ASTON MARTIN VIRAGE VOLANTE REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Luxury sports convertible
Price: $407,300 plus on-roads
Fuel Economy (claimed): 15.0 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 22.0 l/100km
The Aston Martin Virage is the middle-child in the British marque’s three-car grand tourer line-up, and it’s also the newest.
Certainly, it has the universally-recognised curvaceous styling of the winged badge, and, with AM’s sensational 5.9-litre V12, it absolutely sounds the part.
On test is the Volante – convertible in AM-speak – which means it could potentially be more ‘poseur’ than ‘powerhaus’, but don’t jump to any conclusions just yet.
The Virage Volante has a bit more up its sleeve than just good-looks.
Quality: The Virage’s interior will not fail to impress even the harshest of critics.
From the softness and smoothness of the gorgeous charcoal leather to the exquisite machining of the superb Bang & Olufsen tweeters (which rise theatrically from the dashboard), the workmanship is first class.
Each Virage takes over 200 man-hours to create; the interior alone takes 70.
The Quantum Silver exterior paintwork is flawless too.
We do have to mark it down for the useless sunvisors and make-up mirrors which are warped - as in every Aston Martin (you’ll just have to do your lipstick elsewhere).
Comfort: Aston Martin makes some of the best sports seats in the business. They not only look the part, but fit like a glove and all controls (including the push-button auto) are in easy reach.
The Virage’s (optional) front Sports Seats, which electrically adjust in 10 directions, are amazingly comfortable.
The plus-two back seats, though, are really only extra storage spaces with seatbelts.
Lastly, while the long doors make getting in and out a breeze, a bit of yoga is required in tight parking spaces.
Equipment: Aston Martin has upgraded the previously infuriating satellite navigation to a more sensible (and clearer) Garmin-based unit.
Working out the infotainment functions with the small joystick, buttons and tiny screen can take a while, but the menus are comprehensive.
All the basic inclusions are there, such as cruise control, auto headlights, auto wipers, Bluetooth, parking sensors (front and rear), tyre pressure monitor and, the best inclusion of all, an Aston Martin umbrella fitted in the boot.
An iPod connector resides under the armrest, and if you’ve got the money, you can option up to the fabulous Bang & Olufsen Beosound system. Your ears will thank you for it.
Storage: Being a convertible, the Virage Volante’s bootspace is compromised to make room for a roof sinking behind the cabin. There are only 152 litres there to play with.
There are two cupholders and nooks for business cards, mobile phone and other small ancillaries (and you can always throw a few items onto the otherwise useless rear seats).
On The Road
Driveability: If you’ve never heard an Aston Martin V12 on full song, then you’re missing one of life’s great experiences.
It starts with a bark but settles into a subdued idle. Press the Sport button at the bottom of the centre stack (there are two buttons, Sport and Track) and the engine wakes up. From 3000rpm, exhaust flaps open, letting the full volume of 365kW echo off buildings and walls in a glorious trumpeting cacophony. Switch it off, and everything calms down.
Backing up the V12 is a creamy-smooth six-speed automatic; a pull on the column-mounted paddles lets you take manual control. In Sport mode you can tag the limiter, and shifts come a fraction faster.
The auto is rear-mounted, giving the Virage perfect 50:50 weight distribution for sublimely-balanced handling.
The Virage’s bonded aluminium construction makes for an extremely solid tub, meaning no shimmy or wobble over bumps despite having the roof cut off.
As a result, it’ll take switchbacks with relative ease, and on open sweepers it invites pressing on. But it’s not really a track car - the Virage Volante weighs a not-insubstantial 1890kg, which is 95kg heavier than the coupe, and it feels it.
As a result, the benchmark 0-100km/h sprint takes 4.6 seconds – it uses all 570Nm to get the Virage up and running and fuel consumption suffers accordingly.
The steering deserves special praise – nothing other than perfect weight, feel and feedback. It’s extremely rewarding, and turns a monotonous task like visiting the in-laws into an engaging experience; the drive there, that is.
Just watch that long nose when parking, it’s easy to scrape the front lip.
Refinement: The beauty of having the Sport button at hand is you can have the engine subdued, or raucous brass-band loud. And at idle the V12 awaits your command with minimal vibration.
At normal freeway speeds, with the roof down, you can comfortably hold a conversation; while with the roof up, the cabin is very hushed. At autobahn speeds though, it’s roof up all the way.
Suspension: The two-mode dampers do a superb job in providing the right balance between sports handling when ‘on the hunt’ and smoothing out rough edges when not. The ride in either mode is firm (obviously more so in Track mode) but it’s not crashy despite running on diamond-polished 20-inch wheels.
Braking: The Virage uses carbon-ceramic discs as standard that whine a little when cold. Braking force is huge though with 398mm diameter fronts with six-piston callipers and 360mm rears with four-piston callipers. Plus, they don’t fade when hot.
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety features: Dual-stage front airbags, pre-tensioning seatbelts, IsoFix child seat points in rear, three-stage stability control (Road, Track and Off), ABS, brakeforce distribution and assistance.
Warranty And Servicing
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Service costs: Servicing costs vary according to vehicle usage.
How It Compares | Value For Money
Jaguar XKR-S Convertible ($364,000) – It’s $40k cheaper and is much more track-focussed, but is not nearly as good-looking. If you’re comparing the engine sounds though, it’s six of one, half-a-dozen of the other. The Jag however is the quicker and more powerful of the two. (see XKR-S reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer's List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
While brutally fast, and with superb handling balance, the Virage Volante is neither the quickest nor the best handling in its premium sports luxury segment.
And it’s not the most practical either. But spend some time with it, and you’ll fall under its spell. It’s one of the best looking cars on the planet, it sounds fantastic and with that gorgeous interior it’s a pleasure to hop into every time.
And, if we want to be shallow for a moment: when you’re at the wheel, everyone stares.
The $407,300 question then becomes, “Does it make you feel good?” Oh yes (and then some).
Photos: Jan Glovac.
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