The DB7 Vantage is an incredible car. The first thing you, and everyone else will notice is the styling. It was beautiful when first introduced and is only getting better with age. As cars are becoming larger and more ungainly, and regulations are causing window lines and hoods to get higher and higher, the DB7 is refreshingly sleek, harkening back to the DB5 and the E-Type, while still looking fairly modern. I also have an E-Type roadster, and one thing that made an impact on me when shopping for another collector car was how elegant and well proportioned the DB7 was. It reminded me a lot of a modern day E-Type. The look alone is enough to keep it desirable for generations to come.
However, this car is not just about style, it's about performance as well. The 5.9L V12 is a masterwork of automotive engineering; so good it's still being used at the time of this writing in 2016. Its 420 HP and 400 ft-lbs of torque put it firmly in super car territory for its day, and it's still quick sixteen years after the DB7 Vantage was introduced. It has a silky smooth six speed manual transmission, which controls the power well and is perfectly suited to the engine. The clutch is high, and on the heavy side, but these are small complaints. It is miles better than the six speed single clutch paddle shift transmission in the Vanquish. I was cross shopping the two cars, and the transmission in the Vanquish is its Achilles heel. It negates the 40 HP power increase in the Vanquish over the DB7 because it makes the power hard to access, due to its slow responding shifts, and the rough shifting ruined the whole experience of the Vanquish. When it comes to cars like these, it's all about the experience. The DB7 felt faster because I was able to control the car better via the manual transmission. Overall for me the DB7 felt like a better car to drive than the Vanquish. That being said, the Vanquish still is a truly beautiful car as well, another masterpiece by Ian Callum, and I couldn't fault someone for purchasing a Vanquish if even just to look at in the garage.
Two areas the Vanquish did impress me on were sound and handling. The first DB7 I tested did not have the optional sports exhaust. Then I drove the Vanquish and it was night and day in terms of engine noise. The second DB7 I tested did have sports exhaust fitted and it sounded almost like the Vanquish. Still not quite as loud, but close. It really allows you to hear the symphony of the twelve cylinders, and under hard acceleration sounds like a Le Mans race car. There is a long tunnel by my house that I like to go to early on weekend mornings and drive through under wide open throttle in second gear with my windows down, just to hear the incredible noise from the DB7!
The handling and brakes are terrific. The steering is heavy, like you would expect in a high performance car, but never too heavy where it is frustrating. It is well weighted and gives a sense of full control. The brakes can stop the car on a dime and give you change. They are not the best brakes I've ever used, those were on a C6 Corvette. These are close though in terms of stopping power and not quite as "jerky" when you brake. The DB7's brakes are fantastic and smooth, without being like an "on-off switch."
The interior is beautifully made with smooth leather, an alcantara headliner, and rich walnut wood. It has easy to read gauges, and I like that it has auxiliary gauges as opposed to warning lights. I know everyone always talks about how it has A/C vents from a Ford and other bits from another car, and so on. I still think it looks nice and everything is integrated very well and suits the car. That being said, mine does not have the Mazda Miata (MX-5) door handles. Those somewhat cheapened the look of the interior. Aston switched to more fitting chrome door handles in 2002 and they do upgrade the look. The optional nav system which my car is fitted with is pretty terrible. It was a very early nav system and is overly complicated, has tiny little pixel arrows for "graphics", and almost requires a degree in computer programming to program a destination. I just pretend it doesn't have a nav system and use my phone for navigation. Fortunately it is the size of a normal head unit and the physical unit looks nicely integrated to the cabin unlike modern nav screens. The stereo system is very good. I'm not sure how many watts it is rated at, but it is definitely more than adequate. It has a six disc CD changer, which I never use. I wanted to change out the head unit so I could have a USB or AUX plug in, but that would require rerouting all the cords going to the amplifier in the trunk. It would be far more headache and cost than it is worth, so I just use the radio, and for long drives will break out my old CDs.
The seat adjustment is hard to get to on the driver's seat because it is on the left side of the seat, as is the parking brake, and requires you to squeeze your fingers between the seat and the parking brake to make adjustments.
Overall the interior looks almost "classic", if you will. It looks well made and stylish without being high tech and too modern. It was criticized for not having much technology when new, but now over a decade later all of the "high tech" equipment on its competitors when new make those interiors look far more dated today, and if anything breaks, the parts are hard to source for a lot of the tech equipment. The DB7's interior is simple to the point of being minimalist, but all of the material is top notch, and it is still a classy place to be.
Overall, the DB7 is a vehicle that has already transitioned from a used car to a collectors car, and will soon be considered an all out classic. Many people prefer the looks of the DB7 to the DB9; they made far fewer DB7s than DB9s, and Aston Martin no longer makes the V12 with a manual transmission, so you can never get this drivetrain combination from Aston Martin again. In fact, soon they may be sourcing their engines from Mercedes-AMG, so you may never be able to get a naturally aspirated engine from Aston again. Prices are on the way up, and for good reason. Get one before it's too late!