Green field with a little house in the middle
Family of different generations sitting on a stone wall

The family Drouhin grew up in the vineyards and acquired a deep understanding of wine alongside their father, Robert Drouhin. They all have their own role and they share the same passion for wine

Veronique Drouhin was not supposed to run one of the world’s most celebrated wine producers. The scion of a family with holdings throughout Burgundy and beyond, she was born with the odds stacked against her in two ways: she was the second child, where traditionally the elder child took on the family business; and she was a woman in the very mannish world of wine.

“I did not think, when I was at school, that things would end up the way they did,” the urbane, lively head of Maison Drouhin says ahead of our tasting of some of her finest wines. But her elder brother, Philippe, decided that he wanted to devote his energies to being in the vineyards, making the wines great rather than running the company. And Veronique, although she is too modest to say so directly, showed the commercial nous required to take the company forward in the 21st century.

Drouhin is famed for making wines of finesse, vibrancy and balance. That was not necessarily always a plus point: there was a time earlier this century when many consumers of fine wines thought that the more powerful a wine was, the better. And being the head of a negotiant-producer, which both owns its own vineyards and buys grapes from small producers with their own vineyards, was also a double-edged sword as high-end consumers sought out tiny production boutiquewineries as a status symbol.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

But the pendulum has swung the other way, both on style, with finesse and balance most definitely back in vogue, and in terms of consumer demand, as the cost of wines from tiny producers shot upwards beyond sustainable levels. Drouhin, which makes wines from some of Burgundy’s most hallowed vineyards, suddenly looked like excellent value as well as high quality.

If there is a grace to the wines – more on which in our tasting notes below – there is also a grace to the head of the Maison. When I ask what she would have likely done if she had not been born into a major French wine dynasty, Veronique replies that she might have become a music. I can imagine her playing a Chopin sonata as much as I can imagine her tasting her wines or hosting a collector’s dinner.

Read more: A tasting of Dana Estate wines

Wine cellar

After carefully harvesting the precious fruits of a year’s labour, Maison Drouhin let their vines enter a period of rest, an enchanted interlude called dormancy.

Drouhin makes wines at a variety of price points: just days before this tasting of some of their highest-end wines, which costs hundreds of pounds/euros/dollars a bottle, I partook of a bottle of a more lowly Drouhin Savigny-les-Beaune red Burgundy, from the fulsome 2020 vintage, at a London restaurant. It was delicious, balanced, moreish; and very much in the style of all the others. But if you are seeking a high end Burgundy at a relatively reasonable price, look to the below.

The Drouhin tasting. Tasting notes by Darius Sanai

Whites:

Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, 2018

The Chablis brand might suggest a certain austerity and steeliness; this grand cru, from one of the most celebrated vineyards, had that but also breadth, depth and white nectarines. Very classy and surprisingly powerful; a Jaguar E-type of a wine.

Green field with a little house in the middle

The harvest date is determined through regular samplings. Maison Drouhin closely monitors the health and maturation of the grapes.

Beaune Clos des Mouches, 2019

A white wine from Beaune? Sacré bleu – or sacré blanc!  But what a wine this rare and prized bottling is. Rounded, rich fruit with freshness and sex appeal and a lot of layers. An open-topped classic two-seater Mercedes SL from the 1980s.

Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot, Marquis de Laguiche, 2019

From Chablis we headed south through the forest of the Plateau de Langres (Chablis is not connected to the rest of the Burgundy vineyards), over the continental divide and down to Beaune. Now we travel a few kilometres further south, with the Cote d’Or hills rising to our right, in our 1973 Porsche 911S, in a solid period dark green. That’s what this wine is: super-elegant, precise, crafted, stunning.

Multiple wine bottles standing next to each other

The harvest date is determined through regular samplings. Maison Drouhin closely monitors the health and maturation of the grapes.

Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2019

Back up the road we go, past Beaune, to the rounded Hill of Corton. Corton Charlemagne is one of the most celebrated white Burgundies, and this is a beautiful interpretation, with stony fruits and the complexity to match a three Michelin-starred chef’s signature Escoffier-style white fish main course. A 1960s Citroen DS Decapotable (in black, with cream leather) of a wine.

Reds:

Volnay Premier Cru Clos des Chênes 2018

Such finesse, a wine that only hints at its true depth of first sip, then keeps speaking with you, reciting poetry in your ear.

Beaune Premier Cru Clos des Mouches 2018

Beaune is only a few kilometres away from Volnay, and this wine is made with the same, pinot noir, grape variety by the same producer: yet while retaining Drouhin’s finesse, this has power and muscularity. Like a Duke from the court of Louis XIV expounding on the virtues of his house musicians.

Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Amoureuses 2009

On first sip, this is a balanced, structured and slightly delicate red Burgundy. By the end of the second glass, it’s an artist, a pianist, a poet and a dancer – and not a particularly chaste dancer. A Chippendale from the 2000s, or a brilliant burlesque; all at the same time. Astonishing.

Chambertin Clos de Beze 2003

This is a wine you would have at your last supper, with capon, truffle, caviar and tripe sweetbreads (and maybe some pommes dauphinoise). Like a Falstaffian royal performing a perfect ballet while reciting Rumi.

domainedrouhin.com

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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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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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An electric Mercedez on a road by the sea
a blonde woman wearing a black dress

Charlize Theron wearing Chopard’s responsibly mined diamonds at Cannes

The new buzz phrase for business is “profit with purpose”. So how are leaders in the luxury and consumer industries facing the need to adapt to increasingly stringent sustainability criteria? Interviews by Ella Johnson and Candice Tucker

For brands, ensuring that consumer and luxury products comply with standards for Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) factors can be tough. How much water pollution do your steel suppliers create? What is the carbon footprint of your distributor in South America? How does the main supplier of your fasteners treat its staff?

These questions are becoming paramount for any company expecting to survive and thrive in the coming decades. Consumers are increasingly asking if products are sustainably created, if brands treat their staff and suppliers ethically. A company may still make profits on the back of a high-carbon footprint now, but it is far less likely to be able to do so in 10 or 20 years time.

We spoke to industry leaders across sectors for their insights into succeeding in a new era.

JEWELLERY
CAROLINE SCHEUFELE
Artistic director and co-president, Chopard
In 2013 Caroline Scheufele launched Chopard’s Journey to Sustainable Luxury, an in-house programme that committed the Swiss luxury jeweller to responsible sourcing. The brand has also forged a philanthropic relationship with the Alliance for Responsible Mining, helping gold-mining communities achieve Fairmined status.

LUX: Chopard’s engagement with ESG predates that of most jewellery houses. How did it start?
Caroline Scheufele: As a family-run business, ethics have always been at our heart. More than 40 years ago, my parents developed a vertically integrated in-house production system and invested in mastering all crafts internally. This means the full traceability of our gold supply chain is guaranteed through our operating model. It is based on a closed-loop system that also enables us to recycle pre-consumer gold scraps or “production waste” in our gold foundry.

LUX: How do you ensure responsible sourcing?
CS: In 2018 we became the first jewellery and watch maison to commit to using 100 per cent ethical gold for our watch and jewellery pieces. It is a bold commitment, but one we have to pursue if we are to make a difference to the lives of the people who make our work possible.

LUX: How does research help?
CS: Our R&D works to make our raw materials and production practices more sustainable. One example is the creation of ethically produced Lucent steel, which took four years research. It’s an alloy made from 70 per cent recycled metals and is 50 per cent harder than other steels. It also helps minimise our carbon footprint.

LUX: Does your model help or hinder creativity?
CS: Working with responsibly sourced material stimulates my creativity. The Insofu emerald, which we presented in Paris Haute Couture Week 2022, was discovered in the Kagem mine in Zambia and is one of the most important gems found for weight, quality and traceability. By buying a raw stone, we can follow its entire journey to final creation. Our craftspeople will cut the raw emerald and collect all the cut gems. We will then incorporate sustainability into our creations through eco-design thinking.

LUX: What does it mean for the future of luxury?
CS: True luxury comes only when you know the handprint of your supply chain.

chopard.com

AUTOMOTIVE
MARKUS SCHÄFER
Chief technology officer and member of the board of management, Mercedes-Benz Group AG

An electric Mercedez on a road by the sea

Mercedes-Benz’s Vision EQXX, its most energy- efficient car ever

Under Markus Schäfer, Mercedes-Benz has embarked on an electrification plan that will see battery electric vehicles (BEV) in every segment by the end of 2022, and an all-electric fleet by 2030. It is the first premium automobile manufacturer whose climate objectives have been verified by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI) in line with the Paris Agreement.

LUX: What are the challenges of sustainability in the automotive sector?
Markus Schäfer: Our main ambition has always been to build the world’s most desirable cars. At the same time, our framework is changing dramatically, so we are rethinking our entire business model, with sustainability as our guiding principle. Our goal is to take the lead in electric driving and car software. And we will make our new car fleet CO2-neutral by 2039 – along the entire value chain and life cycle. It is a giant challenge, but for our brand it is also exciting.

LUX: Are luxury and sustainability compatible?
MS: Luxury has different meanings for everyone. In essence, it is simply about being completely at ease. Now it includes knowing your products and services helps reduce our footprint. For us, luxury is linked to setting new technological standards, and the age of sustainable and software-driven mobility gives us opportunities to do so. We think it will also make us interesting for new, younger customers who live a mindful-luxury lifestyle. At Mercedes-Benz, we want to combine our traditional strengths – innovation, safety, design, and comfort – with mobility that is sustainable and utterly intuitive. Luxury has always been a part of our DNA, and a driver of innovation.

LUX: If everyone moves towards electrification, what will differentiate your products?
MS: We think digital and sustainable innovations will be the top USP in luxury cars. With our Vision EQXX technology-programme prototype, we achieve more than 620 miles (1,000km) on a single battery charge. We are also increasing the use of recycled materials and researching new sustainable materials – we will use almost totally CO2-free steel in various models from 2025. With innovative car software we can offer customers the gift of time: we were the first car manufacturer to gain approval for conditionally automated Level 3 driving, without any safety compromises.

mercedes-benz.com

FASHION
MARIE-CLAIRE DAVEU
Chief sustainability officer, Kering

A shop with products in glass draws

Kering’s Material Innovation Lab, the brand’s sustainable- materials hub in Milan

It was in 2011 under Marie-Claire Daveu that French luxury-goods group Kering introduced its innovative Environmental Profit & Loss (EP&L), an initiative to quantify environmental impact across the company’s operations and supply chains. It is now standard practice elsewhere.

LUX: Can collaboration help green transition?
Marie-Claire Daveu: Even a big company is not big enough to change a paradigm – it has to cross-fertilise with peers. For us, collaboration is in the DNA of our sustainability strategy. When we speak about sustainability, it includes being an open source and sharing our best practices. It is also about working with other sectors. It’s why we’re part of the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) coalition, which includes food companies and the likes of Unilever. You may question why we have joined it, but regenerative agriculture is as important to us as it is to the food industry. Both of us take our raw materials from nature. We have the same origin.

LUX: Why did Kering invest in the vintage fashion platform Vestiaire Collective in 2021?
MCD: We were quite disruptive to go into vintage. It was our way of proving that purpose and profit go together. For us, it is interesting to have a seat on the Vestiaire board and see how we can develop a green e-commerce. There are new challenges with packaging, transportation and how we engage with customers. We are only at the beginning, but I think the idea of a second life will evolve in luxury and beyond.

LUX: Should leadership come from the top?
MCD: Sustainability is becoming more important to consumers and shareholders, but there is so much to do that, unless leaders prioritise it, you won’t do it. Luxury leaders must push for it both inside and outside their direct ecosystems.

LUX: Can fashion ever be sustainable?
MCD: You have to give people hope and solutions. I believe in a circular economy, upcycling, recycling – a 360 approach. With nature it’s about equilibrium. You have a problem if you take too much. But if you give nature the possibility to regenerate itself, there is no issue.

kering.com

TRAVEL
SVEN-OLOF LINDBLAD
Co-chair and founder, Lindblad Expeditions

A whale in the sea

A moment on Lindblad Expeditions’ Antarctic humpback observation trip

Sven-Olof Lindblad is an Ocean Elder whose work combines marine conservation, education and eco-tourism. Lindblad Expeditions has been at the forefront of environmentally sensitive expedition travel since its founding in 1979, raising more than $19m for conservation and scientific research and forming a strategic alliance with National Geographic.

LUX: Are there opportunities in sustainability?
Sven-Olof Lindblad: The more people think about sustainability, the more valuable the natural assets become that travel companies need to run their businesses. If you place more emphasis on protecting coral reefs, companies that want to incorporate coral reefs as part of their travel offering will have something that is more valuable and meaningful to travellers. But there are economic impacts to sustainability which makes things expensive. Some businesses don’t care enough yet because they think their audiences don’t, particularly in mass tourism where every dollar spent becomes significant. So companies have to believe, as I do, that sustainable behaviour is important, otherwise they are making decisions that, on the surface, do not make economic sense in the short term.

LUX: Do the wealthy have a responsibility to travel more responsibly?
SOL: I’m not that black and white. I might be sitting on my own private yacht now, but I’m on a research mission in Panama for a month interacting with Panama’s government to figure out how to evolve responsible tourism there. One of the most effective ways of doing that is by taking a boat, exploring the coastlines. Is that bad? I think it is using a boat to positive effect. There isn’t technology at the moment that allows us to eliminate burning carbon entirely, so we offset everything we do.

LUX: How do your expeditions ensure meaningful action in sustainability?
SOL: We take a lot of action in a variety of forms. We have a fund where we raise and distribute approximately $3m per year to conservation, activities, education and exploration. But it is also meaningful to engage people, making it possible for them to have experiences in the natural world that inspire them to think differently about natural assets. They can then change behaviours in their own lives or even create certain changes of action in their spheres of influence. That’s important, too.

world.expeditions.com

YACHTING
JAMIE EDMISTON
Chief executive, Edmiston; chair, Levidian
Yacht brokerage firm Edmiston has collaborated with climate-tech business Levidian to bring its LOOP decarbonisation technology to yachting. The device is expected to deliver significant benefits to battery technology, paints, coatings, and desalinisation systems in the maritime sector.

LUX: What are the biggest barriers to the decarbonisation of yachting?
Jamie Edmiston: Nearly all yachts burn diesel in their engines, so, until someone comes up with a suitable alternative engine, short-term innovations have to be in cleaning the emissions before they enter the atmosphere. Medium-term, we have to find other fuels than diesel, whether powered by battery or hydrogen.

LUX: How is Edmiston innovating in the sector?
JE: We have become involved with the climate-tech business Levidian, which has developed a LOOP device that takes methane, the main constituent of natural gas, and turns it into carbon, graphene and hydrogen. Around 40 per cent of the carbon is removed just by that one process, which means that all the gas being used is already decarbonised by 40 per cent. That makes a big impact. The LOOP device will not necessarily power a yacht, but the application we see is producing hydrogen at the source where it is needed. You can put that reactor in a factory, or a shipyard, where you’re taking methane and burning it, to decarbonise the gas that comes in. Moving hydrogen is complicated, but this way you can convert the natural gas into hydrogen at the source, where it is required, and then put it straight into whichever vehicle needs it.

LUX: How can yachting innovations benefit the maritime sector as a whole?
JE: Yacht owners are prepared to invest money, time and resources into developing new technologies – whether that be diesel- electric propulsion, or hydrogen-ethanol battery technology – within the maritime space, and this can ultimately find its way into commercial shipping. Yachting is the crucible of innovation for the maritime industry.

edmiston.com
levidian.com

SPIRITS
KIM MAROTTA
Global vice president of environmental sustainability, Beam Suntory

A man working in a tequila agave field

Pioneering low water-usage agave fields, for Beam Suntory tequila brands

In 2021 spirits behemoth Beam Suntory – which counts Courvoisier and Sipsmith among its repertoire – launched Proof Positive, a holistic, $1bn commitment to promoting positive endeavours in nature, consumer and community across its businesses.

LUX: Where do the challenges lie in decarbonising the spirits sector?
Kim Marotta: The main issues in the sector are in water, transport and packaging. Water presents an enormous opportunity for positive environmental impact, and we have established water sanctuaries in Kentucky at Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam. We’ve also set out an extensive programme of peatland water sanctuaries in the Scottish Highlands, not to mention our pioneering work in the tequila industry, where our Casa Sauza brand has the lowest carbon footprint and water usage. With transport, there is a fantastic opportunity for the sector to influence and partner with logistics groups to ensure everyone is working together for more sustainable methods of transport. Brands around the world are also looking at how to make their packaging more sustainable, whether that is in conducting a lifecycle analysis on every piece of packaging, as we are doing, or prioritising right weighting to minimise materials usage and waste, or even the total redesign of bottles, which we did this year with Courvoisier.

LUX: How can companies move their ESG agendas beyond reporting and compliance towards business enablement?
KM: Companies should not be afraid to set out the most ambitious targets they can, even if the specific road map isn’t totally clear. Whether they are unsure if the technology is there or what the commitment to R&D might be over the next few years, the solution is simple: set aggressive targets, make the necessary investments in technology to hit those targets and commit to accountability and transparency, showing evidence of progress along the way. If companies aren’t setting aggressive targets, they aren’t going to make the impact they can.

beamsuntory.com

CONSUMER GOODS
REBECCA MARMOT
Chief sustainability officer, Unilever
When consumer-goods giant Unilever introduced its Sustainable Living Plan in 2010, it became a benchmark for corporate sustainability. Under Rebecca Marmot, the company has also made interventions in the Paris Agreement and in the creation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

LUX: What is essential to the success of a company’s ESG agenda?
Rebecca Marmot: Success relies on everyone being on board. We need to draw on the ingenuity and experience of experts and peers across the globe to meet our sustainability targets. We know that pioneering new practices requires partnership, so we also need to shun silos in favour of systems thinking. For example, at Unilever we take a holistic approach across both climate and nature, because we recognise that action to solve one crisis can help to address the other.

LUX: How is Unilever working to eliminate Scope 1 and 2 emissions – those generated by your operations?
RM: One of our biggest challenges is that the lion’s share of our emissions are outside our direct control. About 60 per cent come from raw materials and packaging. To reach our target, we are working across our value chain and engaging suppliers, partners and consumers in our decarbonisation journey. We can’t control how long consumers spend in the shower or how they source their energy, but we know consumers do increasingly want to align their purchasing power with their values. We want to make it easy for them to choose our trusted brands, knowing that they are made with respect for people and the planet.

LUX: Is there a risk that those who are last to take on the costs of a green transition will be winners in the short term?
RM: Without action to make supply chains sustainable, companies won’t be able to source the raw materials they need, and operations will be stalled by floods and extreme weather. Laggards will also be hit by taxes on carbon and virgin plastic – these are coming down the line.

unilever.com

CLIMATE TECHNOLOGY
HEATHER CLANCY
Editorial director, Greenbiz; co-host, Greenbiz 350 podcast
GreenBiz 350 is a weekly podcast delivering stories on sustainable business and climate tech. Co-host Heather Clancy specialises in chronicling the role of technology in enabling corporate climate action and the transition to a clean, inclusive and regenerative economy.

LUX: How should companies be balancing the ‘E’ and ‘S’ of ESG?
Heather Clancy: Corporations are not spending enough time thinking about how environmental justice is embedded into their corporate sustainability strategies. There is still a huge disconnect between a company’s corporate perception of what environmental justice means and how it acts as a business.

LUX: What role can early-stage climate tech play in decarbonisation?
HC: Small, innovative companies have the opportunity to really innovate and become the new suppliers for larger companies – for example by producing alternative materials, such as mushroom-based packaging to replace plastic or Styrofoam. It is not coincidental that there are so many corporate venture funds now that are focused on climate technologies, because these corporations are going to benefit from that innovation when the company goes public down the line. The digitisation of sustainability is also really important, because it is becoming part of the financial infrastructure of the companies themselves. These kinds of tools can help people make investments in other climate technologies more easily.

LUX: What’s the biggest barrier to scaling up climate technology?
HC: If there’s one thing that we really are lacking from corporations, it is their voice on supporting sustainable policy.

LUX: What should the wealthy be doing?
HC: They should model better behaviour and put their money where it counts. The wealthy can help small businesses get on the ESG bandwagon, for example. Buying from these companies will enable them to make the vital shift to greener practices.

greenbiz.com

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

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Reading time: 15 min
Mercedes in black
Mercedes in blackProper ceramic coating, after a thorough paintwork correction, is the only way to make your new car look properly new, as LUX discovers with its recently purchased high-performance convertible

When you’re choosing a new car, there are many questions to ponder. Electric, hybrid or petrol? (The eco-friendly answer requires some research in each case.) Which brand? Exterior colour, interior colour, options? Which wheels? Did you think about tyre brand (a whole other world)? Are there any extras that will help with resale? (The short answer: you won’t get the extra couple of thousand you pay for the head-up display or the carbon fibre steering wheel back, but the right options make it easier to sell).

Very few people ponder one fundamental issue. Your brand new car is likely to be delivered with paintwork that is scratched and pitted, and it will only get worse unless you do something about it.

This is not due to some plot by manufacturers. But whether you buy a Ferrari or a Cinquecento, a Tesla or a Lamborghini, from the point it is painted at the factory, your car will spend weeks or months being transported to you, during which point it will (hopefully) not receive any plainly-visible scratches or marks. But it will be wiped, cleaned, dried and “valeted” on various occasions, and those actions, done in a hurry with the best of intentions, leave swirls and scratches on your paint, clearly visible on close inspection. And without further protection, that will only get dramatically worse during your ownership.

That’s where a proper ceramic coat comes in. Ceramic coating is to old-fashioned polishing and waxing what an iPhone 12 is to a Nokia, and here LUX hands over to Ahmed Al-Wajih, director of 1080, who was responsible for the shine on our Mercedes C63S Cabriolet Brabus 600 in these photographs, courtesy of products by market-leader G-Techniq.

red white and silver paint bottles

LUX: What happens to unprotected paint on a car under normal circumstances (without ceramic coating)?
Ahmed Al-Wajih: Unprotected paint is exposed to elements in our environment, such as oxidation from the sun, contamination from pollen tree sap and bird droppings. These can be very harmful to your vehicle’s paintwork if not addressed immediately and safely. An unprotected surface has a much faster wear rate than a protected surface.

LUX: Can you describe the science of paint – that what most people think is a scratch in paint is actually in a clear coat?
Ahmed Al-Wajih: Traditionally vehicles had a single stage paint, which was oil based and was just paint onto of the panel. Today we have three-layer paints on most panels, if not all. It consists of primer, base coat and the clear coat. The base coat is the actual colour that you see and the clear coat is a transparent layer that adds the final finish to the paint. The clear coat also provides a layer of protection to the base coat. Therefore the swirls, holograms, dullness in the paint are typically imperfections on the clear coat and not the base coat. Deep scratches that can be felt by your fingernail usually mean that the damage has gone beyond the clear coat and into the base coat or primer.

LUX: What does ceramic coating (and the other protection you supply) do?
Ahmed Al-Wajih: A ceramic coating for the paintwork is designed to protect the vehicle’s surfaces. The main purpose of a ceramic coating is to bond with the clear coat to make it harder, therefore more resistant to swirls and light scratches, as well as to provide protection against oxidation. It also provides high levels of gloss and hydrophobic qualities.

For the interior, chemicals were used to protect the floor mats and carpets. The purpose of this is to protect the carpets from stains caused by liquids and dirt that can become imbedded into the fibres. A sealant was used to protect the leather from dye transfer and to help clean the leather much quicker.

LUX: What is the difference between ceramic coating and traditional wax?
Ahmed Al-Wajih: The main difference between ceramic and wax to the paintwork is durability. A ceramic coating is a long-lasting coating that bonds within the clear coat particles. For example Gtechniq’s flagship ceramic, the Crystal Serum Ultra, is warranted for nine years. It will not wear away with aggressive washing chemicals, or even machine polishing, the only way to remove it is by sanding down the panel. A wax coating on the other hand may be topped up by layers, however an aggressive chemical will take the wax of the surface.

Tape and paint tools hanging on a wall

LUX: What exactly did you do in the process of coating our car?.
Ahmed Al-Wajih: First step in our process is to decontaminate the vehicle and strip off any sealants that are on the vehicle. This is a crucial part of the process as we need to ensure that the paintwork is clean and without any contaminates before we can move onto the next stage. Once the vehicle has been decontaminated and dried, we worked on the interior, again ensuring that all surfaces were clean.

The vehicle was then put on our ramp and we safely raised the car and removed the wheels. The wheels were then taken to our wash bay to be cleaned once again. The wheel arches were also cleaned again. Once the wheels were dried, they were protected using Gtechniq C5 wheel armour. The callipers were also protected using the C5 wheel armour. The interior was then protected using Gtechniq’s L1 leather guard for the leather surfaces and I1 Smart fabric for the carpets, alcantara and floor mats. The I1 Smart fabric was also used on the soft top.

We then inspected the vehicles paintwork and identified specific areas that needed extra attention and correction. We masked the vehicle and began our correction of those areas. Once this was complete we gave the vehicle a one stage enhancement process with the aim to further enhance the depth of the Obsidian black and ensure that the paintwork is in the best possible condition.

Once this process was complete we began prepping the paintwork using a panel wipe. The purpose of this process is to clean the panels and ensure that they are free from anything that may contaminate the application of the ceramic coating. Once this process was complete we began applying the Crystal Serum Ultra. Once we completed this process we left the ceramic to cure overnight. The following morning we inspected the paintwork to ensure that the ceramic had bonded properly. We then applied C2 Crystal laquer which acts as a top up coating for the ceramic. We also protected the glass using Gtechniq’s Smart Glass. Once we were happy that the ceramic to the wheels, body, interior and glass had cured we safely put the wheels back onto the vehicle and ensure that the wheels were torqued back up to the manufacturer’s specification.

Once again the vehicle was moved to our final inspection bay [with all round flourescent lighting] and we gave the vehicle a final inspection to ensure that it met our standards.

interior of a mercedes

LUX: Why use Gtechniq products?
Ahmed Al-Wajih: Gtechniq is a leader in the world of ceramic coatings. They put a lot of research and development into their products and stand by them. There are many different brands for ceramic coatings but there are very few that have the same international recognition.

LUX: There are detailers offering clients mobile ceramic coating in hours. Your process takes three days. What is the difference?
Ahmed Al-Wajih: There are different levels of ceramic coating, There is a liquid ceramic coating which is very easily applied, you spray it on and wipe it off. There are also ceramic coatings which are not semi-permanent which can also be applied without the risk of causing much damage as removing the coating is easy.

Once you get to the semi permanent coatings such as the five year or nine year coatings, you need the paintwork to be perfect before you apply the coating as any imperfection will be locked in for the duration of the ceramic coating. It is not impossible, however it puts the person applying the coating at a big disadvantage.

We have a studio where we are able to control the lighting, temperature, and positioning of the vehicle. All of this helps us to produce incredible and consistent results.It would be a big disadvantage trying to correct a car with poor light and bad weather conditions.

LUX: People buying a brand new car may not believe their car needs paint correction (ahead of protection). Tell us what you find on brand new cars.
Ahmed Al-Wajih: Believe it or not I have yet too come across a brand new car that is without imperfections. To the untrained eye the car may be glossy and shiny but to a trained eye, there are swirls, light scratches from where the vehicle has been valeting prior to delivery. The vehicle may have been in transport and exposed to the elements. causing etchings on the paintwork Many people do not see the imperfections and are happy to live with it, but if you are going to project your vehicle, you would really need to perfect the paintwork, because if you see it over the coating, there is not much that can be done.

A man in a black uniform working in a car paint shop

LUX: Why choose a ceramic coat over a clear paint protection film wrap?
Ahmed Al-Wajih: If you are after protection, then the best form of protection is PPF (paint protection film). It protects the paintwork far better than ceramic. However PPF is costly and can cost more per panel than if you were just to have that panel painted. Also the level of shine and depth does not match that of a ceramic coating, although having said that, technology in PPF has come a long way and the quality is getting better.

LUX: For classic cars, you may still suggest a wax instead of a ceramic coat. Why?
Ahmed Al-Wajih: When recommending a product, we try to identify the purpose of why your vehicle is with us and what it is that you are trying to achieve. If you have a classic car that is garaged most days in the year and sees the odd outing to an event, chances are that the vehicle would not be exposed to a lot of contaminants. In addition tot his the paint may be very thin from previous years and a correction would not be suitable. A carnauba wax finish in this instance would be more suitable. The vehicle would still have protection, the paintwork would still have gloss and depth in the colour and more layers can be added on. If that same vehicle was to be parked on the street and driven daily thence would suggest a ceramic coating.

Portrait and product photography by Isabella Sheherazade Sanai

1080london.com

gtechniq.co.uk

 

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Reading time: 9 min
green and black car
old yellow car

1938 Bugatti Type 57 C Stelvio Cabriolet

Maarten Ten Holder, Managing Director of Bonhams Motoring, tells LUX his top picks at Les Grandes Marques du Monde in Paris, ahead of the sale on Thursday 3rd February 2022. A sale which features cars being sold up to £2,100,000
a man standing by a black car

Maarten Ten Holden

Les Grandes Marques à Paris, Bonhams’ European season-opener is an event I look forward to every year. Traditionally held at the Grand Palais, located between the Champs-Elysees and the Seine, this venue is one of the more spectacular settings for our many international car auctions.

This year, the sale has relocated to the Grand Palais 2.0, le Grand Palais Éphémère, a stunning temporary building which is serving as the city’s exhibition space during the restoration of the original. Located on the Champs-the-Mars, right at the foot of the Eiffel tower, this modular, sustainable structure is not only environmentally friendly, but through its design and location, might even outshine its historical sibling.

But there is more: inspired by the glamour of Éphémère, we decided to add a new luxury sale of more than 125 watches to our series of sales in Paris, which is the perfect complement to our regular line up.

We will present more than 100 of the most exquisite collectors’ cars, from the pioneers to contemporary supercars. Creating a shortlist has proven a tricky task, but here are just a few of my top picks…

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1964 Porsche 904 GTS, estimate €1,300,000 – 1,600,000
One of the biggest racing stars of the 1960S, the mid-engined Porsche 904 GTS sportscar was owned by a star: the Hollywood great, Robert Redford, who drove it for nearly a decade. The model was called the ‘giant killer’ for its success in such famous events as the Monte Carlo Rally.

A green car

Robert Redford’s Porsche 904 GTS

2015 Ferrari LaFerrari, estimate €2,000,000 – 2,500,000
The F1-inspired hybrid hypercar was described by Ferrari as its most ambitious car, with its electric motor and V12 petrol engines combining to create a staggering power output of 950bhp. This rare yellow example has only driven 930km from new.

A yellow ferrari in the snow

2015 Ferrari LaFerrari Coupé

‘Le Patron’ 1938 Type 57C Special Coupé, €1,600,000 – 2,000,000
The Paris sale always showcases the finest French cars; and this Art Deco beauty is truly special. Known as ‘Le Patron’ it was named after and used by company founder Ettore Bugatti himself and its bespoke coachwork is believed to be the final design created by his son Jean.

green and black car

‘Le Patron’,1936 Bugatti 57C

1996 Bugatti EB110, estimate €1,100,000 – 1,300,000
The most modern of the five Bugattis offered in Paris, the record-setting EB110 supercar was the brainchild of Italian businessman Roman Artioli who revived the brand. The era’s fastest series production sports car has a top speed of 340km/h thanks to its turbocharged V12 engine. This example is one of only 95 GTs produced.

A blue Bugatti by the sea

1996 Bugatti EB110 GT Coupé

1902 Panhard & Levassor Type A2 7HP Tonneau à entrée par l’arrière, estimate €300,000 – 360,000

From the dawn of motoring, this is a remarkably authentic example and one of the best survivors of its genre. It has retained its original engine, coachwork and even leather trim. This car also has successfully completed the famous London-to- Brighton Veteran Car Run with its owner.

an old style black car

1902 Panhard & Levassor Type A2 7HP tonneau à entrée par l’arrière

Read more: ADMO: Alain Ducasse & Dom Pérignon’s Ephemeral Dining Experience

Michael Schumacher’s 2010 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate, estimate €50,000 – 100,000 (No Reserve)
This was the daily driver of a true motorsport legend, seven times Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher. It was his company car when he joined the newly formed Mercedes GP Petronas Formula 1 Team in 2010. Not surprisingly, this top of the range C63 was equipped with €20,000 in luxury options.

A black Mercedes-Benz

Michael Schumacher’s 2010 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate

A preview of Les Grandes Marques du Monde will be taking place on Wednesday 2nd February 2022 and the auction will be held on Thursday 3rd February 2022.

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White car on the road
White car on the road

The Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupé transforms a sports car into a high-performance saloon

In the second part of our Fast & Luxurious car series from the Summer 2021 issue, LUX’s car reviewer takes the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupé for a test drive around England’s country lanes

Fast, four-door saloon cars used to be among the most exciting things on the road, believe it or not. In the 1980s, BMW produced its first M5, with the racing engine from its M1 supercar. At the time, it was a car that had it all, speed to match the Ferrari of the day, but comfort and reliability and space as well.

A tuning company in Germany called AMG started doing similar things to solid, dull, respectable, comfortable Mercedes cars of the time. They took one and made it something called the Hammer, which became a legend, so rare and desirable that it is now an expensive classic car.

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Since then, technological advances have made this category swell to the point of mundanity. A Tesla is now as fast as a Ferrari, without claiming to be ‘sporting’ in any way – in fact the whole concept of what constitutes a sports car is being eroded, but that’s a different matter.

Every prestige manufacturer now produces a very fast car that can fit the whole family and its Irish wolfhound, and generally these machines are astonishingly capable and often astonishingly unremarkable to drive.

car interiors and steering wheel

As a consequence, we approached the AMG GT 4-Door (yes, that’s its name) with mixed feelings. AMG was purchased and absorbed into Mercedes 20 years ago. Within this range from this single manufacturer alone, there are more than 20 cars which can easily go faster than you could possibly imagine going, unless you have a private race track or autobahn at your disposal.

Meanwhile, the AMG GT, the two-door sports car on which this big saloon is based, is very rapid, and exciting on the right day, but a bit uni-dimensional. It wants to be loud and go fast. All. The. Time.

How would that translate into a four-door, four-seater car whose raison d’être is to be versatile? And aren’t there enough fast, spacious AMGs already?

Read more: LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai on media

Press the start button and – ROWWF. This is a big car with a big heart, its turbocharged V8 very much telling you it is there. It doesn’t take long to work out what kind of car this is. The steering is direct and responsive and has a little bit of feedback – rare in these years of electrically assisted steering. Mercedes does an excellent job in this area, best of any of its direct rivals. Which makes it a very satisfying car to drive, even at low speeds.

On the open highway, the car settles into a comfortable cruise, rumble from the engine telling you that it wants to play, but it is neither restless nor intrusive. The ride is comfortable. The interior is sculpted, luxurious and highly digital. It feels like taking a big but friendly dog out for a walk – straining at its leash a little but well trained.

The big surprise, though, comes when hurling this big, super-powerful car down a country lane. It feels neither big nor heavy, instead as eager as a large puppy.

car tyres

It burns down straights and lollops around corners delightedly, always enthusiastic, highly capable, and highly enjoyable. It feels faster than any of the other hyper-saloon cars on sale, although there is no way anyone would be able to feel that different on a public road, apart from in a couple of instances over a couple of seconds each time. But most importantly, it feels fun, in an almost old-fashioned way. It is not clinical, like so many cars.

Interestingly, this does not come with any significant compromises. The seats are the best we have tried in any saloon car. It may not be as quiet as some cars, but it is far more relaxing to drive than its two-door sibling.

It’s only real drawback is that it is priced at a higher category to cars like the current BMW M5. That is completely justified, for its combination of even higher performance, more comfort and sophistication. But at that price level, you are into the world of even more prestigious brands, where a name counts for as much as anything else in the ownership experience. So while this is probably the best big super-saloon car ever made we are not sure whether it will find a big market. It deserves to.

LUX rating: 19/20

Find out more: mercedes-amg.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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classic car parked outside blue doors
classic car parked outside blue doors

ionic cars makes over classic cars with high performance, zero-emissions electric power

LUX discovers how UK start-up ionic cars is replacing the original engines of classic cars with zero-emission electric power

According to government figures, cars currently account for just over 18% of UK emissions. Aiming towards the goal of cutting emissions to net zero by 2050, there have been dramatic shifts towards the production of electric cars with Mini, the Vauxhall Corsa and the Fiat 500 most recently launching electric models. For classic car lovers, however, eco-friendly options are hard to come by, which is where ionic cars comes in.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

vintage car

 

vintage car

The bodywork is refurbished and interiors are fully customisable

The UK-based start-up transforms vintage cars by removing the original high emissions ‘old-tech’ engines and replacing them with zero-emission power. The bodywork is fully refurbished and interiors are customisable with everything from vegan leather to heated seats and matching luggage. For those worrying about the car’s collectible value, the process is fully reversible, or the original engine can be refashioned into a bespoke perspex case coffee table. ionic’s models currently include the Mercedes-Benz Pagoda and Porsche 911 with plans to expand in the future.

For more information visit: ioniccars.com

 

 

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Landscape photography
Landscape photography

The view across the Rhine valley from Alsace’s Chateau de Haut-Koenigsbourg to Germany’s Black Forest.

LUX takes a journey from Alsace-Lorraine to Lake Constance, through a historic, beautiful, tranquil and gastronomic part of France and Germany that is curiously overlooked on the international tourist map

Location photography by Isabella Sheherazade Sanai

There was a point at which, quite abruptly, the Autoroute A4, the east-west artery arrowing out of Paris towards Germany, became interesting. For hours before this point, we had been driving on a wide motorway flanked by flattish fields. Wind turbines and the occasional tractor were for the most part the only distractions from the monotony, with the exception of a brief section, near the city limits of Reims, where the vineyards of Champagne crept up an unexpected hill to our right. But the Montagne de Reims is better experienced in a glass than through the glass.

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An hour or so east of Reims, as if the gods of scenery had decided on a set change there and then, the highway swept to the left and up through a sudden forest on a long incline. The forest felt ancient, revealing glades and streams between its fronds, even when travelling at a cruise. There had been no warning of this scenery’s arrival, making it all the more compelling. In a few miles, a sign told us we were in the Forest of Argonne, known as the site of some of the worst battles of the first world war, and among oenophiles as the source of wooden barrels for some of the world’s great wines.

As if now trying to free itself from its straight-laced former self, the motorway writhed through a series of hills, along viaducts and across shallow valleys. We were now in Lorraine, technically part of the same, recently created region of Grand Est that we had been driving through for hours, but in reality a different part of Europe, historically, linguistically and, evidently, topographically. Lorraine, by itself or bound to neighbouring Alsace, is arguably as Germanic as it is French. Without crossing a border, we had changed nations.

historic building

Riquewihr, one of the historic villages on the Alsace wine route

We turned off near Verdun and followed a country lane that tracked a little river, turning left at a little junction and heading into the forest. Through a tiny one-horse village aligned along the road, and some wrought-iron gates, and we arrived at our overnight stopover, the Lodge Hôtel du Domaine de Sommedieue.

Read more: Why we’re dreaming of summers at Badrutt’s Palace, St Moritz

The reception area doubled as a restaurant, in an old building with a few tables outside, scattered across a lawn shaded by tall trees and bordered by a series of ponds. Our room, tidy, clean, well prepared and functional, was in a newly refurbished building a few metres away. The Sommedieue advertises itself as a fishing lodge, but we don’t fish, so we ordered a bottle of very good Côtes du Rhône from the receptionist/ waitress, who happily chilled out by the bar with her beau, with no pressure on us late arrivals to drink up and allow her to lock up. We drank the bottle, then another, at an outside table, alone with our thoughts and the plopping of fish, until a deep night-time absorbed us all.

lake with boats

Uberlingersee, the northwestern stretch of Bodensee (Lake Constance), in southern Germany, is an idyllic destination for summertime leisure visitors

The next morning the waitress had been replaced by the busy, jolly owner, who asked me which newspapers we would like. He placed a selection on a long wooden table inside the restaurant which he had festooned with a breakfast spread worthy of a still life: fresh, fat loaves, thickly sliced; home-made raspberry and apricot jam; slabs of butter; a bowl of apples.

We headed on, eastwards, through Lorraine, through forests and past rivers and lakes, still in France but with road signs reading as if they were in German: Harskirchen, Hirschland. Lorraine and neighbouring Alsace were at the heart of Europe’s history and wars for centuries, sometimes French, sometimes German, sometimes independent: they have seen peace only since the establishment of the forebear of the European Union after the second world war.

The town of Phalsbourg is bounded on one side by high wooded hills and on the other by meadows dropping down into the lowlands of Alsace. It sits on the border of Alsace and Lorraine, and we were there for its annual festival, the Festival de Théâtre. We arrived in the late afternoon, and walked into the central square, which with its gabled, almost Hanseatic architecture, feels like it belongs more to the Baltic than a country with a Mediterranean coast. We had a pizza on the terrace of one of the square’s handful of restaurants, while the festivities geared up; children and adults wearing the traditional red wandered by, eating candy floss and sipping on local wines respectively. A jazz band launched into a fabulous set as the day turned from gold to light blue to darker blue.

As the band finished, we climbed into the car and headed into the hills enveloped in deep forest and arrived, around midnight, at the Auberge d’Imsthal, a little inn set on a lake in the forest, ringed by hills. I sat on the balcony, listening to fish splashing and animals crashing through the forest, looking for shooting stars.

Church at night

Notre-Dame de l’Assomption church in Phalsbourg, a town in the hills on the border of France’s Alsace and Lorraine regions

The Alsace Wine Route carves its way across slopes lined with vineyards and scattered with Hansel and Gretel villages. The road is slightly elevated from the Rhine floodplain, and as you snake through the vineyards you see views of the deep blue mass of the Black Forest mountains. Halfway along the wine route, we stopped off at the village of Eguisheim, which sits amid its vineyards near the leading edge of a steep hillside leading up to the Vosges mountains.

Read more: Artist Marc Ferrero on his collaboration with Hublot

Eguisheim is tiny – the size of a city square in Paris or Madrid – but seems both eternal and infinite. Its narrow streets, lined by 500-year-old gabled houses, many of them in pastel shades, are arranged in an oval shape, with a breathtakingly bijou square with a fountain at its heart. We sat in a courtyard belonging to a wine producer and drank light, pure local crémant rosé sparkling wine, as the sky and the buildings changed colour and a cool breeze wafted down from the mountains as night fell.

convertible silver car

Mercedes S 560 Cabriolet

For our epic drive across Europe, we had a Mercedes S 560 Cabriolet, a big, handsome, luxurious convertible with seemingly limitless performance and the ability to whizz down any road in a ‘swoosh’ of power and smoothness. The armchairs cradled us like a jealous lover, and, with the roof down, their air-conditioning kept us chill when the sun shone, and warm at night.

The most memorable, and attractive, thing about the Swoosh-mobile was its effortlessness; the way you could fire it up and almost instantly be going at the speed limit, while it made bumps and bits of broken road disappear as if they were not there. So many fast cars these days are tuned as if they are going to be driven on a racetrack, riding down the road so firmly that you fear the movements on your expensive wristwatch will disassemble themselves every time you hit a bump, and making you fear for the integrity of the wheel every time you crash into a pothole. The S 560 is different: it is made to give its driver and passengers the most soothing drive possible, at a level of luxury that would have been inconceivable in a car only 15 years ago.

Read more: Entrepreneur Dr. Li Li on the importance of global relationships

If that makes it sound like the car is boring to drive, it’s not. There is a certain rakish, louche joy in whipping the roof down, cranking the concert-standard Burmester hi-fi up to high, and aiming down the road, elbow on window sill, the car emitting a deep, sonorous but quite muted gurgle. It responds well to changes of direction, not driving nearly as softly as its super-smooth ride would have you fear. Perhaps on a racetrack it would suffer against sportier rivals, but who takes this kind of car on a racetrack anyway?

It certainly didn’t suffer on the autobahn. Parts of German motorways remain free of speed limits, meaning that, once you spot the roadside sign telling you all speed checks are off you can go as fast as you wish without fear of being stopped or photographed by the police. As the autobahn descended from the Black Forest towards Bodensee (Lake Constance) on the final part of our journey, the no-limits sign appeared. The road arrowed straight down a gentle incline bordered on either side by meadows, with no junctions, and no traffic ahead of us. With the accelerator buried, and a rumble of chest-beating from somewhere inside the exhaust system, we surged, roof down, unstoppably, past an indicated 150mph in a matter of seconds. I finally eased off at 155mph when the wind above the open roof was at a severe hurricane level. The S 560 may be easy going, but it can also go.

car dashboard

Convertible sportscar

Such speed hastened our arrival on the shores of Bodensee, which is shared between three countries: Germany on its northern shores; Switzerland on the south shore opposite; and Austria at its eastern edge. Überlingen, on the German shore, is a small and historic resort town. That evening we strolled along the lakefront along a pathway festooned with gardens and small hotels, past the Strandbad (lake beach), where families were sunbathing, playing games and jumping into the lake, and to the centre of Überlingen. A row of cafes, restaurants and ice-cream booths faced the lake, alongside the pedestrian path; a passenger ferry docked, sending a mother duck and her ducklings into a tizzy and causing a passer-by to rescue a duckling which had jumped into a hole for safety. A ten-year-old brother and sister played trumpet and violin, quite competently, attracting a pile of donations for their bicycle fund. A mini beach-volleyball tournament attracted a small crowd, sipping local beer sold from a pop-up stand, on the waterfront. Überlingen is a special find, a tidy, beautifully preserved hark back to another era that feels all the more relaxing now because of it.

For our final overnight, we drove five minutes to the Park Hotel St Leonhard, on a gentle hillside, covered with meadows, orchards and vineyards, above the town. From the wide balcony of our room, the hill sloped down into the town towards the lake; across the two fingers of Bodensee, the lights of the settlements on the Swiss side lit up, the Alps forming a jagged graphic backdrop. The air was wet, herbaceous and grassy. This had been Europe, both new and old, at its very best; and sometimes true luxury cannot be measured by hotel stars.

Four Alsace wines to try

Alsace’s wines remain curiously undiscovered. Whites and sparkling dominate, all are fresh and sophisticated, some are sweet but others are dry, complex and fabulous value; and there are many good producers, keeping prices reasonable.

Domaine Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile
Rich, rounded, but bone-dry riesling with layers of candy and lime. Fabulous wine and value.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris
Sweet but not cloying, packed with a thousand fruit salads and much more. One of the greats.

Bruno Hertz Crémant d’Alsace Rosé
Heart-stoppingly pure sparking pink, simple and delicious, tasting of summer forest.

Domaine Hugel Riesling
Somehow unctuous and dry at the same time, stony with kiwis; older vintages can age beautifully.

For more information visit: mercedes-benz.co.uk

Note: This trip was undertaken pre-lockdown. LUX paid in full for all the hotels in this feature. 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 10 min
White convertible supercar on road
White convertible supercar on road

Bentley’s third generation Continental has the lot – power, handling, looks, and even a rotating display next to the dashboard

In the third and final of our supercar reviews, LUX sits at the cockpit of another super fast convertible: the Bentley Continental GTC W12

It used to be said that sitting in a Bentley was like sitting in the drawing room of a Downton Abbey-style British country house. Wood panelling, tastefully muted colours, and probably a butler with a silver tray of slightly stale sherry lurking on the back seat.

That market for Bentleys has largely died out, and, under the aegis of its German owners (the Volkswagen group), the august British company has undergone one of the most successful brand transformations in the history of the luxury industry.

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If you doubt that, just sit in the cockpit of the new Bentley Continental GTC. I did, and found myself clutching a thick, two-tone steering wheel in black and cream. All around me were acres of quilted leather, more trapezoids than I could care to count, on the seats, and inside the doors. Above the leather on the doors, black lacquered piano would give it an oriental feel, above which was beautifully burnished British walnut wood. The fusion of colours and textures extended across the whole interior, and in between me and my passenger was the most lavish centre console I have ever come across, bursting with polished buttons, dials, and traditional looking air vents; all is as beautifully put together as a Swiss watch.

The positioning of this car is perfect: to the new generation of young, swanky drivers, as likely to be wearing a Hublot or Richard Mille as a Patek Philippe the previous generation has taken care of for you, it looks contemporary, super chic, but still has a nod to its heritage.

And to those who have always driven Bentleys – hey, what’s not to like?

Red interiors of a sports car convertible

We drove the top-of-the-range 12-cylinder convertible version, and the roof zips down in a few seconds leaving you and up to three passengers exposed to the sea breeze in Malibu, Monaco, Mayfair, Macau or wherever. The car sounds wonderful, in a deep, long, slightly rheumy way: it’s somewhere in between being fierce, like a Ferrari, and silent, like a Mercedes.

Click the switch into comfort mode and it lopes along happily, but move the dial into sport mode and the car tightens up and feels like it really wants to go and play. This is a big, heavy, powerful car, not a sports car, but it is immensely fun to drive. It changes direction faithfully – better than its predecessors, which always felt a little bit heavy – communicates well, flies along as it gets going, and is generally a hoot.

Along very tight, twisty country lanes – ironically, down which many traditional Bentley owners will live – you do start to feel its size, and width. But that’s part of the Bentley experience, as you imperiously wave at other vehicles to get out of your road.

Read more: Behind the wheel of the world’s most powerful supercars part two

On more open roads, it feels perfect, wailing its way up through its revs, always smooth, never harsh or unsettled. Its four-wheel drive ensures you always feel safe, and can power out the roundabouts, even wet ones, at comical speeds. And in a straight line, it never slows down. With a top speed of over 200mph, this is the fastest convertible in the world. Just warn your passenger not to get an expensive hair makeover before you try that.

But like any Bentley, its beauty is that it is not just here to be driven hard. You can spend your life pootling around and still enjoy the car’s many assets, most notably its beautifully appointed interior, its general presence and feel. It’s as easy to drive in town as it is down the highway – particularly if you don’t live in a town with very narrow streets. The only minor flaw we could find was that very wide centre console with all its gadgets impinged slightly on knee room for the driver and the passenger. But that just made it feel even more like sitting in the first-class seat of an international airline. Not that most owners would know what that feels like – and the Continental’s interior quality is certainly up to private jet level. We like. A lot.

LUX Rating: 18.5/20

Find out more: bentleymotors.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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red sports car shown on the road
red sports car shown on the road

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

In the second of our supercar reviews, we test drive a road-burning Italian sports car suitable for all the family: the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

One of the great conundrums for any current car enthusiast involves trying to work out why the country that produces the greatest supercars in the world has in general not produced anything nearly as outstanding to drive in the fast saloon car category.

If you’re looking for a racy two-seater, you’ll look first at Ferrari and Lamborghini. But if you want to carve similar performance and passion for four or five people, you would, in general, need to look to Germany’s Porsche, Mercedes-AMG, and BMW.

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Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo were world-beating sports cars before Ferrari was even born. Its more recent history as (largely) a maker of saloon cars has been less exciting.

Alfa’s heritage still resonates strongly: as soon as the new high-performance Giulia Quadrifoglio saloon was announced, I had texts from excited Ferrari owners wondering if they had found their next potential family runaround in this four-seater high-performance car.

We took delivery of our Giulia in Zurich. The Quadrifoglio is the high-performance version of the Alfa saloon, and the first thing to note: it looks mean. Beautiful and flamboyant alloy wheels are wrapped in Corsa racing tyres, aimed for use mainly on the track and in dry weather. The car may be a four-door saloon, but it looks like it means business. It has a wide shouldered stance, and the racy feel continues inside, where the combination of bucket seats, carbon fibre and a focused dashboard say supercar more than family car.

Interiors of sportscar

So, the Giulia QF can talk the talk, but that’s the easy part. Can it also walk the walk? We are, after all, in an era where any good family saloon/sedan is comfortable, fast and capable. Standards are high, and if you are pitching yourself as both a practical, comfortable car and a sports car, it has never been harder to be at the top of the pack.

First impressions are very racy. This is a car with steering out of a two-seater track machine, and it is extremely bracing. Every millimetre of movement of your hands translates into an equivalent change of direction from the wheels, something that does not often happen with saloon cars which tend to have a lot of safety margin to avoid inexperienced or inattentive drivers wheeling them off the road in a moment of low concentration.

Read more: Behind the wheel of the world’s most powerful supercars part one

The engine sounds glorious; it is a turbocharged V6 with a feeling of being tuned for both sound and power. In a future era where cars are electric or hydrogen powered, the melody of a Giulia QF will be sorely missed. (And before this prompts anybody to write in about greenhouse gases produced by conventionally engined cars, a proper audit of the carbon footprint of every component of an electric battery car should bring you back down to earth.)

So, sharp steering, fabulous sounding engine, fun interior – and how does it drive? The Giulia zinged down the back roads above Lake Zurich with the kind of gusto and brio missing from many of the highly capable but emotionless fast saloon cars on the road today. This is a car that, like some kind of Alpine hound, wants to sniff out twisty roads with delicious curves and power through them, challenging the driver to get everything perfect, balancing their way through the corners before powering outwards
and upwards.

It’s very fast, too – but that is really a given for this category of car, and in a straight line it is neither perceptibly slower nor faster than any of its rivals. It’s more about the way it goes about doing its business with a sense of joy.

But is there a flipside to that, in terms of comfort and practicality? The short answer is no, not really. That Giulia is a good solid motorway cruiser, perhaps not quite as magisterially comfortable as its German rivals, but certainly not flawed. The boot is big, the interior is spacious, although the ride is a little bit bumpy on the big wheels and racing tyres. If you wanted to sacrifice a bit of its alertness for more smoothness, you could swap to Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres, which in our experience come close to giving the best of both worlds.

But given that this is a car aimed at enthusiasts, the sharpness is really no sacrifice to make. For driving your family and friends around with a big grin on your face there really is no better alternative.

LUX Rating: 18/20

Find out more: alfaromeo.co.uk

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 4 min
Man standing in front of street artwork
Man standing in front of street artwork

Philipp Plein at his Resort show during the Cannes Film Festival in 2018

Philipp Plein is the partying designer for the Monaco private-jet set, who has also retained his status among fashion’s elite. Harriet Quick meets a man with a keen business brain and the unashamedly alpha swagger of a self-made global entrepreneur

“I can remember going to Salone del Mobile for the launch of my furniture line. I rented a truck and drove to Milan with my former girlfriend. We set up the booth ourselves and we slept in a motel. It turned out the motel was also operating as a brothel. Each morning, we had to leave the room empty as it was booked for ‘use’,” says Philipp Plein. “We had dinner at the Autogrill on the highway every night. It was all we could afford.” Plein’s first foray in the business of design was more than 20 years ago and the memory has a fuzzy, sleazy halo.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Male model waring Philipp Plein jacket

A model in Philipp Plein AW19

Today, the Philipp Plein empire encompasses menswear and womenswear collections, accessories, Philipp Plein Sport and 120 stores worldwide (some lease, others franchise), plus the menswear brand, Billionaire (a majority stake of which was purchased from Formula One managing director Flavio Briatore in 2016; it caters for gentlemen who prefer blazers to leather perfectos). It’s been reported that the group generates annual revenues of around €300 million.

As founder, CEO and creative director, Plein exudes the pride of a self-made man. The extrovert alpha male/female personality of his eponymous brand has earned legions of fans who are not in accord with the prissy propriety of high fashion. The stores (on the rue de Rivoli in Paris, London’s Bond Street, Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona and Soho in New York City) gleam with steel and shiny leather, embellished with Swarovski crystals. Mannequins feature six packs that spell machismo, and everything is dosed in irony.

Model standing backstage at a fashion show

A model backstage at Plein’s AW19 show in New York.

“The experience of building a business from scratch makes you really appreciate things,” says Plein of his trajectory from nobody to head of a fashion empire with 1.7 million Instagram followers. “Nothing was a ‘given’ or ‘easy.’ What people forget when they see the stars of today are the years of dedication and sacrifice. People suffer to reach certain goals.” He doesn’t go into the sacrifices he made, yet it is blatantly clear that Plein, who has an art gallery of tattoos on his considerable biceps, is an ‘all over everything’ workaholic. “I don’t get dropped, I drop the best sh*t in the game – on to the next one,” reads an Instagram post on 3 May 2019, with an image of a female model wearing fantasia eye make- up and a knockout crystal embellished body suit. Ahead of the Met Gala Camp: Notes on Fashion extravaganza, it was decidedly timely.

Read more: Gaggenau’s latest initiative to support emerging artisans

The Munich-born entrepreneur (son of a heart surgeon) possesses a fiery cocktail of Italian flare and Teutonic discipline. He launched into the design business creating sleek stainless-steel beds for dogs and then furniture for humans (he still owns 50% of the small steel factory that made his range) and went on to launch a line of upmarket objets and trophy tables with leather inlays. Dog owners from Miami to Zurich fell in love with the designer pet accessories and via that venture, the young Plein received an on-the- job education in the tastes and materialistic whimsies of the super-wealthy.

Model walking on catwalk

The Philipp Plein AW19 catwalk show in Milan

Celebrities sitting on car bonnet

Christian Combs and Breah Hicks at the opening of a new Philipp Plein store in NYC

Philipp Plein the label had planted its roots. Next came the Swarovski crystal-skull- embellished military jackets. They sold from rails at furniture trade shows. That led to an apparel collection featuring more leather, shredded jeans, diva dresses and mini skirts with the kind of proportions, detailing and quality (the collection is made in small Italian factories) that made them several cuts above the average rock ’n’ roll cliché. The collections’ fun- loving rebelliousness appealed to a generation of pop stars, moguls and party kids. Jasmine di Milo, Mohamed Al Fayed’s daughter, was one of Plein’s first customers and bought the line for her mini in-store boutique at Harrods.

“I started marketing the brand into Europe – Germany first and Italy, France and the UK followed,” says Plein. “In the mid oughts, we entered the Russian market and then China. It was a wholesale brand and we went to all the major trade shows.” On early trips to New York’s Coterie show, even his teenage sister came along for the work/vacay ride.

Celebrities attending VIP event

Socialites and celebrities gathered for the opening of the new Philipp Plein store in New York in 2018

The Plein lifestyle – fast cars, nightclubs, champagne, sex – proved a lure. While the level of flash made the arbiters of taste wince, no one could deny the coherence and the quality. This was the era of kick-ass disruption. Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo were turning Chloé into a ‘girl power’ brand, Alexander McQueen was confounding the world with his fusion of romantic beauty with punkish violence while Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga was reviving the moribund house with his electric hybrid mix of futurism, utility and armour.

Through these players, the luxury fashion world was reignited with guts and creative daring. The trajectory was bigger, higher (remember those teetering platform heels?) and in the case of Tom Ford’s Gucci, ever sexier renditions of slinky jersey dresses and low-cut blouses. Plein, who dubbed himself a heroic outsider, was astutely aiming in on the person who did not like concepts and intellectual leanings. In this decade, while fashion trends have leant away from flash and excess, Plein has kept to his groove and it’s paid off. A slew of openings (the majority are franchised stores) followed, aligned with blockbuster shows starting in 2010 and a bonanza of parties.

Do a Google Image search for Plein, and you will be blasted with a showcase of fantastical show sets and extravagance featuring hip-hop stars, racing drivers, sports champs and endless hot models – male and female – living it up to the extremes of camp and bling. The vision was epic and the investment huge. He hired British set designer Simon Costin (the mastermind behind Alexander McQueen’s early shows) and drafted in performers (yes, Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora, Chris Brown) to realise the brand fantasy. A fun park with a rollercoaster, the Harlem Globetrotters, a monster truck crashing into cars – it was all about ‘action’. The brand outbid itself season after season with show costs reaching into the millions.

Luxurious home interiors

Luxury holiday villa

Plein has homes around the world, including his Manhattan penthouse and La Jungle du Roi villa in Cannes

Plein was not an outlier – it was a period of extravagance. The fashion industry in the late oughts valued spectacle, which, via live streaming and nascent social media platforms, could be viewed across the globe. Tom Ford at Saint Laurent showed in giant black Perspex boxes in the gardens of the Musée Rodin; Louis Vuitton under Marc Jacobs created visions of Paris with moving lifts modelled on the Ritz hotel. Chanel spearheaded the interactive, hyper-reality set with a supermarket, a rocket launch pad and a casino at the Grand Palais. The ‘immersive’ experience was born and Plein wanted to spoil his guests with the outlandish best.

Male model on catwalk

The Billionaire AW19 catwalk show in Milan

Sustainability issues, questions of timing and seasons have somewhat tempered the phenomena of the blockbuster show. Louis Vuitton presented its Cruise 2020 collection at the TWA terminal at JFK (now a design gem hotel) with a note that the plants used for the relatively simple décor would be redistributed or turned into compost. Excess and ‘waste’ is not in fashion. Powerhouses are acutely aware that we are seeking diverse indie and often ecologically minded activities, at least in the West.

Some brands are scaling down, while others are changing formats, taking the show on the road and off the traditional Paris, London, New York axis. The Philipp Plein show now is a relatively plain production that concentrates on the clothes. “We staged the last ‘big’ show in Brooklyn and invited 4,000 people,” says Plein. “From that moment on, I thought: ‘I don’t always want to give people what they expect.’ I want to focus on in-store events and see the investment showing up in sales,” he says. “We are a big player online, with €55million in sales, and this does not include channels such as Farfetch. But we believe in offline stores – you need to be successful in both. While more and more people might be consuming online, we still need to dream the dream, enter stores and touch the product. It’s an omni-channel solution.”

Champion boxer on stage at fashion show

World champion boxer Vasyl Lomachenko is the face of Billionaire

While the old school and economy of fashion relied on editor diktats and designer worship, Plein sees the power pass to the consumers, who, via social media, exert influence and opine endlessly. “The consumer is much more powerful than the medium itself: choosing what information to consume, where to find the information and who to follow or unfollow. It’s much more democratic. In the past, we were able to ‘control’ the consumer, now the consumer ‘controls’ us,” concludes Plein.

Read more: At home with minimalist architect John Pawson

On Instagram, Plein is a dynamic, flashy act to follow, allowing access into his personal world. You’ll find him with his feet up in his marble and glass New York penthouse watching The Rolling Stones; in a helicopter with his five-year-old son flying across the Hudson River; or on-site overseeing the build of an Italianate mansion. One of his favourite photo- op situations is in the vicinity of premium cars. His brand recently collaborated with Mansory on a limited-edition series of ‘Star Trooper’ Mercedes G63 vehicles, for €500,000 each.

He looks fit (running six km a day), full of pluck and at the same time, with his cropped hair, stubble and brown eyes, approachable. He calls himself an “old-school guy” – he likes cars, women, the trappings that wealth can buy, sleek modernity and shiny surfaces. He does not smoke and rarely drinks. His vice is Red Bull. “I want to live a long time,” he adds. For all the wild projections, Plein is ultimately tidy. He has his son, who lives with his mother in Brazil. “He has a happy, normal life,” says Plein of his little boy. “Of course, he enters into my world and he is privileged in the sense that he can enjoy both points of view. As parents, we have a big obligation to our children – and how influential we are towards to them. They are born pure and what that child discovers and experiences, builds character and establishes a value system. It is a base that they will then develop themselves.”

As for kicking up his own feet, Plein – who is now in his forties – is dubious. He has weighed up the option of selling his business, but this would mean giving up a majority stake. “My father told me: ‘Money is an obligation. What would you do with this money? If you don’t know, then don’t sell.’ I think I have mastered my own industry – I don’t know anything else and I am not in need of money right now,” he concludes.

Where the brand ego stops and the real Philipp Plein actually starts is hard to gauge. You can’t imagine him seeking an alter-ego life with a rustic cabana and a plot of agave plants in Mexico. “It’s difficult for me,” he says. “I have grown into the brand and the brand became part of my own life and reflects pretty much my lifestyle. You don’t have too many designers who have a namesake brand anymore,” he says.

Plus, future ventures including scent (the men’s cologne, devised by famed ‘nose’ Alberto Morillas is launching this year) and cosmetics, depend on his presence. Earlier this year, he put in a bid in for the failing Roberto Cavalli brand, which subsequently filed for bankruptcy and now seems irretrievable, not a ‘renovation’ investment. “I look at fashion like a sport,” says Plein. “If you want to perform in any industry you have to be mentally fit and able to deliver results, and you are always under pressure,” he says. “Designers are drafted in like soccer players.” He admits that he does not have a lot to say on sustainability issues (gen up quick), but is happy that his manufacturing is Europe- based and small-factory led.

The exotic leathers might be on the way out and times might be turbulent, but Plein’s view on luxury remains constant. “We give people unnecessary things that no one needs, but everyone wants.”

View the designer’s collections: plein.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 11 min
luxurious camper van with pop up roof and ocean in distance
luxurious camper van with pop up roof and ocean in distance

The Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo parked on a clifftop above St. Mawes, Cornwall. Image by James Houston

The Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo camper van provides a luxurious and hassle-free alternative to camping, as Digital Editor Millie Walton discovered on a road trip around Cornwall

At its best camping means seclusion, starry nights, wilderness, mugs of hot chocolate, campfires and barbecues; at its worst it means pouring rain, crowds of people, and hours of packing and unpacking. Usually, it’s a combination of the two. As children, we would drift around, teeth chattering in our damp pjs hoping for an invitation or even just a glimpse inside one of the gleaming camper vans that promised unimaginable luxuries: warmth, electricity, a real bed. Last summer, the childhood dream came true in the form of the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo.

Needless to say that the Marco Polo is a lot smarter than most of the camper vans I encountered as a child; in fact, if you were to pass it by unaware, you’d most likely think it was a luxurious people carrier rather than a camper. It’s sophisticated and spacious, rather than bohemian and cosy.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

On Friday evening with a fridge full of food and cupboards stuffed with crockery and bedding, we set off from London to Cornwall, or rather to Blackdown Hills in Devon where we had booked in for a night at a farm campsite to break up the journey. Aside from this one reservation, our general plan was to have no plan, to find the most beautiful, remote cliff-edges and watch the sunset on the horizon with a glass of wine. The real joy of a camper van is the absence of hassle; it’s all there, ready to go, whenever you want it.

The drive down was incredibly comfortable. It’s a large vehicle, but it’s easy to control with excellent visibility; little flashing lights appear in the wing mirrors when another car is approaching and a 360-degree camera system that makes reversing and parking actually fun. We had a few hairy moments of sliding cutlery on sweeping bends, and had to do a bit of rearranging in the back, but all in all, it was a pleasure to drive. Perched high up on the driver’s leather arm chair, you have the sense of commanding the road.

Seagull in front of beach

A seagull in St. Ives, Cornwall. Image by James Houston

English beach scene in the summertime

Summer on Padstow beach, Cornwall. Image by James Houston

The Marco Polo’s interiors are high-tech, sleek and shiny. There’s a lot of leather, chrome and metallic surfaces; it reminded us of being inside a yacht, but with the roof up, it is spacious enough to stand upright, which makes cooking a lot easier. The first night, we struggled working out which button did what and regretted not studying the manual on the way down. In an ideal world, you’d be given a quick demo before you set off; I’m convinced there were lots more exciting features that we didn’t discover.

Read more: Savoir Beds’ MD Alistair Hughes on the value of craftsmanship

It might not be the most homely of spaces, but the layout has been carefully considered to maximise space. There are plenty of hidden cupboards and drawers, and the option of two double beds: one ‘upstairs’ in a pop roof (you push a button and it raises electrically) and one ‘downstairs’ formed from the rear seats, which flatten at the touch of another button. We preferred the downstairs bed because it was warmer, but the upstairs mattress is more comfortable owing to the fact that it is actually a mattress rather than two slightly lumpy leather chairs. Each morning, after a cooked breakfast, we hopped into the front and hit the road – easy as that.

Interiors of a luxury camper van

The Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo features a compact kitchenette, swivelling seats and a pop room for added room as well as extra sleeping space. Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Our route took us on a tour around the edge of Cornwall, which did mean encountering several remote cliff-tops, but it’s actually harder than you think to find camping friendly spots that aren’t on private land or somewhat precarious. Also if you want to utilise the mood lighting, it’s necessary to occasionally plug in and charge up. We didn’t mind the campsites though, even the busier ones. Tucked up inside with the doors shut and curtains drawn, we felt snug and enclosed in own little space pod. It took us a while to work out the best layout for daytime usage; there was a lot of swivelling seats and moving things in and out of different cupboards but after a few days, we had it all figured out.

We spent four nights sleeping in the camper, and could have easily spent more. It is able to accommodate up to four guests sleeping, but it would be tight with more than two sharing the space unless they were small children. Also it’s worth noting that it feels a bit too slick for climbing in and out of with sandy feet and wet suits, and I wouldn’t imagine it’s the best environment for dogs; we became oddly precious about sweeping the wood panelled flooring, more out of anxiety than house pride (this is probably due to the fact that we were renting).

On our final night, we found the perfect perch on the edge of a cliff above St. Mawes. We woke to the sun skimming pink and gold across the surface of the sea.

For more information visit: mercedes-benz.co.uk

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Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG silver car pictured against blue sky
Mercedes-Benz silver estate car pictured from the front

The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG: Mercedes’ high-performance version of a family car

Our high-performance Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG is transformed further by the simple expedients of an excellent annual service, and new high performance tyres from Michelin

One day, in the not too distant future, the idea of having your own metal encased room, with leather-covered chairs,which stands idle for the vast majority of the time, may seem as old-fashioned as owning a watch featuring a gyrating cage designed in the 18th century to try to counter affect the force of gravity.

Until then, I’m going to make the most of my Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG wagon. This car is the last in the line. A sleek, low, white, black estate car/station wagon, it is Mercedes’ own souped up version of its ubiquitous family transportation. In this particular case, it came with a 6.2 litre V8 engine, with more than 450 hp powering a relatively small car.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

These days, almost all powerful cars have efficient, turbocharged engines. My C 63, on the other hand, has a big, non-turbo charged V8 engine. To connoisseurs, this is like drinking an authentic Bordeaux first growth, rather than a New World imitator. Or listening to a Stradivarius violin. It’s not about the end result, it’s about how the result is produced. The car is only a couple of years old, but, car design cycles be being what they are, I remember speaking to the engineers at AMG, Mercedes racing division, almost two decades ago when they were talking about developing this particular engine. They were as excited as small children. In my car, it gains power with a gentle gurgle, which turns into a rumble and then a scream, and all the while the car pulls harder and harder. For a car nut, it’s an engine on a par with offerings from Ferrari. And it’s powering a car that can happily swallow a family and its sports and musical equipment, plus a family friend, and the imaginary Irish Wolfhound the family are lobbying to own.

A powerful turbocharged engine of today, on the other hand, simply punches along efficiently. Changes of tone and timbre and that mechanical sensation of being at a different stage in the power evolution are minimal. And electric cars make no sound at all.

The flipside over having a normal car is, as I have learned, that you need to treat this practical family wagon as if it is a thoroughbred. As cars do these days, it informed me around a month ago that it needed a service. It was duly booked in to Mercedes-Benz of Chelsea in London, where Dino, the service manager took care of both the car and me in a manner so professional and efficient, it almost wiped out all my previous memories of nightmarish customer service even from the most premium car brands.
Just like a racehorse owner would not stand (I would imagine) for dealing with somebody who has no idea what they’re talking about as an interlocutory for their racehorse care, the most frustrating element of looking after your cars is dealing with someone purportedly in a service department who wouldn’t know a V8 from a vegetable. If you know more about cars than your service advisor, I advise you to change dealerships.
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG silver car pictured against blue sky

Dino, on the other hand, talked me through any potential issues with the car with deep knowledge, and was delightful to deal with. The car passed with flying colours, and the real surprise was when it came home. I thought its slight grumpiness had been due to the cold winter weather, but in fact with an oil change and related items in the service, the thoroughbred engine was hugely, demonstrably smoother and more refined. Note to self: service the car next time before she even asks.

When you have such a powerful engine in a relatively light car, one challenge you may come across as with the tyres. After all, these are the only things responsible for transmitting the kinetic energy of the car onto the road and thus propelling it forward. On my car, I had the correct specification high-performance tyres, which had been on the wheels for nearly three years. Accelerating hard out of a junction or corner, sometimes the tyres would spin round without getting traction. In heavy rain, fast cornering sometimes made me wonder if the car was going to hang onto the road or not.

I put all this down simply to the slight imbalance. The car was just a bit too powerful for its own good, or so I thought. But on closer inspection, my tyres were halfway worn. Time to change them. Rather than simply change for more tired of the same make, I decided to do what few people end up doing, and change all four tyres to the latest and supposedly best versions for a completely different marque.

Read more: Why you should use Instagram as your diary

I had heard more than good things about the latest tire from Michelin, the Pilot Sport 4S. Enough users reported that it had transformed their supercar driving experience, that I thought I would take the plunge on all four tyres on the AMG. But how big a difference could really make? Would it really be worth it?

Product image of the Michelin PS4S tyres

Michelin PS4S tyres

As I drove the car out of the Kwik Fit depot in Chelsea wearing four new Michelin PS4S tyres, I muttered aloud to myself that the car had been transformed. First, and unexpectedly, the ride was smoother. Lumps, bumps and little potholes in the road were not transmitted to me faithfully, shopping trolley style, as they had been with the previous tyres.

This was unexpected because high-performance tyres are, by nature, hard. They are made to give little in cornering, so that they can transmit the forces generated by the car faithfully to the road.

So, would the flipside be softer, less racy handling? I didn’t want that. Astonishingly, though, handling was also transformed – in a positive direction. The car seem to have a bigger, broader, stickier footprint on the road. You could feel more, in a positive way,  exactly how the car was positioned for a corner. There was no more wheel spin on exiting small roads in the cold and wet; when it rained, the car felt like it was on rails, rather than threatening to skate off them. This is why these cars were so sensational when they were new, I remembered, and why car writers consider them modern classics.

Searching for an analogy, the best I could come up with after a couple of weeks was going on previously it felt like the car had been wearing a rather old pair of dress shoes with shiny leather soles. Now it was wearing top specification athletic running shoes with support everywhere and super gritty soles. The analogy also extended to the ride, with the cushioning that implies. The manufacturer’s blurb says this is due to “a hybrid belt of aramid and nylon ensuring the optimum transmission between steering instruction and the road” – which must be true.

The difference is so immense, that I have asked myself what I would have thought, had the car been taken away, and the tyres changed, without my knowledge. If I had been driving the car and forced to guess what exactly had been upgraded, I might of said it had a whole new suspension system.

I can’t think of any further praise that saying that I am now seriously considering fitting for the same tyres to one of my Ferraris, which had four new tyres from the marque previously worn by my AMG, just two years ago. Watch this space.

And as for people owning high-performance metal rooms years into the future: well, there’s still quite a market for archaic, gravity defying and fabulous tourbillon mechanical watches.

Find out more at michelin.com and mercedes-benz.co.uk

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Reading time: 6 min
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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

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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formula-one1Ahead of the new Formula 1 season, CAROLINE DAVIES caught up with two of its stars, Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Lewis Hamilton and team boss Ross Brawn, at an IWC exhibit. Brawn has since announced his retirement, but we’re running the interview anyway

LUX Regarding the tyre controversies, why would a company produce tyres that don’t grip? Isn’t that like producing watches that aren’t on time?

Ross Brawn That is a delicate topic. When you only have one supplier as we do in Formula 1 then the tyre supplier can work on one end of the scale or the other. If they only supply tyres that don’t deteriorate then they run the risk of the tyres becoming too predictable. It’s about finding the balance between a tyre that is extremely durable and never wears out and the other end, which is very soft, very fast but only has a limited life.

Just finding that right point is quite a challenge for Pirelli as they have some elements of Formula 1 pushing them in one direction and some pushing them in the other. They will never do a tyre that suits every team because each team looks for a particular thing. I think Pirelli can do whatever is required and Formula 1 needs to decide which they need. Perhaps we have gone a little too much towards the entertainment with all the pit stops, which can confuse the fans, and it needs to come back a little bit, but not go all the way.

LUX Lewis, you’ve recently joined IWC. How’s the watch collection coming?

Lewis Hamilton I’ve collected watches for a while, but I’m only just beginning my IWC watches collection…

LUX Are there any similarities in the details of watchmaking and a Formula 1 driver?

LH Timing is everything for a Formula 1 driver. We are constantly developing and improving, chasing time throughout the year. Time means points so that’s what we are working towards. All the different materials we use – carbon fibre, aluminium, titanium – and the processes we use are now used to make brilliant watches.

LUX Engines are changing in the coming season. How’s this going to affect Formula 1?

RB I think for a number of years the engine has not been a strong factor. Sometime ago the engines were frozen so there hasn’t been any development on them. Formula 1 tends to be thought of as a competition between the cars and not so much between the engines. This year we have a fresh start. It is a very important change. At the moment we have V8 engines, but next season we are having some small capacity turbocharged hybrid engines. These are becoming more common in the automotive industry and we get a lot of ‘energy recovering’ from them. We will have the same power and performance for 100 kilos of fuel as we had for 150 kilos before. The efficiency improvement is enormous and that is going to feed back into our daily lives in terms of the types of cars we drive and the sort of engines we have. Formula 1 is getting relevant again. I think we are going to see a discussion about the drivers, the cars and the engines, which is a good thing. It is also bringing in new companies as they see that relevance. In 2015, Honda will be returning to Formula 1 and certainly they wouldn’t have done that before with the previous engines. It is a good step.

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LUX We have seen materials used in car manufacturing cross into watchmaking. Which materials will move next and why do they work well in watches?

RB I think it is an interesting area of synergy. We are using them because of physical properties, which may not be totally relevant for a watch, but are very interesting in terms of the technology and the aesthetics. One of the obvious areas is carbon fibre. A huge percentage of cars are carbon fibre and that is now becoming similar in watches. I think that the synergy is developing. It is at an early stage presently, but there are a lot of interesting materials. It adds another aspect to the watch as well as pure design.

LUX How do you know when the chemistry is right in a dream team?

RB I think sharing the same goals, when everybody works together. At Mercedes we had a very strong principle in our team that we didn’t have a blame culture. If something went wrong it went wrong for everybody and when things went well they went well for everybody. We worked together as a team. It is a combination of everyone working with attention to detail at every level of the company. It is a reason it succeeds. We had two fantastic drivers who worked well together with the right spirit, which translated through the whole team.

LUX Lewis, would you rather have a vintage IWC or a vintage Mercedes?

LH I like driving, but I would rather both. A vintage Mercedes would be a Gullwing. I’ll have to wait and see which vintage classic IWC watch I should get.

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OVER THE PAST DECADE, MERCEDES-BENZ AMG MODELS HAVE BECOME A BYWORD FOR THE ULTIMATE COMBINATION OF POWER, LUXURY AND EXCITEMENT. Guy Fiorita SPENT A COUPLE OF DAYS AT AN EXCLUSIVE OWNERS’ EVENT, GETTING TO KNOW THESE THOROUGHBREDS OF THE ROAD – AND FALLING IN LOVE WITH THEM

I’m not a car fanatic, a speed freak or adrenaline junkie. I don’t particularly enjoy driving fast. When I learned to drive, I made a conscious effort at smoothness. The goal of any good driver, I thought, was to drive so that your passenger hardly noticed the movement. No sudden turns or slamming of brakes. Right?

“Wrong, all wrong,” comes a voice on a walkietalkie by my side. “You have to hit the brake much, much harder. Jam it as hard as you can and pull the steering wheel to the left.”

Sitting behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, stopped in the middle of a racetrack, I had have obviously blown my first test. The voice is Former British Formula 3 and DTM racer Marco Engel, my team leader. I’ve just finished the first leg of the first day of training and I am already coming up short.

The racetrack is in Andalucia, Spain and I am here as part of an AMG Private Lounge event. My co-drivers are all AMG Mercedes owners. The chassis number on their cars qualified them to join the AMG Private Lounge, of which there are now more than 20,000 members. The thirty or so here with me are mostly from Germany and the UK but also from as far away as Brazil, the US and Lebanon. These are people who are serious enough about their cars and driving not only to have paid the price of an AMG but to have splashed out a few thousand extra to spend two days speeding around a racetrack having orders barked at them by professional race car drivers.

The Lounge event is taking place at the Ascari Race Resort. We were helicoptered in the day before from Marbella. From above, the track is a beautiful expanse of tarmac that twists its way through the rolling hills. This 5.4 kilometres track with a total of 26 total turns was once called “the most challenging race track in the world,” by some guy named Fernando Alonso and I get the feeling I’m soon going to find out why.

Earlier this morning we were divided into groups and now each is out on a section of the track being put through their paces by one of the instructors. AMG has brought along an impressive group of rock-star drivers like F1 and Le Mans racer Karl Wendlinger, endurance racer Roland Rehfeld and four-time Mercedes DTM champion Bernd Scheidner.

They have their work cut out for them with me. Back on the track I am finding that this Lounge is anything but relaxing. After my initial break and turn failure, we move onto a series of warm-up exercises including a combination of fast slalom, cornering technique, trail braking and handling parcours, skid pad and lead and follow training. At the end of each exercise we stop just long enough to switch cars between the AMG CLS 63, SLS, SLK and my soon-to-be favourite, the C63 AMG Black Series.

And off we go again. Around and around. I soon find I am pushing the limits, if not of the car then at least my own. I’ve been bitten. The faster I go, the faster I want to go. At one stage in the loop, we get to drag race against another driver. Each time I punch the gas a little harder and break a little later. I’m surprised by how much I want to win. I never do, except once when the other driver was penalised for stopping outside the box.

And it is not only the speed that’s got me. It’s the sound. The primitive, guttural rumble of an AMG is exhilarating. No wonder owners say it was one of the main factors in their decision to purchase one.

Later that day I get a chance to see how it should be done, this time as a passenger in a Pagani Huayra. Equipped with a Mercedes-AMG V12 engine that produces 720 horsepower, this brandnew Italian hypercar has a top speed in excess of 230 mph (370 km/h). By the time I get myself strapped into the passenger seat, my Italian driver is already giving me the thumbs-up. “Ready,” he says and something suddenly pushes me deep into my seatback and I find out what 0–60 miles per hour in just three seconds feels like. The rest of the lap is a jostling blur that proves once and for all that I knew nothing about real driving. There was nothing smooth about that, I say to myself as I walk away on wobbly legs.

Looking at the itinerary the next morning I thought that the “On Road Experience” and the  chance to take a leisurely drive through the Andalusian countryside at the wheel of a classic AMG would be more my pace, but my pace had obviously changed. Halfway through the drive, beautiful as it was, I found myself itching to get back on the track. Before I could however, I was taken off road in a Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG. The vehicle proved to have impressive power as we slogged our way over the muddy hills around the resort grounds but I was here for speed.

Which is exactly what I lacked as we lined up for the big event of the day, a team trail where all the times are added together and the lowest total time receives a prize. I really want this one, or at least I don’t want to let my team down. They’ve been so patient. So this time I really go for it, pushing myself faster and faster until I come skidding to a stop, dead centre in the box. Perfect. I look over to see that my time is just a few seconds worse than the slowest member of our team. Not bad for a non-speed freak. The proud moment is short lived. It appears I’d missed two gates and hit a cone along the way too. It all adds up to 15 seconds of penalty time and knocks my team out of any chance for a victory.

Fortunately everyone’s attention quickly turns to the last event of the day and the chance to run a few laps in a true race car, the SLS AMG GT3. The top-of-the-range of Mercedes-Benz cars, it is a strictly limited edition and so extreme you are not allowed to use it on the road. This was universally considered the highlight of the whole Lounge by my co-drivers. Personally I found the asbestos suit, the helmet with just an opening for the eyes and a driver’s cage that took a Houdini-like effort to get into, almost unbearably claustrophobic. On the track, the car’s raw power is scary and I am afraid it remains beyond my skill set. The experience, however, certainly gave me a new-found respect for race drivers.

I may not have come here much of a “car person,” but by the end of the three days, having driven, and heard, enough horse-power to propel a horde of Mongolians across the Steppe, something in me has changed. Now as the shuttle slowly winds its way back to Malaga airport, I sit leaning over the seatback in front of me like a restless child, watching the road ahead. “Are we there yet,” I ask the driver. “No, about another hour,” he answers. After my AMG Private Lounge experience, I’m confident that I could do it in half that time. And as I watch the olive groves move slowly past my window, one thing becomes perfectly clear, I’d sure love the chance to try.

mercedes-amg.com 

 

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A golden glen enroute to the Lodge

A golden glen enroute to the Lodge

When your everyday car is a Rolls Royce Phantom and your back garden stretches over thousands of hectares, a drive between your properties in something completely different has its own sort of appeal. Dr Sin Chai, a Scottish-based entrepreneur, makes a tour of some of the most spectacular scenery in the Scottish Highlands in the Mercedes- Benz SLS AMG Roadster

A good friend and I try to do this at least twice a year: a road trip somewhere interesting in a ‘nice’ car. We both own a few of these, but this year we were presented with an interesting option: a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, the most expensive model in their portfolio and a rival for some supercars we are rather familiar with.

The next question was, where to go. We have done most wine producing regions, and then one day it hit us: the obvious answer had been there all the time. Scotland has some of the best driving roads in the world, and it’s also where I happen to live and where my company happens to have a few hotels.

The car was delivered to The Atholl, our latest hotel and Edinburgh’s most exclusive, at 9:00 am on a weekday morning. The first thing I noticed was that it was holding up the morning human traffic on the pavement very seriously. Foot traffic in Edinburgh has been considerably disrupted by the tram works, and pavements have been diverted and traffic rechanneled. People (mostly men) were slowing down and taking a second look. Whilst leaning on the car, I made the most of it; nonchalant, sunglasses on, trying to look ordinary.

It felt rather well-placed to The Atholl: a car you could arrive in, park, and then stroll into your private whisky-tasting room (we have whiskies that nobody else does) or sample some first growths and cheese from your in-room cabinet while soaking in a hot tub on your terrace.

The SLS is powered by a 6.3 litre engine handbuilt by AMG. Most cars of this caliber give out a growl whenever the accelerator pedal is touched. The SLS noise was much more civilized, a controlled purr, indicating there is plenty of reserve. It was a different pitch, more like a jet engine, and again it was turning heads as soon as we started burbling down the streets. My friend drove first, and on the open road he put it to the test. In short bursts the acceleration was phenomenal. As soon as his foot was off the pedal, the car abruptly decelerated, obviously gearing down, ready for the next surge. The driver was completely in control, and so I felt safe as the passenger. Is this what Formula 1 driving is like? Will have to ask Jenson or Lewis.

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster

I am a more sedate driver than my friend, but I felt it was my duty to do the needful, since I was going to have to write about it. At slow speeds (70mph, legal) it felt comfortable, just like a luxury marque. It really came into its own when cornering at high speed. Twisty Scottish mountain roads are very testing, and Scottish winters are not kind to tarmac: cracked surfaces remain so all summer. Even on what the government euphemistically calls “uneven surface” (read potholes), the SLS was stable, and did not bounce around. And it shot out of corners like a rocket.

Alladale Wilderness Lodge

Alladale Wilderness Lodge

We made it, hair tousled by the wind, to Alladale, our other new hotel. Alladale Wilderness Lodge is a 23,000 acre estate in the remotest part of Scotland, the Northwest Highlands of Sutherland. Up here, you are more likely to bump into a European bison, moose, Scottish wildcat or a wild boar than a supercar, or indeed any car. Our Land Rover Defenders are rather more suited to the terrain there, but the SLS was happy ambling up the single-track lanes on the approach.

I was sad to let go of the car after two days of bliss. The very competent top opening mechanism (with the top open, at speeds over 50mph, rain is deflected by the very clever design and you don’t get wet!), the little warning flashes in the wing mirrors whenever a car (or a Highland cow!) sneaks up in the blind spots, all these made the SLS special. The superb handling one just took for granted.

Dr Sin Chai is chairman of ICMI and is not a racing driver; icmi.co.u

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