Aston Martin 2012 Virage

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A powerful sports car inspires confidence.

Sometimes when you drive a powerful sports car, it feels like you’re trying to tame a beast that would just as soon chuck you out of the driver’s seat and take off on its own. The new 2012 Aston Martin Virage isn’t one of those cars. Instead, what occurs is a sort of mind meld between man and machine where man gets the better part of the deal. The Virage is a confident car and it instills that sense into the driver after only a few miles. Pass three vehicles all at once on a two-way road? Sure. That’s what sports cars are all about but in the Virage, it’s not a twitchy, heart-pounding maneuver with a long exhale at the end. It’s all very quick and smooth.

The speed, of course, comes from the 490 hpV-12 engine under the hood. Touch the accelerator and it’s like hitting the afterburners on a rocket. Accelerating through a tunnel produces a sound NASA engineers would appreciate. The Virage is fast but there’s never a feeling of loss of control or neck-snapping acceleration. The ride is stable and comfortable throughout. The automatic six-speed transmission is truly amazing, switching gears so fast you tend to forget about the manual paddle flippers under the steering wheel. Dash-mounted pushbuttons put the car in drive and below these are some slightly smaller buttons for a sport mode and adaptive damping that offer a more road-hugging driving experience. Top speed is 186 mph so the massive carbon ceramic brakes come in very handy.

Aston Martin cars are all about attention to detail. There is a two-door coupe and convertible versions available and both look like they were rolled out from an expensive British styling salon. Among the posh cabin features are a comfortable Bridge of Weir leather interior, a superb Bang & Olufsen sound system, and even a fancy pen that inserts into the dash to look like a glass lever. But maybe the best detail overall is one that’s not visible—a little flapper valve on the exhaust pipe that dissipates combustion gases more evenly for better performance. If you’re working at that level of detail, then everything else is superb. The Virage starts up when you insert a futuristic rectangular key fob Aston Martin calls an “emotion control unit,” a name that engenders a smirk from the whiff of over-marketing. By the end of the drive, though, you’re wondering if there isn’t some level of artificial intelligence inside that fob they’re not telling you about. How else to account for the seamless integration between driver and car? Maybe that accounts for the price. $210,000;