How long does it take to assemble a fine piece of automotive art? Aston Martin says some 200 man-hours. And the Gaydon, Warwickshire-based automaker of premium vehicles will spend those 200 hours bringing the new Virage back from the great beyond.
In its day, the original Virage was heralded as the next great Aston, a daring project that took a bold step away from the V8s of the time. Today, there's little pressure on the new model. It will stand well on its own, slotted between the DB9 and DBS, and presumably earn a high amount of automotive respect.
The very first Virage came off the line more than 20 years ago, and offered a five-speed manual or a three-speed automatic. Version 1.0 appeared at the 1988 Birmingham Motor Show in England, and the Virage Volante followed with a 1990 debut. Production ran from 1988 to 1995. As viewed through our modern eyes, the Virage wasn't particularly powerful--the 5.4-liter V-8 pushed out 330 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque as a coupe, and 300 horsepower as a convertible. Each weighed a tad over 3900 pounds and was fitted with de Dion rear axles with trailing-arm suspensions out back, simplistic parts that would be an unusual sight on today's sports cars. In 1992, a more powerful 6.3-liter V-8 entered the mix, eventually hitting 465 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Even more incredibly, 1992 was the first time in Aston Martin's history that the now-ubiquitous ABS was offered. The Virage cost well over $200,000, similar to today's base price.
The new Virage will have 12 cylinders. Even if you don't plan on ever owning an Aston, any enthusiast should at least hope to experience the aural composure afforded by such an exceptionally large crankshaft and 12 cylinders. The 6.0-liter V-12 with 490 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque is part of the tried-and-true Virage formula, capable of sending the vehicle from 0-62 mph in 4.6 seconds with a top speed of 186 mph, according to Aston. Roughly 20 hours are needed to prepare the famed engine alone.
Once prepared, the 12-cylinder is hoisted into Aston's highly versatile aluminum VH platform, which is also used by the rest of the lineup. A six-speed automatic transmission manages the power and sends it through a carbon-fiber driveshaft to the limited-slip rear differential, where Pirelli PZero tires measuring 295/30/20 await duty. It's just a little less glamorous up front with 20-inch wheels wrapped in 245/35 rubber.
The Virage will be sold as a coupe and in Volante convertible trim. Attached to the chassis are the usual performance car specifics, including double A-arms at the corners with incorporated anti-dive geometry for optimal braking and handling. A new Adaptive Damping System with Sport mode takes great care of the damper settings and comes with a total of 10 driver-selectable damping settings: five for normal mode and five for Sport mode. In Sport, the Virage alters the throttle mapping and readies the transmission to hold gears.
The Virage's brakes are serious business. The standard rotors are manufactured from what Aston calls "Carbon Ceramic Matrix," and no pure road car needs the level of heat fade resistance and brake performance the carbon-ceramic material provides. The rotors are nearly 28 pounds lighter than comparable iron blanks. Biting into the surely shrill-sounding, 15.7-inch front rotors are six-pot calipers; the rear brakes use four-piston binders on 14.2-inch rotors. Feeling the need to show off? Aston will paint the calipers black, gray, red, or yellow.
The brakes may look great, but English car aficionados will then turn their sights to the interior. As if it were customary, Aston Martin unabashedly states that the Virage's interior requires 70 man-hours of "expert craftsmanship." The hand-stitched Bridge of Weir leather requires seven hides from Scandinavia, which semi-explains the car's premium price tag (cows aren't cheap, after all). Otherwise, it's business as usual, with glass buttons occupying the center stack alongside an analog clock. To operation the transmission, a series of glass switches need only to be depressed on the stack. For manual mode, a set of magnesium leather-clad shifter paddles give drivers the control they need.
Somewhere in the annals of time, designers decided aluminum equated performance, so there's plenty of aluminum inside, as well as hand-polished wood accents. Power everything and a 700-watt premium sound system with Dolby Pro Logic II support, Apple iPod integration, and a 6.5-inch high-res display mesh seamlessly. An optional 1000-watt sound system brings the bump if needed. And although the coupe is set up for a 2+2 arrangement, the rear seat can be deleted if more storage space or less weight is desired. The Virage Volante will always maintain the four-seat setup.
Though Aston Martins share a great deal of exterior design language, the designers wanted the Virage to have a presence all its own. To that end, HID headlights flank the front end, and a new aluminum front metal grille reminds us of the One-77 halo car. The front wings are subtly placed, but they're unique to this particular Aston. Six LEDS act as the side-repeater lights in each headlight, and the signature swan wing doors open out and up at 12 degrees to avoid scraping the curb. Anyone who has ever parallel-parked a low-slung car will understand what we're talking about here.
While the Virage's straight-line speed may not sound all that impressive, customers won't be buying it because it's the fastest piece of iron, er, aluminum, out there. They'll buy it because of the experience, and because they can.
2012 Aston Martin Virage/Virage Volante
Base price: $200,000 (MT est)
Vehicle layout: Front-engine, RWD, 2-4-pass, 2-door coupe/convertible
Engine: 6.0L/490-hp/420-lb-ft DOHC 48-valve V-12
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Curb weight: 3900-4200 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase: 107.9 in
Length x width x height: 185.2 x 75.0 x 50.5-50.7 in 0-62 mph 4.6 sec (mfr est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ: N/A
Energy consumption, city/hwy: N/A CO2 emissions N/A