The annals of motoring are filled with the heralding of new advancements in mechanics and technology to make your ride safer, faster, easier and more comfortable.
Since a chassis joined four wheels and became mobile, the quest for improvement is a remarkable story. Yesterday’s advanced features are today’s standard. Not so long ago, electric windows and a rear-window demister were considered options for the rich.
In the next few paragraphs, we’ll take a look at the latest in luxury motoring from five of the most recognised brands in the world today – and there’s nothing standard to be seen.
AUDI A8 L W12
Of course, the “L” in the name of this stunning vehicle stands for “luxury”.
The letter “W” gives you a snap shot of the extraordinary configuration of this Audi’s engine and its 12 cylinders that push out 373 kW of power at 628 Nm of torque.
No simple “V” shape here from Audi. Smooth, silky and as responsive as anything else on the performance market, the Audi’s engine is not only configured like a “W”, but appropriately brings ample levels of “wow”.
As you accelerate, premium leather upholstery folds around you, and is just the start of the first-class standard appointments on board.
There’s a dual-screen rear seat entertainment centre with a 25 cm screen, active noise cancellation, dual-pane acoustic glass, along with separate rear power adjustable seats with heat, ventilation and massage.
The Bang and Olufsen Advanced Sound System has 19-speakers, two of which rise from the dash upon launch, and the front seats adjust in 22 different directions.
The gear shift lever is designed to look something like a throttle on a yacht, but it’s the additional Drive Select function that helps you cruise like a boss.
With Drive Select, you choose between Dynamic, Comfort, Auto or individual custom settings to automatically set your engine, transmission, steering and suspension for your own preferences.
The Audi A8 L W12 will give you the driving pleasure and performance to satisfy the enthusiast, and provide premium lodgings for those looking to relax like a king in the back seat.
BMW 750i xDrive
The sheer volume of technology and interior features is staggering in this big Beamer, so we’ll cut to the chase about the mechanics. The twin-turbocharged 4.4 litre V8 engine, coupled with the eight-speed auto is a premium piece of engineering.
So, with that out of the way, let’s go straight to the technology and interior appointments, which read like a Bond-like wish-list.
Let’s start with the key fob – a touchscreen which charges wirelessly in the centre console and tells you if your car is locked, whether the windows are wound up, and when your next oil change is due. The boot opens with a wave of the foot under the rear bumper, and the when rain is detected, all windows will automatically close.
As you enter the vehicle, a LED “light carpet” projected on the ground alongside the front and rear doors will greet you. If you pretend its red carpet, you can have a brief celebrity movement before hopping inside.
If things are little musty, or you’ve just picked up a friend from the gym, chose one of the two personally selected perfumes you’ve previously added to the built-in spritzers in the air conditioning system.
The available Luxury Rear Seating packs adds an eight-program massage function with three intensity levels and heated and ventilated seats. It also comes with an 18 cm Samsung tablet from which you can control all aforementioned controls as well as infotainment functions.
Add the Rear Executive Lounge Package, and with the push of a few buttons on the tablet, the rear passenger on the non-driver side can fold the front seat tight against the dash, recline his own seat, and lounge back at full length. The airline-type table which rises in the middle makes it a gold class ride.
In all the excitement of the accessories available at your finger-tips, what about driving? No need to worry about the finer details as the Surround View parking aid will give you a bird’s-eye, third-party view of the car and its surroundings, with graphics to satisfy even the most avid video gamer.
Oh, and did we tell you it drives well?
With Jaguar’s flagship luxury sedan, the XJR, it’s all about turning heads and turning corners at speed in comfort.
From the full LED headlights with “double J-Blade” daytime running lights, and the bold upright grille with the running feline badge all the way to the voluminous 520-litre boot, Jaguar delivers space, grace and pace on four wheels.
The imposing appearance of the XJR is what Jaguar buyers expect, as is the deep burble of the available supercharged 5.0 litre V8, which delivers 404kW of power to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
From zero to 100 km/h is done in 4.6 seconds, and steering and body control is supreme thanks in part to the super-light all aluminium construction, an 1875 kg kerb weight, active diff control and double-wishbone suspension.
Opt for the long-wheel base model, and the XJR’s handsome and plush interior becomes lounge-like, with the wrap-around, distinctively British dash creating an intimate experience for the driver.
Control the gearbox through the slickly designed rotary dial in tandem with the steering wheel paddles. The driver can choose the features to be shown on their driver instrumental display, all the while enjoying a concert-like experience from the 825-watt Meridian surround-sound system pumping through an available 25-speakers.
The additional 20-inch touch screen in the centre console controls the car’s main entertainment functions, and is appropriately called InControl Touch Pro.
The interior is dominated by chrome and black, with bold features and unmissable dials. There’s no subtlety here, but then, neither is the performance.
Yes, the Jaguar XJR is British, and not European. It will satisfy the Jaguar devotee – no doubt – and anyone who wants a touch of class and dose of speed.
Porsche Panamera Turbo S
There’s a long held convention in the motoring world, that says if you want to drive in true luxury, then you’ll need to go a little slower. Perhaps a hulking 1970s Rolls Royce and its plodding comfort is still casting a shadow on some, but behold the luxurious, nimble and outrageously fast Porsche Panamera Turbo S.
Many asked “why” when Porsche announced their decision to release a four-door luxury sedan, but anyone fortunate enough to drive the Panamera knows exactly why. Because they can.
It should be no surprise that the home of the Autobahn produces a vehicle which reaches 100 km/h from standstill in 3.8 seconds and can hit a top speed of 310 km/h with ease, courtesy of a twin-turbocharged and intercooled 4.8 litre V8. This is one of the fastest sedans ever built.
And just when you thought the power available was more than you need, suddenly you see the Mode Switch which includes a Sport Response button that activates the turbo over-boost function!
The power is superbly harnessed and transferred to all four wheels thanks to a combination of high-tech features, all with memorable acronyms ideal for dropping in the middle of dinner conversation.
Thanks to traction control (PTM), stability management (PSM), variable torque between the rear wheels to eliminate understeer (PTV), and several other advanced features, driving such a high powered vehicle becomes ridiculously easy and effortless.
There are options aplenty available for those looking to create a distinctive individual vehicle. Take your pick from features such as radar cruise control, lane departure warning or headlights that swivel to illuminate a bend. There’s also four-zone climate control, a rear folding tables and rear seat entertainment units with twin display consoles and two multimedia players complete with two wireless infrared headphones.
Choose your trim from aluminium, carbon and a variety of wood finishes or upgrade the standard Bose Surround System to a Burmester High-end Surround System.
The Panamera comes strictly in four seats (two in the rear). With limited seating, this powerful, superbly engineered vehicle is not a people mover, but definitely moves.
There’s attention to detail, and then there’s Mercedes Benz. The difference between the iconic, three-pointed star and the rest can often be measured in the look of surprise when the driver discovers a feature they never thought they needed, but now can’t do without.
That’s the type of ingenuity that has kept Mercedes Benz as the unofficial, commonly acknowledged standard in luxury motoring for so many years, and the S550 is packed full of those surprising moments.
Which one of Mercedes Benz engineers discovered that seat coolers that suck air for several minutes before blowing would cool you quicker. Who knew you needed two reverse gears, or that music sounds much better with cabin mood lighting in several driver-selectable colours or while you’re being massaged by your seat.
Through a number of advanced vision features, Mercedes Benz gives the driver superhero-like powers of vision. The Autoliv Night Vision System, displayed near the driver’s eye-line, and at low speeds shows an enhanced black and white view around the front of the car, identifying pedestrians with red boxes, often before the driver is able to see them through the windscreen. Brakes are applied subtly but effectively if one of these pedestrians comes within a dangerous distance of the vehicle.
Likewise, of the vehicle is about to impact with a rear collection, brakes will also be applied in a measured manner to reduce whiplash. In both cases, tension is applied to the seat belts as a precaution as well.
Another low-speed feature is Magic Body Control, which scans the road ahead with two cameras to detect speed bumps or pot holes, and then adjusts the suspension so that the car will float like a butterfly over the obstacle.
There’s so many more features that make up the technological mastery of this Mercedes-Benz, and because most are automatically applied, the learning curve for new drivers is quick, and unlike some advanced features, don’t require a degree.
Needless to say, the S550 drives smoothly and with much in reserve under the bonnet for any occasion. The 4.7 litre twin-turbo V8, is nimble and outputs 334kW, with a nine-speed automatic transmission transferring the power to all four wheels.
This Mercedes Benz flagship only emphasises why the triple star always has the last word on luxury motoring.