GENEVA: Aston Martin created one of the biggest talking points of the Geneva international motor show when it announced it was reviving the Lagonda marque as an emissions-free luxury vehicle.
The Lagonda ‘Vision Concept’ will feature a radically shaped coupe and SUV, the striking wedge-like design an echo of the Lagonda’s V12 heyday in the ’70s and ’80s before Aston Martin, which bought the century-old limousine business in 1947, largely shelved it.
Aston Martin President and CEO, Dr Andy Palmer, said Lagonda aims to be the world’s first zero emission luxury brand and production on the revived marque would begin in 2021.
The company wants to “confound traditional thinking” as it enlists battery power and autonomous driving.
“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,” Palmer said.
“Lagonda exists to challenge that thinking and prove that being modern and luxurious are not mutually exclusive concepts.”
The interior is as striking as the spaceship-like body, with the usual signatures of luxury – wood and leather – eschewed for hand-woven wool upholstery (Savile Row tailors, Henry Poole, were enlisted for the job), silk carpets, cashmere, carbon fibre trim and ceramic tiles that open and close to alter ventilation and adjust music levels.
The armchair-like four seats recline and the two front seats on cantilevered arms, rather than runners, swivel 180-degrees you can face the rear passengers. There’s enough room for basketballer-length people to stretch out, while the steering wheel, which shifts to either left or right hand drive, retracts if the car is self-driving.
The Lagonda will be equipped for “level 4” autonomous driving, meaning it can function without human input under certain conditions on recognisable roads – eg. for highway driving.
Palmer quipped that luxury car owners had autonomous systems for more than a century “in a carbon-based form called a chauffeur” and he imagines most Lagonda customers will still want to be driven.
“Whether by a person or a computer will be up to them. And if they want to drive themselves, the car will ensure that is a delightful and memorable experience too,” he said.
Aston Martin’s Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichman said the interior design shows the possibilities when you don’t need to stick an engine in front of passengers. The car doesn’t even have a bonnet and is both lower and shorter than conventional limousines while being more spacious.
“Lagonda has no need to occupy a huge amount of road space or make an ostentatious wealth statement,” he said.
“It is like comparing Concorde to the first class cabin of a conventional airliner.”
With the battery built into the car floor, the additional strength that delivers allowed them to design larger coach doors, while the roof section also lifts for ease of access.
“Occupants can therefore literally stand up inside and walk out of the car, or step straight into it,” Reichman said.
The designer said the Lagonda has a more “sculptural, shocking and challenging” look that attempts to show how technology can help liberate design too.
“It is a shape formed by the collision of invisible forces, like those made by magnetic particles in an electrical current,” he said.
The car will have a range of 640km (400 miles) – London to Edinburgh – on a single charge and will feature wireless conductive charging technology.
And in what sounded like a veiled dig at Elon Musk’s Tesla, Andy Palmer said Lagonda will be a brand for the restless and people who don’t accept the status quo.
“It will produce cars that exploit technology, without being obsessed with it for its own sake,” he said.
A decade ago Aston Martin first announced plans to revive the Lagonda and in 2015, released the $US1 millioon Lagonda Taraf, the world’s most expensive four-door saloon at the time.
No price has been suggested for the new vehicle.
* Business Insider travelled to the Geneva Motor Show as a guest of Lexus.
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