What Makes a Luxury Vehicle?
It seems like the line is blurring between an automaker’s mainstream offerings and their more upscale ones. As technology becomes a bigger factor in designing cars, more cars from the exotic to the everyday commuter begin to offer some of the same features.
Increasingly larger screens, heated & cooled seats, safety tech like lane keep assist and preemptive braking, adaptive cruise control, panoramic sunroofs, keyless entry and remote start...what features make a “luxury” car in your mind?
Looking back a few decades for instance, automatic transmissions were the pinnacle of fancy. Then further down the line leather seats, power windows and locks made a car luxurious. Fast forward a few years and cruise control became a must-have in the luxury game. Then keyless entry, push button start, self driving.
Cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan have been hailed as the flagship of luxury items in vehicles. Take a look at a 20 year old S Class and you will see items that have become mainstream today. A then brand-new 2000 model S-Class came with luxury items such as adaptive cruise control, GPS with Tele Aid communication technology, and a sound system with redundant steering wheel controls.
Hard to believe you can get 2000’s level high-luxury in a car like the brand new Corolla. Listen to some of the safety features now standard in a car that starts at $19,600: “2.0 (TSS 2.0) - Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD) with low light pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA) and Road Edge Detection with Sway Warning System, Automatic High Beams (AHB), Road Sign Assist (RSA), Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), and Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC)”
Move upscale one trim level and you get such infotainment features as: “Audio — includes 6 speakers, 7-in. touch-screen, Siri® Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay® & Amazon Alexa compatible, USB media port, hands-free phone capability, advanced voice recognition and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology, Scout® GPS Link compatible with up to 3-year trial. Connected Services — Safety Connect® with 3-year trial, Wi-Fi ConnectPowered by Verizon with up to 2 GB within 6-month trial.”
Have we gotten to a point where the Cadillac Escalade’s massive 38 inch OLED information screen, Chrysler Pacifica’s leather quilted pillows, or autonomous driving of high-end Teslas define “luxury” in cars?
I remember my first car. It was a Cadillac. It was handed down to me by my grandfather who purchased it new and only really drove it to the golf course and back home. It was a 1991 model, but it was still the pinnacle of American luxury of the time. It had leather seats, all digital gauges, lights on the front fenders pointed back at the driver to indicate which set of headlights was currently turned on, and (perhaps the most interesting) ash trays with lighters at each outboard seat. In a world today where we all have car chargers for our devices, that would still be a relevant feature today.
That was luxury in 1991
My wife and I bought her 2014 Jeep Cherokee that sports leather seats, multiple power outlets, touchscreen nav, adaptive cruise with lane keeping, self parking, panoramic sunroof, push button start with passive keyless entry. All this, and I would not define the car as a luxury car. That is just how far we have come.
Top that off with full size trucks becoming full on luxury rigs. Have you been in a new Ram 1500 Limited? It has reclining, heated AND cooled REAR seats and a massive 12” tablet screen in the dash. In a truck!
Are we spoiled? Are we asking for too much in our cars now? Is this why cars are getting so expensive now?
What features do you consider luxuries in cars?
What defines a luxury car to you?