bulletin: new lagonda

It’s called the lagonda vi­sion con­cept, and i t points to a rad­i­cal fu­ture for lux­ury travel

VANTAGE - - Contents - Words richard Meaden images As­ton Martin

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…

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