New £150k coupé and convertible revive famous name; Positioned between DB9 and DBS; V12 engine
1 March 2011

A new DB9-sized Aston Martin, which revives the famous Virage name of the 1990s, has been launched at the Geneva show. The new coupé and convertible models — priced from about £150,000 and available in a choice of two-seat and 2+2 configurations — fits between Aston’s staple model, the £125,000 DB9, and its £175,000 DBS flagship.

Aston CEO Ulrich Bez says the new Virage is designed to look less aggressive and be easier to drive than the DBS, Aston’s fastest car. It incorporates a new round of NVH, suspension and equipment improvements, many of which were developed for the Rapide saloon.

“The Virage is the next evolution for Aston Martin,” says Bez. “We have set new benchmarks, and now we move on again. There is no need for a revolution.

See Autocar's exclusive studio pics of the new Virage - now updated with Geneva show pics

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The Virage styling makes no attempt to disguise its relationship to the DBS, whose major dimensions (including front and rear tracks) it follows closely. Nevertheless, chief designer Marek Reichman has used new wings, sills, grille and a new front bumper to give the Virage a simpler, more elegant look. The bi-xenon headlights, shared with the Rapide, give the car a ‘technical’ character, as does the new grille; its five horizontal metal bars now have a wind-cheating section.

A simple, blacked-out lower scoop feeds cooling air to the radiator, and at the rear there is a new underbody diffuser that changes and softens the car’s rear aspect. Aston insiders agree that this is the most beautiful iteration of the DB9-based range yet, though not the most aggressive.

The Virage uses Aston’s familiar 5935cc, 48-valve V12 but gets a unique power output — 490bhp at 6500rpm — which places it neatly between the 470bhp DB9 and 510bhp DBS. The Virage shares its peak torque of 420lb ft at 5750rpm with the DBS, and drives a new version of ZF’s six-speed automatic gearbox. Aston calls this ’box the Touchtronic II.

Read more on Aston's other Geneva star, the V8 Vantage S

It can be controlled by shift paddles and is configurable in various modes, topped by a Sport setting that cuts shift times and eliminates automatic change-up at the rev limiter. The Virage gets a shorter final drive ratio (3.46:1) to ensure it has a sub-5.0sec 0-60mph time. Top speed is 186mph.

Aston’s familiar but much-developed VH platform, made at Gaydon from bonded aluminium extrusions and folded sheet panels, is the basis for the Virage, as it is for all current Astons. However, chief platform engineer Dave Doody says the Virage’s refinements make it the best-developed model so far. There’s a new shear panel under the rear chassis to improve rigidity and cut noise transmitted through the rear end, plus extra detail refinements and soundproofing.

All suspension bushes have been rerated and the Bilstein adaptive dampers are modified to have slightly more supple settings than the DBS. They still scroll through five rates, but in contrast to the DBS system, the Virage’s dampers try to adopt the most supple settings for the conditions.

The standard brakes are carbon-ceramic discs, which Doody says are particularly easy to modulate, give spectacular retardation, fade a little less than cast iron discs and save 12.5kg. The car rides on new-design 20-inch wheels, and there is an optional design available.

See Autocar's exclusive studio pics of the new Virage

Inside, the Virage gets extra soundproofing on the front and rear bulkheads, while the convertible’s fabric roof gets a new layer of Thinsulate and now erects and retracts more quickly. There is an updated Garmin sat-nav system — destined to spread throughout the Aston range — and the car gets impressive-looking glass buttons for its major fascia functions.

Buyers get a choice of standard or carbon-shell sports seats, and Reichman and his team have designed a special wefted seam treatment for the leather that is unique to this model.

The Virage and Virage Volante (which costs about £10,000 more) will go on sale in March. Bez believes the new model will attract a new group of buyers, seeking an Aston in the “huge” price gap between the DB9 and DBS. “Our competitors offer many alternatives these days,” he says. “We have to do the same.”

Steve Cropley

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