Aston Martin has recently presented its Lagonda Vision Concept, which it says marks the beginning of “a new range of state of the art, emission-free luxury vehicles”.
Production is planned to start in 2021.
Lagonda aims to be the world’s first zero emission luxury brand. It will “confound traditional thinking and take full advantage of the latest advances in electrification and autonomous driving technologies, which amount to the biggest revolution in land-bound transportation since the invention of the car”.
Lagonda aims to show how luxury and modern design can exist in harmony and enhance each other’s most desirable characteristics.
“We believe people associate luxury in their cars with a certain traditional and even old-fashioned approach because, to date, that is all that’s been available to them,” says Aston Martin President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr Andy Palmer.
“Lagonda exists to challenge that thinking and prove that being modern and luxurious are not mutually exclusive concepts.”
The ‘Vision Concept’ is a near future study that previews the design language that could potentially be seen in production Lagonda models as soon as 2021. Alongside the new concept, two 40 per cent scale models will be displayed, one coupe concept and one SUV concept, to illustrate how the Lagonda design language could be adapted for the future.
Aston Martin EVP and Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichman explains that “the electrification revolution means there is no longer any need for horse and carriage design, and our new concept shows the scope of design opportunities that open up once you no longer need to provide space for a large power source directly in front of the passenger compartment. In the Lagonda Vision Concept, the batteries occupy the floor of the car. Everything above that line belongs to us.”
The Vision Concept is far shorter and lower than traditional limousines, and ‘exceptional’ space efficiency means there is room inside for four adults, “each of two metres height or more, to stretch out in luxurious comfort”.
Reichman added that “by ditching traditional architecture like Parthenon grilles and massive frontal areas, and by using electrical power, Lagonda design can still be distinctive and luxurious without being grandiose. It offers its customers a thoroughly modern, emission-free form of super-luxurious mobility.”
The car was designed from the inside out: since there was no need to package a vast internal combustion engine, gearbox and transmission, the designers could optimise the interior down to the smallest detail and then build up the exterior of the car around it.
It doesn’t have a bonnet “because one is not required”. But it still needs to travel through the air as efficiently as possible to preserve battery life, hence its sleek shape.
For the interior Reichman and his team collaborated with renowned British craftsman David Linley, Earl of Snowdon, who is renowned for marrying modern and traditional materials innovatively.
“When we first started working with David we showed him all these ideas we’d had for marquetry and leather on the inside and he said: “let’s use different materials, materials people won’t expect even in isolation, let alone together.
“Which is why the interior uses not only ultra-modern materials like carbon fibre and ceramics but also some of the oldest and finest that of late have rarely been used in the automotive sphere, like cashmeres and silks.”
Its design also makes for “a new level of convenience and ease of use”: because most of the car’s structural strength comes from its floor, it was possible to use apertures in the body far larger than would be wise in conventional cars.
As a result, not only do the back doors open outwards, the roof sections also open upwards to provide unprecedented ease of access. Occupants can therefore literally stand up inside and walk out of the car, or step straight into it. Similarly, the front seats are not mounted on conventional runners which always interfere with where those in the back would like to place their feet, but instead sit on cantilevered arms extending from the floor outside the seat frame providing a completely uncluttered floor area.
And the seats are more like armchairs, with heavily bolstered arms because people tend to use their arms to lower and raise themselves from chairs.
The car also anticipates a world with a high level of autonomy. Its design is commensurate with level four autonomous driving, meaning it is capable of driving itself in all routine circumstances and on all recognisable roads. The steering wheel can move from left to right hand drive according to need, and in autonomous mode it can retract entirely allowing front seat passengers to rotate through 180 degrees and engage in face to face conversation with those in the back.
The car has 360-degree awareness of the world around it, and is fully connected to it, giving occupants “a level of connectivity and cyber-security few enjoy in their own homes, let alone their cars”.
Powerful solid state electric batteries mean the car can cover up to 400 miles between charges.
Its electric drive system provides intelligent all-wheel drive that is capable of delivering anything from 100 to zero per cent of available torque to any given wheel according to demand.
“Ever since the start of the 20th century when petrol beat electricity and steam to become the fuel of the future, the evolution of the automobile has followed a continuous line both long and straight. No longer,” says Palmer. “A world of technological opportunity has now opened up, a world where those with the imagination, courage and determination to take a new path will thrive. With Lagonda we have the creativity, drive and the brand to make the most of this unique opportunity”.
The company says it will remain faithful to the ‘forward thinking, ever adventurous spirit’ of Wilbur Gunn, the Anglo-American engineer and entrepreneur who founded Lagonda in a greenhouse at his home in Staines, west of London, in 1904. He was a man whose talents stretched from opera singing to riverboat building, and he named his company after the Lagonda Creek river that ran through the town of Springfield in his native Ohio.
His cars were always innovative: for example, the 16/18hp model that won the Moscow to St Petersburg trial in 1910 boasted not only trailing arm rear suspension but a form of monocoque construction, decades before its advantages were realised by the bulk of the world’s car manufacturers.
Lagonda went on to become not only one of the most coveted car brands in the world, but among the most versatile too. In its 1930s heyday Lagonda was capable of producing V12-powered limousines fit for royalty, and sports cars strong and quick enough to win Le Mans, which one duly did in 1935.
Bought by Aston Martin in 1947, Lagonda continued to innovate – never more so than with the Aston Martin Lagonda of the 1980s and 1990s.
Says Palmer: “The car has been the greatest liberating force humankind has invented, and at the time the journey was as important as the destination. All that has been lost over the last 100 years. Wherever you are in a Lagonda, whatever the journey and whichever seat you occupy, it will re-introduce you to the wonder of travel.”