At a show where we were expecting to see a new SUV, Aston Martin served up another – and more radical – concept today, the Lagonda Vision Concept.
The ‘Vision Concept’ is a four-door, four-seat autonomous electric sedan, which previews the design language that is likely to be seen in production Lagonda models as soon as 2021. This is Aston Martin’s bid to relaunch Lagonda not only as a super-luxury brand to challenge Rolls-Royce and Bentley but as a new all-electric luxury experience with totally new values – a kind of ‘über-Tesla’ for the 2020s.
CDN talked to Marek Reichman, EVP and Chief Creative Officer, together with Design Manager Sam Holgate, about the car and its aims.
“The Lagonda Vision Concept is an incredibly bold design statement,’ says 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.”
Reichman was keen to stress the fact that this should not be seen as simply a four-door Aston Martin, it is not a replacement for the Rapide or the Taraf. “This is not an Aston Martin. It’s brave and disruptive, showing the package benefits of our new EV platform. It’s a dynamic product too, not static in any of its language. It has movement, plus a huge influence from aerodynamics because EVs are all about efficiency, plus some cooling.”
“We can be brave, it’s a totally new aesthetic. If you know your history you can see elements there from the William Towns Lagonda [from the 1970s]. Lagonda has always been a disruptor: the early monocoque cars were better than Rolls-Royce, they did the Bentley Chaser – W.O. Bentley worked for Lagonda, don’t forget. Post-war, the Towns car was the first car to use a computer to control the engine management system – the first car in world – and included advanced digital displays in the cabin.”
The cab-forward exterior design was the responsibility of Sam Holgate. “In terms of actual design itself, there’s a new proportion with more volume at the front, it’s a bit of a Tardis” he says. “We’re using sculpture to hide the mass of the car but there’s a huge amount of space that gives you that real luxury feeling, especially in the rear. There are a few ‘Towns’ hints, but also from Concorde which has that great jet pilot feel. Concorde was light years ahead of anything around at that time, it still looks modern. The luxury market feels a little stale, has stayed the same for a long time especially Rolls-Royce and Bentley. There is a place for that, but we wanted something that looks 10-15 years into the future.”
Reichman agrees: “The volume of Concorde is not excessive but it’s incredibly luxurious, using the efficiency of form to get you somewhere. In Concorde you could get to New York ahead of local time.
Totally silent travel and efficiency are the big topics with this concept, and not just the lack of noise due to the electric powertrain. Reichman: “It is slippery through the air, with a low frontal area and a ballistic prow front end that channels air effectively for cooling and flow over the body, making it efficient in aerodynamics, efficient in package and form, then efficient because of the internal volumes it liberates. So, an efficiency of external form, of internal form and efficiency through the air.”
Interior: Proud to be British
Brands such as Volvo, Skoda and Citroen have been quite astute in identifying the use of national materials, colours and textures, but until now there have not many from Britain. The interior of the Lagonda Vision Concept sets out to not use wood or leather – it is a truly 21st century luxury experience. Materials are exclusively natural and fabrics are all British-supplied and manufactured in the UK. It also uses vegan materials – a trend that seems to be growing. “It’s not quirky but now a strong movement that designers and suppliers need to respond to more,” says Reichman.
The design team worked closely with suppliers such as Savile Row shirt maker Henry Poole and furniture designer Lord Linley to come up with materials such as cashmere wool and silks for seats, carbon fibre, velvet and piano black lacquer on the floor and crystal for interior lighting. “These materials are serene, elegant yet practical,” he explains. “Wool is a fantastic insulator, you don’t need a seat heater if you sit on wool. You’re instantly warm yet you don’t sweat because it soaks the other way, it cools you.” To prove his point, Reichman was wearing a cashmere wool suit made from the same material on the show stand.
The rear seat features a central gesture cave with a surround in sintered titanium. The inner door panels are formed of a series of ceramic tiles, which deploy to allow airflow or sound from the embedded speakers into the cabin, without the use of noisy fans. Reichman: “This is a new way to control sound, it’s like an acoustic chamber, a serene sanctuary. This is a new level of silence, beyond Rolls-Royce. Through voice control, you can choose how you want to control the car and the instruments. If you want a touchpad or gesture control pad we will design and develop that for you. If you simply want voice control we’ll create an individual product for you. It’s a low-volume luxury product, we can do that because of the electronic systems within the car.”
Entry and egress into the car is easy, with doors cut into the floor and a gullwing upper door cut deeply into the roof to provide a canopy. Dramatic door systems, with swan-neck hinges, have long been a feature on Reichman’s other cars. “Here, you can walk in, spin around then sit down. If it’s raining the top roof section stays put” he continues.
On the Geneva show stand the Lagonda is displayed alongside two 40 per cent scale models, one with two doors and two seats, the other with five doors and seven seats that illustrate how the language is easily scalable and adaptable into other automotive configurations. Reichman concludes his thoughts: “It’s been a duopoly for too long, with just Rolls-Royce and Bentley. But can you imagine an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley turning up to a meeting in a Rolls-Royce Phantom? It’s a clash of worlds and cultures. The potential in China and other new markets is huge. We’ve done a lot of research in those markets and found out what those customers want and what they’re willing to be seen in.”
“Look what companies such as Apple do. How do you set a future state? It projects the future by creating the future and providing a product that is futuristic for all of us. You can set your future if you create your future. That’s what we’re doing here, we’re saying of course there’s a traditional value of luxury but there’s the modern value of luxury which is connected to the modern high-tech world we live in. We’ve done our research, Lagonda is the first truly luxury tech-based company.”