However uncertain our economy, there is always a market for opulent automobiles. Indeed, U.S. luxury vehicle sales were up 10.4% in 2011, according to WardsAuto.
With input from automotive experts, we looked at some of the latest well-appointed rides that meet the perennial demand for power, pampering and prestige.
BMW is the best-selling luxury automaker in United States, with nearly a quarter of a million vehicles sold here last year, narrowly beating out Mercedes-Benz. Starting at around $78,000, the new 640i Gran Coupe is poised to become another high-end hit for BMW. Even though it’s a four-door, Car and Driver announced that the GC “might even be the best-looking BMW, period.”
“Mercedes-Benz proved the concept with its CLS-Class, and then Audi followed suit with its own coupe-like four-door, the A7,” said Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor with Cars.com. “BMW joins the mix with an equally stunning 6 Series Grand Coupe — proof that BMW’s awkward design era is over.”
With an expected base price exceeding $200,000, Mercedes-Benz’s range-topping SL65 AMG won’t boost sales statistics much in itself, but will certainly cast its supercar glow over the entire MBZ lineup.
Beneath the beautifully chiseled exterior of this two-door drop top breathes a twin-turbocharged V-12 powerplant producing a staggering 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. All this oomph married to lightweight aluminum-intensive construction (the latest SL65 AMG sheds a reported 254 pounds compared with its predecessor) makes for stunning acceleration (zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz); a top speed that has to be electronically capped at 186 mph; and substantially improved fuel economy (the 2012 model was
“As a master of the double life, the SL65 AMG delivers supercar performance when you want it and a luxurious grand touring experience when you don’t,” noted Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and market analyst with KBB.com.
Nearly 40 years since the last appearance of Jaguar’s iconic E-Type sports cars (sold stateside as the XK-E) the storied British marque has finally announced a true two-seater successor. Due next year as a 2014 model, the F-Type will launch as a convertible, with a range of available engines. The barely disguised F-Types photographed to date share the distinctive about-to-pounce stance of Jaguar’s XK series.
“There’s plenty to like about Jaguar’s XK coupe and convertible, but they’re a bit large and more touring oriented,” Wiesenfelder said. “The F-Type promises to be the star jock in an already athletic family — and a gorgeous one.”
Fellow Brit Bentley has a new Continental GT Speed for 2013. This $220,000 two-door stallion lives up to its name, promising a top speed of around 205 mph (which would make it the fastest production Bentley ever) from a 616-horsepower W-12 engine.
“Few cars project an aura of luxury, performance and class as successfully as the Bentley Continental,” Nerad said. “The tasteful decadence of the company’s luxury coupe will be amplified to ever loftier levels in the 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed.”
Porsche’s mid-size Cayenne SUV has routinely been its best-selling stateside model since its introduction in 2003, so it’s little surprise that the German company (which was previously best known for its sports cars) has now announced another, smaller ute. The compact Macan crossover is expected to go on sale in the middle of next year as a 2014 model.
“While much is yet to be discovered about the … Macan, its small stature denotes that it will contend with other compact luxury crossovers like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLK in both price and feature set,” Nerad said.
Fellow German manufacturer Audi had its all-time record year of sales in the U.S. last year, moving 117,561 vehicles, and has now added high-performance “S” versions of its popular A6 and A7 executive cars.
“The A7 is already one of the most handsome models on the road, and now the S7 version adds to the appeal with 420 horsepower and other performance upgrades,” Wiesenfelder explained. “For the same fun with more interior space at a lower price, the S6 is sure to satisfy.”
Both models feature fuel-saving technology that shuts down half of their eight cylinders under lighter loads and an active noise-cancellation system to counteract any associated four-cylinder din. The S6 sedan starts at $71,900; the S7 five-door hatchback coupe at $78,800.
Cadillac and Lincoln
Cadillac and Lincoln are synonymous with luxury American motoring, and both brands will be underlining this reputation with arresting 2013 models. There are two bold new Caddies: the XTS full-size sedan and the more compact ATS.
“Old-school Cadillac luxury infused with cutting-edge technology defines the XTS,” Nerad said. “And with a starting price under $45,000, even thrifty car shoppers can live the high life on a low budget.”
Coupe and high-performance “V” versions of the ATS, which “can take on any luxury sport sedan in the world,” according to Wiesenfelder, are apparently already in the pipeline, though plans for a wagon and convertible have reportedly been dropped.
Lincoln debuted its 2013 MKS at last year’s L.A. Auto Show. Refreshed inside and out, including a sculpted new hood and streamlined MyLincoln Touch in-car communications and entertainment system, the new MKS confirms that Lincoln sedans aren’t just for the 50-plus crowd anymore.
“The large sedan from Ford’s premium division can easily get lost amid high-tech, high-horsepower rivals from Europe and Japan,” Nerad said. “But revisions for 2013 may just give this car the shot in the arm it needs.”
No contemporary roundup of luxury cars is complete without Lexus, which is presenting a redesigned sixth generation of its historically big-selling ES 350 mid-size sedan for 2013. Starting at $36,995, this latest and noticeably sleeker 350 further refines the model’s already heavenly ride quality with active-control engine mounts and three-layer acoustic glass.
“The ES has an ace up its sleeve,” Nerad said. “A new hybrid version that delivers up to 40 mpg along with the model’s trademark comfort.”
—Paul Rogers, Custom Publishing Writer