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Aston Martin DB7: 30 Years On

17 February 2023

“Cars that saved their brand” is one of those automotive clichés that gets wheeled out every time cars like the Porsche Boxster or Lotus Elise celebrate an anniversary. It’s a romantic idea, the fortunes of automotive empires resting on the success of one model. In the case of Aston Martin, a marque with a more than its fair share of close calls with collapse during its lifetime, that cliché could probably be applied to almost every model. There’s one car in particular however that has the strongest claim to have saved Aston from the pages of history.

Barely 10,000 cars had been built over the company’s entire lifetime before the DB7 was unveiled to the world in at the 1993 Geneva Motor Show; a decade later production of the DB7 ended after nearly doubling that figure. The engine may have been provided by Jaguar and some minor components might have been sourced from the Ford parts bin, but the Ian Callum designed body was undoubtedly Aston Martin and the DB7 quickly became a customer favourite. Finally, Aston had a product that provided some stability and success that is still impressive some 30 years later.

The car we have here hasn’t quite hit its 30th birthday. First registered in October 1995 it’s an early car though, coming from the pre-Vantage era where the only engine choice was the 3.2L Jaguar inline-6 fitted with an Eaton-sourced supercharger. The introduction of the V12 powered DB7 Vantage in 1999 made the straight-6 less appealing and as a result these early cars are far less numerous. The majority of owners ticked the box on the options sheet for the automatic transmission, which is what this car has, firmly placing the DB7 in the Grand Tourer category in true Aston Martin tradition.

Not so traditional is the paint colour; Suffolk Red is a far more contemporary choice than the Windsor or Dubonnet shades found on Astons of yesteryear, and it’s as striking now as it was when the car left the factory. The theme continues to the interior where an otherwise stately cream leather treatment is awakened by red piping and carpets. Complete with a walnut veneer dash and thin, wood rimmed steering wheel the interior is undoubtedly a product of the 1990s, yet it wears its age with enough honesty and charm that it largely gets away with it. Much has been made of the interior switchgear coming from the shelves of the Ford parts department but in practice the solid, tactile feel and clear layout is more pleasing to use than modern touchscreen dominated cabins.

The recently reconnolised leather is in a remarkable condition given it has seen nearly 75,000 miles of use, which is a testament to how well the car has been looked after. Settling into the driver’s seat the initial impression is one of comfort. The seats themselves are supportive, although much less firm than those found on modern Astons, while the unusually high bolsters take a few minutes to get used to before they’re forgotten about. On start up the supercharged straight-6 is subtle, gently coming to life with little fuss. Where the V12 powered DB7 Vantage sounds raucous and aggressive the i6 car is far more well behaved, not intending (or needing) to show off.

Pulling away from a standstill the sense of calmness continues. The four-speed automatic handles its role well, lingering a little longer on the gears than a modern automatic might do but overall quite refined. In fact the whole experience is so relaxed that speed limits are reached almost by accident. The ride is soft enough to soak up uneven road surfaces easily enough, combining with the plush interior to provide a very comfortable experience. Slow speed manoeuvrability is helped by fairly light steering and surprisingly good visibility; the view over the bonnet is assisted by a low dash while 1990s design trends allowed for deeper windows than the modern fighter-cockpit look. The drivers seat sits somewhat higher than a modern Aston too, and all of this combines to make the DB7 a very usable car.

It’s on the A-road sections of the Aston Workshop test route that the DB7 does its best work. At the national speed limit the cabin is well insulated from with the outside road with wind and tyre noise kept under control. Tease the accelerator to overtake and a pleasant supercharger whine provides the soundtrack to a steady surge in power. It’s a different experience to the more solid bolt of acceleration and all-round noise of the V12 powered Vantage, but it’s not a worse one. The steering wheel is thin and relatively small, encouraging a gentle fingertip hold rather than a strong grasp. Even over the relatively short journey that provided context for this road test it’s clear the DB7 would be a good choice if a lot of miles needed to be covered in not a lot of time.

So the DB7 will handle the Monday to Friday trips around town and the Saturday morning blast down the motorway on the way to a weekend break. The final piece of the puzzle then is the Sunday B-road blast that all Aston Martin enthusiasts look forward to. As far as DB7s go, an early inline-6 with an auto box is probably least sporty specification available, but on the twistier sections of our test route the DB7 is genuinely fun. The lightness of the steering is less useful here than in a supermarket car park and the gearbox could be a little more eager to flick up and down its four available gears, but body roll is kept well under control and when pushed the inline-6 propels the car out of corners in a hurry. When making the engine choice for this car Aston Martin engineers opted for the 3.2L unit rather than the larger 4.0L engine Jaguar had to offer, focusing on responsiveness over power. It delivers more than enough power and torque to hustle the DB7 along country lanes while the noise of the Eaton supercharger under acceleration never gets boring.

30 years on from it’s star appearance at the Geneva Motor Show then, the DB7 is still an accomplished GT while being as able around town as it is on the B-roads of County Durham. Prices of these cars are steadily climbing, and with fluctuating fuel prices making the rarer 6 cylinder models more appealing demand for them is rising. DB7s generally compete with early V8 Vantages in the ‘First Aston Martin’ category, offering a more relaxed experience as opposed to the Vantage’s sporting inclination. Both designs have aged very well (we have Ian Callum to thank for that, who did most of the V8 Vantage design before returning to focus on Jaguars) and both sold in very high numbers, but it was the DB7 that turned the fortunes of Aston Martin around through being a thoroughly modern and well made car that opened a new chapter in the marques famous history. The world hasn’t forgotten the DB7 3 decades after its launch, and it probably won’t for a very long time.

The car we tested here is for sale at Aston Workshop. Click here for the full details.