First Drive: 2012 Aston Martin Virage

When a partner is always the most beautiful person in the room, you're willing to overlook dicey table manners. In the Aston's private salon, hand-lined with seven Bridge of Weir hides, the spinach-in-teeth includes a tiny, wan audio display; plasticky, basics-only seat controls, and a shortage of front-seat travel. And the Virage's new navigation system, co-developed with Garmin, still trails what you get in a $25,000 Hyundai.

At our hotel, fronted by a Madagascar orange Virage, Aston CEO Ulrich Bez strafed any attempt to link the Virage and the DB9. "There are no comparisons," said the famously peremptory Bez, apparently excepting their bonded-aluminum chassis, basic powertrain, suspension hardware, and Siamese-twin cabins. Yet far more than the DBS, the Virage does come across as a DB9.5 -- a way to keep fickle, six-figure whales from drifting off to other brands. If that bid is transparent, it's also defensible; no different from a Bentley or any other rival that can't revolutionize lineups on a clockwork basis.

"People do like new cars," said Ian Minards, Aston product director, wearying of loaded questions over the Virage's provenance.

The gobsmacked masses who cart their own luggage to avoid tipping valets won't care where the Virage fits in the Aston firmament. They will perceive its driver as a minor God, stepping aside as they would never do for the tanned Hercules astride an Italian bull. If that mythical standing outranks base horsepower, the Virage is your kind of chariot.

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