There’s a saying out there that there are no bad cars made now. That’s bull. That’s like saying there are no South Koreans having plastic surgery. In fact, the South Koreans also make lots of bad cars. The Australian Barina, for example, is an ugly, underpowered, stupid buzzbox built in the old Daewoo factory based on a terrible platform. Then there’s the (thankfully) superceded Epica Epicrap, which is as lively and soulful as reading the Oxford Abridged Dictionary. Or Shakespeare.

I digress. The answer to the question of what constitutes a luxury car still eludes me somewhat. But, we have to start somewhere, so let’s have a think about what we can tangibly measure and understand as a driver and as a passenger. Here is a non-exhaustive list of attributes that drivers can “understand” about a car:

Power and torque I feel the need for speed!
Brakes Stop faster, just in case?
Safety How many airbags, just in case?
Visual design, both inside and out She’s a beauty, eh?
Human interface technology I didn’t say that Siri!
Quality control Built like a brick sh!thouse.
Noisiness (not the engine mind you) I can’t hear my wife nag…bonus!
Ride and handling
This thing wafts a bit…

I digress. The answer to the question of what constitutes a luxury car still eludes me somewhat.

There are, in that list, things that are truly subjective, such as design and perception of quality, for example. Even preferences on ride quality is subjective. Americans like their suspension feeling like cotton candy, while the rest of the world prefers firmer rides and better handling. Lots of the attributes however, many people will prefer maximum of, such as power and gadgets, while a minimum of exterior noise getting into the cabin is preferable.

We also come to an attribute that isn’t listed above, but probably the primary issue for anyone spending any amount of money: cost. Now, some only worry about the initial purchase cost, but I tend to think that if you’re buying a car, you should worry about how much it will cost to maintain the damn thing. It’s almost like having a kid.

Now, cost is normally the single largest constraint in any purchase, but even if it wasn’t a constraint as such, there is only so much a person is willing to spend on something. Even if you had $200,000* to spend, would you necessarily spend it all on a car? The answer, is most likely no. However, if you were willing to spend about $25,000* on a car, would you expect to be able to a true “luxury” vehicle? Let’s have a think about it.

In the original article cited, Lexus basically said that they wouldn’t venture into price brackets below $40,000*, which is where the Corolla platformed CT is priced. They believed that cars cheaper and smaller than the CT can’t be classified luxury because you’ll sacrifice too much in terms of features and attributes that constitute a luxury car. Admittedly, this comment is targeted at the segment of the market where the Audi A1 exists, one of the few cars from a “luxury” brand you can buy for less than $30,000*. However, be warned that leather seats, long considered a prerequisite for luxury cars, aren’t standard on an A1, but it is on an Alfa Romeo MiTo. Scarily, the MiTo is cheaper!

To confuse the situation, if you compared a Lexus CT, BMW 1-series or equivalent, with a top spec Ford Focus, the prices would be pretty similar, especially once you’ve sat down with a dealer and traded blows on the drive away price. The difference is, of course, the Ford has all the fruit (and some stuff the BMW can’t do, like self parking) for the same price as a barebones BMW 1-series, despite the BMW being considered a “luxury” vehicle. So, which kind of luxury would you prefer to fork out your money for? The brand prestige or the actual substance that luxury implies?

As you can imagine, the examples I’ve cited above demonstrates that a “luxury” car is, at least in my view, something that is very subjective indeed. If there is a definition, then the brand should not be the first and only consideration, and neither should the model type. There must be some other way to work out what a luxury car is!

* All prices in this post are in Australian dollars. Factor exchange rate and local taxes for an estimate on how much I’m talking about and consider how much cars actually cost in your country. For example, $25,000 dollars in Australia would buy you a mid-spec Mazda3. In the USA, $25,000 means a Taurus or a Mustang(!).

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5 thoughts on “What is a luxury car – part two

  1. Too many people are more focused on “STATUS” instead of what the car really has to offer to its driver. As my father always told me “For different tastes there’s different flavors”. Dad always had the best advice especially when it came to cars …

  2. Reblogged this on Fly Meet Co. and commented:
    Too many people are more focused on “STATUS” instead of what the car really has to offer to its driver. As my father always told me “For different tastes there’s different flavors”. Dad always had the best advice especially when it came to cars …

  3. I agree with your father wholeheartedly. I have to resist the urge to cry when I walk into a car dealership with German cars and their options lists. Frankly, after having been in a few BMWs, owned an Audi and was part of a car’s engineering group myself, most don’t feel all that special to me.

  4. A luxury vehicle is determined by the one driving it. Though there are many standards for what a luxury vehicle must have, it all depends on the individual to make the final determination.

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