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Bryan
Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #72: The end, and the beginning, of the luxury car

Nine years and one month ago, I drove a ’76 Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman from Columbus to Houston at the behest of notable car collector (and brother to our Community Manager) Sanjay Mehta. That’s the short version of the story; the long version involves three Southwest flights, a mechanical breakdown in Nashville, a minor mental breakdown in Memphis, an unforgettable party with a young woman who went on to be some kind of alt-country-music star, and a deeply embarrassing interlude in which I attempted to sell my soul to the devil in the parking lot of a Church’s Chicken. I suppose you had to be there ...

 

Read the full column on Hagerty.com:

https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/avoidable-contact-72-the-end-and-the-beginning-of-the-luxury-c...

35 REPLIES 35
nobody
New Driver

Haven't achieved the luxury, but have found ample comfort and lack of sporting pretensions in my '17 Accord Hybrid.  Love both my BRZ and my wife's 2nd-gen Fit, but while they're fun on country roads, they're grating on a commute or road trip.  The Accord makes the perfect antidote to these:  sufficient power and competent handling, but quiet (unless you're wringing it out), smooth ride, and about as spacious a sedan as you'll find shy of the biggest luxobarges.  Turn on the local classical/jazz station and soak up the miles.

 

I can't understand nearly every reviewer's unwavering focus on whether the most mundane of vehicles is sufficiently sporty.  Is the steering slightly numb in your Highlander?  The shifts a bit slow in your Sonata?  Maybe the exhaust note on your F150 could use some tweaking?  Is this a product of the American notion that every car must be and do everything (causing most people to buy compact CUVs that do nothing particularly well?).

 

There's a place for sport, and a place for utility, and a place for comfort.  Having a couple of complementary cars lets each shine in its own way and gives the driver some variety.

CJinSD
Advanced Driver

I regularly read EV shills claiming that the appeal of Teslas and Tarpons lies in their ICE exceeding performance, but I have yet to be so much as passed by one on the interstate. I glance suspiciously towards them in my side view mirrors before attempting lane changes, concerned that their drivers may harness their instantaneous torque to close the gaps I'm entering. It hasn't happened yet. I'm also still waiting to see one merge with authority, or jack-rabbit away from a stop light. 

 

I used to have a commute on the I15 between San Diego and Escondido. The fast movers in the left two lanes covered ground at eighty to one hundred miles an hour in their Accords, F-150s, and Priuses. The slowest cars on the road were generally Tesla Models S. I assumed it was because they were commuting to Riverside and needed to avoid performance EVs' ability to drain their batteries in less than twenty minutes. I'm not sure that explains why they're never driven with the aggression often seen among German sedan and SUV drivers.

 

Eventually, someone with some testosterone is going to wind up behind the wheel of a Tesla or Toblerone. When that happens, I hope it has those planet-raping R-compound tires. Without them, they're five thousand pound SCUD missiles. 

PanEuropean
Navigator

Hello Jack:

 

I smiled when I read your column -  you have hit the nail on the head.

 

The last car that I owned that I truly enjoyed was my VW Phaeton with a W12 - I kept it for 10 years after I bought it new, hoping that VW would change their mind and bring it back to North America.  No such luck.  I had the honour of meeting you in person at a Phaeton owner get-together in Chicago (or maybe Detroit?) in 2005 or 2006.

 

Last week I put a deposit down on a Genisis G90 - the first worthy successor to the Phaeton, in my opinion.  Maybe we'll meet again at a G90 owner get-together.

 

 

Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

Ah, it's good to see you out and about again on the automotive internet! If you're buying a G90 I feel doubly reassured, both in my choice and in the likelihood of there being someone who knows how to fix it.
MarkyC
New Driver

I owned a '76 Caddy in the late '70s and I loved it.  Mine had a black and white velour striped interior that was soft and warm.  What surprised me about it was its durability.  The Luxury was a given, but it just ran and ran and ran.  Cadillac, "if your listening," get rid of all those MBAs and hire some "old school" car lovers to get your Mojo back.

Tsaxman
Detailer

In 19 hundred and 80, a buddy and I delivered a brand new, Desert Sand-colored Cadillac Sedan De Ville from Detroit to L.A., with a stop in Lincoln to play basketball with some Cornhuskers (and shower) and an overnight stay in Boulder, Colorado to visit one of my former classmates. It was one of those "drive away" services that apparently allowed buyers to avoid teamster delivery costs.

We had a full tank of gas and five days to get there. Because we were in our early 20s, energetic and with an agenda, it only took us two days to go cross-country, so we had three days in L.A. to tool around in that fabulously huge car before dropping it off at a dealer on Sepulveda. It was huge but flawless, and although the ride was really soft, it was comfortable and fast enough while plying the mountains and desert.

That said, now that my summer daily driver is a Porsche 911 4S, I could never go back to driving something like that. The softest I would accept would be an AMG Benz.

topside
Detailer

Ah, the good old days, before cars had to be Swiss Army Knives burdened with every notion of technology, bragging rights, modern inconveniences, support systems for the focus-impaired, political correctness, and origami details. I remember Dad's '70 Imperial LeBaron, which he'd bought possibly to satisfy his inner Depression-kid's acknowledgement that he had Arrived in Business; that car was exquisitely comfortable on the highways, and gave off the distinct impression that it was up for LA-to-NY probably more than its occupants were.

Flashman
Instructor

Porsche Toucan; I love it!

CarciergeGlenn
Intermediate Driver

Well said.  I look at the Toyota Century, and despite its size, I see what Packard might have been had it survived.  Unabashedly comfortable, reliable, discreet and luxurious.  Not sporting.  Genesis G90 as well, but of course the Toyota is hand-built at a level which Rolls-Royce gave up when it set up a sort of a mass production facility in Goodwood (compared to what the cars had been of course), plus the Toyota (and I'm sure the G90) are - um, actually reliable.  What a novel idea.  

SilentBoy741
Advanced Driver

Wait, wait, wait... let's go back to that embarrassing interlude story for a moment...

Alphasud
New Driver

I miss all the cars that used to have a distinctive feel. Where a Saab drove like a Saab or a Alfa Romeo or pick your German car of choice. I miss when manufacturers built cars to cater to a particular audience. Now every manufacturer has to built a car that tries to please everybody. 
I love all cars and now I find myself ditching the Cayenne Turbo for a old 560 SEL, or my 65 Corvair Corsa, or my 71 Beetle. If I need utility I grab the F350. None of these vehicles need to make an excuse or try to be something they’re not. You can keep your electronic laden vehicles I’m going analog!  

fshearer
New Driver

I agree totally. I enjoy looking down my nose at current so called "luxury cars" when I am out driving my 1966 Imperial. The modern cars have no idea of what real luxury is.

azsuperwrench
Passenger

Bought brand new for $10,500. 1976 Fleetwood Brougham. Brown elk grain roof over fire mist copper with a saddle leather interior. My wife would come down to our Getty Station on Saturday to wash it. She still has a hard time explaining how she drove it. We now have a 2020 Honda CRV. Ha.

Fella around the corner had an El Dora version, blue over white. Those were the days.

Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

Oh man, that was the color combination to have, then or now!
Jneal3
Pit Crew

Lusted after this Caddy when I was 16, to the horror of my Air Force brigadier General uncle who thought I was on my way to being a pimp and suggested a Mustang. Cornering lights and dial-set auto climate control - what’s not to love?

86
Intermediate Driver

I wasn't going to read this article as I have no interest in luxury vehicles which is just as well being as I can't afford them. But your photo reminded me of my brief ownership of a 1977 Sedan DeVille that I was given by my grandmother in-law at the time. The car was in stereotypically mint condition and it sort of made me feel like a big shot driving it. I'd never driven a car so big, so luxurious, and which had such a soft ride and lack of road feel. That last characteristic came back to bite me as I tried evade a wasp from doing so on my way home from work one day. Trying to shoo the intruder out the window from which it entered I wound up driving off the road and into a tree without even realizing what was happening until it happened. Fortunately I wasn't going that fast and the bulk of the car soaked up the impact in a way that left me more damaged emotionally than the car was physically. I wound up selling the car rather than repair it and regret doing so. It was an easy chair on wheels - totally antithetical to what became my preferred automotive aesthetic - but it was Das Boot and I sometimes miss it.  As always, your wit infused writing that blends the personal and professional into something of a contrarian perspective made for an enjoyable read ... and in this case a fond if somewhat lamentable reminiscence. 
ed
Detailer

I had a '70 Continental 4-door with the big 460 V-8.  I bought it on a whim for $900 from a man desperately divorcing Susan.  It was purpose-built to be a big, luxurious tank, with no pretense of sport or modesty or even basic practicality, and was well-suited to the task.  Even had the auto-dim hi-beam headlights, a rarity for the times.  Sometimes I would put on a suit and drive my hippie girlfriend around as her chauffeur.  Playing to the crowd, I would dutifully open the door for the lady.  Smoke and the smell of cannabis would smog the air, and as I handed the keys to a valet, the cosmopolitans would stare when the driver accompanied the madam into the restaurant and had dinner with her.  Worlds collided.  It is difficult to imagine an affordable 21st century vehicle that could serve the same theater.

 

61Rampy
Advanced Driver

Two things about that top photo: First, it's parked like a typical Caddy driver would (taking up multiple spaces, and Second, there seems to be lots of fluid (antifreeze?) emanating from under the car. Is that why the A/C wasn't used? Or because it was used?

I agree with everything you wrote, by the way.

Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

The water pump died somewhere on 65 South, but that big 500 ran cool enough on the move to not need it. Soon as I throttled off and came up the off-ramp for the Franklin, TN Waffle House, it popped a house and declared Code Red.
Rider79
Instructor

The G90 a "...big ugly slug of a sedan..."?  To my eyes, it is hardly ugly - it is rather attractive (wheels aside), in an appropriately restrained way (consistent with the nature of the car).

 

I would like the 5.0 also, but it would have to be AWD - which is available, of course.  And, yep, too bad about the Continental leaving again.

JSievers
Advanced Driver

Twisting the facts to support your hypothesis is just poor journalism. Both Mercedes and BMW offer luxury versions of the S-Class and 7-Series without spoilers, blackout trim or other performance accoutrements. In fact, these models are the least expensive versions in their respective lines, although they can be optioned up to significantly higher levels of luxury by careful selections from the option list. As to the G90, the restyled 2020 model is a stunning creation, not a “big ugly slug of a car.” I don’t disagree with the point you are trying to make, but your abuse of the facts detracts from your argument.

Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

By starting with an S450 and carefully negotiating the options list, it's possible to make a $122,000 luxury car with about the same level of passenger accommodation as the Black Label Conti with the rear seat package. You're absolutely correct. However, I think you hit the nail on the head when you point out that you need to start with the cheapo model in order to do that. I'm going to steal your idea for a column next week --- building stealth comfort cars the way people used to build COPO Chevrolets --- but can you see how it also reinforces what I'm saying that the only way to get a non-track-edition S-Class is through manipulation of the options on what is basically the Cadillac Calais of the lineup?
Sajeev
Community Manager

And to Jack's point I bet a fully-decked out S450 is gonna depreciate harder than just about any other S-class, save for the S65. It'd be less so if MB made a more expensive model with all the "right luxobarge" stuff that can be appraised in the same way a SE-grade Camry is over a Camry LE. 

Germanicus
Intermediate Driver

My first thought when I sat in a Genesis G90 was "oh, this is the car Cadillac and Lincoln should've built." That being said, I haven't reached the birthday where a copy of Steely Dan's Aja on vinyl is automatically mailed to your address, so the G90 is not the car for me.

 

The Genesis G70 is thus much more my style. I test-drove one recently and loved it. More than enough power on the street with the V6, good handling, and great ride quality considering the wheel and tire package it was on. Sure, the trunk space and rear seat is poor, which is a bummer if you have to haul around the gargantuan accoutrements of modern children. But those areas are very similar in size to the E46 3-Series.

 

I hope Genesis gets the time and space to succeed. It's very much an uphill battle for them despite their great product. They have to battle the mindshare that Tesla has in this part of the market, while also being saddled with Hyundai dealers to sell and service said product. 

Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

and get a full-sized car. And you're right, the dealers are the worst part of it. Hyundai was not adequately careful with their franchise choices in the Excel days and the current service level reflects that. Stand-alone Genesis dealers would have been the right move, because the product absolutely supports it. 
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

My comment got chopped, the beginning was that I would love Genesis to make the six-speed manual a V6 option. If they make me take an auto with the V6 I will go all the way and...
Germanicus
Intermediate Driver

Genesis have tried to get around the unpleasant fact of their dealer network with corporate initiatives, e.g. Genesis Concierge, Service Valet. But ultimately the dealer sells and services the car. It's a bit like claiming your website is mobile-optimized because you redesigned the front page but the rest of the site still doesn't have a mobile-optimized layout.
vweals
Pit Crew

It's kind of scary that you make perfect sense, Jack. Very few automotive writers these days actually write about automobiles. You nailed it

mhealy1
Detailer

As a teen I always turned my nose up at those luxo-barges. At least outwardly. Inwardly, I marveled at the modern interpretation of the ‘38 60 Special. While they weren’t much for cornering, they made up for that in their ability to rocket down the Interstate in supreme isolation. The 500 c.i. engine would last forever if the oil was changed religiously; livery cars we serviced would run 300,000 miles with ease. The front seats were superbly comfortable and the back seats were, ah, usefully accommodating.  If only I could stuff one into my modern-car downsized garage...

2erobrd
Passenger

ok, I appreciate all the comments but too much rambling going on there.  I 100% agree that there is no match for the Fleetwood but the Lincoln Town Cars are still something to be looked at and only at a fraction of the price.  I know there will be some eye rolling for anyone reading this but Lincoln has the basic plush necessities for both the driver and the passengers and they run like an expensive swiss sewing machine.  I love the Luxury, plush seats, quiet power, sub zero AC, comfort and space and most of all standard sized tires to absorb the american highway's imperfections.  Leave the skinny tires to those euro-cars with crouched cabins.

woodyambison
Pit Crew

Hey Gang,

Love real cars, real LUXury Cars pick any pre 1980 American manufacterer was always partial to the Lincolns and pre '66 Imperials. I've told all my gear head friends and any else who'd listen IF anyone dared to ditch the tupperware styling party and made a real FULL SIZE CAR that looked like a real car they could sell every one of them. Forget the electrics wrong vibe (for me).

hearsedriver
Intermediate Driver

i dont care how much bling or features you put in an econobox or downsized car. it aint luxury. a plush leather closet is still a closet. i am somewhat opinionated though. owned a 68 new yorker, 75 towncar, and 88 deville over the years. you would not look stupid being chauffeured in one of those. my current big cars are hearses and you dont want to be chauffeured in one of them, though ROFL

DoctorV8
New Driver

Agree 100%. The first time I jumped in a Wraith after getting out of my Model S, I was dismayed that the otherwise highly pedigreed twice turbo'd V12 felt sluggish and (gasp!) noisy compared to the P85D. If only some automaker would take Jack's advice posthaste! Otherwise, I might be convinced to just convert all my old big block Lincolns over to EV power and be done with it.

spoom
Technician

A RWD G90 may sound like a good luxury car to some, but not where it snows. Is there a race class for luxury cars? If not, and the G90 had come out as a front drive vehicle, I would have bought one first year, and might be on my second one by now. 

Michaels_Caddys
Pit Crew

Jack, A very eloquent article on the history and current state of the modern luxury car segment. I grew up and learned to drive in full size Cadillacs, including a '76 Fleetwood Brougham which was technically my first car, having driven my Dad's in high school and college. If you can drive a 70s Cadillac, you can drive anything not requiring a CDL. It wasn't "cool" or "fast"; Firethorn red with a white vinyl top earned it the nickname "whitehead", as it matched by bad acne at the time. But, I certainly was popular among high school teammates who needed a ride home after practice. Friends often wondered why Dad didn't buy a Mercedes 560SEL; it was because he valued the plush, comfortable, lumbering ride that Cadillac had mastered over 70+ years more than performance, handling or road feel. He didn't want to "feel the road"! Road isolation was enhanced when hydroplaning during heavy rains, which all the 70s land yachts were prone to do. I also think Cadillac represented a good "value-for money" at the time compared to Mercedes and certainly compared to RR & Bentley. You got room, comfort, quiet, leather, basic-but-fun gadgetry, adequate power (for the time), and brand cache.
At 6'6", 30 years older and 30 pounds heavier, I appreciate luxury cars more than I did in high school, which is why Cadillacs from the 60s through mid-90s make up most of my modest collection today, including a 76 Fleetwood Brougham nearly identical to my Dad's. I keep trying to find a full size luxury-sport collector vehicle, like a '67 Impala SS or 65 Riviera, but once you've driven a Cadillac... I also agree that Genesis G90 is the closest modern equivalent to old-school luxury sedans, with the added bonus of costing 20-30% less than comparable sedans in the class. It's just... that grill!
I splurged on a new 2019 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L two years ago, which I thought was superior to the Escalade at that time, especially those 30+ way, power, heated & cooled, massaging seats! (I haven't seen or driven the new generation Escalade). Genesis was still an unknown entity, and I wanted cargo and towing capabilities as well as luxury. Based on the F150 platform, while it is a smooth, comfortable ride with surprising torque, it still has truck underpinnings and ride quality. The luxury-sport sedan compromise I am living with now is a 2012 BMW 750iL I purchased in June 2020. Very roomy (front and rear), firm but comfortable seats, plenty of power & handling capabilities for daily drives and long road trips. BMW's electronic gadgetry hadn't gotten ridiculous or redundant yet. The clincher for me was I found one in dark green with saddle leather; not black, or grey, or silver, or white. So while its silhouette matches just about everything else out there, I should be able to find it in a parking lot. The compromise is, you must learn BMW-ology in order to understand features and their controls, and be fanatical with preventative maintenance, beyond what BMW's "vehicle status" feature recommends.
Thank you again for profiling an old, underappreciated car that I love.
Michael