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Aston Martin Virage

Aston Martin Virage Published: 13th Mar 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Aston Martin Virage
Aston Martin Virage
Aston Martin Virage
Aston Martin Virage
Aston Martin Virage
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Is the oft-forgotten 30 year old Virage worth a serious look?

Ask any bar room expert and you’ll be told the Aston Martin Virage is a lame duck. Produced on paltry budget of only £3m they’ll spout gleefully about the Scirocco rear lights, the Audi front lights, and the general flabbiness of the car that followed the venerable DBS-based V8. And true, yes the Virage was a disappointment to many people who had loved the two decade old coupé and convertible of old. But to many, the Virage and its successor the V8 Coupé and Vantage represented the last of the line for the traditional Aston Martin – a gentleman’s GT rather than a big brutal sports car.

Nowadays, the Virage represents the best value traditional Aston Martin you can buy. They still aren’t exactly cheap, but – as with all old Astons – with prices inevitably only heading in one direction (albeit sedately), is the Virage a car worth your time and money?

On the move

In an era where everyone was striving for aerodynamic excellence and when curves were starting to come back into fashion, the Virage is resolutely squareedged, blunt nosed and larger than a two-door 2+2 has any real need to be.

Like its famous forebear, there’s something definitely masculine about the lines of the Virage – the tapering glasshouse gives the waistline the look almost of a broad shouldered shotputter, while the nose verges on the square-jawed. It’s not an unappealing shape and evidently designed with a further two decades in mind.

Inside was rather less successful, not least thanks to Ford Scorpio parts being infiltrated. Previous Astons had been sporting in concept – and while the Oscar India gained wood in favour of a black trimmed dash, it was nonetheless a cultured performance car yet with a typical air of English restraint.

The Virage didn’t quite come across in the same way. Yes, there’s wood and leather, and a dash intended to cocoon the driver, but the effect is rather more forbidding. A tall, prominent Ford-based instrument binnacle takes pride of place in a deep dash which tried to use wood to disguise its size – but which in the process makes itself look like an antique sideboard. In turn, this is at odds with the trip computer mounted prominently in the centre console. True, it’s comfortable enough – but the visual effect is so jarring it detracts from the experience.

Big leather armchairs envelop you, and the thrum of the V8 is one that will be familiar to older Aston enthusiasts. Not that the engine’s the same; new Callaway designed cylinder heads mean that this engine has four valves per cylinder (32 in total) and only the block is shared with the previous V8 for a nominal 330bhp.

Sounds promising but as most Virages were automatic – understandable as it suits the nature of the car – it’s quick, but in lazy sort of way. Rather this Aston’s true strength lies in its gutsy in-gear shove which still impresses.

Round the corners

To get the most out of the Virage needs confidence – and a wide road. Initial chassis development yielded a car which was sharp for its size, but firmer than Aston felt the majority of its customers would want. So softer springs and dampers were duly fitted to appease the idle user, and the handling has suffered as a result. The turn in is a little vague, and it doesn’t encourage you to chuck it about on a decent B-road – it’s always at the back of your mind that this is a big, sensible car and that you shouldn’t really be throwing it around like an Escort Mexico.

However, take some brave pills, ignore the feedback and keep pushing … and you’ll find that it grips and goes pretty much where you point it. It’s hard work mind, but the rewards are there to be found. The brakes, uninspiring at first, bite harder and with feeling the more they’re pushed becoming sharper with every additional inch of travel. Granted, its Vantage evolution is like chalk and cheese and is much better sorted but the Virage may suit you fine, especially if all you want is an Aston experience.

No less a luminary than Rowan Atkinson tested the Virage for CAR magazine in 1990. A serial Aston Martin owner, Atkinson’s views represented the opinion of existing customers. His feeling at the time that the styling would stand the test of time is subjective – we think it works, thirty years on, but equally it has its detractors. He liked the interior too – we’re less certain – and he acknowledged that when you started to drive it hard, the Virage became far more rewarding than its low speed traits would have you believe.

Atkinson also praised the ride – likening it to contemporary Jaguar saloons. While that’s a stretch, it’s not as big a stretch as you might think. Certainly, if you were stepping from the majority of modern cars, the ride would feel almost faultless, its suppleness only marred by the knowledge that it’s compromising the handling in a way that Jaguar would never have allowed. The price was one third more than expected – driven by used Aston values, and shocking but not surprising to Atkinson – but a £120,000 list price in 1990 only serves to make the £50,000 needed today look like a bargain – in Aston terms at least.

History won’t view the Virage as favourably as the DBS and the V8 saloon – the sad fact of life is that cars of the chrome era still engender far more warmth than their technologically superior successors. And the Virage had a difficult heritage to live up to – the Aston name is one which young boys have long dreamed of courtesy of James Bond, and the Virage simply isn’t secret agent super-cool. But as a traditional grand tourer with an iconic name, it’s still special enough to warrant our attention.

Go or no go

Does the Virage live up to the expectations that the Aston name bestows upon it? Not really – but then again, nor does the smaller DB7 – and that’s earned itself a devoted army of fans despite its humbler origins and its less-than-exclusive feel. And if the baby Aston can become a classic, then we think that a car which is truer to the traditional Aston recipe deserves to be recognised too. After all, the revised Vantage spin off has succeeded.

Quick spin

PERFORMANCE Adequate, sounds great
CRUISING The Virage’s raison d’etre
HANDLING A bit too big to feel truly agile but always secure
BRAKES Up to the job
EASE OF USE A typical old school Aston

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