Driven: Aston Martin's new batch

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After the launch of the Cygnet, Aston Martin’s city runaround that caused so much comment - not all of it polite - it’s good to see the company back doing what it excels at. Esquire was recently invited to throw the new V8 Vantage S around the Ascari racetrack in Spain and take its new ‘tourer’, the Virage pictured above), around some very winding roads in the Ronda valley.

Both cars are the creation of Aston’s design director Marek Reichman - the facially-follicled renaissance man who hangs out with music types by night and quietly reinvigorates the Aston marque by day.

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It was Reichmann who designed the ridiculously beautiful one million pound One-77 that recently featured in an Esquire fashion shoot. A similar muscular elegance is to be found in both new cars. The S (pictured below) features a re-profiled front bumper with bigger air intakes and a carbon fibre splitter. At the rear, the perfectly tuned exhausts (did one of his music mates finesse that fearsome growl?) sit in a lower bumper diffuser. Meanwhile, the boot lid’s topped off with a nicely integrated spoiler.

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On a race track the experience is like being strapped into something galactic - albeit hand finished and stitched, leather-lined and cushioned. The S is a proper race-bred road car, influenced by the  Vantage GT4 racer and it shows. Speedshift II, its seven-speed, paddle-shift transmission is fast and efficient. A sport button, which Esquire kept pressed on track and off, speeds up the throttle and gear response and gives more of that beautiful V8 roar earlier.

After a near centrifugal spin around the track we took to the mountains in the Virage (below) described by Aston boss Dr Ulrich Bezz as “The most refined Aston Martin to date.” Visually, it retains the elegance of Aston’s DB9 but, if anything, looks even sharper. Compared to the S it was practically silent - to the point where we wondered if we’d actually nodded off during a brief zip along the motorway - such was the comfort level. But although subtle it’s truly exciting, sticking to naughty mountain roads with silly levels of grip.

At this price point both cars are among stiff competition but there’s something uniquely enticing about an Aston  - be it beause of Bond or because it’s peculiarly British (sort of) - that ensures you always get the kind of love from other road users that money just can’t buy. And by the time you’ve been on the receiving end of yet another “Compañero buen amigo!”  you’ll find yourself, like us, surfing the net to see if selling an arm might raise the required 100k -150k for either model (and of course a leg to fill its tank for a year.

Mat Smith

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