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Aston: ‘SUV not part of the plan’
Aston Martin has confirmed to TopGear that an SUV does not feature in the company’s current product plan.
Design director Marek Reichmann conceded that, though despite the current fad for upmarket SUVs - “everybody is doing them, even Lamborghini” - such a car might not sit comfortably within the Aston family.
“Is it right for Aston? It’s a 50-50 question,” Reichmann told us. “We originally showed the 2009 concept SUV [the Lagonda] because we’ve always believed in the capability of the Lagonda marque. But we have priorities, and one of the biggest right now is that we have £500 million worth of investment over the next five years to develop the ‘core’ of AM.
“We’re a small company with a limited amount of resource, and have to pick and choose accordingly,” he added. “And think about it. SUV starts with the word ‘sports’, and we already make sports cars. We are developing brand new cars now - our ‘core’ products - and the SUV is not part of that plan.
“Once we’ve developed the core, we can start to think about the next product,” said Reichmann
Aston’s new ‘core’ will be revealed in the first quarter of 2016, when the firm’s much-publicised new chassis - replacing the venerable VH architecture - will debut in the successor to the current DB9.
“The backbone of our marque is DB9,” Marek said. “That’s our 911, our Range Rover… our Golf, if you like. I’m not saying it will always be called DB9, but DB is always there. We’re pretty set with the cadence of our cars’ structure.”
Aston’s latest reveal - though one notably absent from the Paris show floor - is the vast Lagonda saloon, a big, four-door luxury car that takes inspiration from the original Towns-design.
“I don’t feel it sits uncomfortably with current Aston design,” Marek says. “It has different values. It’s important to say that AM is a marque, but we have Lagonda which can do things AM doesn’t have to do. Aston Martin are sports cars, but Lagonda allows us to think more about comfort and luxury, about sensuous cabins and space, about the freedom of being driven.
“It’ll still be a great car to drive, but for once we’ve thought about the passenger in the back as well as the driver in the front,” he said.
Speaking of the driving dynamics, Reichmann wouldn’t confirm the Lagonda’s performance details. But TG established it’s broadly a stretched Rapide underneath, with the same powertrain - 6.0-litre, 565bhp V12, auto gearbox (we’d assume the new, improved version) and rear-wheel-drive - and weighs in at around the same too. Which means performance should be brisk.
“It’s an all carbon-fibre body,” Marek says, “with stiffness and weight our key concerns. It’s 5.4 metres in length - almost a metre longer than a Rapide - and in terms of suspension, it feels like you’re just gliding down the road.”
Testing in Oman, doing high-speed runs on closed roads (hence the reason it’s not at the Paris Motor Show), the Lagonda has clocked 175mph..
It won’t be coming to the UK any time soon, however. “We have committed the car for the Middle East, and those customers will appreciate the special nature of what that means,” says Reichmann.
Why the Middle East? Obviously because there’s plenty of cash there - and who could blame AM for chasing that? - but there’s more to the story. “A lot of the original Towns-designed Lagonda saloons went to the Middle East, so we knew it was popular in the region.”
The Lagonda might not see these shores, but Aston’s V12 will. With the company taking up supply of Mercedes’ new 4.0-litre V8 in the near future, will there come a day when Aston decides to ditch the ol’ girl?
“The V12 is a core part of our brand,” says Reichmann. “It’s very important to us. Nobody expected, for example, that we would put one in a short wheelbase car [the V12 Vantage].”
“There are various ways to downsize and become more efficient. So we are committed to the V12,” he confirmed. Thank goodness for that.