Automotive desire has a new name, and her name is Virage. That’s the nom de guerre of Aston Martin’s latest model, and she appears every bit as aggressive yet every bit as sensual as her sisters. So of course she looks the business. And with an Aston Martin V12 engine under her long, sleek hood, she sounds the business too.
The Virage inhabits the $80,000 or so of gray space between the $196,000 (price averaged across the Coupe and Volante range) DB9 and the $280,000 (again, average) DBS. Like both of those cars, it is available in both Coupe and Volante (convertible) form; it differs from both in that it incorporates a two-plus-two seating configuration, meaning that four human beings may ostensibly fit inside the cockpit. As with other two-plus-two sports cars we could name (and there are many), if you’re a back-seat passenger you will wish mightily for more diminutive companions up front. If all else fails, the rear seats make a handy place to stow your golf bags.
We didn’t have any golf bags today, nor did we have back-seat passengers as we horsed a blazing tequila sunrise-hued Virage Coupe along the long, empty stretches of Highway 178 in the badlands of Death Valley National Park. In spite of the relative absence of civilization, late spring sees its fair share of tourist traffic along the desert routes. But long, empty stretches of roadway are nevertheless a given. Highway 178 offers myriad opportunities to dip into the accelerator and uncork the throaty, unmistakable Aston Martin wail. The Aston Martin V12 engine note may well be the world’s most compelling argument for driving at full throttle. Everywhere you go.
That power unit is Aston’s classic 6.0-liter V12. Here it makes slightly more power, 490 hp, and slightly less torque, 420 lb-ft, than the 6.0-liter V12 in the DB9. The V12 is linked to a rear-mid-mount six-speed automatic gearbox nicknamed Touchtronic II. Full auto mode offers as leisurely a driving experience as you’d expect; press the dash-mounted “S” button to engage Sport and take matters into your own hands using the leather-trimmed magnesium shift levers on the steering column.
Aston Martin pins the 0-62 mph acceleration run at 4.6 seconds, so call 0-60 about 4.5. Yes, there are faster $200,000 cars out there. Hell, there are faster cars for less than half that price.
But then again, none of those cars look like an Aston Martin. It’s difficult to convey these cars’ visual impact using mere words. Driving a Ferrari or a Lamborghini in the city, a lot of people would just as soon spit on you as gawk at you. Astons elicit a different sort of response, one more of reverence, more born of wonder.
In spite of its mission of moving the company’s design language into a “new, contemporary phase,” the Virage is no different. Design director Marek Reichman sums it up as well as anyone: “It doesn’t shout ‘Look at me.’ Rather, it calmly hits at its potential through pure lines and a low, elegant stance.”
Aston Martin CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez describes the Virage as “a perfect balance of opposites.” What he may mean is that it combines the elegance and luxury of the DB9 line with performance technology derived from the range-topping DBS. One example is a newly developed Adaptive Damping System (ADS) that’s programmed to actively monitor the road surface and adjust the suspension accordingly. It is Aston Martin’s most sophisticated chassis control system to date and features five different damper settings that constantly adjust at each corner. The system also takes into account yaw, acceleration, steering angle, throttle and ABS sensors to reconcile driver (and driver attitude) with the physical driving environment.
Speaking of ABS, like the DBS, the Virage is also equipped with Carbon Ceramic Matrix (CCM) brakes as standard equipment, featuring six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers clamping 398/360mm composite rotors fore and aft. The Virage also marks ongoing development with Aston Martin’s signature “VH” platform architecture, incorporating bonded-aluminum chassis components for a balance between light weight and structural rigidity.
Stylistically, the Virage takes design cues from across the Aston Martin range, including DB9 and Rapide. The grille is inspired by the super-exclusive One-77. The design team claims its front quarter-panels are the most distinct characteristic, with an evolved interpretation of the signature Aston side strake that houses a six-LED indicator strip.
Essentially, the Virage is an all-new car, albeit one constructed from bits and pieces found across the Aston Martin range. An amalgam of the best the company has to offer, you might say. All for the scarcely paltry sum of $209,995 to start.
It’s not cheap by any stretch, even in this rarified layer of the automotive atmosphere. But there remains a certain, undeniable appeal, unique both to this car and its parent brand. Design chief Reichman again sums it up nicely. To paraphrase, driving an Aston Martin “makes every journey an event.”
2011 Aston Martin Virage Coupe
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
6.0-liter V12, dohc, 48-valve
Six-speed Touchtronic II automatic
Front and rear independent double wishbones, coil springs and adaptive dampers, antiroll bars
Six-piston calipers with 398mm ventilated carbon ceramic rotors (f), four-piston calipers with 360mm ventilated carbon ceramic rotors (r)
Length/Width/Height (in.): 185.2/75.0/50.5
Curb Weight: 3,935 lb
Peak Power: 490 hp @ 6500 rpm
Peak Torque: 420 lb-ft @ 5750 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.6 sec.
Top Speed: 186 mph