbs up. Plus, if you buy one of these, it’s an almost guarantee you will get to know every shop window in your local town, for you won’t be able to stop staring at those drop-dead gorgeous lines.
DB7 production wound up in 2003, culminating in the range topping DB7 GT. All in all, 7,000 DB7’s rolled off the production line at Newport Pagnell and most of them are still loved and cared for today. In the classic car market, prices for good six-cylinder and V12 cars seemed to have bottomed out, with many people choosing its successor, the DB9 or baby V8 Vantage as their relatively affordable Aston of choice.
However, as the demand for nineties sports cars grows steadily, now is probably the best time to buy a DB7 of your own. If you can, make sure you can get one with a good service history, especially one which is NZ New, no-one wants an Aston which has been ragged or damaged and maintained badly.
As long as you drive it with respect and don’t give it hard time, you will get plenty of use out of your DB7. This is no boy racer sports car, but a distinguished gentleman’s express and one of the nicest ways to enter Aston Martin ownership.