2012 Aston Martin Virage
The next cool thing
Review by Mark Hacking. Photos by Aston Martin
Ronda, Spain — There are, perhaps, a handful of car manufacturers that stand above the rest in terms of cool factor. Now, cool factor is difficult to pin down because it’s largely subjective, but given that this particular soapbox is mine, allow me to provide my thoughts on the criteria.
Ultimate cool factor comes down to this: heritage, design, racing success and exclusivity. Tick all four boxes and you’re in like flint; fall down in just one of the categories and you run the risk of being an also-ran. Allow me to expand on this theory.
While manufacturers such as Porsche or Mercedes-Benz or BMW have some undeniably cool cars in their fleet, they also have some models that miss the mark—mainly because of such mundane considerations as functionality and affordability. (And since when was functionality or affordability ever cool?) On the other hand, let’s take a glance at Aston Martin.
First off, their cars are expensive across the board—the cheapest rings in at over $135K—so they’ve got the exclusivity angle covered. Racing success? They contested the very first Le Mans 24 Hours in 1931 and have returned, on and off, ever since, scoring numerous top finishes along the way. Design: some of the sexiest cars in the business, full stop. Heritage? Check: in business since 1913 and arguably stronger than ever. (And let’s not forget: the preferred ride of a certain secret agent.)
Being considered ultra-cool is very good for the health of any brand—and the purveyors of fine automobiles at Aston Martin Lagonda Limited know this all too well.
Example: On the surface of it, the 2012 Aston Martin Virage may not appear to make a lot of sense. After all, they already had no fewer than three V12-powered sport coupes in the line-up (the V12 Vantage, DB9 and DBS), so the addition of a fourth seems more than a little curious.
Combine this with the fact that all four are based on the same platform, all have roughly the same acceleration (give or take) and all share a striking family resemblance (more or less), and you have the potential for some genuine confusion.
Allow me to shed some light: The Virage slots into the Aston Martin roster, in terms of both price and performance, directly above the venerable DB9 and directly below the raucous DBS. (For the purposes of this explanation, it’s best to disregard the V12 Vantage, which is more of a purebred sports car than a sport coupe better suited to touring.)
Let’s take a closer look: The 6.0-litre V12 shoehorned under the car’s deliciously carved hood develops 490 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. All this power and torque is routed to the rear wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. The estimated time for the Virage to reach 100 km/h from a standing start is 4.6 seconds, while top speed is a credible 299 km/h.
The act of taking the next gear manually is accomplished using paddle shifters and the effect is suitably racy, particularly when the engine is allowed to soar above 4,000 rpm, when it takes on a far more menacing tone. Sure, second gear is too low or third gear is too high (take your pick), but otherwise the acceleration is certain, uninterrupted and no small amount of fun.
All the heavy-duty components of the Virage (engine, transmission) are placed towards the centre of the sleek coupe to preserve a perfect 50:50 weight distribution and, thus, contribute towards razor-sharp handling. While this latest Aston is no slouch in terms of pace (see above), it’s in the handling department where the car truly shines.
The car is equipped with an adaptive suspension system with no fewer than five settings ranging from extreme performance to supreme comfort. Powering along a dusty, marbled, secondary road in rural Spain at some 150 km/h, the Virage simply sticks around corners.
Even in the sportiest setting, the suspension system absorbs every imperfection in the road, allowing the car to settle quickly and completely, and leaving the driver feeling in total control. Similarly, the steering delivers a dissertation on precision: Neither too numb nor too direct, it exhibits just the right degree of feel and refinement for this type of car.
The 2012 Aston Martin Virage is not for everyone—and that’s the point. With a starting price of around $225,000 for the coupe (a convertible version called the Volante will cost more), it’s got that exclusivity factor built right in.
But if you have the means, the Virage is certainly capable of generating temptation: Far less expensive than the DBS and with a chiselled exterior design that makes the DB9 look a bit staid, this newest Aston is a fine addition to the manufacturer’s offering.
Plus, if you happen to be behind the wheel of a Virage on a deserted stretch of road under a blue Spanish sky, you may just find yourself cackling like a madman at the thought of your good fortune. I know I did.
Follow Mark @Mark_Hacking