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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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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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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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, green and black lamborghinis parked in front of a mountain
red, green and black lamborghinis parked in front of a mountain

Our fleet at the foot of the Cervino (Matterhorn) in Cervina, Italy

You might associate Lamborghinis with Dubai, Cannes, Los Angeles and London, shooting down city streets or parked outside expensive restaurants and hotels. Candice Tucker visits Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, the home of the brand, and drives, and is driven in, the company’s latest models to a village high in the Alps

Like many, I find I can be easily distracted by a Lamborghini’s sleek shape, often ostentatious colours (most famously green, yellow and orange) and of course, the sound the engine makes when someone speeds past you.

Visiting the factory, watching the cars being made, altered my perception of the brand.

Making our way up into the Alps in convoy

Take a quick tour around the factory, in central Italy, and you can begin to see why these cars are some of the most expensive in the world. There are rows of stations, and clocks on each row that don’t say the time, but the amount of minutes each worker has left to work on their station. 33 minutes. That’s how long each worker in the main Urus factory has to do their part in the making of each Lamborghini. From the door fitters to the needle workers on the leather seats, everyone is under a timer to move their part onto the next station. The robots are only used to assist rather than replace the human hand. Your green status symbol is indeed hand made.

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The Lamborghini factory has been CO2 neutral since 2015

The future is electric cars, and it’s difficult to imagine what this means for Lamborghini’s distinct sounding engines, but this hasn’t stopped them pursuing a hybrid transition with gusto. They expect by 2023 to create their first hybrid series production car and by the second half of the decade, Lamborghini has committed to creating a fully electric model.

The Lamborghini V12 is the brand’s flagship engine

After the factory came the journey, in various Lamborghinis. I started mine in the ‘beast’, also known as the ‘Urus’. Lamborghini’s SUV (large 4×4) is huge and extremely powerful. Driving it, you feel as if you are in the emperor of SUVs. Very big, very fast, and you can alter driving modes like in a supercar. “Corsa” mode felt wicked – Corsa means race in Italian.

Lamborghinis parked in a semi circle inside a fort

Lamborghini makes a full-on supercar, the Aventador; a more practical two-seater sports car, the Huracán; and a powerful SUV, the Urus. All are available in a variety of specifications – and colours

If you want to take a step further into raciness mode, the Huracán STO or the SVJ Aventador might interest you. The Aventador is futuristic and showy from the outside. Inside, the SVJ is stripped of all its finer comforts, and you sit in unforgiving carbon fibre seats. It’s all about speed, which is no surprise given it is renowned V12 engine, which was deafening particularly when you drive through tunnels, the sound drilling through your ears. The STO is slightly lighter to drive and the exterior of the car is as close as you’ll get to looking like a race car on the road. Both cars offer the same extreme performance, but the STO allows you to remain cocooned in luxury by comparison.

The Urus was the most sold Lamborghini model in 2021, with 5,021 deliveries

Having travelled across the motorway, through the ancient part of the village of Bard in the Aosta valley (where cars are normally prohibited) and up the mountains to Cervinia, Lamborghini demonstrate that their cars are fit for purpose on any terrain. Whilst I wouldn’t suggest driving on icy roads, we put the STO and the Huracán EVO to the test, driving on an ice ring. The STO being a rear wheel drive, made this slightly more difficult to manoeuvre, but the EVO retained its speed and control.

Huracán EVO spinning on the ice track

The ultimate experience for me was the Huracán EVO Spyder. This is a convertible 640 horsepower supercar. Scaling the Italian Alps with the roof down, enjoying the fresh mountain air casting over your face was fun. With no space for a suitcase or even a hand luggage, the EVO wouldn’t be the car for your family ski holiday but it’s perfect for a day trip. The lightness of the car made it very agile up the mountain.

Read more: A tasting of Dalla Valle wines with the owners

Driving through the streets of the village of Bard, in the Aosta valley, where cars are usually prohibited. You can see why

There were no other Lamborghinis of any colour in Cervinia. It’s not that kind of place. It’s all about cows, mountain air, and the shadow of the Matterhorn. But what an adventure getting there in four of the most exciting and eye-catching cars in the world.

Find out more: lamborghini.com

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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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vintage ferrari
vintage ferrari car

This 1995 Ferrari F512M Coupé will be on sale at the Bonhams auction in Zoute, Belgium on October 11

Modern classic cars, desirable machines from the 1980s onwards, are hotter than ever, with demand not damped by the pandemic or constraints against driving. So for that reason, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai says he is reluctantly putting his beloved Ferrari F512M, one of the craziest Ferraris of them all, up at auction with Bonhams

The economic ramifications of the coronavirus across the upper echelons of the collecting market have been unpredictable. Walking home from an emptying office at the start of the lockdown in London in March, I bumped into a gallerist friend, who was in the process of locking up the doors of his famous gallery in Mayfair for a potentially indefinite period. What did he think would happen in the art market, I asked him (this was a time when I naïvely believed that people would knew the answers to questions like this). “Carnage!” he said.

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Last week I was having a drink with another friend, one of the most significant collectors of contemporary art in Britain, and a good client of the same gallerist. My friend was bemoaning the state of his investments – not his stock market investments, which were doing very well, but the companies and people he has invested in directly. The companies are in the hospitality and retail sector, and having to let good people whom he knew and liked go was was eating him up, giving him sleepless nights, he looked drawn, despite his fitness regime and wealth. And how was the art market, I ventured, expecting more sharp intakes of breath, and of single malt. “Brilliant! I’m selling, and the prices are amazing!”

sportscar

2014 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse sold for $1,750,000 at the Quail Motor Car Auction in August.

My friend’s observation was evidently a reflection of the specialised part of the top end of the market in which he is selling – abstract expressionism. The art world itself has been hit severely by lockdown. According to one survey, by UBS and Art Basel, art gallery sales fell by 36% in the first half of the year – although falling sales do not equate to falling prices for the most desirable works.

Another part of the collectibles market that could logically have been expected to collapse during the last ten months, but which has not, is that of classic cars. The sector has even more going against it than the art world at the moment. Announcements by governments that the sale of new fossil fuel cars will be banned during ever shorter time spans; ever stricter restrictions on driving in cities; coronavirus-induced road changes in favour of cycles and pedestrians.

vintage green sports car

1956 Lister-Maserati 2.0-Litre Sports-Racing Two-Seater sold by Bonhams for £575,000.

And unlike collectors of Rothkos, the classic car market is not restricted to ultra high net worth individuals who have seen the size of their wealth increase during coronavirus due to a boom in the stock market. Classic cars encompass everything from £5000 MGs to £50m Ferrari GTOs. And the different segments of this market, while separate, are not hermetically sealed. If the price of a Ferrari Daytona drops, then a Ferrari 355, at a tenth of the price, also tends to drop. Yet, despite everything, the classic car market has been doing well across some of its tiers.

Read more: British artist Marc Quinn on history in the making

“Despite the challenging circumstance, the collectors’ car market has fared better than other sectors,” says James Knight, Executive Director at auction house Bonhams. “Although some sellers were initially concerned that the timing was right for selling a valuable collectors’ motor car, our (online live auction) system has been successful. We have sold cars and have sold them well – many at pre-COVID level prices. This success has given others confidence and we’re seeing healthy volumes come to market and being sold for market-correct prices.”

Knight says the market has been doing particularly well in the “hot” area of modern classics, cars desired by the latest generation of collector. “We are seeing a trend towards more modern classics and supercars becoming ever more popular. The demographic of buyers is changing – younger buyers are entering the classic market and they are looking at the ‘poster’ cars of the 1980s, 90s and even of this century.”

Vintage red sports car

The Ferrari F512M had the final development of Ferrari’s famous “Flat V12” engine.

So, with this in mind, I have entrusted my beloved “modern classic” Ferrari F512M for sale at Bonhams auction in the swanky silver seaside resort of Zoute in Belgium on October 11.

After I bought it, in 2015, and drove it across southern England for the first time, I saw it as the last car in my small collection that I would sell. The F512M has all the elements of a true collectable. It is rare: only 500 were made, in 1994 and 1995. It looks striking, with the celebrated cats claw scratches down the sides, and a wide, flat rear straight out of an arcade game. It is the ultimate iteration, and technical pinnacle, of a famous model: the Testarossa, which was launched in a nightclub in Paris in 1984.

Read more: Four leading designers on the future of design

The Testarossa (Redhead) gained fame in Miami Vice, and was improved into the 512TR in 1991. Three years later, this evolved into my car, the F512M (“M” standing for “Modified” in Ferrari-speak). As well as a modernised front and rear (which does divide opinion – some found the original rear treatment more classic), it was the pinnacle of development of Ferrari engine and suspension of its time. The engine’s internal parts were made lighter by the use of rare metals, the suspension was modified for even racier handling, and the car in general was given the performance needed to be at the top of the Ferrari tree in the mid 1990s. The F512M was the fastest road car in the world, until the appearance of the special edition Ferrari F50, costing a multiple of the price, in 1996.

It is a quite astonishing thing to drive. The F512M has no power steering, And while it is a lighter car than its replacement, the 550 Maranello, it does as a consequence need quite an effort to haul it around corners in town. The flipside is there is nothing interfering with the communication of the road surface to your fingers, when you get out on to faster roads and the steering becomes both manageable and responsive. Power-assisted steering systems, and particularly the latest electronic power assisted systems, cannot compete in terms of pure road feel. And the F512M’s manual gearbox (newer Ferraris have the easier-but-less-exciting paddleshift) is such a thing that a senior Ferrari executive drove my F512M and tweeted about it in delight.

red sports car

Ferrari steering wheel

Bonhams director James Knight says this particular example has the “holy trinity” of superb condition, perfect provenance and low mileage.

The subsequent 550, and later V12 Ferraris, were tuned more towards comfort and cruising, attracting a broader selection of buyers than the hardcore purchasers of a F512M. And the focussed and rare nature of the 512 is reflected in its price: good examples retail for two to three times the price of its more modern, comfortable 550 Maranello successor. Indeed, the F512M is the the last of a monstrous line that began with the 365 Berlinetta boxer in 1973, a family of Ferraris with a 12 cylinder engine placed not under the bonnet, but right behind the driver and passenger’s head. The sound, from centimetres away from your ears, when accelerating at full spate, is quite frightening – as if you are inside the jaws of a ravenous Tyrannosaurus Rex.

There is something else quite special about the F512M. Every Ferrari made afterwards was equipped with safety devices like stability and traction control, which meant that if you were about to lose control of the car by accelerating too fast around a corner, the car would notice, and stop you from doing so, electronically.

vintage ferrari

The F512M being sold by our Editor-in-Chief was previously owned by one of Spain’s most prominent collectors, who kept it alongside the rest of his Ferrari collection in a heated underground garage. When we bought it, we put it though Ferrari’s official 101 point Approved car check, which it passed with flying colours

Not only does the F512M not have any kind of safety control “nanny”: it is also the most powerful-ever general production Ferrari with a V12 engine placed behind the driver. On the one hand, this means for thrilling handling: turn the feelsome steering wheel, and there is no engine weight over the front wheels to create inertia by creating momentum through its mass and resist the turn. It just turns.

The corollary of this is that when the back of the car also turns, a nanosecond later, the mass of the engine turns with it, and if you get your cornering wrong, will wish to continue turning, American-cop-car-in-street-chase-style, until you go round in a circle. Keeping this under control at high speed would be both a challenge and a delight – although to be fair, the advanced suspension and huge rear tyres mean breaking traction only really happens when you want it to. I’ve never done it.

Read more: How Chelsea Barracks is celebrating contemporary British craft

So why am I selling it? Firstly, I simply do not have the opportunity to take it out onto the road where it can be driven properly. This is a car that needs to be driven from London to Tuscany at high speed. I barely have time on a weekend to get from London to Oxford.

Also, in the little leisure driving time I have, I have become an increasing cultural fascist about convertibles. I believe cars with open tops are right, and everything else is wrong. Or something like that.

Vintage sports car

1959 Porsche 718 RSK Spyder, sold for $2,232,500 at Bonhams Quail Motorcar Auction in August.

Sadly, they did not make an open top version of the F512M. So, I want to sell it and put the money towards an open-topped V12 Ferrari. You will find full details of my magnificent F512M, which I purchased from one of the most prominent collectors in Spain, here.

As Knight himself says about this car: “The Testarossa is one of the modern Ferrari icons and the F512M was the final and the rarest version with just 501 examples produced. This is a very special motor car as it represents the ‘holy trinity’. It is offered in superb condition, having been exceptionally well-cared for; it has covered fewer than 20,000 kms and has the all-important provenance, which includes full Ferrari service history.”

If you’re the lucky buyer, please promise me a ride. I will miss her. And meanwhile, long may the market for collectibles thrive – after all, driving a two-seater Ferrari, you and your passenger are in glorious self-isolation as you hurtle towards your destination, enjoying every second.

For more information visit: bonhams.com

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sports car on road at sunset
sports car on road at sunset

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

In the first of our supercar reviews, we take one of the world’s fastest convertibles for a spin: the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante

What is the purpose of buying an expensive fast car? The manufacturers themselves have had plenty of focus-group conversation over glasses of Krug at owner events; and so have we at our own gatherings of friends and readers.

Two-seater fast cars generally fall into one of two categories: super sports cars, created to be able to go around a racetrack as fast as possible while remaining legal and reasonably comfortable to drive on the road; and what the industry calls grand touring cars, which can be just as powerful but are biased more towards comfort, theoretically for crossing continents.

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The two categories are bound together by looks – all of these cars are designed to garner attention – and indulgent, hedonistic design. In reality, not many people use cars from either category for the purposes they were designed for. You are as unlikely to take a multi-million euro Ferrari LaFerrari on a race track as you are to test your gold Rolex Submariner at the oceanic depths for which it is designed. And if you want to cross the continent in comfort, you will jump in a jet, and ensure your car is waiting for you at the other end, rather than endure traffic jams and police speed traps.

Which brings us to the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante. This is a car that looks as exotic as it sounds: long, wide, sculpted and slightly brutal. It is not a show-off car like, for example, a Lamborghini, which is guaranteed to get the whole street looking at you; nevertheless with the primordial roar of its engine and its sheer presence on the road, it is a car that tells everybody around that you are here, and that you have made it.

Convertible car interiors

It is also the most powerful regular production Aston Martin, a significant statistic in itself. Get in and steer it down the road, and it doesn’t feel quite as wild as the horsepower figure, which at 715 is around five times that of the average car, might suggest. The steering is superb, with feel and sharpness. Some cars in this category have so much engineering to manage their enormous performance, that the sensations of driving are dulled. Not in the Aston, the noise and handling of which immediately let you know that you are driving something very special. It feels sharper, more alive, and more connected than the previous generations of powerful Aston two-seaters, while remaining comfortable and civilised enough not to shake you around, and that alone should guarantee it some loyal customers trading up.

Read more: Gaggenau presents new series of super-sleek combi-steam ovens

But it is also very much a grand touring car. You don’t feel that every prod on the accelerator will send you hurtling over the horizon and off the edge of the world, as is the case with some supercars these days. The DBS works through its rev range a bit more like a V12 engine of old, gaining speed with momentum, despite having distinctly new tech using turbochargers to aid its power delivery. To appreciate what you can do properly, you need a long stretch of road, ideally with a Mediterranean beach café at the end. Put your foot down, feel the car gathering pace relentlessly as the engine sears towards its redline. It’s a supremely satisfying feeling, and slightly old school with its delayed gratification. It is not a car that tries to handle like a go-kart with a rocket on it. Its pleasures need discovering slowly. But it certainly has a hard, supercar edge to it.

Nobody buys one of these for comfort and practicality, but it does reasonably well on both. There is plenty of space for two in the front, and some shopping bags on the back seats; only a masochist would want to actually sit in the back, although we did fit one teenager in with their legs across both back seats and the roof down. They had a whale of a time.

In an era where cars, even at the very high end, have never been better, but also have never been more similar in terms of engines and general engineering, the Superleggera Volante (Volante just means convertible in Aston speak) has two things that make it distinctive: character and class. You can buy faster cars for the money, and flashier cars, but James Bond circa 1966, teleported to today, would recognise immediately that he was driving an Aston as soon as he shut the door and hit the start button. Priceless.

LUX Rating: 18.5/20

Find out more: astonmartin.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

 

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Man in a suit standing next to a red ferrari sportscar
Detail shot of a sports watch with black and red watch face

The Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT 3D

No detail is small enough to escape Ferrari designer Flavio Manzoni’s razor-sharp focus. Rachael Taylor discovers how his expertise in supercar design lends itself masterfully to the Hublot and Ferrari watch collaboration

In the Ferrari Maranello plant in northern Italy, you will often find Flavio Manzoni and his team convening at a ten-metre-tall LED wall display. The images they’re looking at are often enormously scaled-up photographs of the miniscule parts of a Ferrari engine or exterior. The extreme magnification is used to perfect infinitesimal details you might never notice should you take the car for a spin. And this, says Manzoni, is the essence of luxury design.

“The luxury of a Ferrari is more a consequence than an objective,” says Manzoni, the car manufacturer’s senior vice president of design, who this year accepted the Red Dot Design Team of the Year award. “There are two perspectives [of design]. One is from the distance, where you see the whole harmony of the object. The other is with the lens, when you magnify every element and put a lot of art into every single detail.”

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Focusing on each and every element – no matter how small – and making sure that it not only performs brilliantly, but is also aesthetically exciting, is what makes Ferrari cars among the most sought-after, and expensive, in the world. It is also this zoomed-in approach to design that has made the switch to designing watches a seamless transition for Manzoni.

Manzoni joined Ferrari in 2010. The following year, he was working on a top-secret project for the company’s first hybrid sportscar, LaFerrari, when he was also brought in to oversee the development of a watch in collaboration with Swiss atelier Hublot. He kicked off their first meeting with a rejection.

Man in a suit standing next to a red ferrari sportscar

Award-winning designer Flavio Manzoni has been with Ferrari since 2010

“At the beginning, their idea was to propose some concepts to us,” says Manzoni. “They wanted to draw inspiration from the central shape of a Ferrari, the dynamic shape, but my idea was to avoid that because it makes no sense to give an aerodynamic shape to a watch.”

Instead, he wanted the Hublot team to look beyond the obvious and dive deep with him into the romance of the details. “I tried to guide the research towards the technical beauty of certain mechanical components of a Ferrari, like the engine for example.”

Luxury watch product image in black and gold

Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT King Gold

Product image shot of a luxury watch

Hublot Techframe Ferrari Tourbillon Chronograph

The result – the Hublot MP-05 LaFerrari watch – was spectacular. A tapered, angular case covered entirely with sapphire crystal, showed off the inner workings of an unusual movement, with the time displayed on off-centre cylinders rather than hands. In place of the traditional flat cogs and springs, an industrial-looking central column of gleaming aluminium barrels gave the impression of a watch that revs rather than ticks. Being Ferrari, performance excellence was important too, and a super- charged power reserve function was created that allowed the mechanical tourbillon watch to carry on ticking off the wrist for what was, at the time, a record 50 days. “I think they attract customers because of their uniqueness,” says Manzoni of the Hublot Ferrari watches, which he believes appeal to a much wider audience than the Ferrari fan base. “They speak out from the mass in the field of watchmaking because they are different. We try to use an out-of-the box approach, which comes from the attitude that we have towards our cars.”

Read more: Rockstar turned designer Lenny Kravtiz on champagne and creativity

It has been eight years since Hublot and Ferrari first joined forces, and Manzoni and his team have very much taken control of the design process. They select which movements to build around, and work up 3D models of prospective timepieces before presenting the concepts to Hublot. Each watch produced (using that same digital ‘wall’ for extreme close ups) continues to focus on the details of Ferraris – the ceramic carbon brake discs, the peccary leather seats – and often uses the same materials that are lavished on the supercars. No flourish is too small to champion, and it gives the team a platform to celebrate much-considered elements of the cars that might otherwise be overlooked simply as pleasant minutiae.

Black watch pictured on a red background

The limited edition Scuderia Ferrari 90th Anniversary Platinum and 3D Carbon watch

This year, Scuderia Ferrari is celebrating 90 years of making supercars, and to celebrate, three Hublot Ferrari watches have been released to mark its past, present and future. Each a twist on Hublot’s popular Big Bang model, the trio of timepieces are all powered by a UNICO movement with a flyback chronograph that offers a 72-hour power reserve and are anchored with bezels cut from the same ceramic carbon that helps Ferrari’s cars to screech to a halt.

Man in a suit standing by an abstract artworkThe first watch in the series recalls long- past glory days with a brushed platinum case to echo the dashboards of classic Scuderia Ferrari models, as well as a leather strap and bright-yellow markers and hands to bring to mind old-fashioned speedometers. The model celebrating the here and now does so with a 3D carbon case and a strap made from Nomex, the fire-resistant material Ferrari drivers rely on to keep their suits from going up in flames.

The third watch, the one that nods towards what Ferraris might look like in the future, uses sapphire crystal to create a see-through case that exposes its inner workings. The futurist aesthetic is continued with a strap made from Kevlar, a composite material that Ferrari uses to protect its carbon-fibre chassis from stones spraying up from the road.

The latest automotive launch from Ferrari is the SF90 Stradale hybrid, an evolution of the LaFerrari that inspired that first Hublot Ferrari watch. So are we likely to see this latest model transformed into a wrist-ready format? “I don’t think that there will be a literal translation, but for sure there will be some inspiration,” muses Manzoni, who never feels bound to tie the latest watches into the latest cars. “It’s always nice to create cultural bridges between different disciplines.”

Discover Hublot’s collections: hublot.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black interiors and steering wheel of the Maserati GranTurismo

The ambience inside the car is exactly right

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

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

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

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

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

LUX Rating: 18/20
maserati.com

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Ergonomics, style and sound. Sports car technology, intelligently combined.

Ergonomics, style and sound. Sports car technology, intelligently combined.

In which Darius Sanai experiences the latest model of the most iconic sports car of all, and an updated version of a modern legend 

Porsche 911 C4S Convertible

Pity is not an emotion that has commonly been projected onto purchasers of Porsches over the decades. Envy, loathing, awe, respect — all of these have their place. But pity?

Yet I do feel for purchasers of the latest Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet, and, more particularly, for the car’s makers. They are judged by an impossibly high standard.

When comparing benchmark wines against each other, it is standard practice, among professionals and amateurs, to do so ‘blind’, in a quasi-scientific setup that ensures each product is (theoretically) judged on its virtues alone, and not its reputation.

It is impossible to do so with cars. Even if you were to blindfold a driver until he was seated, and to cover up the badges in the interior, most driving enthusiasts would recognise the interior style of a new sports car as belonging to a brand with which they are familiar: whether it’s Aston Martin’s architectural cool, AMG’s metallic chic or Ferrari’s boyish flair. In the case of the Porsche 911, one look at the rev-counter dominating the instrument pod and the sweep of the interior door handles is enough. Even though the latest 911 may have no visible parts carried over from its predecessors, it is plainly a 911.

And that means it is judged as a 911: not just an icon but a benchmark, the 911 is to sports cars what Château Lafite is to wine or (currently anyway) what Bayern Munich is to football. Everyone wants to try and beat it; everything else is the underdog.

Even the most ostensibly unbiased enthusiast may fall into the trap. Drive the latest Aston Martin, or speedy Jaguar, or Audi, and you err on the side of the positive. You forgive. The steering that is not quite right is ignored in favour of the handling balance that is. Traction that may be questionable is overlooked in favour of blowout mid-range performance. Back seats that aren’t really usable are less relevant than the machined finishing on the dashboard. You are constantly thinking: is it as good as a Porsche? Is it better? Parts of it are better!

Porsches, like all cars, are constantly improving: each generation is faster, smoother, more economical, roomier, more efficient. And the 911 can only be benchmarked against itself. I climbed in to the 911 C4S Cabrio, and, instead of marvelling at its stunning exterior — stretched, slicker, smarter than before — and modernised, roomier interior, immediately asked myself whether the electronically-aided steering system would be as alive as the wonderfully tactile steering in its predecessor model.

I realized I was preparing to judge the 911 on a different standard to any other sports car: not asking whether it was fun, fast, well-made and complete, but whether it was perfect: whether every element of it was an improvement on every element of every one of its predecessors.

And that would be falling into the trap I outlined above. So, instead, here are my views on the new 911 C4S Cabrio — at the moment the fastest of Porsche’s convertibles, with an uprated engine, as well as four-wheel drive — as if written by someone encountering the brand for the very first time.

Firstly, it looks stunning. Mine was in silver with a crimson roof, and matching crimson interior — every centimeter of the seats, doors and dash leather was crimson. Very, very cool. Even in more standard colours, the extended back and elongated light cluster on the rear give it an elegance that adds to the 911 squatness (necessary because the engine is in the back). It instantly makes all the previous models look a little squitty.

The interior is functional and purposeful, rather than chic: the red dash leather is a good idea because I imagine that in black it might look a little basic. There are lots of switches and the instrument display is absolutely clear and crisp. There is a surprising amount of room: much more headroom than in any other sports car (even with the convertible roof) and so much rear legroom that my long-legged 11-year-old could happily sit straight while my long-legged wife sat in front with her legs stretched out.. The downside, according to the rear seat passengers, is that the seat squab itself is flat and you have to sit very straight up. Fine for a fit nearly-teen child, not so good for a bibulous adult.

You may imagine that the slim front area of a 911 doesn’t offer much of a boot/trunk and it’s certainly an odd shape, stretching deeper than it does long, but it’s surprisingly commodious. It can take a couple of weekend bags, tennis rackets and other bric-a-brac with ease — apparently golf clubs fit comfortably in it (although I would think that if you are keen on golf perhaps a Jaguar might suit you more).

The convertible roof is very quick and easy to raise and lower electrically, and you can now do so while outside the car by pressing a button on the key, which makes for a good show on the street if you are hiding behind another car. You do need to keep pressing hard, though, or it stops and reverses its movements next press; in the end I found it easier to do so using the button in the car.

Instantly noticeable on driving the 911 is the beautiful purity of the accelerator’s response. There is no mechanical connection these days between the pedal and any engine — it’s all done by computer, like flying an Airbus. As a result fast cars can suffer from one of two ailments: over-eager programming that sends the car spurting forward as soon as you brush the pedal, which is both tiring and inauthentic; and turbo-response, which means wildly differing amount of go per touch on the pedal depending on where you are in the rev range.

The 911 suffers from neither of these. Instead, you feel like you are coaxing that powerful six-cylinder engine gently from a prowl to a growl and then finally a wild sprint.

I spent the first couple of days with the Porsche driving it like a sports car: engaging the Sport option that speeds up responses and firms up the suspension, measuring my way into corners and blasting out, noting with satisfaction that, pushed hard, it has a wonderfully interesting tendency to remind you the engine really is at the back — the 911 thrill, although I shouldn’t be noting that as I am playing the 911 novice here. I can’t think of a better sports car.

On the last day I had an early-morning journey entirely within central London, so I flipped it into lazy-automatic mode. Comfort suspension, automatic gearbox. How would it cope? Would it feel like a caged lion? Would the automatic gear changes to maximise engine efficiency mean you never got into the speedy range of the engine, and thus lacked performance to zip into gaps in traffic?

It was surprisingly good: quiet, smooth, with enough low-rev muscle to remind you that you were in a seriously fast car. Not as intuitive as a sports car with a proper automatic gearbox like an AMG Mercedes, perhaps, but this is technically an automated manual, not a traditional automatic, although the differences are becoming increasingly moot.

And how was the steering? It is precise, well-weighted, intuitive, and gets more communicative the harder you drive. I suspect that on a circuit it would be brilliant. Compared to all the other super-sports cars out there, it’s near the very top. Putting the 911-critic hat back on, I would, if pressed, say it’s not quite as tactile as the previous version of the 911 that went off sale last year. It means the car, as a whole, is perhaps a tad more grown up. Less instantly loveable, perhaps, but a better machine. And if you want fun, all you have to do is lower the roof, punch Sport, and the (optional) exhaust button that makes the car sound fabulous, and take off. At the price, the 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet is impossible to beat.

LUX Rating: 18.5/20

Chassis control systems make a key contribution to the 911 driving experience

Chassis control systems make a key contribution to the 911 driving experience

Porsche’s iconic 911 celebrates its 50th birthday this year. To mark the occasion, LUX spoke to Vic Elford, former racing and rally legend and one of the most famous 911 drivers of all time, for his view on how the icon has developed over the decades.

LUX: What is the defining driving characteristic of a 911?
Vic Elford: Unlike many ‘luxury’ cars of today which apparently think for themselves, the Porsche 911 can not be left to just wander around on its own — it needs a firm, knowledgeable hand in control at all times!

How does it compare to its peers when driven on track?
The simple answer is, it has no peers! There is no other car like the 911 in what it can do and how it does it. Sure you can make some Ferraris go fast, even some modern Corvettes, although they do it by brute force and not engineering superiority.

Is each generation of 911 better than the last, in what way?
I would say, “I would say different, but not necessarily better”. For example, in my ‘Porsche High-Performance Driving Handbook’ originally published in 1994 and still selling well in it’s second edition today, the chapter on ‘Driving in Unusual Conditions’ explains how to drive fast on snow or ice; but since the advent of on-board electronics which take over when they think the driver has overstepped his or her ability, some of those manouevres are impossible to do with a modern car. And you can’t switch them off; they are always waiting in the background ready to switch on again when they think something is wrong.

Have they become less thrilling even as they have become more sophisticated?
In some ways, yes, as noted above.

Which are your favourite 911s to drive in the real world, and why?
Older versions where I decided what the car was going to do, not the car itself!

What are your favourite 911 memories?
In 1967, only the second time I had driven a 911, I should have won the Monte Carlo Rally, but quirky regulations meant that although we were leading as we approached the Col de Turini for the very last speed test before the finish, I had no snow tires available when it started to snow heavily. I finished third. So my favorite moment was the following year, 1968, when for the first time the Monte Carlo Rally was a pure scratch event — fastest driver in the fastest car wins. I did! First time for Porsche, last time for a Brit!

911s used to have a reputation that they needed handling with care — do you think this is still true?
Years ago the 911 had a reputation created by people who had no idea what they were doing. A 911 is a very gentle understeering car but early ones, especially the short wheelbase which was so effective in rallies in the late 1960s, were extremely sensitive to the input from the driver, especially in the way it affected the balance of the car. Modern versions are too, but to a much lesser extent as improved chassis engineering and having tires that fit the performance of the car iron out most of the problems for normal drivers.

Would you encourage 911 owners to get onto the track?
Sure; why not? Just make sure you read my book first and then get really expert tuition from an approved driving school or from the expert driving consultants at a Porsche Experience Centre.

If you could have one 911 from any era to race, which would it be?
A 1967/68 911R with a 2 litre four-cam engine!!! (If you have never heard of that engine, look it up. I think I am the only driver who ever used it).

If you could have one 911 from any era to own and drive every day, which would it be?
Since I discovered and analysed the need for it and then wrote the original specification, I would have to say, ‘The Porsche RS America’, 1993. Preferably in Sky Blue, my favourite colour!

World Class Dynamics - The new revised V12 engine makes this the most powerful DB9 every produced

World Class Dynamics
– The new revised V12 engine makes this the most powerful DB9 every produced

Aston Martin DB9 Volante

It is hard to believe it has been 10 years since Aston Martin launched the DB9. Motoring experts point to its predecessor, the late 1990s-issue DB7, as the car that saved the company, selling more units than all Aston models before it put together. But the DB9 was something else. While the DB7 still had hints of old-fashioned English sports car about it — parts of it were based on the 1970s Jaguar XJS — the DB9 was strikingly, brilliantly modern.

Here was a British sports car which you wouldn’t dream of specifying with walnut wood on the dash and black piped Connolly hide on the seats accompanied by a Racing Green Exterior. It had to be metallic grey or black, with anthracite leather, all the better to show off the metallic-chic dash. The DB9 belonged to an industrial-chic, minimalist, modernist school of design — indeed, it was at its vanguard. It was equipped only with a V12 engine, looked superb with brushed aluminium and carbon fibre adorning its interior, and was a quantum leap over any other Aston in terms of driving appeal.

It was developed with a personal passion by Dr Ulrich Bez, the transformational CEO of the company who is also a successful racing driver. My first experience of the car was in a pre-production model driven on the country roads around the factory between London and Birmingham by Dr Bez himself.

Brilliant and highly desirable though it was, the DB9 was not perfect. Its imperfections were minor and masked by those wonderful avant-garde looks and that beautiful-sounding engine. They crept up on you slowly. In my first drive with Dr Bez, I couldn’t help notice that for such a sophisticated-looking car, its ride seemed ever so brittle. Drive onto a change of road surface and you could feel the change with a thump, and seemingly no suppleness in the suspension.

I drove an early DB9 to Scotland and back and returned with a blend of exhilaration and doubt. This was an involving, entertaining car to drive; but pushed like a sports car, its responses weren’t as progressive or intuitive as they should have been. It wasn’t agile, like a Porsche 911, and it wasn’t as relaxing as a Bentley.

It did look beautiful though.

Now, a decade later, there is a new DB9, although in terms of its looks it is strictly evolutionary. It looks like a sleeker, updated version of the original, particularly from its mean, flat front end. But there’s no mistaking what it is. The interior has also had the touch of a gentle magic wand: you know things have changed, but it’s unmistakeably a DB9 and you would be hard-pressed to say what, exactly, has changed.

Nearly 50 per cent of all parts and more than 70 per cent of all body panels are new

Nearly 50 per cent of all parts and more than 70 per cent of all body panels are new

The engine, still a V12, has 60 horsepower more than the original, taking it to 510, and while this sounds like a lot, it is worth bearing in mind that the lead two-seater super-convertible at the time of the Aston’s original launch, the Mercedes SL55 AMG, managed more or less that kind of output a full 10 years ago. (Its successor has even more now.) And the Aston is not a lightweight car.

For the purposes of an honest assessment, I took along as a passenger a friend who bought one of the first DB9s to appear in 2003 and who still owns it, among numerous other cars. (His is a coupe, while my new test car was a convertible ‘Volante’ version). His immediate response a few seconds after we set off down a central London road was that this model was far more refined, quiet, and smooth in its ride. “It’s like being in a saloon car,” he said. “Mine is like a wooden go-kart in comparison.”

The actual driving experience is also very different, although subtly so. The car sounds the same — that is to say, magnificent — and you still know you are at the helm of a long two-seater super-sports car. This DB9’s responses are smooth, accurate, progressive: it is a relaxing car to drive slowly through traffic, especially when you hit the D button for fully-automatic mode. It heads into corners with gentle determination, or with gusto when you push it, although at speed you are more aware that this is quite a heavy car, despite the admirable flatness of the suspension. What is new is the suppleness to both ride and handling: there is no crashing of suspension, no unnecessarily sudden responses. It makes for a far more satisfying and relaxing experience.

The engine wails mellifluously when you accelerate, and this, combined with the looks which are as striking today as on the previous model, means it scores highly on the head-turn-o-meter I use while driving among tourists in central London. (Most accurately measured by the scientific measurement of cp/h, or cellphone pictures per hour.)

The Aston also has two back seats, although you need very understanding children if you are planning to sit them there (adults won’t fit) and they are best suited to Hermès and Chanel bags, including the larger sizes.

It seems almost all the niggles of the previous DB9 have been ironed out in this new model, although I should mention one factor that will be of concern to a minority of readers. The acceleration is fast, true and smooth, as a V12’s should be: but the car lacks the ultimate punch of today’s latest cars of this price, most of which would leave the Aston behind on cross-country blast (I am thinking in particular of the Ferrari California and Mercedes SL63 AMG). This may only make a difference of mere minutes to a journey, but it also means that an overtaking manoeuvre that is accomplished easily by those other cars might be tight in the Aston: and that’s not necessarily what you might expect from a car with an Aston Martin badge and a V12 engine and a price tag to match.

If that doesn’t worry you — and in most places, you won’t be able to use the car’s full power in any case — then the new DB9 Volante is as beautiful as it gets, and now refined, sophisticated and modern to go with it.

LUX Rating: 18/20

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