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Welcome arrow Articles arrow Car Reviews arrow Style and luxury in the automotive world
Style and luxury in the automotive world PDF Print E-mail

While the rest of the world appears to be chasing discounts and other incentives offered by dealers and auto makers, in south-east Asia, the pure ‘face’ a luxury model can provide ensures there is no shortage of buyers for top-of-the-range motor cars.

Luxury manufacturer Jaguar is enjoying steady growth in Asia with its best seller, the aluminium-bodied XJ8. It is the first in the company’s history to feature an aluminium body, but its designer, Ian Callum, says the construction was not without its problems: “Aluminium brings certain constraints, particularly in respect of radiuses and rolled edges,” says the Scot. “The XJ body is a stressed monocoque, much like a conventional steel body,” he says. “And we used self-piercing rivets – an industry first – which makes it 60 percent stiffer.

“The DB7 and Vanquish were to some extent difficult (to build), but both are low volume cars. Engineers are more able to try something new. With a high volume model like the XJ, we had a larger team and we had to have something of a safety factor in the final design. Also, legislation these days is extremely tough. It seems that every day we have another set of rules.

“My main goal in life is to create a generation of Jaguars that people will look back on and say ‘that was fantastic’. As a designer, I want to take something like the XJ and 20 years on, people will still say ‘that was good’. It is my responsibility to pull Jaguar into the contemporary idiom, but you cannot allow it to become too precious to you.”

Throughout Asia luxury cars are enjoying buoyant sales and one brand that is finding significant sales success is Britain’s sports car maker Aston Martin. The latest addition to the range is the superb DB9, but its Vanquish and earlier DB7 – both also styled by Ian Callum – have re-established the company as a leading sportscar manufacturer after many years of financial troubles. The DB9 is in the same mould as the DB7; a stylish, sophisticated machine that is available either as a coupé or as an open car.

Aston Martin’s design director, Henrik Fisker says he was mindful of the car’s heritage: “We wanted an elegant, beautiful car – in keeping with Aston Martin tradition. I was acutely aware that Aston Martin is renowned for its superb styling. We have in the past launched some of the most beautiful sports and GT models ever seen.”

DaimlerChrysler’s super-luxury Maybach is another interesting exercise in excess. Initially launched as a concept at the 1997 Tokyo motor show, the Maybach finally saw the light of day in July 2002, when it was transported to New York on the deck of the QE II. Produced in Germany to individual order, virtually no two Maybach models will ever be the same. Customers may specify upholstery materials, wood veneers to be used and even gold inlays if required. These choices of course do not come cheap and the Maybach can be considered to be the world’s most expensive motor car.

ImageAt the other end of the scale is the tiny Smart. The brainchild of Swatch millionaire Nicholas Hayek, the Smart is now produced by DaimlerChrysler. Fun it may be, and ideal for inner cities, but regrettably the brand has never made money for its owners and some have suggested the German-American company may be forced to pull the plug on Smart. The Italians have always had a solid reputation for design and the latest Ferrari F430 is no exception.

Beautifully finished inside and out, the F430 embodies all that is excellent about automotive design; sleek, aggressive and purposeful. The styling was a joint effort between long-time Ferrari collaborator, Turin design house Pininfarina, and Frank Stephenson (who designed BMW’s new Mini Cooper). Stephenson's career has taken him around the world; he also had a hand in the BMW X5 but it was the Mini that put him on the design map. The rear treatment of the F430 is “borrowed” from the Ferrari Enzo with protruding lights and a similar air intake for the F430’s V8 engine. Stainless steel tailpipes finish of the dramatic rear end, emphasising the outstanding performance of which the car is capable Also hailing from Italy – in this case Bologna – is the Audi-owned Lamborghini brand which currently produces two models: the amazing V12 Murciélago and the smaller V10-engined Gallardo. It is the Gallardo that has proved to be such a success, with more than 3,000 produced to date.Image

One of the most striking designs to appear in recent years is the Bentley Continental GT, a high-speed grand tourer in the old tradition, but with all the latest automotive technology. Designed in-house by Belgian Dirk van Braekel, the Continental GT is based on Volkswagen’s Phaeton platform and features an impressive six litre W12 power plant. Unlike the Phaeton the Bentley sits on conventional springs instead of the big Volkswagen’s air suspension, while a small rear spoiler deploys at speeds over 190 km/h to aid stability. While Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler remain in varying degrees of crisis in the U.S. and parts of Europe, Asia, it appears, is still a buoyant market for luxury cars. It may not contribute significantly to the bottom line, but strategically the region is still of paramount importance.

 
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© 2018 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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