Green sports car, boats in background

LUX drives the latest iteration of one of the world’s great supercars, the V10 engined, open-topped Huracan Spyder

Green sports car, boats in background

It may look good outside the yacht club…

The latest evolution of the flamboyant Italian car company’s brilliant two-seater looks like something run by an avatar from a games console, more mini-spaceship than vehicle. With the roof down (Spyder is Lamborghese for convertible) it looks more like a pair of aliens (driver and passenger) are taking a little tour of Earth.

Colour is a fundamental element of cars like these. If our Huracan had been green, purple, orange or any of the other eye-popping colours Lambo drivers like to choose, it would have been one kind of statement of personality: perhaps the most attention-grabbing car in the world in an attention-seeking hue. But in a dark metallic grey, it looked intriguing: more space vehicle, less boulevard poser. The interior was also restrained, black leather with blue piping, although the company’s design flair was everywhere, playing on hexagonal patterns and forms. This is not a car that could be mistaken for any other.

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The Huracan has a V10 motor that howls on startup and growls its way around town, quickly turning again to a howl when you find a patch of open road.

Green sports car on empty road

…but the Evo Spyder is happiest on fast, empty roads

With the wildness of the shape and the sound, you may expect the Huracan also to be wild to drive: like trying to tame a bucking bronco, or the raging bull that is Lamborghini’s emblem. And here, you would be in for a positive, or negative, surprise, depending on how you like your steeds. While it’s sensationally fast, corners flat and steers racily, the Huracan is underpinned by the latest driving technology engineered in association with its parent company, which also owns more sober brands like Audi and Bentley.

Shoot out of a roundabout into an unexpectedly tight curve and the car just clings on, happily. Accelerate through a wet corner and hit a patch of slippery leaves? Lamborghinis of earlier generations may have skidded or bucked, heartstoppingly for the driver; the Huracan just uses its four wheel drive system and fancy electrics to keep you zooming on track.

It makes for a thrilling experience for a passenger, who can enjoy the sounds and feel and looks the car receives, without feeling like they are in peril.

green drop top sports car

The Huracan Evo is powered by a V10 engine, of a kind that will never be made again, that makes a characteristic howl

Read more: Ferrari F8 Tributo and F8 Spider

And let’s spend a final moment on that engine. It is what the motoring world calls a “naturally aspirated” V10, with no turbocharger to help it. That means that its noise and punch get steadily more thrilling as you rise up through the rev range: maximum yowl means maximum acceleration, and you have to get there either by whipping down through the gears with the paddle shift by the steering wheel, or allow the revs to build up in each gear. It’s something that even current hyper efficient petrol engines, with turbos or electric hybrid help, can’t offer, let alone electric motors. And given the tiny mileages these cars tend to cover, you don’t even need to worry about whether you are being green.

 

Find out more: lamborghini.com

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Blue car going fast on a road

We drive the ultimate incarnation of Aston Martin’s four wheel drive SUV supercar

A blue SUV car driving on a road in the country side

The Aston Martin DBX707 offers a luxury nexus of dynamics, effortless style and performance © Max Earey

Not many of the glamorous supercars from what some people refer to as the golden age of motoring have remained. You can’t buy a new Jensen, Bizzarrini or De Tomaso now. One brand that somehow managed to overcome many bumps its historical road, and remain proudly independent – rather than simply a brand extension of a large conglomerate – is Aston Martin. After teetering on the brink of extinction in the 1980s and 90s, the company is now going through something of a golden era of its own, with the hyper wealthy fighting to get hold of the astonishing Valkyrie hypercar, and the Vantage and DB12 sports cars now appealing to new generations of young, affluent professionals and enthusiasts.

Times have changed, though, and every car company, however sporting its origins, needs to have in its portfolio a type of car that would make its own historic racing drivers cringe. The SUV, a type of big, high, spacious and powerful vehicle, is, arguably, more relevant than a sports car for a new generation of newly minted in countries which are nearly acquiring wealth themselves. Often for good reason: a place with a challenging road infrastructure, or conversely with newly laid roads in a straight line grid, it’s not a place to enjoy a low-slung, hard, riding, agile, high-performance sports car originally aimed for the track.

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That’s where the versatile SUV comes in, and our example of Aston Martin’s own take on this kind of car is in keeping with its history of making cars that stand out. Ours was in bright orange, with a lavish, black and orange accented cabin. The shape may be very different to a classic sports car, but for the moment anyway, one key element remains: a roaring V8 engine with 707PS under the bonnet. This type of engine, which emanates a compilation of wonderful cacophony, depending on how hard and fast you are driving it, is perfect for a sports car where you want to get to that point on the sweeping road where you can push it between 5000 and 7000 rpm.

For a huge SUV, it certainly has the power and the thunder, although arguably, this kind of engine will be less missed an SUV with everything goes electric, than it will in other cars which positively encourage high performance driving.

black car interior

With 900Nm of torque, this SUV provides a sports car acceleration and high speed

What is a DBX also has his sharpness – in its looks but also in the way it handles, something that is always a challenge for these big cars with high centres of gravity. It is an SUV that actually enjoys being aimed down challenging driving roads. Perhaps not narrow twisting lanes, as it’s quite big and wide, but it would be very much at home on the broad, sweeping curves of Bavaria or southern Tuscany.

There, you can revel as the engine tears through its different tones as it approaches the top of its rev range, rushing you forward ever faster – this is a very speedy car, although all luxury SUVs now are, whether electric or petrol powered. And then, back in the urban environment in which most of these cars spend most of their time, it’s back to being a menacing and rather fun designer tool.

And what about Aston Martin‘s natural home in the stately home-lined lanes of England? We would recommend a different combination if your life is based there: one of Aston Martin’s gorgeous convertible sports cars for high days and holidays, and a 50-year-old rusting Range Rover for the winter months. That way you will stay true to the aristocratic values of this fabled British brand.

 

Read more: Audi TT RS Review

 

Find out more: Aston Martin DBX707

Online Editor: Isabel Phillips

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Reading time: 3 min
A grey car in the mountains with snow
A grey car in the mountains with snow

The Audi TT RS is the last of a line of iconic sports cars

We review the last, and most high-performance, iteration of a German design classic. Will it live up to its iconic status among motoring aficionados?

It is likely that at sometime in the midterm future, the vision of our tech rulers in Silicon Valley will come true and cars with a longer be personalised transportation, but rather another form of public transport. Your self-driving electric car will not be yours at all, but will arrive and take you to your destination, before moving on to someone else. No more streets lined with parked cars: cars will be in constant use.

There are obvious attractions to this concept, but one negative is the lack of ownership. As well as being a piece of property, a car has always been a statement about the kind of person you are. Are you functional, flashy, flamboyant, drab?

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A car has also always been a signifier of class, whether or not we want it to be. Some manufacturers’ products were aligned with the working classes (or “masses“ as Karl Marx put it). Other brands, not necessarily more expensive, might suggest you are an architect, a designer, an intellectual.

All of that will stop when our new future comes into play, just as a collection of LP records as a signifier of what kind of taste you have is irrelevant in the era of music streaming.

Which takes us to the Audi TT. Like its little cousin the VW Golf, it’s one of those cars that cross class, income and demographic boundaries. When it was first produced in the 1990s, it was an instant design classic, gathering crowds on the street, despite the fact that it was far cheaper than flashy supercars: the TT is a mid market machine accessible to most of the world is mass affluent. It was the way it looked, inside and outside, that set it apart.

The model has gone through several iterations since then, and is perhaps less of an icon than it once was, Still, it carries a vaguely universal aura. It’s a car that could be driven by a graphic designer, an influencer, or a car enthusiast – a confluence very few, if any, other cars can boast of.

But the sad news is that, technology and the world going the way they are, this will be the last iteration of this modern classic. The TT has always been known a little more for its looks and panache than for its driving brilliance, so we wondered what to expect when stepping into the most driver-focused model, the TT RS. Would it be a poor relation to the excellent range of sports cars that are available at this mid price point?

It certainly feels like a sports car to sit in, seats holding you tight, with a cool, driver focused dashboard, and interior. The engine sounds suitably responsive and growly, like a child making engine noises (something that will soon be a thing of the past).

A steering wheel and car interior in black leather

The TT RS has a snug, driver-focussed interior, perfect for two people

The positive experience continues as you set off down the road and go round the first corner. The steering feels chunky, muscular, and responsive all at the same time. Many cars these days have swapped that type of sensation for the ease of lightness, so you can drive with one finger. Not so this one. Keep your hands on the wheel, you feel exactly where you are aiming at, and it goes there.

The Audi TT RS has four-wheel-drive, which means that when you start becoming more enthusiastic, it sticks to the road, even if it is damp or slippery. However, the flipside compared to its rear wheel drive rivals is that its cornering is just a little bit less agile, more surefooted, but, or an empty road, less thrilling. So, more sensation at slow speeds due to the excellent steering, But less joy when really pushing on due to its bias towards safety. And that may suit many, on the crowded road spaces of today.

Read more: McLaren 720S Roadster Review

It’s a fast car also, and feels it, zipping up and down through the gears, with a highly efficient gearbox which you can take joy in snapping up and down with the steering-column mounted paddles, Otherwise it changes gears rapidly and efficiently for you, with no shortage of sensation – again, something that is being sacrificed on the altar of ease and efficiency otherwise.

Unlike some of its sports car competitors, there are even small back seats in the coupe version that we drive – the sharp looking convertible version does without these sadly.

Are we saying that the final iteration of the Audi TT, a reference point for contemporary design in cars, is actually a little old-fashioned? Possibly, and we think it is all the better for it. It looks cool without looking showy, it’s compact, speedy, and fun. There are better cars of its price point if you want to go on a race track or spend your time on perfect country roads all the time, but the TT RS has a charm and focus all of its own, and is a delight to drive around town as well. And it still looks cool.

Find out more: audi.co.uk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The elegantly understated interior of the McLaren 720S Roadster

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

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

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

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

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

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

LUX Rating: 19/20. A contemporary classic.

mclaren.com

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

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

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

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

Part two Porsche 718 Cayman GTS and 718 Boxster GTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black interiors of the gear shift and wheel inside a Porsche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A birds eve view of a red convertible Porsche

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

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

Read more: Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Review

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

Find out more:

porsche.com/718-cayman-gts

porsche.com/718-boxster-gts

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Reading time: 5 min
A green convertible car from above with brown leather seats
A green convertible car from above with brown leather seats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brown leather interiors inside a car

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

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

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

Read more: Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The steering wheel and controls inside a Porsche 911 GTS

The Alcantara and cloth interiors of the 911 GTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A black steering wheel and dashboard of a car

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Porsche Reviews Series: 911 GTS

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

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

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Courtesy of Porsche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Lamborghini Huracán STO Review

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

LUX Rating: 18.5/20

Find out more: porsche.com

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

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

Ferrari Roma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Lamborghini Huracán STO Review

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

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

LUX Rating: 18.5/20

Find out more: ferrari.com

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

The Lamborghini Huracán STO

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

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

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

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

blue and black seats in a car

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

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

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

Read more: Driving Lamborghinis to the Italian Alps

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

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

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

LUX Rating: 19.5/20

Find out more: lamborghini.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

brown and leather and black car seats and a steering wheel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more: maserati.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exterior of the McLaren GT

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

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

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

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

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

Interior of the McLaren GT

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

LUX Rating 18.5/20

Find out more: mclaren.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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a red convertible Porsche parked in front of a green field
a red convertible Porsche parked in front of a green field

This special Heritage Design Edition of Porsche’s 911 Targa 4S is the perfect compromise between a fixed-roof and a convertible- but your hair may still get messed up

In the first part of our supercar review series, LUX gets behind the wheel of the Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition

One of the most important decision-making factors for anyone contemplating any sports car is hair. As in, “Will my hair get messed up when I ride in that?”. Get the decision wrong, and you could be in for a world of pain, and many stressful driving experiences.

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In a convertible car, where the roof lowers completely and leaves the passengers exposed behind the windscreen, forget any ideas you may have about looking like Grace Kelly or Leonardo DiCaprio. Any expensive hairstyle turns into a kind of 1980s plugged-into-the- socket-style frizz.

White leather seats and red hardware in a car

The alternative is to buy a car with a fixed roof, which are also more highly regarded by car geeks as they tend to be better to drive. But since when were geeks ever correct about any matter of style?

The 911 Targa 4S is Porsche’s answer to this pressing question. Press a button and the (hard) rooftop section lifts itself up, while the rear windscreen also lifts and swivels backward rather alarmingly. The top section disappears into the middle of the car, and the rear windscreen comes back and fixes itself to the ‘Targa hoops’ that encircle the top of the car.

The net effect is that when the roof is open you are surrounded on three sides by glass, the area above your head, where the roof would be, open to the sky. That stops wind blowing in sideways and should, in theory, keep all hairstyles and wigs as perfect as the day they left the salon.

a red convertible Porsche with a white circle on the side of the car, driving by a green field

The motorway north out of Basel into this car’s native Germany is wide, flat and has no speed limit. Taking these factors to their logical conclusion, we can report back that, at a road speed of more than 150mph (255km per hour), even someone with a closely cropped cut of their own hair will end up with a 1980s plugged-into-the-socket-style frizz. So don’t be fooled. If you want perfect hair, take your Bombardier.

In other respects, this is a stylish and satisfying car. The extra roof engineering makes the car notably heavier than its lightweight sports car Porsche 911 stablemates. For most driving experiences, that doesn’t matter at all. What does matter is a modern, technical- looking and practical interior, which we think looks best in the lighter colours of the Heritage Design Edition model we tested here (a limited edition that is no longer available, but the regular 911 Targa 4S is the same car aside from the design detail).

white leather car seats

Being in a sports car usually both works ways and it is particularly the case here. Your journey will be notably noisier and less relaxed then if you had taken the same route in a luxury sedan. But on the right roads, you will have more fun: the latest Porsche 911 is a fast, exciting car when pushed hard, and more practical to live with than a Ferrari or Aston.

Read more: Philanthropy: Nathalie Guiot, The Culture Booster

You will feel more alive than in an SUV or a sedan, and with the roof on you feel as secure as you do in a fixed-head (coupé) car. With the Targa roof off, you have the opportunity to get a suntan, show off a bit and your hairstyle will be – well, we can’t lie – messed up.

LUX rating: 18/20

Find out more: porsche.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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red sportscar
sportscar

Ferrari 812 Superfast

In the first of our supercar review series, LUX enjoys an exhilarating drive in the Ferrari 812 Superfast

Ferrari is regularly voted the world’s most powerful luxury brand, and yet curiously there is some discrepancy in consumers’ perception of the company’s products. Mention Ferrari to most people, and they will think of a loud, exciting, flashy high-powered car. Something extroverted, stylish.

Getting into more detail, participants in your own personal luxury brand survey, depending on their age, might describe a car with two seats, an engine behind the driver, above the back wheels, in open view. Like the Testarossa in Miami Vice, or for an older generation, the 308 in Magnum P.I.

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In reality, Ferrari’s flagship product has for the past two decades been something slightly different. Since the introduction of the 550 Maranello in 1997, the most expensive regular production Ferrari you can buy (as opposed to the limited edition special additions open to gazillionaires with contacts only) has been a two-door, long-nosed car with the engine in the front, far more conventional than perception would have it.

These were a continuation of the original front-engined Ferraris from the 1950s and 60s. But the visual quietness of the new flagship 550 in 1997 also coincided with an and sophistication of experience that is perhaps at odds with most people’s perceptions. The 550 and its successor the 575 would pass down any street without turning heads. They were intended to be driveable every day, not show pieces for show-offs.

And while their successors, the 599 of 2006 and F12 of 2012, turned up the dial in terms of performance, the flagship Ferrari was still not a show-off ’s car. The F12 in particular was a conundrum. Here was a car with 730hp, two seats and the ability to handle that power around the toughest of racetracks. Yet on the road, it was curiously refined.

front seats of sportscar

So, when Ferrari announced an updated and upgraded version of the F12 called the 812 Superfast, one might have expected even more of the same. But, for the first time since the F512 M of 1994, which was the ultimate incarnation of the legendary 80s Testarossa, here was a flagship Ferrari that looks like it really wants to be noticed. The 812 is not exactly beautiful, but it is extremely striking in the intent that its engineering and aerodynamics give it.

And the driving experience is also transformed. It has more power from a bigger engine, shorter gearing, rear-wheel steering, and an even faster and more sophisticated paddle-shift gearbox. However, none of these guarantees a more exciting driving experience – just a fast one.

Read more: Why The Alpina Gstaad is top of our travel wish list

From the moment you aim the Superfast around its first corner, you realise that something is up. The steering is sharp, the whole car feels alive and wanting to communicate to you. The faster you go, the livelier and more delicate it feels, and more exciting. Drive the F12 or the 599 down a good road at 70mph and the car shrugs its shoulders: “This is slow, boring, I can do three times the speed”.

The miracle of the 812 is that it is even faster yet feels more involving by a factor of five. At higher speeds it feels delicate, like a dancer, you can control it with two fingers on the wheel while feathering the accelerator pedal.

The star of the show is the engine. Ferrari, like the rest of us, knows that the days of the internal combustion engine are strictly numbered. So, it is a kind of act of brilliant defiance to create this 800hp, 6.5 litre V12. You don’t even have to move to appreciate it. With the engine warm, and gears in neutral, give the accelerator a tap with your right foot. Revs shoot up to 6,000 with a “VLAAP” noise straight out of a Formula One car, and down again instantly.

The interior, meanwhile, is a masterpiece of modern Italian design, minimal yet beautifully put together with Alcantara, carbon fibre, curves and angles.

Is there a downside? In a car-seat set up uncompromisingly for excitement rather than cruise and use, the ride will inevitably suffer and it does in the 812. This would be a tiring car to drive on a long trip; it is no grand tourer at all. It is, simply, a supercar.

We knew the 812 Superfast would live up to its name in being the fastest regular production Ferrari ever made. What we didn’t know was that it would be the most fun as well. Bravo.

LUX Rating: 19.5/20

Find out more: ferrari.com

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

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

Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate

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

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

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1.  It’s safe.

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

Interiors of the Mercedes-AMG C 63 estate car

Spacious interiors of the Mercedes-AMG C 63

2.  It’s comfortable.

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

3.  It’s fun.

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

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

4.  You can race it.

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

Engine of the Mercedes-AMG C 63 estate car

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

5.  It’s practical.

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

6.  It’s very fast.

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

mercedes-benz.co.uk/approvedused

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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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