What’s so wrong about old wine on new bottles? I love old wine.
I vaguely recall the Virage being presented in its Vantage edition in Birmingham, way back in 1992. The ordinary Virage was already five years old, but I understood what they were up to – even with the supposedly new Vantage: In many ways the Virage built on tradition and well-known products off the shelves of yesteryear. But then again – when those shelves bear the famous Tadek Marek V8-engine and a nice De Dion rear axle from Aston Martin themselves, I can easily live with a lot of old fashionedness. Despite Ford’s various small leftovers that followed because they had bought Aston Martin shortly before.
Somehow Aston Martin had even managed to upgrade with 32-valve cylinder heads on the classic 5.3 litre machine. In this form it dished out 330 horsepower. Which was, however, less than the ten year older V8 Vantage was said to deliver. And maybe for that very reason, Aston Martin had to come up with something special for the Vantage variant of the Virage. It turned out to be two compressors: Now there were a very healthy 550 horses in the stable, and it worked quite well for the just under two tonnes of super-GT.
I still like the Virage. Regardless of variant, and it absolutely does not have to be a Vantage. Not mine anyway. Aston Martin is probably the closest British pendant to Maserati, which is as some readers know, my absolute favourite marque over them all. This leaves Aston Martin the glory of being – logically enough – my favorite from the British Isles, and therefore I can forgive them a lot. In fact I can not point out a single Aston Martin at all which would not be most welcome in my dream garage – and this spans right from an Ulster to the DB9. And yes, including the DB7 & Laguna too.
And of course the Virage. Which came to mind when I recently heard someone make fun of it. Not just as old-fashioned – which would have been reasonable enough. Or as a less successful design – which I would disagree with, but which could at least be a subject for a hearty discussion. But as a bad car.
Unfortunately I can’t really comment on that based on experience – but I would love to give it a thorough testing, so please do write if you happen to have a fine Virage lingering in the corner of your garage. But with or without a real-world test, my point is clear and simple: Aston Martin was and is really about anything other than merely building a good car.
Behold, of course they tried. But honestly, if I was primarily looking for a plain “good” GT-class car, I would buy a Mercedes, BMW or Porsche. It goes without saying that a real car factory can build a better car.
On the other hand a small factory like Aston Martin can build – well, something else. Something different. Something oozing soul and passion, and of course still with delicious technical integrety. In addition, an innate, long and built-in story comes with each and every car, deeply rooted both in the practical past of the brand (when it comes to recycling small features or more from previous models, for example) and from its spiritual heritage. The craftsmanship, conservatism and, in particular, the exclusivity of, for example the Virage, which was after all only built in approximately one thousand examples from 1989 to 2000.
Personally I would never venture into an Aston Martin acquisition in the vain belief that I got the best car. But I would love to own an Aston Martin exactly because it is such a countermeasure to the kind of banalities that competitors are forces to lie about and drag on about in comparison tests. Aston Martins are simply above and beyond such simple comparisons.
Therefore, a Virage will always live in my dream garage. Or anything else Aston Martin. Because once in a while you just have to enjoy something for what it is. And to all those who happen to have another motive for their choice of car – say such as choosing a “good” car that signals their status in society: Well, I’ll argue that few things exhibit that you’re on top of the world clearer than actually choosing a car that you know is not the best – but choosing it anyway, simply because you like it…