In The Fast Lane
Luxury sedans that perform or sports cars that pamper? Here are six that deliver the best of both worlds
June 29, 2019
Back in the 1980s and earlier, the image of the successful corporate executive probably included a sharp tailored suit, gray hair, confidence and experience. It probably also included a sleek chauffeured luxury sedan as well.The scenario has drastically changed in the past few decades. Start-ups have blossomed in valuation seemingly overnight, and the young entrepreneurs who head them up are understandably bringing down the average age of successful corporate leaders. These young overachievers, especially those with a taste for performance rides, are hardly going to find themselves stuck in the back seat of a chauffeured car. They would rather be behind the wheel. Catering to their wishes are a bevy of the latest luxury machines that can emulate some of the best sports cars on the market in terms of performance, advanced technology and interiors that wrap the driver in utmost comfort.
BMW 7 Series Sedan
The sixth-generation 7 Series, when it entered into production in the second half of 2015, surpassed everyone’s expectations. Filled with the latest tech and creature comfort, BMW really left no stone unturned in the endeavor to outdo its rivals.
Look and feel
The first step was to lose weight and a good amount of it. For this, BMW completely re-engineered its flagship luxury sedan, incorporating more carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, high-strength steel and aluminum to slim down by nearly 290 lbs. The 7 Series’ styling is a step up as well with a more sculpted look dominated by the revised bumper, sharper looking LED headlights (laser headlights optional), and sleeker LED tail lights connected by a chrome strip. Inside, just about everything is new, lavishly appointed with wood and Alcantara leather. The automaker also built in new iDrive control functions that include easy touch and gesture controls (detection by a 3D sensor) and a remote parking system. You can even select a fragrance to accompany you along the drive.
BMW has made the 7 Series more driver-focused than ever. While the German automaker offers several engine options to choose from, the range-topping M760Li xDrive is what any motoring enthusiast would appreciate. The massive 6.6-litre V12 engine churns out 610hp, enough to propel the full-size luxury sedan from zero to 60 in a jaw-dropping 3.7 seconds.BMW also claims that the M-badged 7 Series has a top speed of 205 mph. And that’s not all. Thanks to the all-wheel-drive system coupled with the fantastic four-wheel-steering, it’s not just fast on the straight aways but also quite nimble and fun to drive around the corners.
Designed by the famous Italian firm Pininfarina, there is little doubt that the Maserati GT is one of the most beautiful two-door sports coupes available anywhere.
Look and feel
Despite the fact that the four-seater GT has been on sale since 2007, its sleek design hasn’t aged at all. Over the last ten years, the Italian automaker has made small updates which may be missed by the untrained eye. This year, however, the Maserati GranTurismo boasts new bumpers, front and rear, that help lower the drag coefficient, updated headlights that now come with daytime running lights, and an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system.The interior isn’t as cramped as other sports coupes and offers plenty of space, much like its only rival – the Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe. From the instrument panel to the rear seats, the Maserati GranTurismo cabin is wrapped in chic Poltrona Frau leather and fine hand-stitched Alcantara. The Maserati Stability Program (MSP) continually checks the driving status to optimize safety and performance systems for controlled handling and a steady grip. Thanks to its impressive suspension system, the GT is a smooth drive, even over long distance travels.
The only engine available on the Maserati GT is a naturally aspirated 4.7-litre V8 engine sourced from Ferrari. The power train is every bit as exciting as you would expect from a unit with Ferrari badging. The V8 engine in the Maserati GT Sport trim is tuned to produce 453 bhp. The sports mode engages a performance tiger, but in normal mode, the GT transforms into a refined and reserved four-seat coupe. It can go from zero to 60 in 4.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 187 mph. If you want a slightly more practical Ferrari with an affordable price tag, Maserati GT is the car for you.
A TURBO The original Panamera that was launched in 2009 wasn’t the prettiest looking car so it came in for a lot of flack from fans and critics alike. However, it was still one of the best driver-focused machines on the market at the time; and so quickly earned itself the reputation as a four-seat version of Porsche’s incredible 911 sports car – it’s that good!
Look and feel
With the launch of the second-generation Panamera in the 2017 model year, Porsche got kudos for creating a sports sedan that is beautiful both inside and outside. The design tweaks include a lower roofline, taller rear end, shapelier rear-haunches and aesthetically pretty head and tail light clusters. Additionally, the 2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo is the German carmaker’s first to feature its new cylinder deactivation control, which allows four of the eight cylinders to be shut down during low fuel consumption driving, making it as much as 30 percent more fuel efficient.
Weighing in at two tons and measuring 16 feet long, the Panamera doesn’t have the dimensions of a tiny sports car. But Porsche sure knows how to set it up for incredible handling. The Panamera has the rear-wheel steering as an optional extra, which helps the large sedan stay stable at speed while making it incredibly nimble in the corners. When it comes to driving comfort, the Panamera Turbo is fitted with adaptive air springs, and Porsche has further tweaked the suspension on the updated model, which lets the driver choose from three ride heights – low, medium and high. Under the hood, a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 550hp is enough to propel the car to 60 mph from standstill in just 3.5 seconds. A beautiful steering wheel-mounted rotary switch also gives direct access to the four driving modes – normal, sport, sport plus and individual. The Porsche Panamera has always offered stunning performance, but now it has Porsche-worthy design and styling to go along with it. porsche.com
In 2017 Audi rolled out the fourth generation model of its flagship A8 luxury sedan which the German automaker claims is the most technologically advanced car in its class. In a segment that includes the likes of Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series and the Jaguar XJ, that’s a tall claim, but Audi has introduced several first-in-class technologies to back it up.
Look and feel
The A8 includes Level 3 conditional automation (levels of autonomy start with Level 0 offering no automation to full-automation at Level 5). This makes it the first production car in the world to feature technology that allows completely hands-free driving beating even Tesla’s incredible autopilot system.The fourth generation A8 is an all-new car built from the ground up. It has grown 1.5 inches longer, but is lighter weight thanks to a hybrid body shell made of four different materials – aluminum, magnesium, high-strength steel and carbon fiber. The new design looks more muscular and the entire styling is dominated by sharper lines. Inside, the traditional instrument cluster has been swapped for Audi’s Virtual Cockpit that uses a full-color display to present a host of information about the drive and the vehicle. Most of the physical buttons and switches have also been replaced with digital ones, accessible on the central 10.1-inch touch display and the 8.6-inch unit below it. Audi may have been the last of the German luxury trio to update its flagship sedan but it has more than made up for the delay with this impressive offering.
Aston Martin Vantage
The new Aston Martin Vantage has been completely revamped to replace the much loved previous-generation V8 Vantage, which had been in production since 2005. The entry-level Aston Vantage shares styling cues with the DB10 featured in the James Bond film Spectre.
The crisper nose, broader hips and more sculpted body lines give the Vantage an aggressive appearance. Its most dominant design features include new small headlights, traditional Aston “Hill Climb” grille, thin LED light units connected by a central light bar on the rear and a complex diffuser unit. And just like the DB11, Aston engineers were able to sculpt the body to give it necessary downforce and aerodynamic stability without the use of active aerodynamic aids and massive wings. But it’s the interior of the car that has undergone a more substantial upgrade. The dated dashboard, center console, and electronic devices of the previous model have been swapped for Mercedes-Benz electronic architecture that has significantly improved the user interface and ease of handling. The Vantage is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine built by AMG, which makes 503hp and a peak torque of 505 lb-ft. Aston says that the Vantage can do zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 195 mph.
The Mercedes S-Class has often introduced first-in-class technology and in-car gadgets that go on to become mainstream elsewhere. This S-Class comes loaded with a long list of new technologies and hardware to give it Level 2 autonomous driving capability. The systems give the car an amazing 360-degree understanding of its surroundings and improved self-driving capability with minimal driver intervention. Additionally, there is a new adaptive cruise control feature that uses satellite map data and slows the car for impending curves, turns, or roundabouts. The remote parking feature lets the car maneuver in and out of a tight parking space on its own.
Look and feel
On the inside, the S-Class’ dual digital dashboard displays have been replaced with the same 12.3-inch units used in the latest E-Class. Mercedes has also introduced an all-new steering wheel, which features easily accessible cruise control buttons and user-friendly touch-sensitive control pads similar to those found on the new E-Class.