ASTON MARTIN DB7 REVIEW

One of the most beautiful Aston Martins is now also one of the most affordable. We consider how to spot a great example of the glorious DB7...

 

The DB7’s 'Jaguar XJS' lineage means that the coupé isn’t exactly echoingly spacious inside, so it’s imperative you check you fit behind the steering wheel before you commit to a purchase. The central transmission, in particular, cuts back significantly on elbow room, which can be especially annoying on cars fitted with a manual transmission. Opting for the convertible (‘Volante’ in Aston-speak) obviously helps in this respect, although the pay-off is a degree of old-school scuttle shake on the move.

The rarer early six-cylinder supercharged cars are prized among Aston cognoscenti for their super-pure styling (slim lozenge-shaped indicator/sidelight units rather than the later, much larger, round affairs), and you’ll never, ever tire of the supercharger’s purposeful whine, especially as it provides lag-free urge irrespective of which gear you’re in.

And yet, you really cannot beat a V12. A Vantage sounds menacing even at idle, but wind one up – a nice long tunnel is best for this – and the resultant howl will make your scalp prickle and your arms break out in goosebumps. It’s properly addictive.

 

VITAL STATISTICS

ASTON MARTIN DB7 VANTAGE

Engine                                    5935cc/V12/Quad-OHC

Power (bhp@rpm)                  420bhp@6000rpm

Torque (lb ft@rpm)                 400lb ft@5000rpm

Top speed                                185mph

0-60mph                                  5.2sec

Consumption                            21.4mpg 

Gearbox                                    6-spd manual
 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODYWORK & CHASSIS
 

Rust is by no means unheard of on a DB7, but it’s a relatively rare sight and is almost always indicative of either shoddy maintenance by a previous owner, or the undesirable consequence of the car having suffered heavy impact damage at some point. If the car you’re looking at is bubbling in any of the usual places, then you can be pretty much assured that previous accident damage has been repaired on the cheap and using pattern parts, which doesn’t bode well for how the rest of the car has been treated.

Evidence of frontal damage should also start alarm bells ringing with respect to the front of the chassis – anything other than painstaking expert repairs to this area is guaranteed to destroy the handling and steering feel, and to cause the car to eat through tyres at an alarming rate as a result. It’s always worth checking that a car hasn’t been officially written off and then later salvaged, too.

Less seriously, the low-slung nose section is vulnerable to stone-chipping which, if rectified by a ham-fisted previous owner using nothing more than a touch-up pen and crossed fingers, then the metal beneath (initially composite, then steel from 1997 onwards) will have suffered accordingly.

As with the body, the main thing to check for underneath any DB7 is evidence of accident damage – misalinged chassis components put the steering geometry out of whack which, in turn, increases your tyre wear. Uneven tyre wear, especially on the inner edge, is the main giveaway here. Remember, too, that DB7s are particularly sensitive to incorrectly inflated tyres – too much or too little will also see off those expensive tyres at a rapid rate of knots.

 

ENGINE

Depending on the model, lifting the bonnet of a DB7 reveals either a 335bhp straight-six engine furnished with an intercooled Eaton supercharger or, on the Vantage, an all-alloy 420bhp 5.9-litre V12 that was developed by Cosworth. Ignore the bar-room pundits who sneer at the fact that the latter is, in essence, two Ford Duratec V6 engines welded together – it’s a glorious-sounding engine that, thanks to its relatively humble origins, is refreshingly uncomplicated. Any of the common afflictions that can show up on a regular car, then – blue or black exhaust smoke, a mayonnaise-like substance on the oil filler cap – apply here. Likewise, anything other than silky-smooth running and a V12 howl should cause you to look elsewhere.

 

RUNNING GEAR

Gearboxes on six-cylinder cars are either by Getrag (five-speed manual) or GM (four-speed auto), with the V12s warranting either a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual or a five-speed ZF auto. None of these systems will throw its toys out of the pram if the car has been well cared-for and driven sympathetically, so you should walk smartly away from any examples displaying graunchy or sloppy manual shifts, or which clearly has contaminated automatic transmission fluid (clues: it’s discoloured and stinks to high heaven). 


INTERIOR

The DB7’s interior wasn’t universally praised at launch – yes, there’s lots of leather and wood, as befits any Aston Martin, but there’s also plenty of Ford parts bin switchgear, too. This isn’t a problem if you’re not a marque snob, as it makes sourcing new/old stock or salvage replacements that much easier, but do check the former for cracked, brittle or damaged hide and lifting lacquer on the timber. General creaks are most often nothing more serious than leather surfaces rubbing against each other.

 

OUR VERDICT

Contrary to what some ‘experts’ claim, there is no such thing as a cheap Aston Martin (not one you’d want to buy, anyway), but if you have the money to bag a well-loved example, then we can think of few other cars that offer so much for the money.

The i6s have their own charms – rarity, super-pure styling and evocative supercharger howl to name but three – but if you can stretch to a Vantage, you’ll find it impossible to resist the magificent V12 bellow and astonishing performance.

Those with deeper pockets, however, should seriously consider the run-out GT that immediately preceded the DB9. Yes, it lacks the earlier cars’ ultimate design purity, but it packs the biggest punch and has handling to match the get-up-and-go. And if you really don’t like the bodykit, an i6 uprated to GT-spec isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

Forthcoming Cygnet aside, there’s no such thing as an ugly Aston Martin, and the DB7 is widely regarded as being among the most beautiful. You will, therefore, be in possession of a car that is guaranteed to draw attention wherever it goes.

You don’t buy one for its telepathic handling, mind. These were conceived as GT cars first and foremost, so don’t expect DB9 dynamics. That said, the pay-off is a beautifully composed ride.

If you do want some fun in the twisties, however, the unique nature of the manufacturer means that many cars have returned to the factory to be retro-uprated. This can be something as simple as an interior makeover or as eye-wateringly expensive as a full conversion to Vantage or GT spec.

The most easily recognisable of these is the
run-out GT – this factory-built hot rod had more power (435bhp) than the standard Vantage, along with subtly, but extensively, modified suspension that made it a properly entertaining handler. However, not everyone likes the extra body addenda that comes hand-in-glove with a GT.

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