I love cars.
They’re one of my absolute favourite inventions. And I can’t thank Karl Benz enough. Plus, they’re also one of humanity’s greatest achievements. The invention of the automobile allowed us to develop at a pace that was never possible before. Just try imagining living in a world without cars. Yeah, NO.
So let’s try and answer the question: What makes a luxury car?
There’s the obvious such as exclusivity, better materials, striking designs and indulging driving dynamics. But since this is an anatomy class, let’s examine the building blocks of a luxury car.
The Cocoon Quotient
I hail from India. Up until a couple decades back, cars were very much a household luxury. It still is in many parts of the country. Why is it considered luxurious, you ask? The idea of transporting your family in comfort to wherever, whenever is a goal that people wish to attain. Plus, you should also be able to afford the absurdly expensive fuel 🙃.
Since forever, majority of the Indian population has depended on two wheelers, rickshaws and other alfresco modes of transport. Your own private cocoon on the road is then indeed, a luxury. Things have long changed, but there’s still many who dream of one day owning a car to lug around their families in.
Now, personal space is one of the reasons I love the automobile. But that also happens to be one of its most primitive attributes. So, let’s explore another one.
The Primal Quotient
Cars aren’t just a piece of machinery that haul you from point A to B. They’ve evolved to become identities. The vehicle you travel in says plenty about you. When you’re out on the road, who’s inside isn’t in focus. You assume stuff about them based on the vehicle, and I believe this is where our animalistic instincts come into play. As humans, we believe we’re unique. We want to stand out. Car designers know this and cater to this.
The best looking cars often take inspiration from the best physicalities of animals. Like how a Ferrari takes inspiration from the grace and beauty of a horse. Or how a Lamborghini stimulates the aggression of a bull. Car designers aren’t creating mere consumer products. They’re creating art; taking cues from animals, all of nature, primitive human desires and dressing them up in beautiful amalgamations.
Understandably, they have one of the toughest jobs in the world. A tiger and a deer are completely different animals. And for what it’s worth, we still use the term ‘horsepower’ to convey how powerful an engine is.
Since what we drive has such an influence on how the world perceives us, it’s no different from a piece of clothing; just like how a car’s headlights are an extension of your own eyes. Luxury has always been man’s best way of indicating success, sophistication and desire. Cars amicably stepped upto the task decades ago, giving way to the notion: “The flashier the vehicle, the more successful the owner.” While this has been watered down to an extent by the second-hand market, cars still remain a fantastic indicator of taste and subsequently, identity; one of the very core principles that people turn to luxury for.
The Experiential Quotient
What happens when you press the accelerator? Your engine spins faster which in turn makes your tyres spin faster and you’re pushed back into your seat a split second before you, and the engineered box of (maybe stunning) metal you’re in, lurch forward.
Regardless of the car you drive, the above mentioned scenario is an experience. One which you’ve probably experienced countless times.
But what makes that experience luxurious?
The answer is, it can be anything.
Curating and enhancing the experience is all upto the creators and designers of the automobile. You can be pushed back into a plush leather seat, you can get your adrenaline pumping with launch control, or you could even count all the shiny stars in your headliner; the possibilities are endless. Automakers are constantly competing to out-experience each other. Undoubtedly, this has been serving customers quite well.
The best cars are further adept at providing a multi-sensory experience. With fragrances to stimulate the nose, noises to stimulate the ear and vibrations to stimulate the heart, the right car will always make you feel alive. For those who love cars, a drive is often an escape; from all that’s wrong and bad in life. As you drive through the winding curves, everything is just alright. And the world, exactly how it should be. Escapes forever remain among the best of luxuries. Plus, if you think about it, every escape is an experience.
The Exclusivity Quotient
Like with all things luxury, the rarer the vehicle, the more luxurious it is. This is precisely why the Porsche Carrera GT is revered at a level very few automobiles are. The less of a particular vehicle there is in existence, the more exclusive and subsequently, expensive it is. This is a basic rule of any luxury good and vehicles are no different.
The Relivable Quotient
Most experiences, by their very nature, are exhaustive. You experience a meal once in a while. You can experience it again whenever you wish to. But if you do so every single day, you’ll grow bored. Cars on the other hand, are a commodity that can provide the same experience consistently over a relatively large period of time. Unlike most other commodities, cars don’t bore you quickly (since you can always take a new road). If you’re someone who likes to drive, and you’ve got a car that drives well, you’re sure to have a blast almost every time you go for a drive. It’s this repeatable nature of cars that’s got me hooked like nothing else.
Simply letting me relive the experience whenever I want justifies the high prices that luxury cars come with. Regardless of how expensive the car, being able to relive an experience you love everyday is priceless. And that’s just another thing that makes a car luxurious.
Majority of the world’s infrastructure today caters more to vehicles than pedestrians. This probably isn’t going to change in this century. With the advent of electric vehicles, the adrenaline from an ICE engine will be replaced by the adrenaline from a torque rush. While I don’t yet know how I feel about the change, I know that it’s inevitable. I further trust automobile designers and engineers to keep the driving experience pleasurable and hopefully, just as addictive.
We’ve explored what makes a luxury automobile. To end, here’s what I feel about cars:
I LOVE them. I enjoy them. I leverage them. I exploit them.
I also think they’re animalistic masks, helping us project an image of our choice onto the world.
I know I didn’t explore the functional aspect of automobiles. If an automobile is merely a tool to commute humans and goods from point A to point B, it isn’t a luxury vehicle. If you believe that’s all cars should be, then this write-up isn’t for you.
That said, I’m excited for the future of cars. But I sincerely hope that the core attributes of a luxury automobile stay intact. And if anything, that they’re strengthened. How about a self-driving, intercontinental automobile that I can sleep and shower in?