Escaping the pied-à-terre on a Friday afternoon for the beach house has never been such a palaver. Not long ago it was perfectly alright to whoosh out of town in the Phantom or Mulsanne. But now sentiment has simply run amuck. Today, more conscious egalitarianism appears better form which leaves one in a bit of a dilemma. How do you still maintain that Kim Jon-un separation from the outside world without feeling you’ve been unceremoniously dumped in coach?
Mercifully, ULM is at hand to advise. We’ve picked our four favorite flagship vehicles that do, by and large, what a Royce does without the – are you kidding me – price tag. There’s considerably more expensive versions of the models featured here, but we’re shopping at ground floor here. Three are German and one is British (well, owned by India’s Tata). Right then, best get a move on.
The BMW 740i | Our first choice is the newest. Only available in long wheel base in the US, the 2016 7 Series starts with the 740i at $81,300 and sports about as much gizmos that an engineer can cram into a luxury barge. For instance, with Gesture Control simply wave your hand in front of the central screen to magically activate functions. It sure sounds great in practice but its application isn’t flawless on the move. Unnecessary, really. The list goes on – for the first time a Mercedes inspired perfume dispenser is available so your 7 smells divine even if your passengers don’t. If super-duper technology is your thing, the new BMW Display Key allows you to park your car remotely while standing outside it. Might be a good conversation starter outside the Four Seasons, that one. What does impress us more though is the extensive use of carbon fibre throughout the car’s structure reducing 190 pounds in weight – now that’s proper engineering. To drive, the big BMW is a more responsive car than a Mercedes S-class but still, after generations of trying, never quite as smooth. Lastly, to the car’s appearance. It may be new, but we still remain divided as to whether it’s somewhat cheesy, chrome laden external fripperies look special enough for the money. Performance $81,300 (base), 3.0 litre, 6-cylinder, 320hp, 0-60mph in 5.4 seconds, Top speed 130mph. Typical owner: Corporate raider. Likes: Tom Ford. First class anything.
The Audi A8 L | Next up, the most left-field choice of them all. A favorite for movie action films like Ronin and the Transporter franchise the A8 has garnered a separate coolness away from the default luxo-barge choices. The D4 Audi A8 is Ingolstadt’s third generation of big luxury sedans and if you’re new to the A8’s charms there’s three things that make this car different – all aluminium construction for lightless, standard Quattro all-wheel drive and the most pleasing interiors this side of Bentley Flying Spur. Entry into the A8 L starts at $81,500 and after a mid-term facelift since its launch in 2009, the big Audi is starting to groan a bit under the 7 series and S-class tech-heavy overload. Coming with Audi’s Quattro four wheel drive, this is the sedan that keeps on-a-moving when it’s deep and crisp and even. The 2016 A8 handles well, with an agility that trumps the S-class and just the 7 series for handling poise and involvement. It’s a glamorous thing too, being the most athletic looking of the four vehicles features here. A ULM recommended purchase for independent thinkers. Performance $81,500 (base), 3.0 litre, 6-cylinder, 333hp, 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds, Top speed 130mph. Typical owner: Advertising mogul. Studied medicine, dropped out. Likes: Apple.
The Range Rover | It’s likely British engineers Spen King and Gordon Bashsford never envisaged what they were unleashing when they produced the first Range Rover prototype in 1967. Now in 2016 the Range Rover remains the undisputed king of the super-luxury four by fours in the fastest-growing luxury vehicle segment in the world. Mercedes, Porsche, Audi, Jaguar, Bentley, and even Maserati for goodness sake, are trying to topple the big Ranger. Stepping up at $85,940 base it comes in a diesel variant but we’ll stick to the petrol one here. And stepping up is what it’s all about in Range Rover world – the true go-anywhere, classy luxury vehicle. Twelve months ago we would have said it was like a Bentley in there, but you can’t ford every stream in one of those, now can you? It seem Crewe were listening by launching the Bentley Bentayga SUV. Game over for the Range Rover so? Not exactly, the Bentayga starts at around $232,000. Which is why we adore the Range Rover. From its flawless engineering, subjectively sensible entry price, supreme comfort and English Royal connotations, if you’re swapping the condo for a chalet at weekends this is your vehicle. Stop looking elsewhere. Highly recommended. Performance $85,940 (base), 3.0 litre, supercharged V6, 340hp, 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds, Top speed 130mph. Typical owner: Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor. Likes: Mountains. Country Clubs. Earl Grey.
The Mercedes S550 | The Sonderklasse (S-class) is the default luxury sedan that mixes just the right degree of subliminal menace, hidden megalomania and power in one go. Choose a Black one and the world quietly keeps its distance as you waft around. With origins from the Ponton model of 1954, the S has an unbroken lineage from 1972 and has enjoyed a continual embrace from moneyed and influential. The latest S-class broke cover in 2013 unceremoniously booted all the competition outside to the rain. Available with Magic Body Control, Active Body Control and Distronic Plus it drove like nothing out there. It’s smooth, serene and utterly divorced from the road. It’s also painfully dull to hustle offering unenthusiastic handling and feedback for the truly spirited of foot. Inside, the traditional S owner is transported into an ambient light-filled spacecraft that mirrored the more sudden wine bar tastes of Bejing rather than the educated populous of Scarsdale Village. Irrespective, the S-class remains the best luxury sedan to be driven in without drawing inconvenient attention to oneself. Highly recommended but choose the Audi A8 if you drive. Performance $95,650 (base), 4.7 litre, bi-turbo V8, 449hp, 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds, Top speed 130mph. Typical owner: CEOs, Despots, Lawyers. Political leaders. Those guys. Likes: Global power.