Five Favorites for The Glamorous Life

WOI 2008 3
"Cue Shiela E, dahling!" Photo by Randy Stern

What if you lived the glamorous life?

How do I define the "glamorous life" You probably watched the plethora of reality television shows, such as "The Real Housewives of [fill in your favorite upscale metropolitan area here]" and "The A-List [fill in your favorite urban gay male enclave here]." Some of us love the fact that the bourgeois can be as real as everyone else, but with a more pretentious taste. Some of us get nauseated at this display of civility and breeding amongst the nouveau riche gone wrong.

Do participation in the glamorous life mean one has to balance the silver spoon with bad behavior? When has success become so ugly? Is being a member of the A-List mean being less than human in some relevant traits?

What does this have to do about automobiles? It goes back to the attempt to define "luxury" in both traditional and revisionist terms. Revisionist? Think about the latest round of consumers who infiltrated the entry-level premium market. The ones who thought that buying something more upscale will help their status in the world – even in the face of a global financial crisis and a recession.

Then again, there are those of us who are traditionalists. Hard earned work and money was put towards life's rewards. They want to celebrate this achievement with a vehicle that speaks to their arrival and their station in life. Luxury cars are supposed to reward the owner in the way they drive and treat them with delight.

Today's world – driven by reality television – is much more of a hybrid of both ideas about luxury. This mashup of the two may be a bit more complicated to parse out in this forum…but you may have your ideas of how this would manifest amongst luxury automobile owners.

Then again, I may be stuck in the 1970s. Hence why this Five Favorites post came about. If I lived the glamorous life – what would I drive?

So, Austin and any of you A-List Bears, step away from my car! Here's the five you would most likely see me pull up in.

1971-1979 CADILLAC: These eight years represent two distinct generations of GM's C-Body: The last of the land yachts and the first of the downsized big sedans. These represent a bridge between the classic cars of the brand and the future – perhaps the most significant models of its kind. Certainly, they were impractical (1976 models were a half foot longer than a 2011 Escalade ESV), thirsty (pre-downsized models had huge 8.2litre V8s, downsized to 7.0litres for 1977) and handled like a barge. However, they were opulent. Old American money rode these babies with enough flash per inch, though restrained in the chrome department compared to their late 1950s counterparts. Even the downsized models couldn't stem the troubles OPEC created for petrol consumers in the Western Hemisphere. General Motors had another issue on their hands…the nouveau riche.

1972-79 MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASS: Yes, the nouveau riche. They were as American as their parents, but had different tastes in luxury consumption. They feigned history having looked at the Vietnam War as a disruption upon their acquisition of wealth. They also walked away from Cadillac and Lincoln. Where did they go? They went with a brand that had a history as a former enemy's ride. Mercedes-Benz produced a better Cadillac – one with better engineering, a tauter design and relatively better fuel economy. The nouveau riche didn't mind paying a bit more, because the S-Class was worth every penny! Whether it was a petrol or diesel engine, this was the S-Class that enabled Mercedes-Benz to infiltrate the American luxury automobile market. BTW, the W116 is still a measuring stick for all Mercedes to live up to. Yes, they're that good!

1990-96 INFINITI Q45: When the Japanese arrived to ruin the luxury car party, they did so on two fronts. Toyota had Lexus to match up with Mercedes-Benz. Nissan took a different approach. They decided to be completely different in design and execution. It didn't score enough points from traditional luxury car buyers, but who cares? The Q45 was a damn good flagship for its time! One might say that it did not do well in the looks department. I could argue otherwise, because it was different – you knew it was a Q45 whether you liked it or not. What drew me to the Q-ship was the balance it executed in the cabin and on the road. Behind the wheel, I knew I was in a driver's car with more than enough room for four more very important people wrapped in sporty leather and quality touches. Then, the hammer went down on a 4.5litre V8 that was state of the art for Nissan of the time. While propelling the V8 into outer space, you treated your passengers with a very solid ride while throwing the big sedan into the corners. You arrived in harmony with the universe. That is how you approach a Q45.

2007-2012 MASERATI GRAN TURISMO: Not all vehicles required for the glamorous life have to carry passengers. You don't need an entourage or a posse to roll with. I prefer to ride alone. When I do, I'd like to make a statement upon arrival. Sometimes, I'd rather sneak in while the party is jumping. If I roll alone, I should have something that would take me there in style with plenty of firepower on board. I also like to feel comfortable upon arrival, and calm after I leave. What better way to do so in an Italian 2+2! Since not everyone is enamored with a Maserati, it's the perfect getaway machine. With either a 4.2 or 4.7litre V8 (S Models), there's enough thrust to keep me going. The Gran Turismo is also a very comfortable place to be with everything needed within reach. It's not perfect, but what is anymore? Besides, I would feel less of a [fill in your favorite anti-A-List expletive here] driving one. Seriously, would you hate anyone driving a Maserati?

2008-2012 LEXUS LS 600h L: Today's glamorous life is tinged with some guilt. As we push for a reversal of the damage the human kind made upon this planet, the glamorous people show their wealth through being sustainable. Call it "green guilt." First, it was the Toyota Prius. But, why have a Prius when you can have the greenest flagship ever made: The LS 600h. A flagship that reverses guilt, even Tony Hawk has one rolling on 22-inch rims. Under the hood is a 5.0litre V8 connected to the Lexus Hybrid Drive – an electric motor with relative performance – with a combined output of 438HP. However, since it is over 2-1/2 tons, this limousine yields an average of 20MPG. But, is it too much? Why question whether this big sedan has too much of…everything. You simply arrive in it as glamorous as you can, throw up a peace sign and get your party on.

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