Prior to 1964, unless you were a die hard sports car aficionado, most Americans had never heard of Aston Martin. Then the James Bond movie Goldfinger came out, and almost overnight, everyone in the world knew what an Aston Martin was. The DB5 used in the movie became the most recognizable and talked about car on the planet. For the movie, it came equipped with all manner of spy gadgets including a GPS tracking screen, machine guns, oil slick sprayer, nail spreader and smoke screen, extendable spinner wheel knock-offs, bullet proof shield, and a red button located on the gear shift knob to activate the passenger ejector seat.
|1. A 5.9L V12 making 497 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque motivate the Virage. An 8000 rpm redline is near unheard of for an engine this size.
2. All the usual Aston luxuries accoutrements are available, including hand crafted interior and a Bang & Olufsen stereo.
3. The Virage is slotted between the more touring-oriented DB9 and the hardcore DBS.
4. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but if you have to ask…
For the times, that DB5 was about as good as it got for powerful British sports cars. It boasted 282 horsepower from its 6 cylinder motor, and would scoot to 60 miles per hour in 8.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 135 miles per hour. And while you could buy Fords new top of the line Mustang, (which also appeared in that film as a victim of those extendable spinner knock-offs) for about $3,000, the DB5 would set you back about 13 Grand!
The 2012 Aston Martin Virage Volante, which slots in between their the DB9 and top of the line DBS model, is filled with all manner of amenities and gadgets which even James Bond couldn’t have imagined, including a real pop-up navigation screen, but it lacks the anti-personnel features of the DB5 movie car. Today, all one has to do is depress the accelerator pedal, and unleash the 490 horsepower from its 6-Liter V-12 engine, which scoots from zero to 60 in only 4.6 seconds, and then keep charging up to the top speed of 183 miles per hour, to leave anyone chasing you in the dust. It’s much simpler and even more fun.
LOOKS LIKE A MILLION BUCKS
Automotive journalists are not supposed to get hung up on the price of a car, nor the marque, when evaluating it for review. But it is almost impossible not to be taken it by the aura of a car like this. And let’s face it, that’s part of what the well heeled buyers are looking for when they write a check for nearly a quarter of a million bucks. They want to feel like James Bond every time they enter the car, and want to promote that mystique to everyone else on the road who sees them driving it.
The Volante is a treat for the eyes with its bold sleek styling that oozes sex appeal. The familiar six sided grill with its five aluminum slats sits low across its nose, just above the trapezoidal lower air intake with flared corners that flow into the upswept creased side sills. The single bi-xenon headlamps, which feature a strip of trendy LED lights follow the lines of the car’s flanks to give a more crisp and modern look from the front. Just behind the front wheel arches surrounding the 10-spoke, 20” graphite wheels, are the iconic Aston Martin side strakes, with 6 LED lights that activate with the turn signals, and flow into the swan wing doors. The car’s rear haunches are accentuated with wide rear wheel wells and the body colored rear diffuser enhances the wide look of the rear deck. Dual chrome exhaust ports peek out from the blacked out rear fascia. This is a special car, and it looks the part.
ASTON’S FINEST INTERIOR
Slip into the Virage’s cockpit and you are immediately greeted by the smell of seven of the finest Bridge of Weir leather hides that make up the interior, and contrasting double stitching accents the entire cabin. Seventy man hours of bespoke craftsmanship goes into each interior, and it shows in the fine details. The heated seats are supportive and comfortably bolstered to caress the driver’s body. Black lacquer and brushed aluminum serve as contrasting appointments rather than traditional wood trim. All the controls are well laid out and easy to use, and feel right to the touch. The one exception is the round dial “joystick” control for the Garmin Nav System.Trust us; there is no joy in trying to operate that dial.
Cylindrical Bang & Olufsen speakers pop out of the corners of the dash when the radio is turned on and recede when turned off. The headliner for the cloth top feels luxurious and insulates the cabin from noise and cold quite effectively. A simple push button drops the top quickly where it’s hidden beneath a hard cover. While the Virage is technically a 2+2, equipped with rear seats, it would be almost impossible to have anyone other than small children to actually use them. A parcel shelf would be a better use of the space.
HARDLY A BOULEVARD CRUISER
Insert the elegant crystal key fob into the dash to power up this Aston Martin and the V-12 sings a pleasant song. Mash the gas pedal and it turns into a nasty growl as the ponies and torque push you back into the seat all the way up to the 8000rpm redline. All that power and torque is sent to the rear wheels via a carbon fiber prop shaft and mated to a 6-speed Touchtronic II automatic transmission mounted on the transaxle contributing to perfect 50/50 weight balance.
Aiding driver control, a ‘Sport’ button on the facia allows the driver to select a sharper throttle response and faster gear changes while also holding the gears without automatically shifting up at the rev limiter. With all the power and torque of the engine, there is always plenty of grunt available for quick passes, regardless of what mode you set it for. Of course if you choose to handle all the gear changes yourself, stationery paddle shifters are mounted behind the wheel, and since they don’t move with the steering wheel, it takes a little time to get used to. But all shifts are quick and immediate, and it is fun to flick through the gears yourself.
The Virage’s dynamics have been tuned to deliver an engaging yet more refined driving experience, where the driver can extract the maximum performance from the car with greater ease. A newly developed Adaptive Damping System (ADS) intelligently ‘reads’ the road to provide optimum road holding, adapting to different conditions. The system now selects up to five different stiffness settings within normal mode, and five stiffer settings within sport mode.
On the road, the Aston Martin Virage Volante handles extremely well. While the car generally feels solid, with the top down it still had more cowl shake and judder than we would have liked or expected in a car of this price. The Virage corners with confidence and despite the 4166 lb. heft of the car there is not much body lean. And knowing that all the electronics are working to keep you out of trouble, the driver can explore the handling capabilities to its fullest, without fear of trashing their large investment. A heavy throttle powering out of a turn will both delight and frighten you until the traction control takes hold and gets everything back into shape before the next turn arises. This car loves to play on twisties, and it will eat up the miles eagerly.
Of course, with all the power and cornering capabilities, brakes are an important part of the equation. The Virage comes equipped with Carbon Ceramic Matrix (CCM) brakes as standard; other cars in this price range usually offer ceramic brakes as an option which usually cost more than a compact car. These brakes deliver progressive and tremendous stopping power. Powerful, and resistant to fade and much lighter than conventional cast-iron discs, the CCM braking system means that not only is the overall vehicle weight reduced, but the weight saving at each wheel means that a better balance between ride comfort and handling can be struck. Lower rotational mass also provides improved acceleration.
It would be impossible not to like this car. It is a unique and thrilling visceral driving experience because of the power and handling capabilities, but also because of its price and heritage. Each owner will bring his own unique set of mental images and attitude to the driving experience and it will be reflected back to him while driving the Aston Martin Virage Volante. And just as with any car in this price range . . . that is a big part of the ownership satisfaction.