bulletin: new lagonda
It’s called the lagonda vision concept, and i t points to a radical future for luxury travel
You’ve never seen anything quite like this before. Lagonda’s show-stopper
so this is Aston Martin’s plan for lagonda. remarkable, isn’t it? like nothing you’ve ever seen before. it certainly knocked me for six when i had a sneak peek at the full-size styling ‘clay’ and a very basic interior buck in the Aston Martin Design studio at Gaydon a few weeks before the Vision Concept’s unveiling at the Geneva motor show.
Aml’s ambition and intent for lagonda is as breathtaking as the concept itself. production of the first in a range of new lagondas is due to start in 2021, though whether the first model will be a productionised version of the Vision Concept or something a little more conventional is unclear at this stage.
What’s very clear is the aim of lagonda being the first zero-emission luxury brand. As you’d expect, technical details for the Vision Concept are sketchy, but there’s talk of a bonded multi-material structure and powerful solid-state electric batteries – technology that is in development and predicted to deliver twice the energy density of current lithium-ion batteries for a fifth of the cost. solid-state batteries are also non-flammable, run cooler and offer theoretical benefits for faster charging and longer life.
range is said to be sufficient to drive from la to san Francisco, or london to Edinburgh – which by our reckoning is around 400 miles. Full recharging time (via wireless conductive charging) will be 15 minutes and the electric drive system will power all four wheels, with the capability of sending anything from 100 per cent to zero per cent of available torque to any given wheel.
it’s worth noting that prior to his appointment as Aston Martin CEO, two of Andy palmer’s numerous responsibilities as nissan’s chief planning officer included the Japanese giant’s electric car and battery business. You could say he’s well plugged-in to zero emission automotive technologies. the battery tech outlined in the Vision Concept’s spec may not exist in production-ready form yet, but there’s every likelihood it will within five years.
Lagonda’s show-stopping debut at Geneva is all the more shocking because we’ve grown used to the L in AML being something of a silent partner for many years. Yes there’s been the Taraf – a wonderful homage to the iconic Towns ‘wedge’ – but there has long been a sense of pent-up potential laced with a lack of clarity on how Lagonda should be reinterpreted. And then there was the ungainly but entirely prescient Lagonda LUV concept – see panel – which predated the Bentley Bentayga and upcoming Rolls-royce Cullinan but won few admirers at the time.
Since then, Aston has almost entirely reinvented itself under the management of Andy Palmer. His oft-quoted ‘Second Century Plan’ attracted considerable investment, which has facilitated a revitalised range and a growing portfolio of models. With the all-new DB11 and Vantage driving sales, the Valkyrie hypercar promising to re-write the rules of road-car performance and an Aston SUV – the DBX – poised for production, the company is in excellent shape.
Described as a ‘near future study’, the Lagonda Vision Concept is an extreme preview of the design language, purpose and technology AML intends to deploy in reviving this uniquely mysterious, quirky and yet undeniably prestigious brand.
For Aston Martin’s chief creative officer, Marek Reichman, Lagonda is the perfect opportunity to create a car, and indeed a brand, entirely free from the inherited baggage of 20th century technology. ‘It’s a bold statement,’ he says. ‘The electrification revolution means there is no longer any need for “horse and carriage” design. This new concept shows the scope of design opportunity that opens up once you no longer need to provide space for a large power-source directly in front of the passenger compartment. In this concept the batteries occupy the floor of the car. Everything above that line belongs to us.’
This translates into an unusually space-efficient interior. One that offers occupants more room than a Rolls-royce Phantom VIII EWB in a car that’s actually shorter than the regular Phantom. As with the exterior, the interior shuns convention. The flat floor provides the bulk of the body structure’s strength, so in addition to giving far greater freedom for different seating configurations, it allows far larger body apertures. As a result, when the rear-hinged doors open outwards the roof sections open upwards, allowing occupants to literally stand up and walk out or step straight in.
The front seats are attached to cantilevered arms that are fixed to the outer edges of the floor, negating the need for conventional seat runners and leaving the floor uncluttered. The Vision Concept is also designed for Level 4
autonomous driving, so not only can the steering wheel be moved from left- to right-hand drive as required, in autonomous mode it can retract entirely, allowing front seat passengers to rotate their seats through 180 degrees to face the rear-seat passengers.
Of course, being from the AML stable, the interior is also an indulgent, stylish and unconventional mix of wonderful materials, including carbonfibre, ceramics, cashmeres and silks. This aspect of the Vision Concept is the result of a collaboration with celebrated English furniture designer David Linley. It’s a sumptuous, wonderfully tactile and beautifully executed space that would surely make any journey an absolute joy.
For the first time in a very long time there’s a real energy and purpose about the Lagonda brand. It genuinely feels poised for success, on its own terms and in unique style. When Andy Palmer says ‘we see no limits for Lagonda’, there’s little reason to doubt him.
I can’t vouch for how it will drive, or, perhaps more pertinently, how it will feel to be in when it’s driven (autonomously or otherwise), but even sat in the back of the rudimentary interior buck, I can tell you that if the production version of the Vision Concept is even half as extraordinary as the show car, it will be one of the finest experiences on four wheels. V
Above With no engine, and solid-state batteries – believed to be just a few years away – placed under the floor, interior possibilities are almost boundless. Front seats of Vision Concept can even be swivelled round to face the rear when the car is being driven autonomously
above steering wheel would move from left- to right-hand drive as required – or retract completely…