Newport Convertible engineering was first US coach builder which designed, engineered and distributed Aston Martin Vanquish Convertible.
If you have to ask whether the new Aston Martin Virage is really worth roughly 30 grand more than the near identical-looking DB9, here’s a tip: Don’t ask Ulrich Bez. The mercurial German, who’s headed Aston since 2000, has little time for those who don’t appreciate the subtle nuances that define the individual models in the company’s 14-car lineup, all of which, apart from the stubby Toyota iQ-based Cygnet, look remarkably similar. “Our cars look like Aston Martins,” he says defiantly. “If you don’t like the look, buy another car.”
As Aston Martin design director Marek Reichman walks you around the new Virage, showing you a new surface here, a new line there, and all the fresh detailing in the new headlights, grille, and front and rear fascias, it is possible to appreciate how different this car is from the DB9 and DBS models that bracket it in terms of price, power, and performance. But in today’s ADD-addled world, you can’t help but wonder whether anyone will notice. To all but the aficionados, this new Aston looks pretty much like every other new Aston of the past 10 years.
It’s much the same when you drive it. If you’ve spent a lot of time in Astons recently, you’ll immediately appreciate that the Virage is a little quicker and a little more athletic than the DB9, yet feels smoother and more refined. It’s like a DBS dipped in molasses; the underlying edginess is coated with a sweet layer of tactile linearity that is truly delightful.
A new inlet manifold has liberated an extra 20 hp compared with the DB9, pushing the output of the hand-built 6.0-liter V-12 under the hood to 490 hp at 6500 rpm. The extra power has come at the expense of some torque — it’s down 23 lb-ft compared with the DB9’s V-12 — but the shorter final drive ratio appropriated from the DBS helps make the most of the engine’s appetite for higher revs. Aston Martin claims the Virage will cover the 0-60-mph sprint in less than 4.5 seconds, and on the road it delivers smooth, elastic thrust right through the rev range.
The engine drives through a rear-mounted six-speed automatic that has been cleverly calibrated to approximate the precision and controllability of an automated manual transmission. The shifts aren’t quite as crisp as the best of the dual clutch manuals, but you do get manual control the moment you actuate one of the paddles, and the car will stay in the gear you select, even with the V-12 nuzzling the rev limiter. A sport mode button sharpens the shifts, altering the shift algorithms when the transmission is left in Drive, and changes the throttle mapping as well.