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What a great car this is!!! I feel like James bond when I sat in it!! Aston Martin has bounced back - and not before time. Purists may have winced when the Newport Pagnell company was bought by Ford, but even they have had to admit that the financial clout of the blue oval has revitalised the marque. Quite simply, Aston had got itself into a rut - as had its owners. If you want proof of that, consider the fact that prior to the buy-out in the mid-Eighties, 75% of Aston Martins were sold with automatic transmission. This from a company once seen as Britain's answer to Ferrari. Until relatively recently, Maranello didn't even make a car with automatic transmission... The first fruit of Ford ownership, the DB7, has proved beyond any doubt that the company is back on the right track. Launched in 1994 to general acclaim from press and public alike, it also happens to be the most affordable car that Aston has built for many a long year. The £84,950 list price is around half that being asked for the Coupe at (£149,500) despite the fact that the standard six-cylinder 165mph DB7 is actually quicker, both in terms of top speed and acceleration. The rest to sixty time of 5.7 seconds is nearly a second faster. If you can find the extra £7,000, there's even a convertible version, called 'Volante', which offers equally drop-dead looks, but with a dose of fresh air. If either of these DB7s aren't quite quick enough, there's the option of a £92,500 Vantage version with am awesome 420bhp V12 engine, also offered in Volante form for £99,950. These can streak to 60mph in under five seconds and go on, in the case of the Coupe, to a top speed of as much as 185mph. ZF 'Touchtronic' automatic transmission is a £4,000 option on the Vantage models. In addition to operating in fully automatic mode, it permits the driver to change up and down using steering wheel-mounted buttons. Enthusiasts had originally feared that there wou
ld be a price in character to pay for the DB7's polished excellence, but if there is, it's difficult to spot. Certainly, the interior features Ford and Jaguar switchgear in places, but it's so coherently used that only an expert would spot the fact. In fact, the cabin is as pleasing to the eye as the sweeping lines of the exterior - which is saying something. The shape was penned by Scottish designer Ian Callum and has been hailed as the best looking British car since the Jaguar E-type. It's as if the stylist has taken the classic Aston shape and smoothed off the sharp edges; the result is very elegant. Under the bonnet of the standard model lies a 3228cc supercharged six-cylinder engine developed in partnership with Jaguar but with a majority of parts unique to Newport Pagnell. For those that aren't familiar with the concept, a supercharger is a device that's driven by the engine and pushes air and fuel into the cylinders at a vastly increased pace. On the road, all you'll care about is the distinctive engine note that gives this car a character of its own. It's also extremely tractable. In other words, you could drive this car through urban traffic without it becoming temperamental. You can use the prodigious pulling power of the engine to avoid continually changing gear. And best of all, when the road opens out, you can revel in the astonishing depths of ability that the car possesses. The small price to pay for all this excitement (unless you get caught of course, in which case they'll probably throw away the keys) is the recalcitrant transmission. Aston Martin claim the car to be `user-friendly` in all respects, yet the gearchange is slow, baulky and mated to a clutch heavy enough to make you feel like you're pumping iron every time you change down. Still, at least the brakes are similarly manly. World Championship Group C sports car racing technology was apparently adapted into the four-chan
nel electronically controlled anti-lock system. Allied to the largest ventilated disc brakes ever fitted to a production c ar, it all means that you can stop on a sixpence - or in this case, a fifty pound note. And fuel consumption? Huge of course, just like everything else. If you get more than ten to the gallon, then you're obviously not driving it properly...Come on!!! Put your foot down Grandad!!! I need to get back to Chelmsford!!!I reckon I could get from Chelmsford to Witham (10 miles) in about 7 or 8 minutes in one of these!! Honestly officer, I was only doing a ton 20!!!! Inside, you expect a great deal for the price of a three-bedroom semi and by and large, there's not much to disappoint you. The leather and walnut-trimmed cockpit is as classy as you would expect, with proper, thick Connolly hide and matching piping. Equipment levels are also lavish enough for you not to feel cheated. A CD stacking system, electric seats and powered everything comes included but there's no sunroof. If you like the DB7, then you probably won't like any of its more affordable competitors - and vice versa. Porsche's 911 (£60,271), Ferrari's 360M (£101,243) or Jaguar's XKR (£60,105) are all possible alternatives but somehow, I can't help feeling that they appeal to a very different kind of buyer. For me the Porsche beats them all into submission with the german Sausage hidden in the glove box!!! Only a few hundred owners will be fortunate enough to take delivery each year. My guess is that Porsche and Ferrari may need to be prepared to lose out. And how long is it since we've been able to say that about an Aston Martin? Too long. Now how do you like your Martini James?......