By Marc Lachapelle
Aston Martin stunned the press in Geneva not so much by confirming the return of the Lagonda brand – which had been announced by CEO Ulrich Bez in Paris last September – as by unveiling a bold, bodacious Lagonda Concept that basically is… a luxury SUV. To top it off, one powered by a V12 gasoline engine. The outcry of purists was instantaneous. How could Aston Martin build any kind of vehicle with ‘utility’ in its job definition?
Well, that’s exactly the point: it is not an Aston Martin but a Lagonda. And this marque, now a century old, first came to prominence with a victory in one of the most gruelling motoring events of the time: the Russian Reliability Trial. This endurance drive took entrants to St-Petersburg, Riga, Kiev and Moscow. American-born Wilbur Gunn built the first Lagonda in 1909 and won the event in 1910 with his 16/18hp Lagonda Tourer.
Lagonda went on building cars with a reputation for robustness and reliability, plus a taste for effortless trans-continental drives, for decades. In 1935, a lightweight version of the Lagonda M45 also won the 24 hours of Le Mans. Lagonda was sold to then Aston Martin owner David Brown in 1947 and cars bearing this distinct name were quietly produced until the late 80s.
Following Aston Martin’s return to profitability and the impressive expansion of its model portfolio, the consortium is reviving the Lagonda marque that has been dormant for twenty years in order to expand its reach. Astons are sold in 30 countries but the plan is to sell Lagonda vehicles in 100 countries, including Russia. The undeniable success of the Cayenne (the 250,000th has just rolled off the assembly line) and its substantial contribution to rival brand Porsche’s bottom line has obviously not gone unnoticed.
The Lagonda Concept is a four-seat luxury touring vehicle with exterior design inspired by Lagonda’s long heritage as well as the design of modern speedboats. In keeping with the times, the production version of this concept will likely be available with other propulsion technologies such flex-fuel engines, clean diesels and hybrid systems.