Each year, the automobile industry attempts to further seduce motorists and their passengers with new daily drivers, weekend-getaway cars and pure-indulgence purchases. Suggesting more than just speed or social status, one’s vehicle, or collection of vehicles, gives a glimpse into each of our lives. Analyzing the luxury automobile market, from the technologically dazzling to the downright elegant, we have chosen the best vehicles based on a series of strong, albeit particular, characteristics. Each car on this list is striking and its standout feature highlighted, guiding those seeking to fill their garage with something fresh.
Aston Martin Vantage
Best borrowed engine appropriation
Call it British decorum; the 2019 Aston Martin Vantage runs the
same engine as the Mercedes-AMG GT insofar as its 4.0-liter biturbo V8 specifications are concerned. Thanks to a technical partnership conceived in 2013, Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, supplies infotainment, electronics and engines to the Warwickshire UK-headquartered brand in exchange for a five
The company-coined “visceral engine roar” rises from amended induction and exhaust systems. Rather than the deeply throaty trill that has become a trademark of Mercedes, Aston opted to massage more midrange purrs than pops from its eight-speed paddle-shifted automatic transmission. (A point of difference:
Mercedes manages a seven-speed dual clutch.)
Suave and sleek, more Sean Connery than Daniel Craig when it comes to secret agents behind the wheel, the Vantage is both masculine and feminine all at once. Broad haunches and flared fenders meld with softer, less severe tension lines through the exterior. Inside the cockpit, a lower driving position gives the feel of
a more immersive experience. The car envelops the driver, taking a page from the brand’s racing annals.
Price from $170,000
Engine 4.0-liter biturbo V8
Power 503 hp
Best grand tourer
It should come as no surprise that the top grand tourer hails from
the company that claims to have invented it. Maserati premiered its A6 1500 in 1947 on the floor of the Geneva Salon. There, the Modena, Italy–based brand made a clear distinction between quotidian cars and racing vehicles with its prototype.
Through the celebrated decades of the Ghibli (which debuted its SS Coupé in 1967) and into the GranTurismo years, the very notion of an automobile purpose-built for luxurious distance driving while also incorporating performance handling felt revolutionary. Maserati lauds the idea that its 2018 GranTurismo is neither impressively fast (0 to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds) nor preposterously powerful. It is, however, freshly redesigned with a deep-cut oval front grille that eagerly inhales and a side profile that pays homage to the historic Tipo 60/62 “Birdcage” race car. Sumptuous in its interior, the GranTurismo is a pleasure rather than a puzzle behind the wheel.
Price from $134,300
Engine 4.7-liter V8
Power 454 hp
Porsche 911 GT3
Best manual transmission
Step aside paddle shifters. Yes, that’s right, a manual gearbox and clutch pedal is in production in the form of the 2018 911 GT3.
A legacy, the 911 GT3 found its way into Porsche’s lineup 19 years ago, less 145 horsepower and minus nearly a half cylinder. The naturally aspirated engine remains horizontally opposed over the center-lock back wheels, and the six-speed manual transmission zeros in on nostalgic memories of learning to drive a manual car. Immensely practical and downright fun, its short shift-throws allow the car to playfully enter and exit corners in a way oft reserved for floor clutches. With two seats and a duo of long gears in both first and second, the 911 GT3 may not have much competition when it comes to manual transmissions, but the thoughtfulness behind
the design and the Stuttgart-helmed status quo excellence behind the engineering have created a winning engine/transmission combination. The power to weight ratio (6.4 pounds per horsepower), it’s worth noting, is near motorsport levels. May the clutch popping begin.
Price from $143,600
Engine 4.0-liter V6
Power 500 hp
Best hardtop coupe/convertible
The Portofino promises both a true coupe and a true drop-top experience; heady words from the Prancing Horse. But the Maranello, Italy–flagship institution delivers in the form of a front engine 2+2 that’s the replacement for the beloved Ferrari California T.
Rather than focusing on a three-box design — the California T had a definitive end to the passenger compartment and a third “box” for the trunk — the 2018 Portofino embraces the curvilinear lines that flow from engine through driver and back to the trunk-lid line. When the hard top is up, a singular stroke can be tracked from nose to tail. When the roof is down, the trunk creases lead to the rear passenger compartment headrest area.
The finely crafted, on-brand, high-humming machine rides exceptionally well regardless of roof placement. Mindful design cues, such as side paneling meant to disguise the wheel-well bulk, vertical slats on the outer edge of each headlight to reduce drag by forcing pressure through the wheel spokes, and a magnesium-made hardtop roof to reduce weight all result in a six percent decrease in drag from the California T and slightly increased maximum speed of 198 mph.
Price from $210,783
Engine 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8
Power 600 hp
Range Rover SVAutobiography
Best infotainment system
Although the magnificently insightful infotainment system officially known as InControl Touch Pro Duo now comes standard on all 2018 Range Rover models, why not opt for the edition that includes the pair of front-row 10-inch screens, as well as an extraordinary back row that incorporates another couple of 10-inch screens with 4G Wi-Fi connectivity that can be enjoyed with four feet of legroom and 40-degree reclining seats?
In the front cabin of the Range Rover SVAutobiography, the bottom angled screen to the right of the steering column admittedly takes some acclimatization. Gone is the vast array of overwhelming buttons, controls and knobs. There’s something very Steve Jobsian about the setup, which allows drivers to multitask without overcomplication or distraction. The top screen can navigate to dinner while the bottom can control the temperature of the seats and interior or play music.
While keeping your champagne chilled on the way to the party (the rear refrigerator holds two bubbly-sized bottles), back-seat passengers can recline and allow the front-seat headrest screens and their multiple USB ports to tend to their every charging need.
Price from $207,900
Engine 5.0-liter supercharged V8
Power 557 hp