Aston Martin Virage review:

Aston Martin Virage

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Typical Price: £150,000.00
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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

5 stars 1 user review

The Good Sensational appearance; improved sat-nav; perfect for long-distance cruising.

The Bad Unintuitive cabin-tech controls; looks like most other Aston Martins.

The Bottom Line The Aston Martin Virage is one of the best long-distance cruisers money can buy. It's hugely comfortable, surprisingly luxurious and acquits itself admirably when driven hard. It's let down only by its unintuitive cabin-tech user interface.

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8.8 Overall
CNET Editors' Choice Mar '11

Back in the late '80s, Aston Martin unveiled the Virage -- a car designed to replace the company's ageing V8 and DBSV8 models. The response was muted to say the least. Some glanced at it and shrugged, pieces of tumbleweed rolled by and almost everyone, with the exception of the super-rich, spent their £120,000 on more important things. Like houses.

Fast-forward 20 years or so and Aston Martin has resurrected the Virage name for a brand new car. Its task this time around isn't to replace an existing model, but rather to marry the best aspects of the soft, glamorous DB9 grand tourer and the more hard-core DBS. But has Aston Martin succeeded in its mission? Is there space in its line-up for yet another Virage? Will anyone even bat an eyelid? We hopped in the £150,000 coupé edition to find out.

Déjà vu

The new Virage doesn't look wildly different from anything else in Aston Martin's range, barring the bonkers One-77 and the Cygnet. You'll have trouble picking it out of an Aston Martin line-up unless you're intimately familiar with the range.

The Virage's single-lens headlights, which sport an LED light strip, were first seen on the Rapide. Its bonnet and front grille are borrowed from the DB9 and its rear-light clusters look like they were sourced from a box labelled 'Vantage'.

The Virage looks much like any other Aston Martin. That's no bad thing, though. 

There are some unique features, though. The splitter below the front air intake is exclusive to the Virage, as is the rear exhaust housing, which provides a pleasing middle ground between the extreme-looking rear diffuser seen on the DBS and the understated backside on the DB9.

The design probably isn't different enough to convince existing Aston Martin owners to upgrade, and there are many who will feel disappointed by the company's reluctance to design something outside of its comfort zone. That said, the Virage is so incredibly gorgeous that those with qualms about its design really are missing the point. Aston Martin's stumbled on a magical formula for creating drop-dead gorgeous cars, and the old adage holds true -- if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Inside job

There are few surprises on the inside of the Virage. The interior is largely identical to that of almost all the company's existing cars, with the same curvaceous, muscular dashboard, forged aluminium speedometer surrounds, and a designer key-cum-starter-button made of crystal.

The car also comes with an Aston Martin-branded Lamy Pico pocket pen, which slots into the centre console. It clicks securely into place and doesn't rattle about. Don't lose it, though -- a replacement will set you back a whopping €80 (£70).

Also new is a motorised navigation display that flips open from the centre of the dashboard. This 6.5-inch unit is larger than the 6-inch display that came before it, and has a noticeably higher resolution of 800x480 pixels -- up from 480x234 pixels on the previous screen. It's not in the same league as the 15-inch display set to feature in the Tesla Model S, but the screen is a big improvement on those that came before it, thanks to crisp, modern-looking, easy-to-read graphics.

Get lost

The Virage's sat-nav, provided by Garmin, is a massive improvement on the Volvo-sourced nav system in previous Aston Martin cars. The graphics look fabulous, and it supports full seven-digit postcode entry, which eliminates the need to enter lengthy street names. It even comes with a couple of apps, including a world clock and a calculator.

The sat-nav display flips out from the centre of the dashboard.

It's by no means the most advanced nav system we've encountered. It lacks the live, real-time traffic info of some of the most sophisticated standalone nav systems, and the joystick used to control inputs is still as fiddly as ever. Still, it's a huge improvement on the outdated Volvo system seen in previous cars.

Sound thinking

Sadly, Aston Martin hasn't updated the rest of the Virage's cabin tech. It uses the same horrifically unintuitive control interface as other cars in the range, which means you get a tiny LCD display, six fiddly mode buttons and a wobbly central joystick whose function changes depending on what mode you happen to be in. 

The secret is to ensure you've pressed the relevant button to activate the music, phone or audio modes before controlling the cursor on the tiny LCD screen using the joystick. Indeed, the mode buttons are backlit to help show you which one has been selected, but each button is so incredibly small and fiddly, and the LCD screen so reflective and so unreadable in direct sunlight, that getting the Virage's information and entertainment systems to work first time is like trying to fly a space shuttle while blindfolded.

It's an interface we've become familiar with over the years, but our interactions with the system always seem to degenerate into prodding randomly at buttons, praying, rather than expecting, that something will happen. 

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