I recently had a chance to drive an Aston Martin Lagonda, which is, quite simply, the weirdest luxury sedan in history. I mean it. There is no stranger luxury vehicle in the entire world, and there never has been any stranger luxury vehicle, except for maybe the occasional weird one-off car commissioned by some eccentric billionaire.
For proof, here’s a fact: The odometer is under the hood. The car’s sole odometer is not in the gauge cluster. It is under the hood. And it just gets weirder from there.
The Lagonda I drove was a 1987 “Series 3” model in excellent condition, and I borrowed it from AutoSport Designs on Long Island. I’ve been to a lot of vehicle dealerships to film videos with a lot of cars, but I have never — ever — encountered quite as amazing an inventory as AutoSport Designs; there was a Ferrari F50 in the showroom, there were about three Aston Martin DB5s, there were one-off Ferrari models and vintage everything. It was quite impressive to see.
And yet, when offered the chance to drive virtually anything from their inventory, I chose … a 30-year-old forgotten sedan. And when you watch the video above, I think you’ll agree that was precisely the right decision.
Before I get into my experience with the Lagonda, a little Lagonda history: Back in the 1970s, Aston Martin was creating some beautiful, special sports cars, but they wanted to enter the luxury car world, too. So they decided to resurrect the “Lagonda” brand name, which had previously been used on Aston Martin luxury sedans years earlier. The car they used to resurrect this name was officially called only the “Lagonda,” though it came to be known as the Aston Martin Lagonda.
And it looked like an anteater. I’m serious: Take a look at this thing, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. The front is very pointy, and the vehicle looks like an anteater. This is where the bizarre begins, but it’s not where it ends. Here are some other weird Lagonda traits: If you turn on every headlight, the front of the car illuminates 10 total forward lights. The gauge cluster is not a gauge cluster, but rather a series of green and black screens like a 1970s video game. There are two fuel doors — one on each side in back. The backseat is decidedly uncomfortable and difficult to climb into. And rear passengers have a pair of sunshades that cover up the fixed sunroof, except they don’t cover the entire sunroof, and they’re see-through. I could go on for days with the quirks of this car, which is kind of what I’ve done in the video above.
Here, though, I’m going to tell you about driving it. The Lagonda I drove used a 5.3-liter V8 making about 300 horsepower thanks to fuel injection — a newly standard feature on Series III models, which came out in the mid-1980s. The Lagonda ended up doing four different versions, all of which had their own weirdnesses. But they all used more or less the same powertrain, and an automatic transmission, and I imagine they all drove about the same, which is to say: not great.
Now, I won’t say the driving experience was bad, because it wasn’t. But this car sold new in 1987 for the equivalent of something like $400,000 today, which was a neat truck because it isn’t particularly fast and it doesn’t handle particularly well. It’s reasonably quick, sure, but how fast do you expect a full-size sedan to be with 300 horsepower, an old-school torque-converter automatic and a lot of weight and heft? You floor it, it moves, but it doesn’t exactly excite.
It’s the same story with the handling. The steering is reasonably quick given the car’s size and weight, but it’s not sharp or fast or precise or especially thrilling in any way. Ultimately, it’s a big old car, and it drives like a big old car, albeit a little sharper than your usual 1980s luxury sedan.
Indeed, the real thrill of the Lagonda is not in the driving experience, but rather what happens when you park it. You stop the car, step outside, look back at it, and you’re reminded that you are driving, quite simply, the strangest automobile in existence; a car that resembles no other, a car that can’t be mistaken for any other, a car that simply must put a smile on your face if you’ve even had the slightest interest in cars at any point in your life, just because it is so incredibly bizarre. The Lagonda is not for driving. The Lagonda is for appreciating, and for musing over its weirdness. And for that, it is the finest luxury car in the world.
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.