2012 Aston Martin Virage Convertible - FROM $223,295
Though it's not much different from Aston's own DB9, the 2012 Aston Martin Virage comes with a few worthwhile upgrades while still providing stunning good looks and loads of character.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Aston Martin Virage is unchanged.
The 2012 Aston Martin Virage quite literally fills in the gap between the merely splendid DB9 and the exotic DBS in terms of aggressive styling, engine output, suspension calibration and price. From the layman's perspective, there's not a whole lot of differentiation here, and indeed it'll be tough for even Aston Martin aficionados to tell the Virage apart from its siblings at a glance. But considered solely on merit, there's a lot right about the Virage.
At its core, the Virage is built from the most current, most evolved version of the "VH" platform architecture that began in the DB9 and has since expanded to include every Aston Martin presently sold. Introduced at the close of last year, the V12-powered Virage promotes Aston Martin's design language evolution as well. The sparingly sculpted body is unmistakably Aston Martin, but with a sharper, more contemporary flair that was intended to take the company into the next generation.
As is the case with two-thirds of current Aston Martins, the driving force for the Virage is a hand-built aluminum 6.0-liter V12. Twenty horsepower on either side of the Virage's output will land you in either DB9 territory or the DBS's neighborhood. However, unlike the DB9, the Virage comes with standard racing-inspired carbon-ceramic disc brakes and 20-inch wheels -- just like the more dedicated DBS.
But there's more to an Aston Martin than hardware, or even software. The experience of driving an Aston Martin is supposed to be pleasurable on several levels: audibly, visually and even "olfactorily." The Virage interior is practically wallpapered in aromatic, premium leather, plus wood, alloy and piano black trim. If you don't care for the colors Aston Martin offers, you can pay extra to have any color matched inside or out. Modern conveniences like smartphone connectivity, a premium audio system and navigation are standard, but you won't find a reverse camera -- best be careful of that shapely rear end.
So is the roughly $20,000 leap from the DB9 to the Virage worthwhile? Some manufacturers charge nearly that much for a carbon-ceramic brake system upgrade alone, plus you get the nifty "road-reading" suspension and 20 more horses under the Virage's hood. Seems like a deal to us, and perhaps even more of a bargain than the next $70,000 jump up to the DBS.
There are a number of other exotic sports or grand touring cars like the Audi R8, Bentley Continental GT, Jaguar XKR, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG or Porsche 911 Turbo. Each offers a unique motoring experience with wildly varying price tags. The 2012 Aston Martin Virage might not be the ultimate driver's car, but what it lacks in maximum thrills, it makes up for with stunning good looks, everyday drivability and loads of character.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Aston Martin Virage is available in coupe and convertible body styles, the latter of which is known as Volante. A pair of vestigial "plus-2" seats are standard, but the coupe allows you to replace them with a more useful, weight-saving parcel shelf at no added cost.
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 sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jacks and an iPod/USB 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 including five distinct wheel designs. There's a rather large selection of colors from which to choose (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 2012 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 and claims a top speed of 186 mph. The heavier Volante convertible version should be a few ticks slower.
The 2012 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 additionally 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. As a testament to the old-world craftsmanship Aston Martin maintains to this day, every Virage interior utilizes seven premium hides from Scandinavia and requires more than 70 man-hours to complete.
Easily deciphered buttons combine with a central screen to create a user-friendly interface, and the novelty of the dash-mounted transmission selector (with individual "P, R, N, D, L" glass push-buttons) will never grow old. The Virage was the first Aston to be endowed with the greatly improved Garmin-sourced navigation system and 6.5-inch high-definition screen, though admittedly, Aston Martin's electronics interface is a little behind the times.
The Virage also maintains the ornate Aston Martin gauges and their strange oppositely rotating dials (the speedometer needle swings clockwise; the tachometer goes counterclockwise). 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 offered in the coupe instead. For larger items, the trunk is actually quite generous for an exotic sports car at 6.5 cubic feet for the coupe and 5.4 cubic feet for the Volante. As for the Volante, visibility isn't great with the top raised and wind buffeting can be tiresome.
If you're cross-shopping within the Aston Martin garage, get ready to hear many of the same old descriptions. The 2012 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. Selecting the Sport setting noticeably increases throttle response and shift speed, and allows gears to be held manually all the way to redline without automatically upshifting.
The car is also quite comfortable, with supportive, heated seats and a compliant ride quality. The electric-assist 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 styling, engine output and suspension calibration. While the DB9 has an adjustable suspension, the Virage goes a step further with a suspension similar to the top-tier DBS that automatically adapts to road conditions with five programmed stiffness settings within two driver-selectable modes. The result is not only a better ride (that is nevertheless still quite firm) but also handling that more adeptly deals with pavement imperfections that would usually knock the DB9 out of whack. As the newest model in the Aston Martin line, the Virage might not attack corners with the same skill as the more purposeful DBS, but it's likely to be a more livable car on a day-to-day basis.