When most people think of ultra-luxury sedans they tend to think British – namely, Rolls-Royce and Bentley. But now there’s a third contender out there. It’s an unexpected blast from the past, and it comes from a somewhat unexpected place. That contender is Aston Martin, and its car is the Lagonda, a revival of one of the most technologically-advanced and polarizing nameplates in British motoring history, and while the car is no retro throwback, it does the original justice while making Rolls and Bentley’s most exclusive cars seem like an entry-level Lexus in comparison.
Barring the One-77 of 2013, and the track-only Vulcan, Aston Martin occupies a strange place in the automotive landscape. Too exclusive to be within reach of mere mortals, yet not quite insane enough to fit into the supercar category, the iconic nameplate has a reputation for building some of the world’s best grand touring cars that dates back to just after the second world war. Back then, company owner David Brown (the DB in Aston’s DB cars) had big plans for the company, purchasing luxury marque Lagonda in 1947. While the Lagonda name all but disappeared shortly thereafter, Brown revived it in 1961 for a DB4-based Bentley fighter called the Lagonda Rapide. While only 55 of them were produced, that car served as the inspiration for today’s DB9-based Lagonda sports sedan.
In 1976, Lagonda was reintroduced as a wedge-shaped four-door that looked like it came from 10 years into the future. Despite being nearly 18 feet long, the razor-sharp Aston Martin Lagonda had a 280 horsepower 5.3 liter V8, which was enough to take the car from zero to 60 in around six seconds, and top out at around 150 miles per hour. Avant-garde styling aside, the Lagonda’s notoriety came from its fully digital instrument layout, and touch-screen controls. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cash-strapped Aston’s ambition outweighed its electrical skills, and the Lagonda was fraught with electrical gremlins throughout its 14-year production run. Despite its notorious unreliability earning it a place on Time Magazine’s list of the 50 Worst Cars of All-Time, the Lagonda’s forward-thinking blend of power and technology have since become part of the Aston Martin legend, and nearly 40 years later, the company is determined to do the Lagonda right.
While the 21st century Lagonda is new to most, it’s been around for over a year now – in the Middle East, that is. Released as the Aston Martin Lagonda Taraf in 2014, it was a bespoke sedan designed especially for that market, one dominated by oil-rich sheiks who prize exclusivity in their cars. But despite its striking looks, and strong performance (it borrows its 550 horsepower, 5.9 liter V12 from the Vantage, top speed is estimated to be around 200 miles per hour), there was no mention of the car on Aston’s website, and the few glimpses the outside world got of the car was the occasional spy photo out of the Middle East.
But now Aston Martin is ready to spread the wealth, albeit in a limited way. The Lagonda is now available in England, continental Europe, Singapore, and South Africa. Only 200 will be built, any while the company went to great pains to keep the sticker price confidential, one U.K. dealer briefly leaked it, letting the world know that Aston’s new Rolls fighter will start at £700,000, or just over $1 million. As Autocar points out, In comparison, the Rolls-Royce Phantom starts at £373,824 ($573,621), and the Bentley Mulsanne costs £229,360 ($351,946)
So it’s fast and it’s expensive, but at this point so are the Rolls-Royce and Bentley. What makes the Lagonda worth it? For one, the cars will be hand-built by the company’s bespoke “Q by Aston Martin” division, meaning it’s likely that no two will be exactly alike. And while it’s as almost exactly as long as the original car (and over a foot longer than the Rapide), its entire body is made out of carbon fiber, making it one of the largest carbon fiber-bodied vehicles in the world. The interior layout is similar to the Rapide sedan, but with more legroom and an even higher focus on luxury. And don’t worry about the electrical gremlins that plagued the earlier Lagonda – this car benefits from Aston Martin’s working partnership with Mercedes-AMG, meaning the Germans took care of the electronics, leaving the Brits to do what they do best, namely the engine, design, and interior. The end result is what Aston calls “the finest of fast cars,” and from here, it just might be right.
In the end, the Lagonda might not be for everyone, but that’s exactly what Aston Martin wants. It’s for a person of means who wants the opulence of a bespoke British luxury car, but wants something sportier, faster, and even more exclusive than anything Rolls-Royce and Bentley have to offer. With a limited production run, and an astronomical price, the Lagonda might not set the world on fire now, but don’t be surprised if you see one win Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2065.
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