Inside the New Luxury $200,000-Plus Car Market
With the bad economy in the rearview mirror, luxury autos hit record sales as the Maybach returns, Porsche adds matching luggage and the L.A. Auto Show (beginning Nov. 21) unveils an Audi mystery
This story first appeared in the Nov. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
A FIRST-CLASS DRIVE: As it probes the lower reaches of the luxury market with its Macan compact SUV, Porsche will protect its exalted status among super-premium car buyers for whom price largely is conjecture. To wit: the 2015 Panamera Exclusive Series, a limited edition of 100 cars based on the long-wheelbase Panamera Turbo S. The $264,895 sticker gets you a 570-hp all-wheel drive train, hand-applied two-tone metallic paint, leather finished by Italian design studio Poltrona Frau, a rear-seat entertainment system comprising airline-style touchscreens, wireless headphones and a Burmester surround-sound system. Oh, yes, and a five-piece set of Porsche luggage made specifically for the car.
EVEN FASTER DRIVING MACHINES: BMW's big news in 2014 has been the introduction of its i8 and i3 plug-in hybrid and electric models. A multibillion-dollar investment in alt-fuel vehicles appears to be gaining traction: The $136,000 i8 supercar and $43,000 i3 account for 6 percent of Beemer's U.S. sales. But BMW makes most of its hay selling petrol-fueled Ultimate Driving Machines. Cases in point: the 2015 X5 M and X6 M high-performance iterations of its beloved X series SUVs. The models get aggressive new fascia and 567-hp twin-turbocharged V8 power plants — tweaked by the elves at BMW's M performance division — that propel both from zero to 60 in four seconds. The X5 M starts at $89,776, the X6 M at $94,850.
Read more BMW i3 Electric Outsells Tesla Model S
WELCOME BACK, MAYBACH: The gilded Maybach returns as Mercedes-Benz, which shuttered the marque in 2013, revives it with the Mercedes-Maybach S600. The ultralong-wheelbase sedan will be one station above the S-Class in the M-B firmament but beneath the upcoming S600 Pullman limousine, the ride of Hollywood royalty during the 1970s (notably Francis Ford Coppola, who got Paramount to buy his after The Godfather crossed $100 million at the domestic box office). The new Maybach is Mercedes' bid to take a few bites of luxury lunch from Rolls-Royce, which has enjoyed record sales with models like the $284,000 Wraith, a favorite among Silicon Valley young lions. Expect the Mercedes-Maybach to start at $200,000, plus 100 large for the armored version.
MAKEOVER WITH MYSTIQUE: Audi has been generating buzz with its revamped TT sports coupe, making its North American debut, and has hinted at large-scale technological innovations in autonomous driving just over the horizon. Volkswagen's premium sibling is set to unveil a secrecy-shrouded concept car (left) that will serve as the template for a design aesthetic to be carried throughout the Audi lineup. The concept car widely is expected to be a prototype for a super-luxury performance sedan, the A9, that would eclipse but not replace the current flagship A8. Look for styling cues taken from Audi's rakish A7 coupe.
THE LATEST IN LUXURY GREEN AUTOS
With alt-fuel cars increasingly common among the luxury reaches, it's fitting that two of five finalists for Green Car Journal's 2015 Green Car of the Year hail from Audi and BMW. Judges praised the new A3 TDI as a chance to go green in style with Audi's super-efficient 2.0-liter TDI clean diesel engine. BMW's electric i3 "city car" (above) is manufactured using renewable resources as well as aircraft-worthy aluminum and carbon fiber that save weight and increase efficiency. A tiny gasoline engine generates electricity to nearly double the range of miles with minimal emissions. The Green Car of the Year award will be presented Nov. 20 as part of the auto show's Connected Car Expo.