The last time the Virage name was used on an Aston Martin was way back in the days of the big old V8 model, it was 1988 and the Ford Motor Company had just purchased Aston Martin and Jaguar to form its Premier Automotive Group (PAG).
My recollection of the Virage at this time was as a big, soft, heavy tourer – certainly not a sports car, but a relaxing mile-muncher – and eventually it was completely overshadowed by the 550 bhp V8 Vantage which became the iconic muscle car of the period.
Well let’s tear up that image of the Virage name, because that was then and this is now. Aston Martin have become a very different company, free from the constraints of a global car maker and with Chairman David Richards and CEO Dr Ulrich Bez at the helm, they have rewritten the Aston Martin DNA to ensure every model provides luxury without sacrificing power and sporting performance.
The new Virage and Virage Volante slot in neatly between DBS and DB9 – 20bhp more powerful than the DB9 and 20bhp less than the DBS, combining outright sports car performance with luxury, comfort and refinement. Powered by Aston Martin’s hand-built 6.0 litre V12 engine, the Virage delivers 490 bhp (365 kW/497 PS) and 570 Nm (420 lb. Ft) of torque and through its carbon fibre prop shaft, which is mated to a six-speed Touchtronic II automatic transmission mounted on the transaxle contributing to perfect 50:50 weight balance.
Aston Martin CEO, Dr Ulrich Bez said: “100 years of automotive history has demonstrated that evolution delivers the best solutions in time.
“So it is with Virage; it is the next level of evolution in our VH architecture strategy and it does everything with the perfection that you would expect today. It is the perfect balance of opposites.”
Chassis and dynamics
The Virage’s dynamics have been tuned to deliver an engaging yet more refined driving experience than the DBS, where the driver can extract the maximum performance from the car with greater ease. A newly developed Adaptive Damping System (ADS) intelligently ‘reads’ the road to provide optimum road holding, adapting to different conditions. The system now selects up to five different stiffness settings within normal mode, and a further five stiffer settings within sport mode.
Aiding driver control, a ‘Sport’ button on the facia allows the driver to select a sharper throttle response and faster gear changes while also holding the gears without automatically shifting up at the revolution limiter.
Virage will be delivered with Carbon Ceramic Matrix (CCM) brakes as standard – bucking the trend in this market – offering progressive and tremendous stopping power. Powerful, resistant to fade and much lighter than conventional cast-iron discs, the CCM braking system means that not only is the overall vehicle weight reduced, but the weight saving at each wheel means that a better balance between ride comfort and handling can be struck. Lower rotational mass also provides improved acceleration.
The Virage sits low and wide asserting the power which lies beneath; single bi-xenon headlamps follow the lines of the car’s flanks to give a more crisp and modern look from the front.
A new aluminium metal front grille, inspired by the One-77, features five horizontal vanes which are chamfered creating an aerofoil profile. The new front bumper is pure and relieves the car of any visual complexities, contributing to the overall simplicity of design.
The front wings distinguish the Virage from its stable mates housing a new modern interpretation of the Aston Martin iconic side strake housing six LEDs elegantly forming the side repeater. Virage’s side sills carry the simplicity of the front bumper through to the rear diffuser which houses a body-coloured blade accentuating the width of the car.
Inside the Virage
As drivers and passengers open the signature swan wing doors, they are greeted by the aroma of seven hides of the finest Bridge of Weir leather expertly hand stitched by craftsmen. Inspiration has been taken from luxury leather goods to produce a pinstripe welt which flows down either side of the facia and along the seat and door, drawing your eye through the car.
Each Virage will have 70 man hours of expert craftsmanship lavished on the interior alone to create the famous sophisticated Aston Martin interior. In all, over 200 man hours will be spent handcrafting the Virage at Aston Martin’s global headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, England as it becomes the tenth major production car to be built there in the space of less than eight years.
Simplicity runs throughout the car with the new fully integrated Satellite Navigation system that has been developed in conjunction with Garmin. The new system simplifies operation through the existing four-way joystick mounted on the facia. A new 6.5 inch high resolution display uses the latest graphics and maps to visually and aurally guide the driver to their destination.
Standard equipment includes heated seats (Sports seats only), cruise control, satellite navigation, Bluetooth telephone preparation and the powerful 700W Aston Martin Premium Audio System with Dolby® Pro Logic II® and full iPod® integration.
The Virage and Virage Volante are on sale now, available from Aston Martin’s global dealership network. Pricing for the new Virage will be confirmed at next week’s Geneva Motor Show where it will be joined by two further new cars; the V8 Vantage S and the new Cygnet city car, all of which will be brought to production in the UK by Aston Martin in 2011.