Gold sports car parked in the desert
Gold sports car parked in the desert

A perfectionist car that offers precision engineering, precision steering and immense speed

Darius Sanai sets off in a McLaren that promises both rawness and refinement

Anyone buying a car like this is likely to have a number of other cars – and even other McLarens – in their stable. Perhaps they have a couple in every home, or a selection of variants of the breed in a country garage. This also means that, more likely than not, a car such as this will only see occasional use. There will be many other cars, some just for fun, others to carry out rather more mundane activities.

So the motivation for buying such a car can often come from the particular emotions that the knowledge of ownership and the driving experience – however fleeting – offers. Some supercars are all about flamboyance; others are about emotions and actions, or at least claim to be.

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In a couple of days of driving the 720S, it soon becomes clear what any owner will fall in love with about this car. Precision. The precision is there as soon as you turn the wheel, with the steering having a focused, perfectly weighted, granular feel superior to that of any of its rivals. Precision engineering is there also in its ability to smooth our bumps, which in many of its competitors are sharply transmitted to both driver and passenger.

This all translates to a feeling, when driving fast on good roads, that you are piloting a piece of exactitude that you could place to the nearest millimetre on the road, and which will respond with exactly as much performance as you need, according to how you bend your right ankle.

brown leather seats in a car with a window above the seats to see the sky

The elegantly understated interior of the McLaren 720S Roadster

Cornering in the McLaren is flat and low, but with a real sense of being connected to the road. It is not exactly raw, as there is much too much refinement and evident engineering to hand. But it is also far from being remote or too light to steer, like some competitors.

Anyone who has met McLaren’s modern founding father, Ron Dennis, will see his DNA in this car: it is in a pursuit of perfection that brooks no compromise. And that perfection is not just reflected in its performance and abilities; it is there in the comfort and refinement of a car that has every reason to have neither. Oh, and this is very, very fast – even at five times the price, a seven-figure hypercar would have difficulty shaking off a 720S.

We liked the interior, which is rather on the understated side for this type of car. It is efficient and swathed in the fake suede that high-performance car manufacturers seem to love. It is distinctive without being flamboyant in the low, quite central, seating positions – this is not a car in which you would take a passenger you dislike.

Read more: Porsche Reviews Series: 718 Cayman GTS and 718 Boxster GTS 

One question we always ask about supercars concern their looks: how crazy, or otherwise, should they be? Here, McLaren has chosen to sit firmly in the middle between the sometimes rather understated recent creations of Ferrari, and the wild-looking cars of Lamborghini.

The 720S is currently being replaced by an updated model, so, if it matters to you, you may be able to get quite a good deal on this one. It is still one of the fastest cars anywhere on the road. And, as a pinnacle of car engineering, it is a must for any collection of normal production (as opposed to limited-edition) supercars.

LUX Rating: 19/20. A contemporary classic.

mclaren.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

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A green Porsche parked on a countryside road
A green Porsche parked on a countryside road

The Porsche 718 Cayman GTS’ mid-engine layout offers distinct handling characteristics and balance compared to other GTS models

In the second of our series on Porsche, a company with a unique place in the automotive canon, we focus on two of its mid-market cars, the 718 Cayman GTS and 718 Boxster GTS, driver-focussed versions of the company’s acclaimed entry-level two seaters. We review them as part of our series, a tribute to a brand which is synonymous with German engineering and carries with it a geeky spirit that appeals to those who might collect mechanical watches

Part two Porsche 718 Cayman GTS and 718 Boxster GTS

The 718 Cayman is a closed-roof two seater car, which in the first few years of its existence was seen as the car you would buy if you couldn’t afford the more upmarket 911 model.

For the moment we got into this car, there was no doubt that we were in something quite special in its own right.

Unlike many fast cars of today, the 718 feels small and lightweight. The controls are also light, including the steering, and – wonderfully – the manual gearstick, which is lined, like much of the interior, in Alcantara, a suede-like material that imparts extra sportiness to the company’s GTS models.

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Porsche could have done what Ferrari did 15 years ago, and banished the manual gearbox to the history books. Automatics, controlled through paddles on the steering column, are much faster and more technologically advanced. No serious racing driver today drives a manual on a racetrack.

And yet many of the heroic drivers in F1 history and those who drive manual shift cars. A gearstick gives you an extra sense of connection and control which is lacking when you know the car can do the work for you, even if you are shifting manually with paddles.

The gearshift in the 718 is light and easy to negotiate. combined with a relatively light clutch pedal with a clear bite point, it means that even in town, this is a car that you don’t mind driving and changing the gears yourself.

Out on a country road, it becomes a delight, as you can balance the agile steering, the willing engine and the gearshift – not just in order to go fast (a Tesla could do that), to feel like you are with a dance partner – your car.

Black interiors of the gear shift and wheel inside a Porsche

The interior of the 718 models are fully geared towards enjoyment and comfort for the driver

The engine also has a serious part to play here. Most new cars, if they are not electric or hybrid, are turbocharged, which increases both power and efficiency. But turbo engines by nature tend lack that dramatic buildup of power and noise as the revs rise.

So combine a manual gearbox with a non-turbo charged engine along with the 718’s delicacy of handing, and you get a car that you can keep discovering with joy, because as a particular curve taken at 45 mph feels different to the same curve taken at 50 mph, or at 40 mph in a different gear, in terms of the responsiveness of the car. There is so much to discover.

The interior is comfortable, but also as compact as you might expect for a car seating only two. Plenty of room for you, but don’t expect to take five incidental bags into the cabin with you. On the plus side, it does have a boot (trunk) both in the front and the back of the car with a surprisingly positive amount of total space, as long as you are happy to travel with numerous small bags rather than a big suitcase.

Do we have any criticisms? Not really. Perhaps the only thing we felt is that Porsche’s engineering is too brilliant, and the engineers had restrained themselves from making this car the real monster it could be. It could be louder, faster, and have even more clarity and precision and sharpness – and danger – in his handling. But then it would be a racing version of the car, and that’s a different type of Porsche all together. Meanwhile, bravo Porsche for making what is close to the perfect sports car at a price that is a positive bargain.

A red Porsche parked on the side of a road next to a field

The Porsche Boxster 718 GTS is targeted towards enthusiasts and drivers seeking a pure and engaging sports car experience with the added enjoyment of open-top driving

Closely related to the 718 Cayman is the GTS edition of the Porsche Boxster. These open and closed cars share the same excellent engine, and the interiors are very similar although our Boxster had two crucial differences: automatic gear shift, in the form of Porsche’s PDK transmission, which allows you also to shift via paddles located on the steering column, and a roof that opens to turn the car into a convertible.

The Boxster is very lively and agile, but a touch, less sharp, a little more laid-back than its closed-roof sibling. That doesn’t mean it’s less fun, because it’s so easy to lower the roof, and enjoy the smells, sights and sounds of driving in the open air. Many convertibles these days, including those offered by Ferrari, feel semi enclosed due to the architecture of the car. This feels like a full, old-fashioned convertible. Delightful.

A birds eve view of a red convertible Porsche

The Boxster’s open-top design and mid-engine layout contribute to its unique driving dynamics and handling characteristics

You would, in fact, be perfectly justified in having both: the Boxster for when you want to have fun in good weather, and on roads were, you won’t be expecting the ultimate drive. And the 718 when you know the driving has huge potential.

Read more: Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Review

Both have a likeness, and a joy about them, feeling of supercity brought on by very sophisticated engineering that hides its light smartly. They are not cheap alternatives to a more expensive 911: they are different types of car, two seats only adventure. They are both a delight.

Find out more:

porsche.com/718-cayman-gts

porsche.com/718-boxster-gts

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A green convertible car from above with brown leather seats
A green convertible car from above with brown leather seats

The Mercedes AMG SL 43 is a technically innovative entry-level model of the newly developed roadster icon

For decades, owning a Mercedes-Benz SL has symbolised understated wealth and style. How does the newest model, with a racier intent than its more laid-back ancestors, stack up?

To the car enthusiasts, particularly those of a certain age, the idea of a Mercedes SL conjures up images of stylish luxurious open-top motoring with a sporty edge.

To those of even older vintages, it will conjure up images of something even more glamorous, as the original SL (the words then stood for Sport Light) was the car in which the British racing driver Stirling Moss won the dauntingly challenging Mille Miglia road race back in 1955.

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The model has evolved through many generations since then: in the 1960s, it turned into a car known as the “pagoda“, losing its sportiness but gaining even more beauty.

Its 1970s and 80s iteration was a luxury cruiser, still open topped, but more in use by the housewives of Beverly Hills than any racing driver.

New iterations came in the 90s (luxurious and advanced), and 2000s (with some high performance options available again).

Times change, we pondered while contemplating the newest SL. Our one was presented in bright yellow, its tube-like shape suggesting an extreme sportiness not hinted at since the very first iteration of the car. Inside, it’s snug and driver focused, although unlike the last generations, this car does also have two small back seats in which to cram your designer children, dogs or bags. (Although we think SL customers would send their children separately with the nanny in the Cayenne).

Brown leather interiors inside a car

The Mercedes-AMG SL 43 of the R 232 series is based on a completely new vehicle architecture developed by Mercedes-AMG. The new dimensional concept allows a 2+2 seating configuration for the first time since 1989

Our first zip down the the road confirmed that these racy intentions are carried through to the handling of the car itself: this is a sports car, or it wants to be anyway – in the way of the old-fashioned, longnosed, louche roadsters of the 20th century.

Then, a first trip down the highway confirmed that this car still does what the SL is supposed to do, excellently. It settles into a cruise, nose lifting ever so slightly when you accelerate, and feels like it would be delighted to take you all the way to Portofino in a single journey. In a way that slightly belies its rapid responses at low speeds, it is a very settled and comfortable grand tourer with more refinement than rival sporting cars, such as the Porsche 911 or various Aston Martins.

Read more: Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Review

Once you get to Portofino, Tuscany, or wherever your destination is, you will want to enjoy twisting down some country roads with the roof down. Here, the SL is always willing with its responsive steering, and always fun, although it doesn’t have the ultimate sports car balance or ability to deal with rapid changes of road surface and direction with the lightness of its rivals. It can also be a little bit bouncy on a bad road surface, a trade-off, perhaps, for that handling ability. It certainly feels like it has more sporting attitude than its predecessors.

Live with the car, and you get to understand its versatility: this is not an SL reinvented as a pure sports car (as that would see it lose its languid soul), it is a car that is happy with its heritage and has decided to become something of an athlete late in its life. Great fun.

Find out more: mercedes-amg.com/mercedes-amg-sl-43

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A yellow Porsche on a country road with fields in the background
A yellow Porsche on a country road with fields in the background

The Porsche 911 GTS is a sportier addition to the model lineup

Porsche has a unique place in the automotive canon. Its history, racing and heritage, combined with a stream of some of the most evolving and precisely engineered cars, mean it is beloved by collectors. And in recent years, the company has made approachably-priced sports cars that are still a paragon of excitement for those who cannot or do not want to stretch to the more exotic offerings. It has also branched out into family cars, SUVs and the highly dynamic electric Taycan. In a tribute to a brand which is synonymous with German engineering and carries with it a geeky spirit that appeals to those who might collect mechanical watches, in this series we review some of the company’s most interesting contemporary offerings

The greatest consumer products are not those which undergo brilliant reinventions, but those which quietly evolve while remaining seemingly the same. A Birkin bag, a bottle of Château Latour, and an iPad are easily recognisable from their predecessors 40, 20 and 10 years ago.

The Porsche 911 stands at the pinnacle of this list when applied to the automotive world. It was a bit of an anomaly when it first emerged in the early 1960s, with is engine in the back, just in front of the bumper, and a bug eyed look. Porsche had plans to replace it with a completely different model, the 928, in the 1970s. Yet 20 years later, it was the 928 that disappeared into the history books, while the 911, continually refreshed every few years.

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The 911 itself has spawned many different variants: from race specials that only ever increase in value, to increasingly mainstream standard cars that can be driven by anyone and have no shortage of supply. Somewhere between these categories, of the ubiquitous “standard” 911 and the rare GT models, is the GTS.

The steering wheel and controls inside a Porsche 911 GTS

The Alcantara and cloth interiors of the 911 GTS

To drive, the GTS is traditionally somewhere between the company’s more exotic offerings and its mainstream sports cars. The logic behind the GTS is that you wouldn’t want to drive a collectors car every day on the school run or to go shopping. Though having driven the three first iterations of the GTS since it was first introduced in 2010, we can attest that if these excellent cars were made in limited quantities, rather than as a main manufacturer run, we have no doubt that this car would be bought over by collectors in years to come.

And here is the fourth iteration: the 992 GTS, 992 being the model designation for the latest variant of the 911.

Get into the latest 911 GTS after driving the next model down, the Carrera S, and the subtle, iterative, intriguing, differences, are almost immediately apparent. The interior has touches of Alcantara and cloth, and appears more bespoke, less factory made. As soon as you go round the first corner, the steering, good enough in the standard car, feels a little bit more taut, more sharp.

Read more: Porsche Reviews Series: 718 Cayman GTS and 718 Boxster GTS

The GTS is also more responsive around a series of corners, both in its engine response and the way it handles – and the way it sounds. It’s a bit faster and punchier, has more aural sensation, has a more muscular frame, or so it seems, while still being virtually as easy to drive as the standard models. The more specialist “GT” models, in comparison, take commitment and effort, ideal if you are racing around but much less fun in everyday reality for most of us.

Meanwhile the differences with the base cars are subtle, but just like the 911 evolution, many subtle differences add up to a big difference. We think the latest GTS is as compelling as any of its predecessors and its the 911 we would be buying if we were in the market now. You can even get it with manual transmission, unlike a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, if you are a truly committed driver; or as a convertible, unlike its more “collectible” sisters. Enjoy now while we are permitted.

Find out more: porsche.com/uk/models/911

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A white car by a shed in a forest
A white car by a lake at sunset

The EQS SUV is a stylish creation by Mercedes chief designer Gorden Wagener, with none of the brashness of some rivals

Mercedes-Benz has made an electric luxury SUV quite unlike any other, and we love it

One of the fears of anyone who has been appreciative of high end automobiles the last years or decades is that electric cars, while having zero tailpipe emissions (although they still do have a carbon and environmental cost in their manufacture and sourcing of electricity) will lack an essential character.

When every car is electric, this argument goes, they will all essentially be more or less the same thing with a different brand attached – accentuated by the fact that electric vehicles also have advanced and highly developing technological interfaces, which are largely sourced from the same suppliers, like all digital technology.

We remember speaking about these matters with the legendary Mercedes-Benz designer, Gorden Wagener, a few years back; Gorden insisted that there would be as much differentiation in the design and feel of Mercedes’ electric vehicles as there has been in their conventional cars.

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The EQS is a SUV – a type of car usually associated with massive emissions. It is fully electric though, so no worries on that front, at least during its daily use. It also achieves a remarkable goal of being very big SUV that does not look either aggressive or lumpen. It is smoothly designed and seems to shrink on the road, meeting no hateful looks from the resentful brigade.

The real revelation, though, is in the way it drives. Many SUVs set out to try to emulate the driving experience of the regular saloon/sedan cousins, something made almost impossible by their high centres of gravity and inherently massive weight – most of them weigh above two tonnes and a luxury SUV can weigh close to three tonnes.

This means that not only can they not drive like sports cars, but the passengers’ experience can also be compromised, with manufacturers left in a hard place between making the ride firm and unyielding (theoretically improving the dynamic qualities) or softer, but then allowing the forces of physics to dictate something that can be quite difficult to stomach in terms of a wallowing feel, particularly in association with the rapid but silent acceleration offered by electric cars.

A black steering wheel and dashboard of a car

The Mercedes-Benz ESQ SUV has a sophisticated and contemporary driver’s environment

That’s where the EQS is unique. Shoot off in the EQS (like all electric cars, it’s fast, although the 450 model we drove is not the fastest), and you have a delicious feeling of being cosseted – this is not a car aimed at setting record track lap times. Passengers felt the same. There is a luxuriant, old school refinement to being on the move in this car: objectively that is down to a ride that absorbs bumps and bits of broken road.

There is huge refinement in terms of what car companies call NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) but also a feeling that the engineers who made this car just really understand what makes a luxury car. Step out of the EQS into any other electric vehicle and you will notice the difference on this front.

So, a point of difference and a significant one given that this is a luxury car.

The technological interface is also sophisticated and easy to use, although this is much less of a differentiator these days. And while the design feels are highly up-to-date, we wonder if Mercedes has gone a little too far or making the interior feel “contemporary“ rather than “luxurious“. It’s as if the engineers did their bit brilliantly in the way the car rides and drives, but the interior designers were a little bit wary of making it look too traditional. Shame, because no major manufacturer does interior luxury like Mercedes. Functionality is for Teslas.

Read more: Porsche Reviews Series: 911 GTS

But the most important element of a car like this is the feeling of quality, and the way it rides and drives. The EQS has one of the best electric mileage ranges of any car – although range is a technology that will constantly improve – and it is a car that you wish to sit back and luxuriate in, whether as a driver at the helm (and it really does feel like a helm, in the best luxury Mercedes, type of way) or passenger. So bravo Mercedes for having the bravery to create something that is truly – we think – what do your clients will want. Next, just add a bit of Palace of Versailles – or even Schöbrunn, if you want to keep it Germanic – to the interior for that ultimate touch of baroque ‘n’ roll.

Find out more: mercedes-benz.co.uk/suv/eqs/

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Courtesy of Porsche

In the third part of our Super Powers series from the Spring/Summer 2023 issue, LUX’s car reviewer gets behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 Carrera GTS

The Porsche 911 is an example of a design that has succeeded precisely because it is wrong. No car designer would come up with this car now. It is neither a two-seater nor a four-seater, it has an engine where the boot usually goes and a strangely situated storage space between the front wheels. No one else has created anything like it and nor are they likely to. But this endearing design has been with us for 60 years, initially updated slowly, latterly more quickly.

The latest generation, introduced a few years back, still has the car’s distinctive design features, but is as technically sophisticated as any other luxury sports car. The newest iteration, also known as the 992, is remarkably quiet and refined when driven slowly around town – too much so for some, who say it has been overtamed in search of ever broadening markets.

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We at LUX count ourselves Porsche 911 fans, yet, while we are in awe of the technical abilities, design and performance of the standard 992, we also felt it could offer a little more in terms of engagement and excitement. So we were pleased to be given the keys to this GTS model. Porsche typically produces some race-oriented 911 versions for enthusiasts, but they have certain compromises, including a lack of back seats and a handling set up that, while suitable for a smooth race track, is not ideal if you live in the actual world, as you find yourself rattling over potholes and scraping over bumps.

The GTS is a halfway house between the two. It is the 911 you buy if you drive every day but crave a little edge. As such, it is really a tweak of mainstream 911 models rather than anything spectacular, but Porsche engineering means the GTS models feel more special than they should.

The Porsche 911 Carrera GTS adds a frisson of extra excitement to an already practically perfect and endearingly distinctive supercar

First impressions were of a car that is a little more tuned and willing than the standard model. Everything is incremental: the engine sounds racier and is keener to engage; the steering is more lively. When we took our first roundabout, we felt the car spoke to us in a way standard models do not. On fast country roads,
the differences amplified. Our car had manual transmission – Porsche’s automatic gearshift is smooth and easy to use, but, for engagement, we like a manual when we can find one. Infamously, Ferrari has stopped making them, so raising the values of its last manual-transmission models.

With this and the other GTS enhancements, this car is a joy along country lanes. Acceleration is immediate and rapid: turn the steering wheel a fraction and it responds a fraction; exit speedily from a corner and you feel the back of the car tighten, which lovers of all 911s will appreciate. The GTS feels like a standard 911 that has taken a Chenot detox alongside Pilates and musclebuilding, like a friend who has been working on their fitness. We found it even more fun than the faster and more expensive 911 Turbo, which is a hoot for its “Look how fast we are going!” value, but less precise and delicate than this.

Read more: Lamborghini Huracán STO Review

So, the perfect Porsche? At everyday speeds, you won’t let out a rebel yell, as you might in some of its less sophisticated but popular competitors. And you will not love the manual transmission in town – always a compromise. But for adding an edge of excitement to an already beautiful, competent and desirable car, the GTS is as good as it could be. Get yours with rear-wheel drive, a manual gearbox and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres for a car true to the spirit of the model.

LUX Rating: 18.5/20

Find out more: porsche.com

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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A white Ferrari by a river and hills
A white Ferrari by a river and hills

Ferrari Roma

In the second part of our Super Powers series from the Spring/Summer 2023 issue, LUX’s car reviewer gets behind the wheel of a Ferrari Roma

Creating an association with Roma from the Ferrari brand is an idea so obvious it is surprising the company hasn’t done it before. The company has made cars named after California, the chic Italian port of Portofino and its hometown of Maranello. But never Rome.

So what kind of car could we expect from the Ferrari Roma? Looking at the exterior in the first instance, we though the sweeping, long, elegant design fitted quite well with the Dolce Vita image of Rome that the company would evidently like to project. With its long nose and contemporary curves, and the swept-back nature of the cockpit, the Roma looks like a classic grand tourer, updated for now. It is also one of the prettier Ferraris of recent years.

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Inside, this quality is both amplified and somewhat dissipated. It is amplified by the view our over the bonnet, where buttresses on either side help you aim the car for a long distance, touring in mind. It is dissipated because the interior, while bristling with electronic gizmos, does not have the classiness of Ferraris of old, or the sheer razzmatazz of some of the Roma’s current Ferrari siblings. True, the controls in the centre console do mimic the gated manual gearboxes of older Ferraris, but the rest of it feels up to date without being particularly glamorous. This is not a Ferrari that comes dripping in leather, although there was a generous amount of Alcantara, the mock suede favoured by many sports cars, in evidence.

a Ferrari steering wheel and controls in the Roma with the yellow Ferrari logo in the middle of the steering wheel

Combining a classic grand-tourer sweep with a hyper-responsive dynamic drive, the Ferrari Roma makes for a particularly intriguing new model

However, as soon as you start driving it, any impression that the Roma is a slightly laid-back but high-performance grand tourer quickly goes out of the window as fast as the rubber on the tyres touches the tarmac (the tyres were Pirelli P Zeros in our case, which do not do the car’s handling justice). This is a car with a focus on raciness, not refinement. The steering is super sharp, almost hyperactive. The accelerator responds if you even think about touching it. On a country road it is highly engaging, around sharp bends it feels both enormously capable and highly entertaining. This is a car that involves the driver for every second, and is rather surprising because of it.

Why? Because many very fast and expensive cars – Ferraris among them – have become more and more remote, even as they become more and more capable, in recent years. A feeling that you are driving a video game has become prevalent.

Read more: Lamborghini Huracán STO Review

But not in the Roma. Here you know you are driving a very fast contemporary Ferrari, even along a country lane at normal speeds. The car feeds back to you thought a concoction of noises and feelings – not that it is noisy – but the Roma is not a car designed with comfort in mind. It has enormous performance and dynamism, and tiny back seats, which are useful for shopping. Altogether, it is an intriguing addition to the Ferrari model line, the first of what may be a new dynasty of cars.

Most Ferraris to date have a lineage dating back through decades of predecessors, but the Roma is a new concept. We found it highly entertaining, but also wonder if it is just a little bit too focused on involvement. A more relaxed side to its character might have fitted everyday use a little more, particularly given that its shape is more that of a day-to-day elegant sports car than something you want to go and thrash. But nobody can doubt this car’s ability and excitement factor.

LUX Rating: 18.5/20

Find out more: ferrari.com

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A blue and orange Lamborghini on a road at night with a lit up skyline behind it
A blue and orange Lamborghini on a road at night with a lit up skyline behind it

The Lamborghini Huracán STO

In the first part of our Super Powers series from the Spring/Summer 2023 issue, LUX’s car reviewer gets behind the wheel of a Lamborghini Huracán STO

In the car world, it is generally accepted that the next generations – Gen Z and younger – are not interested in cars as anything other than Uber- type appliances to get them from A to B cheaply, while they sit in the back seat making TikToks.

Evidently, someone forgot to send the memo to the summertime population of East Wittering, a village on the south coast of England. We parked the Lamborghini on the village’s beachside promenade, ready to get some good photography, and were soon swamped – not by water from the English Channel, but by people. Small boys and girls were desperate to have a look inside the car or touch the outside, as if it were an alien spaceship – which it does resemble a bit. People in their twenties told us this was their dream car and could they please have their photo taken with it. One young woman suggested her boyfriend propose to her on the occasion of having their picture taken. Another lady, with three pre-teen children, asked to lean on the car for her photo, then told us she had been a racing driver when she was younger, that her husband had left them that morning, and that this was a great tonic.

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We had expected attention of some sort, but it was notable that it was all positive. Teenage boys on bicycles stopped and gave a thumbs up. Builders in white vans honked their horns and, when we turned to see if they were cursing at us, would, without exception, give us a thumbs up, too. It was like being a celebrity everyone loves, except the celebrity was the car, not the driver.

blue and black seats in a car

A celebrity of a car with full star value, from eye-popping looks to performance to the co-starring role it allows its driver

None of this would have mattered if the car were not as good to drive as it is to look at. Lamborghinis have recently tended either to be a bit safe, with four-wheel drive making them capable but rather less wild than their looks suggest, or, in some cases, just a little ungainly for driving around English country roads. This car suffered from neither ailment. Being rear- wheel drive only and lighter than the regular Huracán, it has a connection to the driver and, in fact, relies on the driver’s ability to handle its immense power. The sound of the engine is magnificent, a real last glorious celebration of the internal combustion engine.

The car moves as well as it sounds. The V10 is old school in that, without turbochargers, it gains momentum in a dramatic but progressive way, each point in the rev range promising a difference in noise and acceleration, requiring the driver to pay attention. The joy of revving this engine to its limit is matched by few other cars.

Read more: Driving Lamborghinis to the Italian Alps

The handling is as sharp as the engine, with the steering immediate and well weighted. This is not an easy car to drive fast, unlike some competitors. It requires concentration and input – you might imagine yourself as Tom Cruise in Top Gun Maverick. But actually, that’s why we love it. It is old-fashioned in the way it demands the driver’s input, and it is so rewarding.

It is also spectacular inside, with its gorgeous, racy interior. The car will not win awards for comfort and smoothness – although it is not terrible in that respect – but then it is closer to a racing car than to other supercars.

So we salute the Lamborghini Huracán STO – not just for what it is, but for what it will likely be: the last of a breed. Its successor, probably helped by electric propulsion, is likely to be faster, smoother, better and less notable. Drive the Huracán for one of the most memorable experiences you can have, in or out of a car.

LUX Rating: 19.5/20

Find out more: lamborghini.com

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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large white yacht in the ocean

Managing Director of Lateral Naval Architects, James Roy, speaks to Samantha Welsh about innovation and sustainability in the yachting industry

LUX: What made you embark on your career as a naval architect?
James Roy: I grew up in a sailing family, and the sea must have gotten under my skin at an incredibly early age. I remember, aged five, seeing a ship sail past and drawing it; with the clear intent of doing that for a living when I was older. However, the path to success is rarely a straight line, but after some twists and turns I arrived at Southampton Institute in 1992 to study Yacht & Powercraft Design. Having never excelled academically at school I suddenly found myself with a fresh drive and ambition that I had never experienced and graduated top of my year, such is the power of having meaning and passion in one’s work.

LUX: Why did Lateral come about and how do you manage your collaborations?
JR: Lateral is the result of 26 years development. Ultimately, the company is an evolution of the first business that I joined in 1996 (Nigel Gee & Associates). Via evolution of that company, mixed with some acquisition and collaboration, Lateral was brought to life. Reflecting on that path, it has been innovation within an evolving industry that has been a key part of navigating the many possible outcomes that could have come to pass. Whilst the road ahead may be beset with uncertainty it is innovation that often acts as a compass to set direction. When it comes to collaboration, Lateral takes an ‘open-source’ approach. We want to remove any barriers for creativity. Our ethos is that engineering can enable design innovation, and we intend to make that a reality with every project.

A sketch of the inside of a boat

LUX: Engineering or architecture, which comes first?
JR: This is a good question, and much like quantum mechanics, both answers can be right and wrong at the same time! There are some projects where the performance specification may be highly demanding, and in such cases an engineering approach may be best suited at the start, and there may be other projects where the functional specification may be leading, in which case architecture takes an initial lead. The reality is that in most projects there is a requirement for both performance and function in some balance. This dictates collaboration from the outset being a key ingredient. Ultimately, collaborating all comes down to people.

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LUX: What is meaningful innovation to you?
JR: Innovation is often confused with invention. To innovate does not mean inventing new things, it means finding solutions to things that did not exist before. Many innovative solutions use existing technologies, but package them in a unique way to solve a particular problem. What I find fascinating is that innovation often leads to improvements to ‘problems’ that no one was aware of, by doing so they improve our lives and experiences. These innovations becoming truly meaningful. To find such innovations is often the result of curiosity; playing with ideas in stolen moments, weaved together by thoughts from diverse projects, often finding something by chance. As Einstein said, ‘creativity is the residue of wasted time.’

black and white photo pf the front of a yacht in the sea

Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design, Lateral-Sinot net-zero concept collaboration

LUX: How do you design-in a net zero target?
JR: Net-zero is a straightforward idea but complex in execution. Designing for net-zero is quite simple, we are doing that already by engineering flexible architecture into new superyacht platforms, however they can only achieve net-zero in operation via accountancy. The use of various alternative fuels will still lead to the emission of carbon, for these to be net-zero there must be an accountancy that the carbon emitted has been captured somewhere else. Net-zero is therefore an eco-system spanning many industries, regions, and nations.

LUX: Are superyachts following the motor industry in adopting electrification as a viable alternative to fossil fuel?
JR: Yes, electrification is being embraced but in a different context. Whilst cars are mainly going full electric, yachts are remaining the equivalent of an electric hybrid. This is simply down to the scale of energy needed for a yacht to operate, and the limited storage capacity of batteries. Designs such as Kairos from Oceanco / Pininfarina / Lateral are pushing the boundary and achieving 75% of daily operation on battery. However, we can be sure that battery technology will advance and it is a core part of our future proofing strategy to make batteries part of our energy and propulsion system architecture choices.

A picture of a boat on a wall with sticky notes on it in an office with a brown chair and white table

LUX: We read about alternatives like liquid hydrogen-based systems, will these become industry-standard in the future?
JR: There are many alternative fuels being explored by the marine industry (and other industries) in the move to decarbonisation and net-zero. Some of these fuels, such as bio diesel, are a simple ‘drop-in’ equivalent for the diesel we already use. Other fuels, such as methanol and liquid hydrogen can make compelling options for future net-zero fuels. However, all of these require more space on board as they have a lower energy density than current fossil fuels. In the future there will be no singular solution, there may be many different future fuels in use. We can be certain that this will be a (welcome) challenge to designers and engineers; we will need to become even more efficient in energy use (so we require less fuel as it uses more volume) and we will also need to offer at least equivalent levels of functionality but in a smaller package. This is the creative challenge we will face in the future; such challenges drive us to innovate.

Read more:Driving Force: Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid

LUX: What do you tell your next gen clients when they are spoiled for choice?
JR: We live in an age of so much choice that it often becomes an enemy to decision making. When I was growing up, we had three TV channels, now we have hundreds but choosing which one to watch is surprisingly quite hard at times! It is a key skill of any leader to be able to guide their clients through the complexities of choice. There are some choices that are complex, technical, rational, and others which are very emotive and personal. Equally there are a multitude that fall in the grey area in between, and guiding clients in these choices without making them feel like they are taking unmanaged risks is key.

Find out more: lateral.engineering

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In the fourth part of our Driving Force series from the AW 2022/23 issue, LUX’s car reviewer gets behind the wheel of the Maserati Levante Granlusso

As the car industry moves into its new phase focused on electric and, in due course, autonomous motors, presumably there will be shifts in priority for consumers. Previously, you may have chosen a car for its exciting engine noise and performance advantage over rivals. In an autonomous, electric-car future, these factors will be uniform: all cars will go at the same speed and make the same (lack of) emotive sound.

So how will they be distinguished? Or will they not be distinguished at all? Will cars become like road-going versions of train carriages, the space inside them hired out by passengers?

It would be logical to presume that personal (as opposed to shared) automotive transportation will continue for the wealthier consumer and, with differentiation in the performance stakes no longer possible, design and luxury will come more to the forefront.

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Designing a car’s interior to look striking is not as simple as creating a fashion collaboration for a sneaker, though. Like a plane’s, the interior of a car has to adhere to specific stipulations for safety, space, comfort and security. Materials also need to handle years of being sat on and scraped by (luxury) behinds. Which is why, we reflected, as we sat in the Maserati Levante Granlusso, it is rare to see an interior with this much style. The most luxury car interiors are fairly interchangeable. Not so this one.

It was designed by the Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna – a special edition that is worth seeking out. There were swathes of what looked like men’s suit fabric along the seats and doors, and it had a delicious boudoir feel.

We subjected the Maserati to a longer test than usual, over a period of weeks rather than days, because this is a car designed as everyday luxury transportation, just as your Birkin is designed as an everyday luxury carrier of stuff. If you’re going to be using the car every day and will be seeing a lot of its interior, then it deserves serious consideration on this alone from anyone in the market for a mid-size luxury SUV. Everyone who experienced the car – friends, relatives and so on – commented on the interior. It’s a comfortable car under any circumstances, but the design touches give it a distinctiveness that is unique to this edition.

brown and leather and black car seats and a steering wheel

Embodying function and Italian flair, Maserati’s new mid-size luxury SUV is particularly distinctive for its fashion house-designed interior

Before we go further, let’s elaborate on the term “mid-size luxury SUV”. A few years back cars came in simple categories. Now there’s an infinite variety of what the industry calls “crossovers”: vehicles that are fluid in terms of categorisation, sometimes the better for it, too, and sometimes not, if you look at the more curious attempts at merging luxury, high-performance and bling. Fortunately, Maserati does not fall into this trap. It is a relatively simple, medium-sized (that is to say, pretty big by European standards and quite small by American standards), sporting off-road vehicle, the type seen on school runs and in luxury shopping streets globally.

Its shape is more quiet and harmonious than out-there and ostentatious, and all the better for it, unless your primary aim is to be noticed. It has a touch of Italian flair – more so than its Germanic rivals, like the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5 – but not so much that it shouts at you. Unusually for an SUV, it attracted many compliments from people we encountered, and no inner-city anti-car hostility.

To drive, it felt a bit bigger than it is. The flowing shape means that it is hard to judge where the ends of the car are (the 360-degree camera was an advantage here). In a car with a Maserati badge, we expected something focused on performance and agility (as much as possible for a large, tall car) but, actually, the Maserati is aimed more towards the comfort end of the spectrum. This was fine most of the time, except occasionally the ride did get more lumpy than in a true luxury car, such as a Mercedes E-Class, and it was a shame not to have a bit more excitement on a twisty road. That is the essential compromise of these sport- utility vehicles – they encompass engineering challenges for the way they drive and ride. Still, it hasn’t hurt their sales and it would be a very sensitive driver or passenger who noted this.

Read more: Driving Force: Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid

One thing you may notice, depending on how mechanically aware you are, is the engine. If you are part of a (now dwindling) demographic for whom an Italian car brand means a glorious, smooth and powerful engine, you will need to readjust for the diesel engine. It gets the car around effectively enough, but it’s not going to make you feel like a racing driver. It is functional, which is slightly out of kilter with the car’s flair.

And it is flair that we keep going back to. In a world of increasingly homogeneous cars notable for their efficiency, Maserati has succeeded in making a comfortable, functional, spacious everyday car with a splash of luxury. That is an attractive trait in itself, and a very nice place to be when you are sitting in everyday traffic surrounded by your Zegna-fabric interior.

Find out more: maserati.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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A black McLaren GT on top of a mountain
A black McLaren GT on top of a mountain

For a balanced supercar life, look no further that the new Mclaren GT

In the second part of our supercar review series, LUX gets behind the wheel of the McLaren GT

A GT car, traditionally, was a good compromise. Powerful and exciting to drive, but also comfortable and relatively quiet, in order to fulfil ‘grand touring’ duties, typically between Monaco and Zürich, or Munich and the Amalfi coast, or any two points between which the wealthy of the mid to late 20th century wished to drive.

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This is a relatively challenging brief, because the most exciting cars are, by definition, highly responsive and therefore tend to be exhausting when driven in straight lines on the motorway. Similarly, cars that are relaxing to drive in a straight line are not always exciting on the last series of twisty curves leading up to your Eagle’s Nest villa. The cars that succeeded in combining these qualities, such as Ferrari’s 275 GTB/4, the Aston Martin DB5 and Jaguar E-type, are historic masterpieces and play a valuable part in automotive history.

interior black seats and wheel with a red stitching in a McLaren GT

This two-seater is fantastically accomplished, offering sports car thrills and comfort

McLaren absolutely excels at making cars that are exciting on a tightly curved country road. And here is a McLaren that looks pretty similar to those models, but is instead badged a GT and aimed at buyers who want a balanced supercar life.

The first thing we established, on a series of tight curves and roundabouts in rural Britain, is that this car handles like a McLaren and not like some kind of soft-luxury saloon. It’s sharp, responds dynamically to the throttle, brakes brilliantly, shoots over mid-corner bumps as if they are not there and generally feels like you are driving a supercar. If McLaren didn’t make its non-GT series of cars, you would be perfectly happy with this as your two-seater sports car.

A black car driving on a road with mountains in the distance

Exterior of the McLaren GT

The interior is snug and comfortable while you are in there – like all McLarens, it can take a bit of focus to get in and out, particularly for larger and taller people.

And how does it perform as a GT? Its massive power means it achieves cruising velocity swiftly
and effortlessly. The suspension engineering and aerodynamics give it superb straight-line
stability. Always willing and responsive, it never feels nervous. It’s also relatively quiet, in terms of both engine and road noise, compared with a proper supercar, and rides well – you never feel the car is fighting the road.

Read more: The Style And Substance Series: Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition

All in all, a brilliant, fantastically accomplished two-seater car. If you were to buy one, instead of a two-seater Ferrari or Lamborghini, for pure sports car thrills, no one would say you had made the wrong choice.

a red and black interior of a McLaren GT with mountains through the windscreen

Interior of the McLaren GT

But is it a GT? That’s a $200,000 (more or less, depending on which country you’re buying the car in) question. While it will perform long-distance duties with aplomb, it doesn’t quite have the je ne sais quoi of the great GT cars. And that’s no real criticism, because even Ferrari and Aston Martin, the traditional holders of the GT crown, find it hard to balance the engineering required to keep a super high-performance car on the road, and the laid-back qualities needed for a great GT. The McLaren is a great car, but is it a great GT? Not quite. But we’re not sure anything made in the past 15 years or so is.

LUX Rating 18.5/20

Find out more: mclaren.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Yellow Ferrari sports car pictured in the desert

Yellow Ferrari sports car pictured in the desert

LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai tries out Michelin’s supercar tyres on his Ferrari 430 Spider to see whether they’re worth the investment

Tyres are a curiously under-explored subject when it comes to supercar optimisation and maintenance. You can have conversations all day long with fellow owners about filters, suspension geometry, engine remapping, and other arcane elements of your car’s construction that might add fractions of a second to your lap time on a circuit.

But conversations about the patches of rubber that actually transmit all the power, and handling, from the car to the road and vice versa, are frequently limited to the very basics. How big are your wheels? How wide are your tires? Are they okay to drive when they have a certain amount of tread left, or a certain age?

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But tyres are, as any Formula One driver knows, far more important than that. Not only are they the only point of contact between your car and the road, they also elements of your car that will never, ever be made by the manufacturer of your car. You may have a Ferrari, a McLaren, or a Lamborghini, but your tyres will always be made by third-party manufacturers.

Each manufacturer has a range of tyres optimised for types of car and driving. My Ferraris were all supplied with Pirelli P Zero tyres, with the owners’ handbooks stating that these and similar Michelin and Bridgestone tyres were all officially approved. Owners’ forums, meanwhile, were full of discussion about the latest range of Michelin tyres for supercars, the Pilot Sport 4S.

Product image of the Michelin PS4S tyres

Michelin PS4S tyres

Of all my Ferraris, there is one model that has become my car of choice for a sunny, weekend high-speed drive in the countryside. The 430 Spider is the last of the line in a significant way. Certain model lines of Ferrari are celebrated for their ‘mid engines’, meaning the engine is located just behind the driver’s head, rather than under the front bonnet. They are also celebrated for their “gated manual” gearshift: a metal manual gear-lever which moves around a race-style bar metal gate, a work of art in itself. The 430 Spider is the last, and most modern, Ferrari that combines these two attributes; all mid-engined Ferraris since then have been made only with paddle-style gearshifts by the steering wheel, and no clutch pedals, like an automatic.

So the 430 Spider is a piece of history, and quite rare: a few hundred were made in right-hand drive. And it’s also tremendous fun to drive, combining a 485hp engine behind your head, no roof, sharp handling, and the opportunity to shift gear yourself. There was nothing wrong with the way it drove on its Pirelli tyres, in fact it was quite thrilling, but I decided to swap over to the new Michelins to see if they made any difference.

Read more: Investigating Vincent van Gogh’s iconic masterpiece

First thing to notice: the car rides appreciably more smoothly on the new tyres. Lumps in the road that formerly jarred now only bump. But you don’t buy a Ferrari for its comfortable ride.

Yellow sports car driving along a desert road

Going for an enthusiastic drive, the improvements made themselves known more subtly. Previously, turning into a corner, the car felt sharp, but now that sharpness, and feel, was there all the way through each curve. It was as if there was a new channel of communication open with the road. Push harder around the corner, and the feel increased: you had a stronger sense of what the car was doing.

Modern Ferraris have a switch on the steering wheel that allows you to flick between driving modes; the F430 was the first to have this, and for enthusiastic driving I switch mine to Race. This sharpens up responses and also means the car is allowed to slide around a bit when you are driving at its limit, before the electronic systems (usually) catch the car. Pushing on, in Race mode, the car now feels more adhesive at the limit – it simply feels like it sticks to the road more. It’s not a transformation – the car always had superb roadholding – but now you feel more on the way, and can stay gripping the road longer.

Read more: 6 mountain restaurants to stir your soul this summer

I haven’t tested another of the PS4S’s supposed attributes, its wet weather grip, because I don’t take my car out in the wet; and hope not to test another of its noted qualities, its performance under emergency braking.

Normally, performance and comfort in tyres are in inverse proportion: the more comfortable the tyre, the less suited to high-speed driving, and vice versa. The PS4S (not to be confused with another Michelin tyre, the less sporty PS4) manages somehow to combine both. In terms of investing in an upgrade in your car: if you have a car worth £150,000 (or euros, or dollars) or more, spending around 1% of that on a set of new Pilot Sport 4S tyres might just be the smartest investment you make.

Find out more at michelin.com and ferrari.com

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Maroon Maserati GranTurismo sportscar pictured on a drive in the woods
Maroon Maserati GranTurismo sportscar pictured on a drive in the woods

The Maserati MY18 GranTurismo MC is a candidate for the most beautiful car on the road

We take the Maserati MY18 GranTurismo MC on a road-trip through France to test for comfort, power and satisfaction

Focus groups, aerodynamics, safety laws – there are a lot of elements to blame for the standardisation of today’s car designs. A room full of cars from the 1960s is a panoply of distinctive, flamboyant creations. As we approach 2020, a common critique is that often you can’t tell one car brand from another.

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Which gave us particular joy as we bowled through the French countryside in the Maserati MY18 GranTurismo MC. The car’s sweeping curves look stunning – it is a candidate for the most beautiful car on the road – and its engine, derived from Ferrari’s V8 engine which powered the 430 and 458 supercars, sounds wonderful – in fact, Maserati have coaxed an even better sound out of its version than Ferrari did from theirs. There’s a long, hollow bellow every time you even think about accelerating.

The GranTurismo wants to be everything: it sounds like a Ferrari, but the suggestion that it’s a ‘Grand Touring’ car means it also wishes to be a laid-back cruiser across continents, and that’s exactly what we used it for.

Black interiors and steering wheel of the Maserati GranTurismo

The ambience inside the car is exactly right

It’s certainly never dull. Whether flying out of a toll booth or opening up after leaving the confines of a village, it emits a rising series of gurgles and roars that signal its enthusiasm for gaining speed. ‘MC Stradale’ signifies Maserati’s most sporting setup, and, with the suspension in its firmest mode, it corners flat and fast, although drivers of Ferraris would wish for more feedback from the steering and the chassis. It’s rapid and secure, but perhaps less of a sports car than you might expect, the long nose and overall weight making you remember you are in what is quite a large car, despite its sporting ambitions.

Set the suspension to its softer setting and the ride is comfortable to match the Grand Touring ambitions, but this also results in quite a lot of body roll if you try and corner fast.

Read more: Instagram influencer Tamara Koen’s guide to Milan

The interior feels delicious. In German cars, leather often looks and feels like plastic; in British cars, it smells like an old Chesterfield; somehow the Italians got the texture and ambience inside the GranTurismo exactly right. Many cars of this category offer only an excuse for back seats – if you try and get anyone with legs in the back of a Ferrari California, you’ll rapidly hear protests – but the Maserati is moderately comfortable in the back, even over a long journey, although headroom is limited and basketball players, for example, would emerge with cricked necks. The front is comfortable, but we had a couple of niggles: we never quite fell in love with the driving position; the seats seemed to slightly lack shape and support; the engine does feel loud on a long drive; and the sat-nav system isn’t as advanced as on some cars.

If there’s one word that summarises the GranTurismo, it’s ‘character’. Many cars, even high-performance ones, look, sound and drive in an anodyne way. The Maserati looks and sounds brilliant; if it only drives well, and not brilliantly, that likely won’t bother most prospective buyers.

LUX Rating: 18/20
maserati.com

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Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate car driving through the countryside
Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate driving through rural landscapes

Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate

The era of fast cars is, surely, over. Traffic jams, speed cameras, environmental concerns, enhanced policing – all are good reasons to be passengers in a Prius, rather than at the wheel of a ripsnorting, overpowered machine.

And yet: human indulgence is about wants rather than needs, and sales of performance cars, from Ferraris and Porsches to Mercedes AMGs, have never been higher. Here are six reasons why you should turn your back on the politically correct, gender-neutral advocates of no-car ownership and buy LUX’s current wheels, the Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate.

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1.  It’s safe.

High performance means the best technology goes into brakes, tyres, wheels and suspension to keep the car on the road in the event of an upset. If a car has the capability to travel 186mph (as ours does), you can bet you feel safer driving around a corner at 40mph than you would in a Prius that maxes out at 90mph.

Interiors of the Mercedes-AMG C 63 estate car

Spacious interiors of the Mercedes-AMG C 63

2.  It’s comfortable.

AMG is a former independent race tuner that Mercedes liked so much, it bought it, Mercedes-AMG C 63 back viewRemington-style, at the turn of the century. The division still operates quasi-independently, from its own factory, and is completely unlike the racily-badged marketing pieces that crop up from other car companies. AMG rips out the suspension of standard Mercs and replaces it with its own technology, which manages to be both supple and sporting.

3.  It’s fun.

It may be that, one day, it is as acceptable to say you enjoy driving as it is to admit you voted for Donald Trump. But for now, taking a car that is tuned to be driven, rather than mass-produced as an people-moving algorithm, onto empty and exciting roads is a thrilling experience. And the sound of its V8 engine, 6.2 litres driving what is still a ‘compact saloon’, should be bottled. The latest version, shown in our pictures here, has an even more powerful V8 engine with two turbos (because one is just not enough).

Read next: Geoffrey Kent’s hottest luxury travel destinations for 2018

4.  You can race it.

It would be very odd to take a family estate/ wagon onto a racetrack. But that’s where the C 63 AMG was honed. We did it once, and hearing the engine roar, to a consistency and volubility that is just not feasible on the road, and feeling it grip and move in the corners, was a life-changing experience. In the nicest possible way.

Engine of the Mercedes-AMG C 63 estate car

The Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate may look like a practical car, which it is, untilthe engine is revealed

5.  It’s practical.

It might go from zero to sixty faster than a space rocket, but this is otherwise the same car that can fit surfboards, cases of Pétrus, your latest Richter in its plywood case, and your four best friends, into its insides and express you across the continent.

6.  It’s very fast.

Do excuse us if we didn’t make this explicit: but this car, while looking like a solid family sedan, can run rings around Porsches and overconfident giant 4 x 4s. There’s nothing quite like hearing its engine rise in tone as everything gets smaller in your mirrors.

mercedes-benz.co.uk/approvedused

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