Automakers seem to have become smitten with the practice of slicing and dicing segments into sub-segments and niches in recent years like soft-drink companies that now offer eight-to-10 varieties of their core beverages. How else to explain genres like the “four door coupe” or a “compact sports luxury crossover SUV?” This is even beginning to take place in the exotic-car segment, with the new-for-2012 Aston Martin Virage coupe being the latest example.
At $210,000, the Virage is slotted in Aston Martin’s lineup just above the $189,000 DB9, but much farther below the $273,000 DBS, and like both of those models is a low-slung sports car that packs a potent V12 engine. In a more proletariat automaker’s lineup a difference of $21,000 could well separate its least-and most-expensive models, but in the world of exotic sports cars it’s essentially tip money. Still, the Virage represents yet another choice for affluent auto enthusiasts and those dreaming of winning the lottery, and more is always better, right?
Taken on its own, the Aston Martin Virage is a stunning piece of work, either in coupe or Volante convertible varieties. In design and nature it deftly treads the fine line between flat out sports car and grandly luxurious Gran Touring coupe, and perhaps more so than its aforementioned showroom siblings.
The Virage takes the basic A-M styling formula of a wide and low grille, long hood, muscular fenders, so-called “swan wing” doors and tallish rear-end treat-ment and freshens it with some added curves and creases and new LED rimmed projector-style bi-Xenon headlamps. The company’s familiar hand-built 6.0-liter V12 is tuned here to produce an ample though not necessarily overwhelming 490 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque with an attention grabbing exhaust note that is at the same time both sweet and throaty. A rear mid-mounted six-speed “Touchtronic” automatic transmission is the only available gearbox; while it offers a largely adequate manual gear-select mode – via magnesium leather clad steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters – those who prefer the unfettered control only a true stick shift affords will have to look elsewhere.
The Virage can make the leap to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. While that’s still quick, it falls around a second short of other sports cars in its price class, like the Ferrari 458 Italia, as well as some far less costly models like the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and Nissan GT-R. Few motorists would ever notice the difference, especially in everyday driving, but, again, those seeking ultimate bragging rights will have to look elsewhere.
Fortunately the Virage is built for more than just straight-line acceleration. Riding on a lightweight, yet rigid, aluminum space frame, the car is built low and wide, with a perfect 50/50 percent front-to-rear weight balance to afford engaging and refined road manners. Riding on 20-inch wheels and Pirelli P Zero performance tires, its steering is quick and nimble – especially for a car of its relative girth – with ample feedback given back to the driver through the wheel. And at that, the convertible version gives up nothing in terms of athleticism or structural rigidity to the coupe.
With a double-wishbone suspension at all four corners, a new Adaptive Damping System automatically adjusts the shock absorbers in response to changing road and driving conditions according to no less than ten selectable stiffness settings. Aggressive drivers will want to choose the tautest suspension setting and engage the car’s “Sport” mode, which enables a sharper throttle response and faster gear changes while also holding the gears a bit longer before up shifting. The car’s stability control system can likewise be switched into a “Track” mode that delays intervention to allow for some rear-end drifting in tight turns. Carbon ceramic marix brakes are standard (which is rare even among exotics) for ultimate stopping abilities.
Inside, a snug-fitting cabin treats occupants to hand-stitched Bridge of Weir leather upholstery with a pinstripe welt that flows down either side of the dash-board and along the seat and door to create a sweeping effect. With a choice of six separate trim treatments, Aston Martin says it takes over 70 person-hours to create the Virage’s plush interior. The coupe comes with a back seat, but it’s mostly there for show, being virtually inhospitable for humans; it can be deleted at the factory if desired for the sake of added cargo space.
The Virage also comes with a full complement of high-tech features, including a navigation system developed with GPS giant, Garmin that comes with a 6.5-inch high-resolution display screen. Other standard amenities range from heated seats and a Bluetooth mobile phone interface to front and rear parking sensors and a 700-watt audio system with satellite radio and full iPod integration. Unfortunately dashboard ergonomics aren’t the car’s strong suit, with the nav system’s odd joystick control being particularly perplexing. Still, BMW has long endured with a less than hospitable human interface for its gadgetry, and cars in this class aren’t usually considered for or against because of their switchgear. While some may think Aston Martin is slicing its exotic car niche a hair too thin with the Virage, it is a welcome addition to the line and is well worth considering for those who desire the classic British motoring experience as expressed in a thoroughly contemporary package.
Aston Martin Virage Fast Facts
Engine: 6.0-liter V12
Horsepower: 490 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 420 @ 5,750 rpm
City/Highway: MPG NA
Transmission: 6-Spd Automatic
Wheelbase: 107.9 in
Overall Length: 185.9 in
Width: 75.0 in
Height: 50.5 in
Curb Weight: 3,935 lbs
MSRP: $209,995 - $223,295
Did You Know?
The Aston Martin Virage’s name is taken from a French noun that can mean either a curve in the road or a shift in orientation. Aston Martin’s use of nomenclature beginning with the letter “V” dates back to the optional “Vantage” engine originally offered on the 1950s-vintage DB2.