What's New for 2011
The Aston Martin Virage is a new model for 2011, but it's essentially just a DB9 with slightly different styling, more power and a variation of the Rapide's adaptive suspension.
"One hundred years of automotive history has demonstrated that evolution delivers the best solutions in time," says Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez. And evolution is exactly what his brand and the 2011 Aston Martin Virage are all about.
In the beginning, there was the Aston Martin DB9, which eventually gave its "VH" platform architecture, general styling language and interior design to a succession of new Aston models (one smaller, one more exciting and one with more doors). With each new model came subtle improvements that inevitably trickled back to the other cars. Now that evolution continues with the Virage, a new V12-powered car that combines all these familiar elements.
But wait, how is this new car any different from the DB9? Indeed, it's certainly more difficult to see the differences (and the point) compared to the DBS, Rapide and Vantage. The Virage is meant to plug the gap between the DB9 and DBS while offering a variation of the 6.0-liter V12 that falls precisely 20 horsepower between the outputs of its siblings. The styling also has been massaged, though it's tough for even Aston Martin aficionados to tell the Virage apart from the DB9, despite the fender vents. Inside, the low-tech Volvo-sourced navigation system found in other Aston Martins has been replaced by a better Garmin-sourced unit -- an update that will surely trickle down to the rest of the evolutionary line.
The Virage's key distinguishing feature is its enhanced adaptive suspension borrowed from the Rapide, which promises a more sophisticated balance of comfort and control than in either of its DB siblings. Though this suspension has Normal and Sport modes like the suspension setup for the DBS, within each mode there are five different damping settings that are automatically chosen by the car based on road surface conditions. Selecting Sport also gets you sharper throttle response and quicker shifts from the conventional six-speed automatic transmission.
It might cynically be said that Aston Martin is simply trying to force insatiable multimillionaire collectors to gobble up yet another variation of the same car. (Perhaps if you collect all five, they'll give you a nifty hat.) Yet the 2011 Aston Martin Virage seems to have improved the family DNA by taking the best things from all of its various siblings. As a result, it is a more refined driving tool than its siblings and represents a mixture of power and refinement that should be appealing to buyers of luxury GT cars. However, we wonder why the Virage's many subtle improvements couldn't have just been applied to the DB9? Ah, perhaps it's the $28,000 extra that Aston Martin charges. Are such "subtle improvements" really worth the heftier price tag?
Of course, you might see how this car compares to any number of equally exotic sports or grand touring cars like the Audi R8, Bentley Continental GT, Jaguar XKR, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG or Porsche 911 Turbo. All of these are very different cars, with wildly varying price tags, but they're all fast, all exotic and all very expensive. Come to think of it, all but the Benz offer different variations that offer varying degrees of performance and slightly different styling. Hmm, looks like the 2011 Aston Martin Virage isn't the only product of such automotive evolution.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Aston Martin Virage is available in coupe and convertible body styles, the latter of which is known as Volante. A pair of vestigial "+2" seats are standard, but the coupe allows you to replace them with a more useful parcel shelf.
Standard equipment includes 20-inch wheels, high-performance tires, carbon-ceramic brakes, an adaptive suspension, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, front and rear parking sensors, power-folding mirrors, a battery disconnect button (for extended parking), automatic climate control, cruise control, heated eight-way power front seats with power lumbar adjustment and memory functions, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, a navigation system and a premium audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod audio interface. The Volante also gets a fully powered soft top and a wind deflector.
Besides an available Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system, the Virage's options are limited to design and customization items. There's a rather large selection of colors to choose from (including Volante roof colors), plus you can request any paint code Aston Martin or any other manufacturer has ever used. There are also plentiful interior trim types and leather hues available.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive 2011 Aston Martin Virage is powered by a 6.0-liter V12 that produces 490 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. A traditional six-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles is standard. Aston Martin estimates the Virage will go from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. The heavier Volante convertible version should be a few ticks slower.
The 2011 Aston Martin Virage comes with antilock carbon-ceramic brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags (which protect head and torso) and parking sensors. The Volante comes standard with automatically deploying rollover bars.
Interior Design and Special Features
It's difficult to find a surface in the Virage that's not covered in soft leather, while wood, piano black, alloy trim and even sapphire crystal fill in the blanks. Easily deciphered buttons combine with a central LCD screen to create a user-friendly interface, and the Virage is the first Aston to get a greatly improved Garmin-sourced navigation system.
Unfortunately, the Virage maintains the ornate Aston Martin gauges and their strange oppositely rotating dials (the speedometer needle swings clockwise; the tachometer goes counter-clockwise). The speedometer's tiny numbers also render it largely useless, although there's a digital speedometer in the trip computer as a backup.
The driver seat is marvelously comfortable, with ample leg- and headroom for taller drivers. But since no human is likely to ever fit in the backseat, you might as well opt for the parcel shelf for the coupe instead. For larger items, the trunk is actually quite generous for an exotic sports car. As for the Volante, visibility isn't great with the top raised and wind buffeting can be tiresome.
If you're cross-shopping Aston Martins, get ready to hear a lot of the same old descriptions. The 2011 Aston Martin Virage is surprisingly easy to drive, with decent outward visibility and a traditional automatic transmission that delivers smooth shifts without the jerkiness associated with fancier automated manuals. The car is also quite comfortable, with supportive seats and a compliant ride quality. The steering is precise, and the car's 50/50 weight balance assures neutral handling. As for the engine, it provides the same thrilling experience that you get from the DB9 and DBS, which is to say, abundant power accompanied by the glorious song of a wailing V12.
So how is the Virage different from other Aston Martin models? Well, it really comes down to its suspension. While the DB9 and DBS both have adjustable suspensions, the Virage goes a step further with a suspension that automatically adapts to road conditions. The result is not only a better ride but also handling that more adeptly deals with pavement imperfections that would usually knock the DBs out of whack (especially in their Sport modes). While the Virage might not attack corners with the same skill as the pricier DBS, it's likely to be a more livable car on a day-to-day basis.