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Future models - Aston Martin - Virage

Geneva show: Aston Virage bridges the gap

Virage variant: The name suggests an all-new model but the new Aston Martin is a blend of DB9 and DBS.

Aston Martin expands line-up with new sports-luxury Virage between DB9 and DBS

Aston Martin logo23 Feb 2011

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

ASTON Martin is set to reveal a new-age Virage at the Geneva motor show next week, reviving a nameplate not seen since the death of Aston’s boxy coupe of the same name in the mid-1990s.

Do not be fooled, though, as the latest Virage is a variant of the DB line-up, pitched between the DB9 and DBS and intended to plug the immense $124,000 price gap that separates them.

Pricing for the Virage will be confirmed at the show, where it will take pride of place on the Aston stand alongside the tweaked V8 Vantage S coupe and Toyota iQ-based Cygnet luxo-city car.

Aston Martin Australia and New Zealand operations manager Marcel Fabris told GoAuto that Australian Virage deliveries would begin arriving in July and that about 15 examples were expected to find homes in Australia this year.

However, Australian Aston Martin dealers this week opened their order books for the Virage which goes into production at Aston’s high-tech Gaydon facility in Warwickshire next month.

Given the Virage’s positioning between the $353,558 DB9 and $477,593 DBS coupes, expect Australian-delivered cars to weigh in at more than $400,000 in hard-top form, with Aston’s customary $28,000 premium for the convertible ‘Volante’ format.

44 center imageBritish pricing for the coupe has been indicated at £150,000 – the half-way point between the existing models.

Sitting on the latest development of the aluminium VH architecture that has underpinned all Astons (except the Cygnet) since 2003, the Virage will be available from launch in coupe and Volante convertible guises.

Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez said: "Virage is the next level of evolution in our VH architecture strategy and it does everything with the perfection that you would expect today. It is the perfect balance of opposites." As if to hammer home the fact that the Virage represents the median point in Aston’s grand tourer range, the power output of its hand-built V12 is 365kW – an average of the 350kW and 380kW produced by the DB9 and DBS respectively.

Torque however, is aligned with the DBS, which at 570Nm is 30Nm lower than that of the DB9, but we will have to wait until Geneva for official acceleration and top speed figures.

Power finds the rear wheels through an updated ‘Touchtronic II’ six-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shift-operated manual override.

In addition to sharpened throttle response and stiffened suspension, the Virage’s sports mode sets the new gearbox to provide faster changes and increase driver involvement by preventing automatic upshifts at the rev-limiter.

Behind the DBS-esque alloy wheels lurk standard-fit carbon ceramic brakes – also like those of the DBS – to provide fade-resistant, potent stopping power while reducing weight.

Aston says the brakes improve acceleration due to lower rotational mass compared with conventional discs and that the unsprung weight advantages make it easier to optimise the ride/handling balance.

The British sportscar firm says the Virage will “deliver an engaging yet more refined driving experience, where the driver can extract the maximum performance from the car with greater ease”.

It attributes at least part of this to a new active suspension system, which can react to road conditions in order to improve grip. The system can select from five stiffness settings in normal mode, with a further five available in sports mode.

The interior raises the bar for Aston, with stylish glass buttons and leather upholstery with coloured piping that is complemented by contrasting stitching to create a ‘pinstripe’ detail on the centre console and door trims.

Also inside, the Virage addresses criticism levelled at Aston Martin for poor sat-nav performance and usability by debuting a new Garmin-based satellite navigation system with high-resolution 6.5-inch display that is claimed to offer simplified operation.

A halfway house between the aggressive, all-out DBS and the more comfort-oriented DB9, the Virage shares the wider track and bulging haunches of the DBS and has its own styling theme that simultaneously references the One-77 flagship and simpler-looking DB9.

Compared with the front-bumper complexity of the DBS, the Virage has a cleaner look, comprising shiny, One-77-inspired aluminium grille slats, a one-piece black mesh lower air intake and a slim chin spoiler. The look is complemented by silver and black mesh bonnet vents.

The Virage’s front guards are also unique, with their flanks exhibiting a reinterpretation of Aston’s trademark side strakes which extend further along the front doors – with the vents capped, rather than split by the LED indicators.

Other than the redesigned strakes, unique side skirts identify the Virage, having a more sculpted look than those of the DB9 but without the aerodynamic fussiness of the DBS.

The Virage also has its own elongated, angular headlights, with One-77-style integrated LED daytime running lights to comply with European legislation that became effective this month.

At the rear, the exaggerated boot-lid lip of the DBS is present and correct but gone is the race-look, carbon-fibre diffuser, replaced with a subtle aerodynamic aid that appears to be capped with a disappointing-looking swathe of black plastic housing two highly-visible reversing sensors.

Standard kit will include heated seats, cruise control, satellite navigation, Bluetooth and 700W premium sound system with iPod integration. Colour, trim and equipment options will be announced at Geneva.

Virage, a word of French origin, can be taken to mean a bend, turn, curve or a change or shift in orientation. During the previous Aston Martin Virage’s development in the 1980s, the company sent out requests for suggestions of what they should name the new model that Aston says was “destined to open a new chapter in the company's history”.

Aston Martin is flying high in Australia, with sales up 63.5 per cent from 74 cars in 2009 to 121 in 2010 with the top seller being the V8 Vantage range. As GoAuto has reported, a single Aston Martin One-77 will make it here.

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