24 February 2011 - 11:00
Brand new Aston to debut at Geneva
If you want to go under the radar, driving an Aston isn't the way to go. These are not introverted cars. But if you insist, the new Virage is the nearest thing to a Q-car in the range... and no, that's not a Bond reference. Visually, it impersonates the DB9, but underneath, its heart beats a whole lot faster.
Aston calls it a car that splits the DB9 and the DBS. Which is a scarily small gap to aim for, like driving at a lane divider without lifting. (Mind you, Porsche has long made a habit of wedging half-a-dozen 911 variations into gaps no bigger.) The Virage is meant to get pretty much the V12 performance and cornering of the DBS with the subtler looks and GT ability of the DB9.
We reckon that's only the start of it. The Rapide is why. That slinky four-door turned out far better than we expected - slick and smooth-riding but with an iron grip on the road. The Virage takes what they learnt with the Rapide and brings it to Aston's two-door line.
At first glance, the Virage, which comes as a coupe or a convertible, is a DB9 with a bit of modernisation. But look harder. It's not just about the all-new front light clusters, or the simple lower grille and splitter, or the wider sills and new back-end diffuser. The track is wider, like a DBS's, and the car sits on massive Pirelli P Zero 295/30 R20 rear tyres. To swallow them, the rear wings are fatter than a DB9's, and the front wings are composite to keep them light.
The chassis is calibrated to be as capable as a DBS's, but more comfortable and easier to push hard. Lightweight carbon brakes and forged wheels mean that over any kind of road corrugations the handling and the ride both stand to gain. The dampers are adaptive for the same reason. The V12 has 490bhp, near as dammit the power of the DBS, but more torque at lower revs. It's been calibrated to work well with the standard Touchtronic automatic transmission.
To keep it lighter, the photo car has the option of one-piece carbon seats and a plus-zero rear. The leather is a new sort: smaller pieces than usual, stitched by people who've had weeks of extra training. Why the photo car is done out in the same colours as a Lufthansa business-class cabin might be a question for Ulrich Bez, Aston's German boss. Better news: the clunky old satnav has been ditched for a Garmin-based one with new Aston graphics.
So there you are. A louder core than a DB9 but a quieter wrapper. One obvious tip for travelling incognito, though: best not to order this tangerine-scream paintjob.