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Aston Martin Virage (Petrina Gentile for the Globe and Mail)
Aston Martin Virage (Petrina Gentile for the Globe and Mail)

2012 Aston Martin Virage

James Bond's ride - now with even more power Add to ...

Who can resist James Bond's ride? Whether it's a DBS or DB5, 007 fans adore Aston Martins.

Now a new Aston Martin joins the family -the 2012 Virage. Its slotted smack dab in the middle of the DB9 and DBS - in performance, prestige, and price.

Available in a two-door coupe or volante (a.k.a. convertible trim), the Virage coupe starts at $222,100; the Volante is slightly more at $242,350. The DB9 coupe, on the other hand, costs $206,765; while the DB9 Volante is $224,465. The race-bred DBS coupe is a significant jump in price, starting at $309,530; while the DBS Volante is $326,397.

The Virage - the word means bend or curve in French - is a beautiful blend of power and status. The piece de resistance is the engine; the heart of the beast. "It's a 6.0-litre V-12. The DB9 was 470 horsepower and they raised it to 490 horsepower," boasts Sean Nosworthy, sales specialist at Aston Martin of Ontario.

Sure it's not a huge boost, but regardless, who really needs 490 ponies? It's not like we live in Germany. "You never really need it, but it's nice to have," laughs Nosworthy. And when you need a power boost, it responds quickly. Off the line, it's fast, but a bit torque-y. The rear-wheel-drive coupe hits 0-100 km/h in 4.6 seconds.

To start the Virage, there's no traditional key or ignition, for that matter. Fire up the engine by inserting the key fob into the "engine start" slot. On the left are two buttons marked P for park and R for reverse; on the right is N for neutral and D for drive. Way below, there's a sport button; it results in a sharper throttle response and faster gear changes. In this mode, the ride is especially dynamic. The steering is precise.

Both the coupe and volante are well balanced. The engine is mounted far back to create a 50/50 weight distribution between the front and rear. An all-aluminum structure makes it lightweight and nimble.

There's only one gearbox available - it's a six-speed ZF Touchtronic 2 six-speed automatic transmission. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel are very responsive to the touch. The car is effortless to drive in the bustling city or on the highway. New carbon-ceramic brakes coupled with Aston Martin's adaptive damping system gives it excellent handling and control.

Visually, it takes a sharp eye to spot the differences between the Virage and DB9. The Virage has a sleek, muscular physique with taut and fluid lines along its body similar to the DB9. But there's a new grille, a new front bumper with a reshaped lower fascia and bi-xenon headlamps with integrated LED side lights and direction indicators. At the rear, there's LED rear lamps and side repeaters as well as a nice grab handle beside the license plate so you open the trunk without scratching the paint with your fingernails or rings.

The 20-inch, five-spoke, alloy-silver-painted wheels are attractive, but you can also opt for 20-inch, 10-spoke, liquid-silver-painted wheels or 20-inch graphite-painted wheels with a diamond-turned finish.

"The profile of the lower portion has been changed. It's more aggressive, coming outwards for better air flow down the side," says Nosworthy.

In the streets of Toronto's trendy Yorkville neighbourhood, people flock to the Virage, but most mistake it for a DB9. "That DB9 is gorgeous! I love it - can I have a ride?" asks one guy.

Aston Martins are known for their stunning interiors and the Virage lives up to its family lineage. It's hand built and exclusively crafted with opulently appointed materials that create a luxurious cabin. The plush leather is soft to the touch with beautiful stitching on the seats and alcantara headlining. There are optional fascia trims available including mahogany, piano black or tamo ash.

The two-door coupe and soft-top convertible come with 2+2 seating. But the two rear seats are useless. I'd take the optional 2+0 configuration, which is available on the coupe, so the rear seats turn into a more useful leather-trimmed shelf.

The soft top on the Volante is a work of art; the roof opens and closes in about 20 seconds with the push of one button. There are no latches or hooks to fiddle with. When the roof is down, it does eat up some trunk space - there's about five inches less cargo space than the coupe.

But I'll live with it - driving topless in the scorching sun with the note of the exhaust in the background is worth it. Clearly, this vehicle will be a hit with women. "I think the women are more interested in the convertible than the coupe, but the guys are interested in both," says Nosworthy. I'd agree, but I'd have a tough time deciding between the two.

The 2012 Aston Martin Virage coupe and Volante goes on sale this month.

Aston Martin Virage

Tech specs

2012 Aston Martin Virage

Type: Two-door, 2+2 luxury coupe and convertible

Base Price: $222,100 (coupe); $242,350 (convertible)

Engine: 6.0-litre, quad-overhead-camshaft, V-12

Horsepower/torque: 490 hp/420 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manumatic shifting

Drive: Rear-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 16.2 city/10.1 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Ferrari 599GTB, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 and LP570-4 Superleggera, Maserati GranTurismo coupe, Bentley Continental GT

pgentile@globeandmail.com

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