“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,” says Aston Martin President & CEO, Dr. Andy Palmer. However, Aston Martin will re-introduce the wonder of travel with its Lagonda range of luxury vehicles that will be launched 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. And it will show how true luxury and modern design, far from being diametrically opposed interests, can exist in total 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,” Dr. Palmer said. “Lagonda exists to challenge that thinking and prove that being modern and luxurious are not mutually exclusive concepts.’
As a preview to what a Lagonda model will look like, the company has prepared the Lagonda Vision Concept, a near-future study that previews the design language that could potentially be seen in production models in the next decade.
Aston Martin’s designers have also built two 1/40 scale concept models – one a coupe and the other a SUV – to illustrate how the Lagonda design language could be adapted for the future.
“The Lagonda Vision Concept is an incredibly bold design statement,” said Aston Martin EVP and Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichman. “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 showcases Lagonda design ingenuity. Both far shorter and lower than traditional limousines, the exceptional space efficiency that has been achieved by its radical design means there is room inside for four adults, each of 2 metres height or taller, to stretch out in luxurious comfort.
“Lagonda has no need to occupy a huge amount of road space or make an ostentatious wealth statement,” continued Reichman. “It is like comparing Concorde to the first-class cabin of a conventional airliner. 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.”
Far more than any orthodox design, the Vision Concept was designed from the inside out because that is what the architecture allows. With 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.
The Vision Concept doesn’t have a bonnet because one is not required. But it still needs to travel through the air and to do so as efficiently as possible to preserve battery life, which is why its shape is so sleek and dynamic.
“The shape is the result of satisfying a number of different requirements,” explained Reichman. “The need to make a bold design statement, to establish Lagonda as a company of the future and to show how technological advancement can help liberate design too. So while Aston Martin design language can be seen as organic and natural, that of Lagonda is more sculptural, shocking and challenging. It is a shape formed by the collision of invisible forces, like those made by magnetic particles in an electrical current. The secret is to understand how to connect that shock and change to beautiful surfacing.”
For the interior, Reichman and his team took further delight in defying convention, turning to the most traditional of households for the most visionary thinking. “How do you create a cabin that is at once unlike any other, capable of achieving a new level of luxury both in look and feel while staying true to Lagonda’s forward thinking vision? For me, there was only one man for the job,” he said, referring to renowned British craftsman David Snowdon. “His ability to marry materials, some very modern, others very established in ways that are never predictable held the key to the interior of the Lagonda Vision Concept.”
The cabin uses not only ultra modern materials like carbonfibre 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. The result is ‘a cabin that surprises, shocks and fascinates’, where silk carpets and hand-woven wool upholstery live in perfect harmony with carbonfibre trim and functional ceramic tiles that open and close to alter the ventilation and adjust the volume of the music.
The majority of the car’s structural strength comes through its floor so it has been possible to have openings in the body far larger than would be wise in conventional cars. As a result, the rear-hinged back doors don’t just 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. They instead sit on cantilevered arms extending from the floor outside the seat frame providing a completely uncluttered floor area. The seats are more like armchairs, with heavily bolstered arms because, given the choice people always use arms to lower and raise themselves from chairs.
The Vision Concept also anticipates a world with a high level of autonomy. Its design is commensurate with Level 4 autonomous driving, meaning the car will be capable of driving itself in all routine circumstances and on all recognisable roads. As a result, the steering wheel can not only move from left to right hand drive according to need but in autonomous mode, it can also retract entirely allowing front seat passengers to rotate through 180 degrees to engage in face to face conversation with those in the back.
“For owners of true luxury cars, autonomy has existed for over a century, in a carbon-based form called a chauffeur,” observed Dr. Palmer. “We imagine most Lagonda customers will choose to be driven but 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. Lagonda will provide that choice.”
The electric drive system under development will provide intelligent all-wheel drive, capable of delivering anything from 100% to 0% of available torque to any given wheel, according to demand. The powertrain has been configured to accept powerful solid state electric batteries enabling it to cover up to 640 real-world kilometres between charges. That’s the distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco, London to Edinburgh or Penang to Phuket – and it can be done without stopping. The concept has also has been designed to be compatible with the latest wireless conductive charging technology.