Aston Martin has spawned one of the most perfect Aston Martins to date
2012 Aston Martin Virage 5.9-litre V12, two-door coupe, six-speed automatic transmission: $371,800
Photography: Joel Strickland
Driving the new Aston Martin Virage is not dissimilar to the early 90s movie Groundhog Day. There is no other car I have experienced that gives you a spine tingling rush each and every time you turn the engine over, spot a glance of the car in a shop window or experience automotive nirvana when the exhaust baffles open to emit a noise that will never get old.
Aston Martin has a difficult task on its hands. While the company has been happy of late getting by with the V8 Vantage and DB9, recent times have seen the introduction of the Aston Martin DBS, V12 Vantage, four-door Rapide, V8 Vantage Sport and now the Virage.
The Virage takes its place between the DB9 and the DBS, and aptly so, considering the meaning of the word Virage in French is bend or curve. The Virage has been designed to be a supremely elegant and powerful, yet understated sports car, and I can confidently say that it accurately meets the description.
It takes an experienced team of Aston Martin car builders some 200 hours to assemble a Virage, with around 70 hours alone spent on the bespoke leather and high quality surfaces throughout the cabin. The hand stitched leather joins are absolutely impeccable and are a perfect example of why it’s not just the badge you are paying for with an Aston Martin purchase.
Under the bonnet is Aston Martin’s 5.9-litre V12 engine. It produces 365kW and 570Nm of torque and is mated to a rear mid-mounted six-speed automatic Touchtronic 2 gearbox. The official fuel consumption figure is 15L/100km, which was around the norm during a mix of country and city road testing.
The outside of the Virage doesn’t share any panels with the DB9 or DBS; it is an entirely unique car in that sense. The body panels are made out of aluminium, magnesium and composite materials, but even with the weight-saving materials in use the car weighs in at a portly 1785kg. The headlights feature LED running lights, LED turn signals and bi-xenon projector beams.
A One-77-inspired five-vane grille at the front is only the start of the Virage’s unlimited beauty. The sculpted front end features a bonnet hump for the engine, along with two heat exhaust vents at the rear of the bonnet. Our test car was optionally fitted with 20-inch 10-spoke graphite, diamond-turned alloy wheels and grey coloured brake callipers.
At the rear, you will find a similar design to the DB9, with Virage insignia in place at the top right of the boot. Clear tail lights and a different lower diffuser headline the main differences.
Unlike the exterior’s complete overhaul of panels, the interior remains a familiar place – and that’s not a bad thing. The recent DB9 interior update has been carbon copied to the Virage, providing an elegant and serene environment for the driver and passengers.
Let’s start with the blindingly obvious. While the Virage is officially a 2+2 car (that’s four seats), unless your two rear passengers have relinquished the use of their legs and are no higher than four feet tall, there’s no chance of them fitting in the car. The seats are there simply as a ‘just in case’ if for some reason you need to legally transport additional passengers.
In reality, this car will generally be driven with two on board. Those lucky two will be surrounded by hand stitched leather that is immaculately presented in an almost infinite number of design options.
Aston Martin’s Marketing and Communications Manager, Marcel Fabris, told CarAdvice:
“There is no set rule for how customers option their new Aston Martin, with each vehicle being built specially to order. This is the advantage of providing a totally bespoke product with an almost limitless range of paint, leather and stitching colours, trims and vehicle options.
“Add this to a customer’s ability to create ‘one-offs’ through our Works Tailored Division - each handcrafted, hand-built Aston Martin is totally unique and specifically built to each customer’s exacting requirements and taste.”
A recent addition to the Aston Martin range is a collaboration with Bang & Olufsen that sees a potential upgrade from the standard 700-watt sound system in the Virage. Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen 13-speaker sound system.
The amazing Bang & Olufsen sound system features two motorised 180-degree tweeters mounted to the dashboard, three sub-woofers, including a 200mm benc- mounted sub-woofer, five mid-range speakers and an additional three tweeters. The end result is an exceptionally clear and precise sound system that won’t yield to any combination of music thrown at it (trust me, I tried). Music player connectivity includes USB and a 3.5mm auxiliary jack.
Further improvements to the interior include a new Garmin high-definition satellite navigation system. The painfully confusing Volvo system has been replaced with this engineered Garmin unit that slides away into the dash when not in use. The system is capable of traffic alerts, destination searches by phone number and economy tracking.
The electric seats with heating and lumbar and bolster adjustments are extremely comfortable for sporty driving and long distance cruising. Even after spending an entire day in the car at one point, I didn’t feel any worse off than when I started.
Stitching, sound systems and bespoke materials are completely nullified as soon as you hold the starter key (which is crafted from sapphire) to turn the 5.9-litre V12 engine over. A prolonged starter motor run is followed by an attentive bark that signals the Virage’s intentions. A deep and mellow idle gives you an idea of the potential unrest a flex of the right foot would incite.
After setting off by releasing the handbrake and selecting a gear on the dashboard, the driver has the option to drive in a relatively sedate automatic mode that shifts for economy, or you can select gears on the fly using static paddle shifters attached to the steering column.
As a sports car, the Virage does a great job just tootling around the city. I did my banking, shopping and went to the gym without being overly worried about parking the car or enduring a harsh ride on the journey. Visibility from the driver’s seat is exceptional and once you get an idea of the dimensions of the car, it’s no harder to park than a Ford Focus (especially with the front and rear parking sensors).
Hit the Sport button on the centre console and be prepared for the automotive equivalent of Jen Hawkins asking if you need a place to stay for the night. Your adrenalin starts pumping and your ears (and the ears of anybody within earshot) are met with the sound of pure, uncut automotive pornography.
The raw and deep sound of the bellowing V12 is heard from just 2000rpm in Sport mode and reaches an ear burning crescendo as the tachometer rushes to the 6800rpm redline. While the six-speed automatic gearbox is no dual-clutch arrangement, it shifts with precise accuracy and ensures the engine makes all the right sounds during up and down shifts.
Surprisingly, the Virage is also a cure for droughts, as long as I’m driving it, or any convertible for that matter. You see, whenever I test a car like this or a fast convertible, you can guarantee rain. My time with the Virage was certainly no exception. Initially I thought it would be a bad thing with a 365kW V12, but I was pleasantly surprised.
With 245mm-wide Pirelli P Zero tyres up front, matched with 295mm Pirelli P Zero tyres at the rear, the Virage cornered and accelerated as if it were all-wheel-drive. The very direct steering offers immaculate amounts of feel and just the right amount of steering lock. Power out of a wet corner and the Virage will oversteer well before it even contemplates understeer – both of which are only achieved when the car is pushed well beyond the limits of a public road.
The handling package could not have been honed any better than it has with the Virage. It’s the perfect balance between poise and performance.
Stopping is equally impressive thanks to standard 398mm/360mm front/rear carbon ceramic brakes. The brake package uses six-piston callipers at the front and four-piston callipers at the rear, ensuring that brake fade will almost never be experienced on the road. Brake pedal feel is spot on and provides a progressive feel under foot while driving spiritedly or sedately.
Also nestled on the centre console is the suspension button. Hit the suspension button for the 10-mode adaptive dampers to begin working their magic. The change in suspension firmness is instantaneous and levels out the car during cornering. Although the Virage was never really a candidate for the ‘body roll of the year awards’, the added adaptive suspension allows the car to react to bumps dynamically, monitoring conditions up to 500 times per second.
Front and rear anti-roll bars are also used to absorb any excess flex the chassis transfers during cornering.
The Virage uses a carbon fibre driveshaft and a limited slip differential. In comparison with a steel driveshaft, the benefits of a carbon fibre driveshaft include a lower rotational mass, a considerable reduction in weight, a lower torsional spring rate and an almost perfect elastic memory (meaning that the driveshaft won’t become permanently partially deformed over time).
We are able to informally vouch for the Virage’s 4.6-second 0-100km/h acceleration figure. Even with the Virage’s conventional six-speed automatic transmission, it still feels very fast from both a standing and rolling start.
It’s easy to see why Aston Martin vehicles are held in such high regard within the industry. Supreme beauty is met with pinpoint accuracy and an exhaust note to die for.
The hardest part about my job is putting cars into perspective, whether it’s a Holden Barina or in this case an Aston Martin Virage. I can say wholeheartedly and without a shadow of doubt that the Virage is the best vehicle on sale in the Aston Martin range today. It’s a perfect balance between luxury and performance. It’s built for the discerning individual that doesn’t mind assaulting corners on occasion, but wants to be able to drive daily without the arduous rigmarole of a supercar.
Starting from $371,300, the Virage represents excellent value for money and ensures exclusivity and unmatched appeal. The only decision left to make is whether you prefer your godly audio file to be delivered with a hard top or a soft top.