The Virage was Aston Martin's replacement for the decades-old V8 models. Introduced at the Birmingham Motor Show in 1988, it was joined by the high-performance Vantage in 1993, and the name of the standard car was changed to V8 in 1996.
This V8-powered car was intended as the company's top model, with the 6-cylinder 1994 DB7 slotted below it. Although the DB7 switched to a V12 engine and claimed the performance crown, this V8 model (by then in Vantage form) remained the exclusive, expensive, and hand-built king of Astons. By the end of the 2000 model year, 1,050 of all Virage related models had been produced.
When compared to the preceding V8, the design was fresh and more modern. It looked more like a Lagonda than the V8 it replaced. Indeed, the chassis was an evolution of the Lagonda's, with a de Dion tube rear suspension, located by triangulated radius rods and a Watts linkage, and a double wishbone unit at the front. To cut costs, many of the less-important pieces came from other companies, as had been the case for many an Aston past. The sleek headlights and taillights were Audi 200 and Volkswagen Scirocco units, respectively, while General Motors, Jaguar, and Ford provided the steering column, climate control panel, and dash switches. In fact, Ford had purchased Aston Martin and Jaguar shortly before the Virage debuted.
The Virage was a large, heavy car in spite of its all-aluminium body, but the 32-valve 5.3 L (5,340 cc) V8 engine's 494 N·m (364 lb·ft) torque elevated its performance to near super car levels. "Acceleration just never seems to run out", claimed Sports Car International on a first test. They also praised the "eager and quicker revving" nature of the 335 PS (246 kW; 330 hp) engine with its Callaway-designed heads and Weber-Marelli fuel injection. "Nothing sounds quite like an Aston V8," they concluded. The 1,790 kg (3,946 lb) car could reach 158 mph (254 km/h). The automatic could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) from standing in about 6.5 seconds. An upgrade to 354 PS (260 kW; 349 hp) was announced at the 1996 Geneva Show.
The five-speed ZF manual was a fairly rare option, only fitted to about fifty Virages. The more popular automatic option was Chrysler's three-speed Torqueflite transmission. For 1993 the three-speed was replaced by a four-speed automatic unit. The six-speed manual from the Vantage also became optional late in the Virage's production run.
In January, 1992, Aston Martin introduced a conversion service, transforming the car into a Virage 6.3. As the name implies, the centerpiece of the conversion was a 6.3 L (6,347 cc) V8 derived from the AMR1 racing car. This engine produced 500 hp (373 kW) at 6,000 rpm and 480 lb·ft (651 N·m) at 5,800 rpm, allowing the car to reach 175 mph (282 km/h).
Other changes included 362 mm (14 in) ventilated disc brakes, the largest used in a passenger car until the Bentley Continental GT, and 18 in (457 mm) wheels. Visually, the 6.3 had wide flared bumpers, low sills and air dams, and side air vents.
Virage Shooting Brake
In true British tradition, a shooting brake (estate) version of the Virage was offered in extremely limited numbers. A three-door four-seater, it debuted at the March 1992 Geneva Motor Show. Unlike prior Aston Shooting Brakes, however, the Virage was produced in-house by the company's Works Service, with a total of only four constructed. The price new was GB£165,000. Two of the cars retained Virage chassis numbers, while two received the standalone "DP/2099" chassis number.
Lagonda Virage Saloon
Another rare Works Service car is the Lagonda Saloon. Only a handful of these long-wheelbase four-door Virages were built as a special customer order, reviving Aston Martin's long-dormant second marque. Introduced in 1994, it was made by the Aston Martin Works Service with a 12-inch (30 cm) chassis extension, although two were ordered with an 18-inch (460 mm) extension. The name refers to the four-door Aston Martin Lagonda. The Lagonda Virage cost about GB£250,000 and only eight or nine were made, with some being conversions of regular Virages.
Lagonda Virage Shooting Brake
The five-door Lagonda Virage Shooting Brake debuted at the same time as the Lagonda Virage. It was made by the Aston Martin Works Service in only one or two examples, and has been spotted bearing "Vacances" badging at the rear.
The Virage Volante convertible debuted at the 1990 Birmingham Motor Show as a strict two-seater, but a 2+2 version was shown at the 1991 Geneva Motor Show. Production examples, beginning in 1992, were all to feature 2+2 seating. Sources claim that between 224 and 233 examples had been produced when the series ended in 1996. The last 11 example (hence the difference between 224 to 233) already had the naturally aspirated 1995 version motor of the later V8 and V8 LWB Volante with the improved four-speed and overdrive Torqueflite automatic and 354 hp (264 kW). A new V8 Volante, with styling based on the V8 Coupé and supercharged Vantage was built from 1997 to 2000 on a lengthened chassis. 63 long chassis V8 Volante's were built.
The final Virage variant to be built was the ultra-limited V8 Vantage Volante of 2000. Nine of these high-performance convertibles were produced, one of them on the long wheelbase chassis.
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