Even at 60 Years Old, the Aston Martin DB5 Still Feels Like a Serious Sports Car

We only had half an hour behind the wheel, but the timeless classic nevertheless felt incredibly special.

Automotive
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The 12:55pm flight out of LAX gets you into Heathrow at 7:25am local and while it sounds like a really convenient schedule, it’s actually a battle. After the meal and the movie(s), you’d think you could get some shuteye and land feeling refreshed but the fact of the matter is that your body knows its 6pm PT when you try to sleep. It’s damn near impossible, and that’s why we were quite shocked and taken back to know we’d be jumping straight into heritage vehicles when we landed.

And what would we be driving first? Why, a pristine 1963 Aston Martin DB5, easily worth “half a million Pounds, I reckon,” according to the reps at Aston Martin HQ. Plus there were only 887 saloons ever made, and who knows how many have survived.

Plus we’re on the “wrong” side of the road. Plus we’re driving manual, so the gear lever is on the left. Plus we’re on tight, narrow countryside roads with “roundabouts” that are so large they have their own gravitational pulls. Plus we’re on no sleep. But no pressure, “you’ve driven stick before right? You got this.”

Once the fear of even curbing the chrome wheels on ‘the most famous car in the world’ shook off, we got into work mode and learned all about the Aston Martin DB5. September 2023 is actually the 60th birthday for the DB5, a sports car that has transcended time and space as the automotive/pop culture icon of the 20th century. The Aston Martin crew told us story after story of the DB5, even the tale of the original James Bond 007 Goldfinger car almost not appearing in the film due to creative differences with the company and 007 writer Ian Fleming’s crew. Yet our jetlagged minds took it all in and paid close attention to the brief, knowing good and well they’re about to trust us with driving one of the greatest cars ever built.

We only had 30 mins from start to finish with the DB5 as we had other amazing Aston Martins to experience, but the half hour – much like the car’s age – felt so much shorter. Its beauty outside, its luxury inside and its glorious drive; our bucket list was about to be updated.

Exterior

Beyond the color, the chrome wire wheels and the gallery lighting it’s most likely parked underneath, the DB5 just oozes style and presence. While our model was painted in a beautiful California Sage Green, if it were our car we definitely would have gone with the referenced colors – British Racing Green i.e. Aston Martin’s signature color, or the James Bond 007 Goldfinger shade of Silver Birch. Nevertheless, its mossy green exterior played extremely well with the chrome accents and tan interior.

As you walk around a DB5, it’s the small details that really stand out. The headlights for example – if you weren’t standing up close to them, you’d barely notice they’re actually quite oval and tall in size, and actually recessed within the fenders. Circular shapes – found at the turn signals, rear tails and bumper reflectors – are definitely period correct and actually a breath of fresh air to all the sharp angles and cuts we know of today, and even the car’s fairly flat side panels would be an exercise in restraint these days.

Everything we love from modern sports cars are on here: a giant hood scoop for engine cooling, side fender vents that are actually functional, a sloping rear window and even a huge gaping front air dam. It wouldn’t be too far of a reach to say that car companies continue to draw inspiration from cars like the DB5 and rightfully so – its design exudes character and personality through function and proportion, not something a lot of modern day sports cars can say they’ve achieved.

At the end of the day, the DB5 is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and timelessly styled, even more so in person.

Interior

Climbing into the DB5 was equally as evocative as walking around the outside. For starters, ingress was incredibly easy thanks to the car’s fairly tall profile for a sports car, which surprisingly wasn’t felt in the drive – more on that later. The tan interior allowed us to soak in the DB5’s luxuries (back in 1963 of course) such as its leather upholstery, plush cowhide seats, chrome accents around the dials and levers and more. Once we sat in its excellence and prestige for a few minutes, another surprise we encountered was how solid the door closed. It hinged and shut on first pull, with little effort and with the quintessential “thud” upon closure, reassuring us confidently of its incredible build quality.

The seats – while not bolstered like your modern day Recaro or Bride racing seat – were more on the comfort side than sporty. But what did you expect? The DB5 equates more to a GT luxury canyon carver, not something that’ll set a record at your local track. There was more of this “built for driving” mentality, such as the awesome visibility, the wrap-around windows and thin pillars, easy to read dials and more. The steering wheel however did not age well, less so much the wood trim but more so the size that made it feel like steering a boat. But beyond this, we felt confident inside the DB5 and understood its luxury angle.

Driving Impressions

With a deep breath, we fired it up. Wow. The engine – a modest 4.0L straight six capable of 290 horsepower – turned over with confidence and a bit of a low roar and while it didn’t sound aggressive, more importantly it did sound healthy. The clutch was a long throw, and mid-to-slightly heavy, which encouraged a closer seating position. But a pleasant surprise was how easy it was to find the bite – after all, the last thing we’d want to do is stall a DB5. And once the clutch caught, we were on our way.

My co-driver alluded that its more powerful than you’d think, probably due to its low weight and the bias in us knowing the car’s age. So he encouraged us to safely and carefully “let it rip” once we got onto the open road. The sensation of wide-open throttling a DB5 is something magical, because it certainly… went. It wasn’t a neck break, but we didn’t care. We were in second gear, floating around 25mph and once the pedal dropped it soared. Before we chickened out, we looked and saw a good 70mph flash on the gauge which let out an involuntarily “whoa” as we let off. Shockingly, it felt like the DB5 would/could/should go well beyond that before it became scary – it was that strong of a pull. And we’ll say it like this: going from 25 to 70mph in an F80 BMW M3, or a 997 Porsche Carrera S, or in a Toyota GR Supra is one thing, but a completely different experience in a £500,000 GBP Aston Martin. Dare we say, it was more exciting.

Another thing we noticed while on our short country drive was the suspension. Over bumps the car shook a bit and while some parts did rattle some, never at any moment did we feel like we were in a 60 year old car. It cornered with poise albeit with a bit of body roll, and braking and accelerating didn’t rock the car fore and aft much at all. Aston Martin goes above and beyond with its heritage vehicles by restoring them with fresh parts – this service definitely shows. The DB5 rides on tall, skinny tires, and yet it didn’t feel like that at all. Minus the looser, large steering wheel spoiling the handling just a bit, and a bit of a hunt with finding the gears, the DB5 felt at least half of its age, easily. This was the pinnacle of its charm, and we couldn’t get enough of it – until we had to get out and try the other heritage vehicles.

Where It Stands Now

What motivates someone to pay half a million dollars for a 60 year old car? There’s a lot to factor into that question but for us and it were our money, the charm, prestige, historical importance and overall beauty of the Aston Martin DB5 easily justifies that price. It’s what people know Aston Martin for. It’s Britain’s greatest secret agent’s drive of choice – Connery, not Brosnan. It’s elegance when you pull up to the boujiest event and it’s fitting for a hill climb.

We understand car cultures and cliques, and the JDM fans will probably choose something else from this era, like a slightly younger Datsun Z. Italy aficionados maybe a Ferrari 365 GTB/4, and us Americans for a Shelby GT500? But hands down, even out of all of those examples, we can’t help but “wake up” to the Aston Martin DB5.

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