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The Warsaw Voice » Society » September 29, 2014
AUTOMOTIVE
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Luxury on Wheels
September 29, 2014   
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They turn heads and attract looks of envy, though it’s not often that you see one. That’s no surprise—luxury cars come with a hefty price tag.

The largest luxury cars—both sedans and the most expensive sports coupes and convertibles—are marked with the letter “F”, a standard classification used by a range of different manufacturers. These cars are no smaller than 5 meters in length. This seems to be just the right size for a vehicle that is supposed to be both safe and comfortable. Finishing materials in such cars are among the best out there. They include natural leather, wool, genuine wood, and aluminum. Such an interior stimulates all the senses, including touch and smell.

Luxury cars come equipped with a swathe of hi-tech goodies and creature comforts. These include electronic air-conditioning with air filters, humidifiers, and a separate section for each passenger. The audio system is usually of the top-notch Dolby Surround kind so that you feel like in a concert hall. For your comfort there are multi-contour sliding back seats (with the possibility of individual settings for different parts of the body). The seats are heated and ventilated, and often come with a massage function too. Last but not least, you can wall yourself off from the surroundings with roller blinds and avail yourself of various devices such as laptop and an audio/video system.

German automakers Audi, BMW and Mercedes lead the way among European manufacturers. They have been synonymous with luxurious limos for years. This narrow group also includes models such as the Lexus LS and Jaguar XJ as well as luxury sports cars, such as the Porsche Panamera and the Maserati Quattroporte. A separate group consists of super-luxury limos such as Bentleys and Rolls-Royces.

Although the luxury car segment represents only a small percentage of all cars on the market, it is by far the most noticeable. No wonder. The view of an over 5-meter-long limousine plying the road majestically amid a sea of ordinary cars is still an uncommon sight on Polish roads and streets. Although these models are something that most drivers have seen once or twice, they still tend to turn heads and cause envy, mainly because they provide their drivers with a level of comfort and safety unique in the automotive world. And the amount of admiring looks they attract is enough to tickle any owner’s ego.


Audi A8
The Audi A8 combines refined technology with a sporty body and interior. The history of the flagship Audi limousine goes back to 1994 when a new model marked with the symbol A8 replaced the previous version fitted with a V8 engine. In 2002, the second-generation Audi A8 appeared on the market, followed by a third eight years later. The four-door sedan is 5.13 m in length—or 5.23 m in the extended “L” version. The slender body is the longest among all the competitors in the class. What does Audi have to offer? The hallmark of the marque is its aluminum body (Audi Space Frame) that weighs just over 230 kg and four-wheel Quattro drive classed among the safest and most efficient out there. Thanks to its aluminum body, the car weighs just 1,830 kg in total, which translates into heightened performance. The car comes with a range of turbocharged gasoline engines—3.0TFSI/310 hp, 4.0TFSI/435 hp and 4.0l.TFSI/520 hp in the sport-tuned S Quattro version as well as the top-of-the-range 6.3l./500 hp W12 unit. Also available is a choice of turbodiesels, a 3.0 TDI/258 hp unit and a 4.2 TDI/385 hp, and a 2.0TFSI/245 hp diesel-electric hybrid. Power is transmitted to all the wheels by an eight-step automatic transmission. The pneumatic suspension with variable ground clearance makes for comfort, and the integrated Multi Media Interface (MMI) makes it easier to operate electronic comfort and safety systems. Price? Appropriate to the car’s image and performance: from around zl.360,000 for the 3.0l./TDI turbodiesel to over zl.634,000 for the top-of-the-range 6.3l./500 hp version, which takes only 4.1 seconds to reach 100 kph.

BMW Series 7
The history of the BMW Series 7 begins in 1977 when the first generation of the model hit the showrooms. Since then, five generations of the BMW7 have appeared on the market. The latest was unveiled in 2008 and underwent a facelift two years ago that changed its look only slightly. The body is far less avant-garde than previously—it is 5.07 meters in length, or 5.23 meters in the extended “L” version. The current model faces cut-throat competition. Its biggest strength is what customers appreciate most about the brand—road handling and quality engines. The range of available engines covers three gasoline units—740i (3.0l./320 hp), 750i (4.4l./450 hp), and 760i (6.0l./544 hp)—in addition to a diesel-electric Active Hybrid7 (3.0l./354 hp) and three Common Rail turbodiesels, 730d/258 hp, 740d/313 hp and 750d/381 hp. This last version with as many as three turbochargers ensures outstanding performance combined with fuel economy. Power is transmitted to the rear wheels (or electronically to both axes in xDrive models) via a six- or eight-step automatic transmission. The 2,990 mm wheelbase—or 3,130 mm in the extended version—ensures a spacious interior and comfort. The car is full of electronics controlled by the iDrive system. When that system was used for the first time critics said that, in order to get the hang of it, you had to take a special course, but today most automakers have followed in the Bavarians’ footsteps. The cheapest 730d model costs just over zl.360,000. The most lavishly equipped, the extended 760Li version with a 544 hp engine, costs nearly zl.700,000.

Mercedes S-Class
The Mercedes S-Class is the automaker’s flagship model that has been a benchmark of comfort and elegance in the luxury class for years. Although its history began back in the 1950s, according to the official terminology, the S-Class did not appear on the market until 1972 with the 116 model. Since then, Mercedes has unveiled five generations of the model. The latest generation hit the market in 2013. The usually toned-down and conservative styling of the body has acquired dynamism and aggressiveness. It boasts a huge, impressive grille and sharply outlined headlights reminiscent of those in the automaker’s sports models. Even in the “regular” version of the Mercedes S-Class, the body is 5.11 meters in length, and in the extended version it is a generous 5.24 m. A wide range of engines is available. The choice of gasoline engines ranges from a 4.7l./456 hp unit in the S500 to a 5.5l./585 hp in the factory-sports-tuned S63 AMG versions to a 6.0l./630 hp unit in the S65 AMG version. In addition, the S350 model is fitted with a 3.0l./252 hp turbodiesel and there are several hybrid units: a 204 hp turbodiesel-electric engine in the S300 Hybrid, a 306 hp gasoline-electric engine in the S400 Hybrid, and a 333 hp twin-turbo gasoline engine combined with a 115 hp electric motor in the S500 Plug-in Hybrid. The S500 Plug-in Hybrid can go from 0 to 100 kph in a brisk 5.2 seconds.

Price? Under zl.500,000. Power in the S-Class is transmitted through a seven-step automatic transmission to the rear axle or both axles in the 4Matic version. The cheapest version of the Mercedes S 350 fitted with a 3.0l/258 hp turbodiesel costs around zl.366,000. The top-of-the-range Mercedes 65 AMG 4 Matic costs upwards of zl.1 million.

Lexus LS
The LS is the flagship model of the Lexus marque, which belongs to the Toyota corporation. Not everyone knows that the Lexus brand was created relatively recently, in 1989, specifically for the U.S. market as a rival to premium-class cars, chiefly Mercedes. Hence the stylistic similarity of the first and the subsequent generations of the LS to the Mercedes S-Class. The fourth generation of the car, unveiled in 2006, marks a significant breakthrough. The model, built on a new platform, is based on a conceptual design called LF-Sh (Lexus Future – Sedan hybrid). Two facelifts of the exterior, in 2009 and especially in 2012, gave the car a distinctive shape. In terms of style of the body (with a length of 5.06 meters and 5.18 meters in the extended “L” version), it refers to the smaller GS and LS models. The LS combines elegance with comfort and sportiness, while its gentle lines are in harmony with an aggressive hourglass-shaped grille. The flagship Lexus is not only supercomfortable, but also ultramodern. It is equipped with features including smart suspension (Air Suspension and Adaptive Variable Suspension), a smart Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system that collects and analyzes data from sensors scattered around the vehicle, and on this basis activates various safety and passenger comfort systems. The Lexus comes with a choice of two gasoline engines, 4.6l./370 hp and 4.6l./387 hp, and a 5.0l./445 hp hybrid unit. The car is rear-wheel drive with an eight-step automatic transmission. The cheapest LS 460 Elite with a 370 hp gasoline engine costs almost zl.450,000. The most expensive hybrid version with an elongated body, the LS 600h L Superior, costs nearly zl.720,000. Lexus has pretty much become synonymous with the word “hybrid” and an epitome of a modern, environmentally-friendly car.

Bartosz Grzybiński
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