- James tests the Aston Martin Virage.
- The boys travel to Italy to test high-performance hatchbacks.
- Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Ross Noble.
We begin with James out on the Top Gear test track, looking at a selection of sporty Aston Martins – the DBS, V12 Vantage & Vantage S. All very beautiful and fast, but James thinks there is a problem with all of them – and in fact all modern sports cars. He explains, “Handling. The people who make sports cars are absolutely obsessed with it, to the exclusion of everything else – like comfort, refinement, they just give you a racket, a load of smoke and a bad back”. The reason for this is the obsession with the Nurbugring in Germany – manufacturers take their new models there for testing and become obsessed with lap times and nothing else. James feels the Aston Martin DB9 has gone to the opposite end of the scale – that it has a slight whiff of old fart about it, and that the DBS is bone shaking sporty. What he needs then is a car directly between these – enter the new Aston Martin Virage. Despite looking like pretty much every other car in the range, the Virage is actually made from completely new body panels and is possibly the best looking Aston yet. The Virage slots rather neatly between the DBS & DB9 – a bit too neatly in fact. The DBS has 510bhp, the DB9 has 470bhp – and the Virage with 490bhp. In a drag race between the three cars, the results are predictable – they finish in the same order as their bhp figures. It’s the same story with the price (£150,000) and the sharpness of the handling – both are directly in between. The car handles beautifully on the track – but before James can give the car a tick of approval, he has to test it on the road. To do this, he leaves the track via a security gate and begins to drive along the roads surrounding the airfield. He only gets a few hundred yards before he gets extremely cross with the car, as it bounces and jiggles across the bumps, even at low speed. James cancels the test and sums the car up, “The Virage then, is a missed opportunity. It could and should have been a comfortable gentleman’s express. Instead, it’s just another pointless, bone shaking racing car”. Back in the studio, we watch the Stig take the Virage for a power lap – it manages a 1:24.40.
In the news, Jeremy mentions how beautiful a lot of ordinary, family cars are these days – such as the Citroen DS5, Kia Optima, Peugeot 508, and the Vauxhall Insignia – which Jeremy incorrectly claims has positive camber. Jeremy introduces a modern interpretation of the Jaguar E-Type, hilariously called the Growler.
In the next segment, the boys go on a road trip to Italy to test three hot hatchbacks. Jeremy arrives first in the centre of Lucca, in a Citroen DS3 Racing. James arrives next in a Renault Clio Cup, followed by Richard in a Fiat 500C Abarth. Of the three, the Citroen has the most power with 204bhp, but it is also the most expensive. The first challenge arrives – who can leave the city of Lucca first? This is easier said than done – as Lucca is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, many of which are one way. The boys each go their own way and quickly get very lost. Despite the cars being “small hatchbacks”, they are still too big for some of the narrow streets and right-angled corners. Eventually, Jeremy makes it out first, followed by Richard – and James accidentally driving up on top of the wall surrounding the city. For the next challenge, the boys must each make their way to the town of Canelli, but also collect a number of objects along the way – the branch of a cedar tree, ice cubes, a photo with as many people as possible inside the car, a CD from a service station (but you may not get out of your car to get it), a bicycle, a vine and a dog. On route, the boys each go their own way and begin searching for their items. Some time later, Jeremy arrives first at the finishing point to see Richard already waiting. Jeremy successfully found all the items, however he discovers Richard’s dog is in fact stuffed. James arrives late with all of his ice cubes melted.
Back in the studio, Jeremy introduces Ross Noble as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Ross manages an amazing second place time of 1:43.50 on a dry track.
Back to the hot hatch segment – we catch up with the boys as they arrive in Monaco, discovering that the Monaco GP was on that day – they pull over to receive their next challenge. The next day, they will each complete 3 laps of the Monaco GP circuit, to see who can post the fastest time. That evening, Jeremy meets up with F1 drivers David Coulthard, Mark Webber & Rubens Barrichello, to discuss the track in detail and grab a few tips from each of them. Richard and James get distracted and end up spending the night partying with beautiful women on a luxury yacht. The next morning, the boys each head out onto the circuit together for a practice lap – each accompanied with a tutor. Richard is paired with Red Bull Racing’s team boss Christian Horner, James got former Renault boss Flavio Briatore, and Jeremy receiving Bernie Ecclestone. After a cruise around the track, they each set off to perform their hot laps – James first, Richard second, Jeremy last. Despite being spread apart slightly, Jeremy quickly catches up to Richard and passes him through the tunnel on the first lap. He passes James near the “swimming pool” and extends his lead and Richard passes James near the end of the second lap. After their three laps are up, we find out that Jeremy posted the fastest time in the DS3 Racing – 2:15, Richard second with Fiat 500C – 2:20, and James’ Clio last -2:21.
The scores are tallied up, Jeremy 38, James 17, and Richard 0. Richard lost all of his points due to the producers disqualifying him in each challenge due to a bunch of different reasons.
“Some say that he can’t eat mashed potato for religious reasons, and that he recently received 47,000 tickets, Olympic tickets, all of them for the final of the Women’s Wrestling. All we know is he’s called the Stig.”
Stig Power Laps
Aston Martin Virage
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car