Magazine article The Spectator

Power and Glory

Magazine article The Spectator

Power and Glory

Article excerpt

The skies are brightening over Warwickshire, where they breed Aston Martins. The recession reduced staff from 1,200 to 900 but now they're back up to 1,000 and are opening a dealership in - of all places - Dublin. After spending almost a century in the red, they've finally nudged into profit under the leadership of Dr Ulrich Bez. If asked by a friend to let him have an Aston at cost price, Dr Bez need no longer reply by quoting former owner David Brown: 'You couldn't possibly afford that. It's cheaper in the showroom.'

It takes about s ix weeks to make one, which includes 50 hours' paintwork and 70 to do the trim. Yet it took just 19 months from designer Marek Reichman's first sketch to delivery of the new Virage, launched in Spain last month. The flexibility of Aston's VH platform helped, of course, but so does being a small company with a fairly flat management structure.

Priced midway between the £125,000 DB9 and the £175,000 DBS, the Virage grew out of a what-if conversation between Bez and Reichman. They wanted a car that was a more refined, more Rapide-like, less aggressive version of the DBS but with more power than the DB9. The result is a more beautiful and more complete car than either and its future, I suspect, is to eclipse one or both.

It looks similar to the DBS, though new wings and a new front end give it cleaner and more elegant lines. Everything about the design suggests power and movement, like a crouched sprinter. There are no flat surfaces and the eyebrows above the Rapide-derived headlights combine with the side-strakes to draw your gaze rearwards.

It's all movement and flow, a design without full stops. Reichman makes good use of the car designer's 'golden section' - the two thirds/one third ratio between body and bonnet, length and height etc. - along with several discreet structural triangles suggestive of stability and strength.

Inside, all that glisters is real metal (gold is presumably available by special order), and what look like glass switches are. The Bridge of Weir leather seats are supportive and considerate, though the rears are best left for dwarfs. The six-speed ZF auto is precisely and instantly manipulated by paddles or dashboard buttons. It's good to see the latter again - V8 Bristols used them until about 1968, when US legislation compelled a reversion to the clumsier, floor-mounted column change. …

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