The sweet spot is in the middle
The cruellest commentators might have mocked Aston Martin when it revealed the Virage in 2011. Reviving a name from its past the Virage arguably falls into the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it category. Not that you’d ever miss an Aston, but you might be hard pushed to spot the differences between it and its DB9 and DBS relations.
Close relations, Aston Martin positioning the Virage firmly in the middle ground between its grand touring DB9, and more overtly performance orientated DBS machines. Outwardly there’s some new headlamps and some sharper detailing to its lines to distinguish it, but Aston Martin’s design direction remains resolutely focussed on the shape introduced by the DB9 way back in 2004. No bad thing many would argue too, as there’s no denying it’s a good-looking machine.
The spot-the-difference game can carry on inside. It’s got all the hand-finished leather and fine polished wood and metal finishes you’d expect – including the infuriatingly difficult to read shiny dials – in an interior that while feeling special does betray its advancing years with some less than perfect positioning of controls. Thankfully Aston Martin’s decision to bin the old Volvo-sourced sat nav was a good one, though the Garmin system it has co-developed doesn’t work with the same polish as other manufacturer’s systems.
You’ll forgive it a slightly clumsy sat nav system when you push the heavy fob like ‘key’ – Aston Martin cringingly refers to it as the ‘Emotional Control Unit’ – and the engine fires. Emotional control might be difficult, as it’s impossible not to crack a smile as the engine’s starter whirs and the 12-cylinders fire. It’s a familiar unit Aston Martin’s V12, and it’s a fine engine, that in the Virage pushes out 490bhp. Unsurprisingly given its brief that output is pretty much slap bang in between the DB9 and DBS. Its character is too, with a harder, rawer edge to its delivery than the DB9, yet not delivering the sort of raucous, slightly unhinged performance of the DBS.
Select Drive – via the push button marked D high up on the central dashboard – and floor the accelerator and the Virage will reach 62mph in 4.6sec. Keep it that way and it’ll top out at 186bhp, fast enough then, but not in the realm of the most serious of supercars. But the Virage is different, intentionally so, delivering its hardly lacking performance with one foot still firmly in the grand touring camps so eloquently occupied by its DB9 relation. It juggles the middle ground so convincingly you’ve got to ask what rationale would push a buyer towards either end of the DB spectrum when this car sits so convincingly in the middle.
Thank the lessons Aston learned while developing the Rapide, the Virage’s suspension borrowing heavily from Aston’s big four-door. The adaptive damping system allows the Virage to offer fine control while also delivering a supple ride. It’s this, as much as its ample performance that allows the Virage its sensational cross-country pace. The automatic is creamy smooth, but take control and the paddles respond to driver input – unlike so many rival systems that second guess and disobey. Increasing the thresholds of, or removing completely, the electronic stability and traction systems underlines that the Virage is a finely balanced, remarkably biddable driving machine.
As to the looks, it’s not done Porsche any harm sticking to its guns in the styling department, and the Virage adeptly suggests evolution, not revolution is the path Aston Martin should continue to follow.
Top speed: 186mph
Engine: 6.0-litre V12
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheels: 8.5Jx20 front, 11Jx20 rear
Tyres: 245/35 R20 front, 295/30 R20 rear
Torque: 419lb ft at 5750rpm
On sale date: Now