Big, brash and bold, Aston Martin pulled the wraps off a super-luxury $210,000 Lagonda SUV at the Geneva motor show with plans to relaunch a brand dormant since the 1990s.
With styling that mixes a modern, BMW-look front end with a retro rear end based on a classic 1930s Lagonda, the 204.7-inch-long SUV possesses plenty of presence, but it can’t be described as beautiful.
The retro rear styling, in particular, doesn’t sit well with the SUV proportions and modern front end.
As yet there’s no commitment to production; 2012 is the earliest date Aston will consider.
“It’s far too early to talk about production, production numbers or future planning,” Aston chairman Dave Richards said.
Launching such an ostentatious model in the teeth of the worst recession in 60 years might also appear not to be the best timing.
“But we’re looking long-term here, 10 to 15 years,” sales director Bill Donnelly said. ”This recession will end and there’s still plenty of wealth in the world and will be in the future, too.”
The substance under the Lagonda is a Mercedes-Benz GL platform, offered up by Daimler as part of an ongoing discussion between the two companies about future cooperation.
Daimler is interested in Aston’s expertise in making luxury cars for the next Maybach, while Aston needs access to Mercedes-Benz powertrain technology.
It’s not hard to see the Lagonda concept as a tryout for that project.
In the meantime, Aston is talking about the Lagonda SUV as a niche for super-luxury cars in countries where road and weather conditions are tough and render conventional luxury sedans and sports cars unusable for many months of the year.
Russia, China, South America, India and the more remote parts of the United States are on Aston’s hit list.
Aston also sees the Lagonda as a way to extend the number of countries where it sells. Currently it sells in 33 countries around the world and reckons the Lagonda will extend that to 100.
The Mercedes underpinnings give the Lagonda strong engineering credentials. Aston, under design chief Marek Reichman, has kept key hard points the same--so the front axle, lower A- and B-pillars and firewall are in the same positions. The door hinges are carryover, too, although Reichman expects to tool new doors to ensure the styling suffers no compromises.
Under the hood is an Aston Martin V12, tilted up at the front to fit over the GL’s front axle.
The front overhang is extended to accommodate the longer Aston engine. The rear seat is moved back to a position halfway between the second and third rows of the GL’s layout, which boosts legroom.
Although the cabin has individual rear seats, both fold forward to turn the Lagonda’s cabin into a practical load bay, helped by access through a hatchback rear door.
Aston has yet to decide how to make the Lagonda, if the project ever gets the green light.
Reichman says the bodywork could be tooled in either steel or aluminum. The latter is Aston’s material of choice for its sports-car range, so the company has plenty of experience in forming aluminum panels.
Reichman says that despite the clean-looking body sides, the mix of soft curves and crisp edges in some panels will be a challenge to manufacture.
History of Lagonda
Lagonda was founded more than 100 years ago by Wilbur Gunn, an American who set up a workshop in England and built his first car in 1909, hence this year's anniversary. The name is a river near Gunn's hometown, Springfield, Ohio.
Gunn was successful in Czarist Russia after his 16/18 Tourer won a trial run to publicize Russia’s early road system.
Steady development made Lagonda a serious rival for Rolls-Royce and Bentley. The 1930s Lagonda open-top M45 tourer had a reputation as a very sporting sedan.
When Bentley went bust in the Great Depression and was taken over by Rolls-Royce, W. O. Bentley moved to Lagonda and designed the company’s iconic LG6 model, which Aston has taken as inspiration for the new SUV.
By 1947, Lagonda was struggling financially and it was bought by David Brown, the British tractor magnate, who had earlier taken control of Aston Martin.
Brown particularly wanted access to the Bentley-designed six-cylinder DOHC engine.
In the 1970s, Aston chief designer William Towns ripped up the rule book and created the V8, an incredible four-door sedan with wedgy, angular styling.
That was the company’s last production car. For the past couple of decades, the name lived on only in Aston’s official legal company title, Aston Martin Lagonda.
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