When: March 2011
Where: Ronda, Spain
What: Aston Martin Virage
Occasion: International first drive
Overall rating: 4/5
Whether it's answering a question nobody asked, or perfectly spanning a gap that needed filling, the Aston Martin Virage adds sharpness to the DB9 without going so far as the DBS. In doing so Aston Martin has created its best DB9-based model yet.
Pricing: €270,600 (based on importing from UK at price of £150,000)
Engine: 6.0-litre V12 petrol
Transmission: six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door coupé
Rivals: Porsche 911 Turbo, Jaguar XKR, Bentley Continental GT
CO2 emissions: data not available
Combined economy: data not available
Tax band: G (€2,100 per annum) Top speed: 300km/h
0-100km/h: 4.6 seconds
Power: 497hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 570Nm at 5,750rpm
In the metal 5/5
Small, detailed changes mark out the Aston Martin Virage. At a casual glance you could write it off as 'just' a DB9, but a re-profiled grille, side sills, rear diffuser and front wings - containing headlamps borrowed from the Rapide - and restyled air vents with integrated side repeaters do subtly, and effectively, give it a sharper look.
Inside, changes are limited, with the usual fine hand-finished leather and cool instrumentation that's a bit tricky to read in the sun. Significantly, Aston Martin has finally binned the hopeless Volvo-sourced satnav and incorporated a far more user friendly system developed in partnership with Garmin.
Driving it 4/5
Like the styling the changes to the DB9's mechanicals to create the Virage are relatively subtle. There's a touch more power, with the 6.0-litre V12 now delivering 497hp and 570Nm of torque. That drops the 0-100km/h time to 4.6 seconds and gives the Virage a potential maximum of 300km/h. The V12 is a wonderful unit, with Aston's engineers developing it to produce over 85 percent of its power at just 1,500rpm. Don't think that means the V12 doesn't revel in the upper rev reaches; it just brings easy flexibility that cements the Virage's credentials as a grand tourer.
An, easy, effortlessly rapid car then, but the Virage boasts a dynamic edge over its DB9 relative. A new Adaptive Damping System manages to blend tight body control with a decent ride, while the reduced unsprung mass of standard Carbon Ceramic Matrix brakes help enable the Virage to offer comfort despite its increased focus. Ample stopping power too, which, given the way the Virage gathers pace, is useful.
There's not a night and day difference to the way the Aston Virage drives over the DB9, but there's greater finesse and feedback when you push it harder. The steering offers good weighting and decent feel and the revised Touchtronic II six-speed auto shifts smoothly - and unlike so many paddle-shifted autos actually responds quickly to driver inputs at the paddles.
Hold the button for the revised Dynamic Stability Control down for four seconds and Track Mode is engaged. With the electronics thresholds raised the Virage exhibits fine poise, balance and friendliness up to and beyond its limits of grip. Tighter bends can be exited with a quarter turn of steering lock, with the Virage feeling surprisingly wieldy and agile despite its size.
What you get for your money 4/5
Aston isn't saying exactly how much the Virage will cost you yet, but figure on around €270,000. Unsurprisingly, that's bang in the middle ground between a DB9 and DBS. Given the standard fitment of those Carbon Ceramic Matrix brakes, the 20hp increase and the sharper looks we can't see many buyers walking into an Aston Martin showroom and opting for a standard DB9 - or indeed the DBS.
The car we drove features Aston Martin's optional Sports Seats. They're superb, though they cost a few thousand Euro more and require the deletion of the rear seats for additional luggage space. Given the limited space in the back that's no loss though, and suits the more sporting focus of the Virage better.
The middle ground might not sound appealing but the Aston Martin Virage really does span the two opposites that are the DB9 and DBS rather intelligently. Retaining the grand touring credentials of the DB9 but adding sharper responses and increased performance delivers a fantastic all-round proposition. It's not as unhinged as the firecracker DBS, but it's all the better for it. To write the Virage off as an exercise in model management and range manipulation does it a disservice, as it's the finest choice in the V12 coupé line-up.