Driving The Classics Aston Martin DB5.
I mention in the bullet point above that this, the Aston Martin DB5, is the brand’s most famous car but, in reality, it surely has to be the most famous car ever. Even someone who knows incredibly little about cars knows exactly what this is, almost entirely thanks to the bloke who’s usually in a sharp suit and into a spot of international espionage.
So, it’s a dream come true for a young lad who grew up watching Bond movies all his young life to get anywhere near a DB5 in Silver Birch, let alone get the keys to one. But let’s put things into perspective: it’s 2020 and this legendary grand tourer has a spoilt snowflake millennial at the wheel – so, what is Aston Martin’s legendary GT actually like to drive?
The DB5 in brief
Take a step back, first. The DB5, effectively built between 1963 and 1966, was part of the legendary DB series of cars, during Aston Martin’s many years under David Brown Limited ownership. It was an evolution of the DB4 (obviously), but even Aston Martin admits that the car was ‘virtually identical in appearance to the Series 5’ version of its predecessor. Change a headlight lens in a modern car and the brand responsible will claim it’s all new, these days.
Anyway, under the bonnet is a 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated straight-six producing 282bhp and 280lb ft, with that power sent through a five-speed manual gearbox (a three-speed auto was also available) to the rear wheels. It was the first time this engine was used by Aston Martin in a road car, having first seen service in the Lagonda Rapide (based on Aston’s DB4) and the Aston Martin DP215 a gorgeous Le Mans endurance racer.
How is it inside?
What strikes you first of all is just how well-tuned the driving position is, even for a lanky 6’3” bloke. There aren’t any protruding side bolsters on the seat hemming you in place, but the padding is so soft you just sink into the worn leather instead. Visibility is tremendous, even with the shallow glasshouse and tiny rear-view mirrors.
The gorgeously tactile wooden-rimmed wheel is absolutely enormous in terms of diameter and, conversely, the pedal box is about half the size of a modern car. So, while you still have somewhere to put your left foot, the skinny pedals naturally aren’t entirely compatible with fat modern trainers. Should’ve worn a neat pair of Oxfords instead.
Enough preamble what’s it like to drive?
That gorgeous straight-six is at the forefront of the DB5’s entire driving experience; it’s just so chilled out, burbling and humming away, unstressed even if you’re giving it some. ‘More, sir? Why, yes, of course’ is its default response to heavy throttle inputs, developing speed with obliging purpose, if no dramatic urgency. The DB5 is plenty quick enough, even if a seven-second 0-62mph sprint time is bettered by most hot hatches these days. If you relax and drive it like the grand tourer it’s designed to be, you synchronise with it much better.
Cornering is very entertaining, though probably not for all the right reasons. The first 1/8th of a turn is light, almost like it’s designed for those pretend driving shots you see in classic movies, but then weights up tremendously. No wonder Bond was in such good shape, he barely needed an arm workout beyond just his daily commute. But, while the rack is extremely heavy, it’s adjustable; the heavier the steering feels, the more minutely your inputs can be mid-corner.