If there is one lesson to be learned from the new crop of 2014 luxury cars, it is this: Luxury is more than skin-deep and comes in an increasing number of differently sized packages. Car companies are offering a wider assortment of vehicles across a broader price range than ever before. And while well-executed exterior design and plush interiors of leather and wood still count—as the new Bentley Flying Spur demonstrates—discerning buyers want special badging that indicates an enhanced performance package will turn the vehicle into a supercar.
Smaller, less-expensive models with four-cylinder engines appeal to younger audiences. But not all small cars are created equal. Mercedes-Benz is adding its high-performance AMG moniker to the CLA45, turning it into a $48,000 turbocharged pocket rocket. Four cylinders, however, may not be as small as an engine gets. A BMW hybrid concept uses just three to achieve a rating of 95 miles per gallon. At the other end of the spectrum, Jaguar adds an “R” to its model designation to let the cognoscenti know that its XJR ($116,000) employs a supercharged V-8 capable of 174 miles per hour.
With the interplay between car and electronics growing more sophisticated, an electronics suite indicative of technological prowess can be a big sell. The stunning Rolls-Royce Wraith employs global positioning satellites primarily used for navigation to shift gears automatically as it discerns changes in the road ahead. Detroit Electric, a new electric-car company, uses smartphone apps in its SP:01 car to control everything from navigation to air conditioning in addition to displaying battery level indicators. And the new Porsche 911 GT3 steers with all four of its wheels depending on how fast you go.
What does all this mean? The way we drive is about to change.