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August 22, 2012

Here’s to Luxury Cars

Aston Martin and shoemaker John Lobb collaborate, while BMW, Cadillac and Rolls-Royce shine.

Whether James Bond would wear a pair of John Lobb leather driving shoes while behind the wheel of an Aston Martin Virage Volante is perhaps something known only to Ian Fleming or Sam Mendes, the director of this autumn’s latest 007 film, Skyfall. But while such a pair of shoes was hardly a requirement for the 120-mile round-trip test-drive from Manhattan to the spectacular Glenmere mansion in Chester, New York, it did make the weekend jaunt feel a bit more British in tone.

Perhaps it was because of the attention to detail that both British brands espouse. The John Lobb driving shoe, called Winner Sport, features eyelets that match the graphite gray of the Aston Martin and exterior stitching that mimics the leatherwork of the car’s interior.

The Virage Volante employs this detail on a massive scale that accelerates to 186 miles per hour, thanks to a V-12 engine governed by an automatic six-speed gearbox or F1-style paddle shifters. While fast, the Virage differs from most sports cars in the sense of control the driver feels, instilling confidence as the vehicle speeds through a curve or merges onto a highway.

The cabin interior defines posh with handstitched Bridge of Weir leather and other unique appointments, like the Lamy pen that discreetly slides into the dashboard to look like a lever. The comfort afforded by the car and the shoes are well matched.

The Aston Martin Virage Volante starts at $235,000. For more details, go to astonmartin.com.

... And Three More for the Road

BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe: With its in-line six-cylinder TwinTurbo engine, BMW’s Gran Coupe concedes very little when it comes to speed: It has a zero-to-60 mph rating of 5.4 seconds. During a test-drive near Santa Barbara, California, the eight-speed automatic transmission handled shifting with the anticipated precision. But new safety and eco features are what really set it apart. Adaptive LED headlights follow bends in the road, and there’s a rearview camera that alerts for everything from lane departure to blind-spot detection. A new Eco Pro driving mode adjusts performance to lower fuel consumption by as much as 20 percent. $87,395; bmwusa.com.

Cadillac XTS: The new all-wheel-drive four-door is a less sporty but more luxurious version of Cadillac’s existing CTS and its new, lower-priced ATS models. And that XTS luxury is particularly apparent in the rear seats, where 40 inches of legroom provide enough space for a full appreciation of the well-designed interior. Its easy-to-use CUE system, which controls the car’s various electronic functions, has an iPad-style touch-sensitive screen that recognizes the proximity of your fingers (it was ideal when we tooled around L.A.). Among the engineering highlights is an advanced suspension system, called Magnetic Ride Control, that’s been adopted by Ferrari. $44,995; cadillac.com.

Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II: The new, rectangular, adaptive LED headlights and toned-down grille give the Phantom Drophead Coupe convertible and the two-door coupe model a modern and, dare we say, younger, hipper look. The powerful V-12 engine made driving a dream on the two-lane highway that links Sevastopol and Yalta in Crimea, a road where quick acceleration and sudden braking pass for normal driving. The Series II also received an upgrade in electronics, with satellite navigation, sound and other features displayed on an 8.8-inch screen. Read more about our Crimean test-drive here. Drophead Coupe, $443,000; rolls-roycemotorcars.com.