Twenty or so years ago it was as easy as pie to identify the essential ingredients for a luxury car – leather seats, polished wood etc. But has the luxury car evolved?
Go back a few decades and a luxury car meant seats that oozed the aroma of top quality leather and were comfy enough to fall asleep in, carpet thick enough to lose your toes in, and swathes of highly-polished solid wood (preferably wrinkly-grained walnut) along the dash and doors.
Having just spent an hour cocooned in Mercedes’ £180,000 SLS AMG super coupe, I’m rethinking my opinion on what really makes a luxury car.
While the leather remains a must-have, there’s a whole host of new trim materials that are being used to create an air of prestige, including matt aluminium, ultra shiny ‘piano’ black and patterned carbon fibre.
New luxury cars
At Which? we spend the vast majority of our time thinking about more sensible cars than the SLS. And so when looking at the attempts of more mainstream car makers to push their cars upmarket, it’s evident that there are a lot of different interpretations of luxury. We can’t blame them, as the best-performing names in our current car market are premium and budget brands, with middle-of-the-road makes losing out to both.
So it should have come as no surprise when Ford unveiled a super-luxury Vignale sub-brand at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show, which will be offered on pricier models like the Mondeo and S-Max. The defining features inside these cars are lashings of leather, matt aluminium and black trim, brightened up by mid-blue illumination on many of the controls.
Volvo is keen to gain a slice of the luxury car sales boom too, and it launched a classy new Concept Coupe at the same German show. But this Scandinavian brand has a different take on creating the best interior ambiance.
Volvo aims to combine a feeling of natural airiness with beautiful details in its luxury cars. So the Coupe has minimalistic, hollowed-out seats instead of the traditional cossetting pews. It also has a dash that looks as if it’s floating, and splashes of shiny silver trim.
Do you think it’s a good thing that mainstream brands are trying to give their cars a more upmarket feel? And what do you think are the essential ingredients for a luxury car?