The British muscle car moves towards modernity

The Aston Martin Virage isn’t particularly well known. Chalk it up to limited U.S. availability, less-than-attractive styling, and the way it’s overshadowed by countless other Astons. Whatever the reason, the Virage is undoubtedly a strange amalgamation of new and old, bringing both top-dollar components and obvious cost cutting measures. Under the hood is equipped a burbling V-8 engine, which is basically a refreshed take on an old design, while the steel bones receive a lightweight, hand-formed aluminum body. The interior gets lovely leather upholstery, but the various components were pulled from rival automakers. All told, the Virage is an odd Aston, but an important model nonetheless.

Further cementing the Virage’s peculiar position was the timing of its debut. You see, the Virage was introduced just after Ford purchased Aston Martin, and thus, the Virage remains a critical piece of the British marque’s history, signaling its intentions to update, refine, and go faster. Believe it or not, this chunky Grand Tourer eventually became the most powerful production car in the world – for a brief period, at least.

Interested? Read on for the details.

Continue reading to learn more about the Aston Martin Virage.

  • 1989 - 1995 Aston-Martin Virage
  • Year:
    1989- 1995
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Transmission:
    5-Speed Manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    325@6000
  • Torque @ RPM:
    4000
  • Displacement:
    5341 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    158.4 mph
  • Price:
    241,500

History And Background

The Aston Martin Virage was first introduced at the Birmingham Motor Show in 1988, arriving as a long-overdue replacement for the old V8 model, which was produced from1969 to 1989. The Virage was produced for 11 years, between 1989 and 2000, before it was succeeded by the Vanquish.

Right before the Virage’s debut, Ford purchased Aston Martin, along with a variety of other premium makes, including Jaguar. As such, the Virage sports multiple parts sourced from the Blue Oval.

In 1992, Aston introduced the high-performance Vantage variant of the Virage, once again in Birmingham, subsequently putting it into production in 1993. The less sporty coupe variant received the V8 nameplate in 1996.

This V-8 powered GT car was Aston’s top dog performer for a while, slotting in above the six-cylinder DB7. When Aston outfitted the DB7 with a V-12 engine, the V-8 was dethroned, but it still remained somewhat desirable.

Finally, Aston resurrected the Virage nameplate in 2011 with the new-gen vehicle in 2011, dropping the sheets in Geneva. Slated as a filler model just under the DBS, the new Virage was eventually discontinued after 18 months in production.

Exterior

When it was first introduced, the Virage was a somewhat fresh look for Aston. It broke from the outgoing V8 model’s aesthetic, and instead took cues from the Lagonda. It comes with a two-door coupe design, and a good amount of the hard-edged, boxy elements that were all the rage in the early ‘90s.

This is particularly true of the front end, where we find large, rectangular headlights, and a squared-off grille. The corner markers are also rectangular, and the tail is flat and simple. The profile offers a few interesting angles, with a nicely curved roofline and upturned trunk, but it’s not easy to see the svelte sexiness of modern Astons in this old school look.

To help curb some of the costs of production, Aston actually sourced a ton of parts from other manufacturers. Those rectangular headlights are from the Audi 200, while the taillights come from the Volkswagen Scirocco.

The Virage is also quite large for a British sports car, but thankfully, the all-aluminum body helps to cut into the curb weight (although not much).

Exterior Dimensions
Wheelbase 2,610 mm (102.8 inches)
Length 4,735 mm (186.4 inches)
Width 1,855 mm (73 inches)

Interior

Inside the Virage, the cabin offers a 2+2 seating layout. It’s also quite opulent, coming equipped with wood paneling, leather upholstery, and high-end carpeting. All in all, it appears quite glamorous, but as soon as you take a closer look, you start to notice a few peculiarities.

The dash switches, for example, came from Ford, while the climate control panel was sourced from Jaguar. Still, the overall look and feel remains somewhat premium, and isn’t really ruined by the pilfered parts.

Drivetrain

The Virage uses a traditional GT car layout, which means it’s got a front-mounted engine, with power sent to the rear wheels. The powerplant in question is a 5,340 cc (5.3-liter) V-8, which is quite similar to the old V-8 it replaced. However, the newer unit uses a fuel injection system from Weber-Marelli, plus heads designed by Callaway.

Output when new was rated at 330 horsepower and 364 pound-feet of torque, blessing the Virage with a sub-7-second 0-to-60 mph time and a top speed of 158 mph – all quite fast for its time.

More power arrived in 1996 at the Geneva Motor Show, where the V-8 was upgraded to 349 horses.

Transmission options included a five-speed manual from ZF, which was a gearbox used with roughly 40 percent of the cars built. A larger percentage of the cars received a three-speed automatic Torqueflite gearbox from Chrysler. Later on, the Virage was equipped with a four-speed automatic, while a six-speed manual arrived close to the end of the car’s production run.

Chassis And Drivetrain

Under the aluminum bodywork, the Virage uses a chassis that was originally developed for the Lagonda. The suspension is also a bit dated, with a de Dion tube, triangulated radius rods, and a Watts linkage in the rear. Thankfully, the front is fully independent with double wishbones. The steering column was sourced from General Motors.

Unfortunately, the Virage isn’t exactly nimble in the corners. Its old suspension was hampered further by the car’s sizable curb weight, tipping the scales at just under two tons (3,946 pounds).

Prices

In total, 1,050 units of the Virage were produced between 1989 and 2000. It arrived in the US in 1990, while the convertible variant arrived in 1992. The shooting brake and Vantage variants were not shipped stateside (see the next section for more details). Post 1993, the Virage was no longer offered in the U.S., as it failed to meet safety and emissions standards

When new, the Virage went for a price tag deep into six figures, but these days, you can pick one up at auction for $40,000 to $60,000. Some of the more limited model variants, however, can be much more expensive.

Model Variants, Special Editions, And Alternative Body Styles

Virage Volante Convertible

With any proper hardtop GT car, you gotta offer a roofless equivalent, and as such, Aston introduced the Virage Volante convertible at the 1990 Birmingham Motor Show. Inside was a two-seater cabin, but a year later, Aston offered up the 2+2 variant in Geneva. Subsequent production versions use the 2+2 layout. Roughly 230 were produced between 1992 and 1996.

Works Service Edition

In 1992, Aston Martin offered up a conversion for the Virage through Works Service, swapping out the old 5.3-liter powerplant for an even more powerful 6.3-liter unit. This new engine displaced 6,347 cc’s, and was used in the AMR1 race car. When new, the 6.3-liter engine made 500 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 480 pound-feet of torque at 5,800 rpm, raising the car’s top speed to an impressive 175 mph.

Complementing the power increase is a new aerodynamics package, with wider bumpers, new side skirts, a new front fascia, and side vents. In the corners are 18-inch wheels, which cover upgraded 362 mm (14-inch) vented disc brakes – the largest disc brakes ever fitted to a production car at the time.

Works Service Three-Door Shooting Brake

Interestingly, Aston also made a three-door shooting brake variant of the Virage, introducing it at the Geneva Motor Show in 1992. Wrench time was once again provided by Works Service, and it’s believed only about six were ever produced. Each carried a price tag of 165,000 pounds when new.

Virage Vantage

The Vantage was the fastest variant of the Virage. Roughly 280 were produced between 1993 and 2000, and it comes as both a two-door coupe and two-door convertible. Inside is a 2+2 seating layout.

Outside, the Vantage gained a more aggressive look, including the Works Service 18-inch wheels, and a lower, wider stance. However, the most important asset was the upgraded 5.3-liter engine. This thing was twin supercharged to produce 550 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque – a huge leap over the standard model’s 330 horsepower and 364 pound-feet. With that much output on tap, the Vantage could hit 60 mph in a just 4.6 seconds, going on to a top speed of 186 mph.

Even more output arrived with a 600-horsepower variant in 1998. Dubbed the V600, the older Vantage took on the title V550. Of course, convertible Volante versions were also created, although in substantially lower numbers.

Lagonda Virage Saloon

Next on the list is the Lagona Virage Saloon, which, as you might expect, employed an extended wheelbase and four-door body design. First introduced in 1994, each was specially ordered, costing roughly a quarter million pounds a pop. For the money, customers got an extra 12 inches in length, although some examples got as much as 18 inches.

Along with the Saloon, Aston also offered the Lagonda Virage Shooting Brake, a five-door with a stretched stance. Only two were ever made. There’s also the V8 Volante LWB, which was produced between 1997 and 2000, and also used an extended chassis. Just 63 were produced.

V8 Vantage Le Mans

One of the most interesting Virage variants was the V8 Vantage Le Mans. Created just before the enforcement of new emissions regulations, the V8 Vantage LM was a nod the 40th anniversary of Aston’s 1959 victory at the famed endurance race. As such, only 40 were ever produced.

Motivation comes from 604 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque, while handling is sharpened thanks to thicker anti-roll bars and shocks from Koni. The exterior was also upgraded, with a new front and rear end, plus vents similar to the DBR-1 race car. Inside is a large tachometer, Titanium-look finish for various components, heated seats, Connolly leather, and Wilton wool carpets. The wheels are from Dymag and are made from Magnesium.

Now for the important bit – a sprint to 60 mph was rated at 3.9 seconds, while top speed was 200 mph. However, these numbers were never officially verified.

The New Virage

The Virage nameplate was revived in 2011 in order to fill a hole in the Aston Martin model lineup. Using the same underpinnings as the DB9, the new Virage slotted under the top dog DBS, and came equipped with a 6.0-liter V-12 producing 490 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. A sprint to 60 mph takes less than 5 seconds. Both a coupe and convertible were offered. Production ended after 18 months, as Aston felt the perceived gap between the DB9 and DBS was no longer an issue.

Competition

Ferrari 456 GT

First put into production in 1992, the 456 enjoyed a production run that lasted until 2003, eventually getting replaced by the 612 Scaglietti. Powered by a 5.5-liter V-12 engine, total output when new was rated at just 436 horsepower, although the Ferrari was still considered a much better handler than the Aston.

Read the full review here.

TVR Griffith

If you were looking for sporty British motoring in the mid-‘90s, but didn’t want to pay the price for an Aston badge on the nose, then TVR had an answer. The Griffith is equipped with V-8 power under the hood, and gorgeous bodywork outside. It’s pretty quick too, hitting 60 mph in less than five seconds.

Read the full review here.

Conclusion

The Virage will most likely continue to be passed over in Aston’s history on the way to more exciting, sexier rides made in the new millennium. Nevertheless, it’s still an important car, and it’s a great indicator of where the British marque came from in creating its modern lineup. Plus – who can argue with 600 horsepower?

  • Leave it
    • * Looks not for everyone
    • * Quite expensive when new
    • * Sourced parts from competitors
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