Firstly, an admission: I am hopelessly under-qualified to offer any noteworthy opinions on a road car’s performance; my car history consists of barely two chapters. Chapter one stars a 15 year-old Ford Fiesta called Queenie, equipped with non-matching hubcaps and not a lot else. Chapter two features a newer Citroen C4 Coupe, this time with matching wheels and a fancy steering wheel. Various sub-plots along the way feature merely a Hyundai and a Fiat Panda, but when one is presented with the opportunity to test drive a brand new Aston Martin Virage, lack of credentials becomes an after-thought.
The famous Goodwood circuit, resplendent in any weather, was where we would be greeted by the beige – but nonetheless striking – Aston. There are worse ways, I pondered, to spend a sporadically sunny October afternoon.
Other cars would feature during the afternoon’s attack on the senses as the Aston was warmed. The new Jaguar F-type, a favourite of a certain woman in my life, was receiving a fresh coat of drool from admiring visitors, not least ‘her indoors’. A couple of Bentley Continentals were receiving a good spanking from the professionals around Goodwood’s many curves, as were a handful of other Aston Martins, an Audi R8, Lotus Exige and, bizarrely, a P-reg Mazda MX-5.
With complementary coffee and chocolate cake dutifully scoffed, the Virage was ready to make my acquaintance. Once the alarming declaration form had been freshly signed, the Virage was mine for half an hour or so, as were the country roads and residential area surrounding Goodwood. My wide-eyed passenger – a representative from the dealership, gamekeeper of the Virage – instilled little confidence by checking his seatbelt…twice.
As my derrière was cradled by the Aston’s succulent leather – the James Bond theme music playing in my head all the while – the cosmic leap in quality from that of anything I’ve ever driven or been driven in before became pleasingly apparent. Everything, every knob, switch, stitch and button appeared solid, built with uncompromising structural integrity.
The steering was heavy at low speeds but inspired confidence at those that perhaps began to bend the meaning of ‘speed-limit’ – I could almost see my poor old Citroen shed a tear, or is that another oil leak?
But that leaky, creaky Citroen can at least transport five people and their luggage in relative comfort; needless to say, the Virage cannot. But the practicalities of owning a car such as the Virage are frankly of no concern to me. The power is of much more interest.
Slower cars spoiling any country lane fun are soon dispensed with by a flick of the fingers on the Virage’s tiptronic ‘flappy-paddle’ gearbox and a mere tickle of the throttle. From there to triple figures is effortless, an almost sensual waft toward losing a driving licence. Even when the engine note morphs from purr to throaty rasp the Virage loses none of its leisurely feel; at anything below 80mph, it’s the butler serving afternoon tea; 100mph plus and the butler has merely straightened his tie.
Despite the car’s best efforts of ensuring I didn’t hold on to my licence for too long it was clear the Virage is by no means a high-performance supercar, threatening all the while to bite you in the backside and deposit you in a nearby hedge; it is a gentle grand tourer, driven with ease by even a chump like me.
Despite also making me feel like the proverbial secret agent, the Virage experience has however had a negative affect; the Aston has rendered all other forms of transport underwhelming. In short, because of what it is and how it goes, the Aston Martin Virage has ruined all other cars for me. It does however, inspire; a car of such power, such quality, only makes you want to try harder, to succeed in order to taste those things at the wheel of a car you can call your own.
For now though, it’s back home in the Citroen.