Seldom lost for words, Iain Robertson admits to struggling with one of the strangest ever attempts of a notional Italian carmaker to formulate an entirely new strain of motorcar; a super-luxurious and potent barge based on a massive Dodge pickup truck.
From an industry renowned mostly for conservatism, with the occasional comprehensively mad screwball, I have always thought that the Nissan Juke (or ‘Puke’, as I rechristened it) was the ugliest production car in the world. Nissan has a history of oddballs by the way. Mind you, Toyota is unafraid of challenging convention; remember the previous generation Prius? However, despite its Latin origins, the freshly revealed Aznom Palladium truly takes the biscuit, looking as though it struck every branch during its fall from the ugly tree.
Produced in Monza, Italy (hence the ‘reversed’ lettering for its branding), a recognised regal centre of style and design excellence, Aznom Automotive was founded in 2006, by Marcello Meregalli. The company is responsible for the customising of production cars and manufacturing both one-offs and small production runs. In many ways, it is like Panther Westwinds, a former British carmaker (established in 1972, by Robert Jankel; went bust in 1980) that was responsible for the outrageous six-wheeled Panther Six, repurposed Triumph Dolomites (as Panther Rios) and the surprisingly popular Panther Lima sportscar.
If you have not heard of Aznom before, it is because the company has been satisfying mostly local commissions from super-wealthy Italians. Face it, cash is not always the ideal route to design beauty, however distinctive. However, before criticising Aznom too much, it is worth noting that Turin design house, Camal Studio, under the control of Alessandro Camorali, a former Bertone employee, was responsible for the styling of the Aznom Palladium.
Aznom describes the car shamelessly as a ‘hyper-limousine’ that unites the traditional characteristics of great luxury cars, with the capabilities usually peculiar to other types of cars. The Italians are known for their passion…but an American pickup truck? Really? Assuredly rare, a promised run-of-ten is set to attract around £280,000 apiece, taking inspiration from the mansions of renowned Italian architect, Andrea Palladio (famous for using ancient Greek and Roman styles as the base for his creations) and also Palladium, the rare and lustrous metal of the same name.
Aznom Palladium is unique (well, as stated, one of ten), starting with its two metres of height and almost six metres of length, which positions it unquestionably in the limousine realm. Its lump of beneath-bonnet, Yank V8 iron, is twin-turbocharged (by MonzaGarage, an Aznom subsidiary) and develops over 700bhp with a most useful slug of 700lbs ft of torque, to drive rear, or all four wheels on demand, through an 8-speed automatic gearbox. As a sop to environmentalists, a mild-hybrid option is available, although the unit can drop into ‘4-cylinder mode’ for fuel-saving reduced strain on the back pocket.
The overall design of the vehicle is imposing by intention. However, it is very hard to change the original purpose of the core truck into something graceful, which the Palladium most definitely is not. Its ‘coupe-like’ cabin, complete with a fresh, slitty take on C-pillar ‘opera windows’, is its most unbalanced in appearance. It cannot be helped, really, as the slab sides and ride height of the Dodge pickup are hard to disguise. The ‘Palladian’ front grille is plain but not as architectural as it might have been, flanked by LED headlamp arrays. In truth, it lacks class and charisma.
Unsurprisingly, the interior has been crafted with minute attention to the teensiest of details. The large, throne-like rear seat provides lounging space, with hidden drawers and lidded compartments, many of which are electrically operated, that offer access to both storage for personal items, as well as access to various amenities, like the booze decanters and crystal glassware, or the Champagne refrigerator. The driver is well considered, surrounded by fine quality hide (provided by Foglizzo) and a digital dashboard, with light-touch control surfaces. Separate climate controls enable individual comfort zones to be created.
A beautiful and removable handmade clock, made of gold and palladium, is available in the lower central position at the rear. Designed by Aznom, it incorporates the Palladium logo, while the pointers reflect the vehicle’s exterior colour. In-cab entertainment is provided by a high-end Harman Kardon sound system and pair of Microsoft Surface X PRO drive units. Owners are also provided with bespoke luggage and a designer umbrella.
Produced mainly from steel, aluminium and carbon-fibre panels help to reduce the kerbweight slightly but Palladium still tips the scales at a whopping 2.65-tonnes. The ‘cassette-like’ powered boot demands space be made available at the rear of the vehicle, when loading, or unloading, its 621-litres carrying capacity. In case you wondered, the rear passenger compartment is protected by a concealed roll-cage that also adds some structural rigidity.
Its braking system features huge, ventilated discs, with 6-piston Brembo GT callipers at the front, the slightly smaller rear discs served by 4-pot callipers. The uninspiring, multi-spoke wheels are produced from forged aluminium alloy in 22.0-inch diameter, clad in 285/45 ZR22 Yokohama tyres. The alloy upper and lower suspension arms are standard Dodge fayre, although the anti-rollbar is a bespoke item. The ride height and suspension controls can be adjusted by the driver across four pre-set parameters, while the electrically powered rack and pinion steering hopes to provide a degree of response accuracy to the driver.
It will come as no surprise that a full suite of ADAS and a 360-degree camera system provide the driver with as much assistance as possible. Mind you, all of the support packaging in the world may not be enough for the Palladium’s ability to accelerate from 0-60mph in around 4.2s, although its maximum speed has been restricted electronically (if not aerodynamically) to 130mph.
Conclusion: As a display of extreme wealth, the Aznom Palladium can be described as both vulgar and, frankly, ugly. Yet, as a means by which to stand out from the norm, it serves purpose.