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Aston Martin Virage
Parlez vous Français?
I have now reached a stage in my life where to be able to converse in languages other than my own native tongue would be professionally beneficial. Moreover, it would provide a social skill that I currently lack.
Like many of my compatriots I had always felt in my naive youth that the ability to speak English rendered all other languages superfluous. With maturity I have realised my youthful aversion to learning French for example was foolish.
I recall sitting in Mrs Thornley’s French lessons as a prepubescent schoolboy, staring at the adjacent playing fields through the classroom window. My wistful gaze was interspersed with glances at the clock and reciting phrases from my dog-eared text book.
To my shame the only phrase I can recall from this period of study was; “Jean Paul est dans le jardin” recited in my Lancashire drawl.
I now meet business acquaintances who are able to converse in several European languages with the respective fluency of a native speaker. My own inadequacy at multi- lingual dialogue is a failing I share with many natives of Angleterre.
A recent trip to Aston Martin’s HQ in Gaydon, necessitated consultation with my French dictionary. I was to drive a beautiful Aston Martin Virage. What did the term Virage mean? I had an inclination it was French.
Virage is a French noun meaning bend, curve or turn. It can also mean change or shift in the context of orientation.
The word suitably captures a fundamental attribute of this sleek form which cheats the wind of any resistance. The Virage has incredible maneuverability, belying its 4.7 metre length.
I have driven a couple variants of the Vantage and thoroughly enjoyed the raw, immediacy of the engine and handling ensemble. The Virage is different.
The Virage has a more relaxed persona. The 6.0 litre V12 is no slouch with 490 bhp on tap, but yet it is whisper quiet at low-revs.
If you press on, the car will gather speed effortlessly. This is just one aspect from the brace of talents the Virage offers. It provides transport you could happily use every day but is able to impart fun should the gentleman racer lurking within, wish to play.
The ride is superb. It facilitates enthusiastic intimacy with the curving black top of any country lane, should the testosterone levels dictate. Conversely when you wish to cover great distances in relaxing comfort, surface undulations are nonchalantly dispensed with, rendering them imperceptible to occupants.
Whilst the Vantage and Virage share similar design language, there is a distinct difference in their characters. A short familiarisation drive with both cars back to back verifies this.
I have been a fan of the Vantage ever since I first met its acquaintance, but the Virage offers a mature blend of talents which meets the needs of this middle-aged Englishman.
The car does have some commonality with the racing cars bearing the Aston Martin name which circumnavigate Le Mans. This is exemplified by its ability to crest apexes with alacrity but also its prodigious talent to retard speed thanks to the accomplished anchors at each corner.
The Carbon Ceramic Matrix (CCM) brakes shed speed with incredible efficiency. They are user-friendly and soon allowed me to judiciously press the brake pedal with well-judged modulation.
The light mass of the Carbon Ceramic Matrix brakes means less unsprung mass at each corner of the car. This translates into improved handling, braking and ride comfort.
The Touchtronic 2 gearbox is a fully automatic gearbox with the added convenience of steering column paddle shift. When the mood takes you, changing ratios using the left and right paddles, adjacent the steering column, rewards you with seamless, quick gear changes.
Alternatively, should you find yourself crawling in slow traffic on a Friday afternoon on the North Circular, then the fully automatic gearbox will dispense with gear changing with minimal driver input.
This is yet another example of the refined, relaxed character of the car.
The body is an amalgam of composite materials. Many panels are aluminium, joined in bonded concert, providing torsional rigidity, appearing to be absent of any flex. This translates into the sublime ride and handling I keep finding myself returning to, but it really is that good.
The design harnesses gorgeous flourishes of styling details. The shiny trim spanning the doors and front wings is metal. There are no faux pieces of metal-like plastic. There is honesty in all that you survey.
The stainless steel grille provides a handsome smile likely to seduce any unsuspecting passers-by.
The titanium finish side strakes and bonnet finishes are reminiscent of racing cars of yesteryear and enhance the whole.
Door handles do not protrude, interrupting the lines. They blend with the doors, helping to optimise the aerodynamics.
One of my favourite views is afforded by the rearview from the drivers door mirror of the rear wheel arches. They remind me of the shapely feminine hips that cause any self- respecting heterosexual to turn their head with an admiring glance.
Excellence is not merely restricted to the bodywork and mechanical details, there is beauty within.
The inside of the car is exquisitely trimmed. The Bridge of Weir leather has been applied to a multitude of surfaces. All stitching is executed to perfection by the artisans who spend their working days residing in the trim shop.
It takes a total of 70 hours to create the indulgent ambience of the Virage interior.
The instruments are clean, uncluttered and impart information with perfect clarity. But they are not the dials you will find in a stripped out racing car. These instruments are beautifully designed. The needles arc around the dials, in stylish splendour.
The centre console of my test car had Nexus alloy trim which provided a cool, uncluttered feel. However, having seen the piano black veneer on another car as I toured the production facilities, that would have to be my preferred choice.
The seats cradled my large torso in comfortable embrace. They did not feel like the undue grip of an amorous fat girl at the school disco, typical of some race prepared chairs. These seats are perfectly cosseting, providing the magnificent blend of support and relaxing comfort.
The speaker grilles carried the nomenclature, Bang and Olufsen. The premium sound system packs a mighty 700 Watts of power. A car is not the place to listen to music. Acoustically the intricate contours and shapes of a car interior, corrupt the purity of the sound. However, Bang and Olufsen have expertly overcome said challenges with devastatingly pleasing results.
The Aston Martin bears all the creature comforts of a luxury limousine, yet harnessed into a svelte, sleek shape borne to crest the apexes of Europe’s finest roads.
I was deeply impressed by the driving pleasure imparted by the Vantage and would still not dissuade those who seek a sports car with the purity offered by this driving tool. However, now I have sampled the Virage, it would be my preferred option.
It has a different character which suits my middle-aged years. It can engage with the most enthusiastic of drivers, yet imparts a refined civility capable of trans-European travel in luxurious comfort.
The English may sadly lack the initiative to master foreign languages but we do compensate with our masterful skill of automotive art. In any language the Aston Martin Virage is a wonderful mix of talents which engender patriotic pride in all those who have seen the peerless craftsmanship of Gaydon.