Conspicuous consumption is probably as old as time itself. In lean times, such as the era which we have suddenly found ourselves in, things tend to get a bit less ostentatious. But wealthy people aren’t going to disappear overnight. Luxury automakers will continue to exist. And so will upscale trims and nonessential features.
Do any of those aforementioned things appeal to you? In my case, they don’t. Not completely anyway. Let me explain.
My inspiration for this post came after a realization. I’ve never owned a top tier trim level car of any sort, at least until my 1986 Ford Taurus LX entered my life. The “Raging Bull” is missing the Instaclear windshield heater, a moonroof, and one or two other features. But it does have leather, the electronic instrument cluster, digital climate controls, and Ford’s premium sound system.
By contrast, my daily drivers have all been relatively lower spec models. My 1989 Taurus wagon was a mid-level GL and my 1997 Sable, which was pretty decently equipped for my needs, was still the less expensive GS model.
It’s the same story with my current daily driver (or in our new reality, it’s more of a daily sitter, am I right?). While not completely devoid of luxury, the Focus is an SE model with several standalone options. I picked this Focus because I wanted heated cloth seats. In broad terms, I could do without some features many people covet. Leather never really appealed to me too much and my infotainment system can be extremely basic as long as it has a USB interface for my iPod Touch and Bluetooth audio for my phone conversations. I’m a bit old fashioned in that I like having dedicated devices like a music player or GPS device instead of doing everything on my phone. I don’t really see my tastes shifting too much when it comes time to replace the Focus.
There are of course two different types of automotive luxury. First, you’ve got luxury through features and optional equipment. Additionally, there are automakers explicitly focused on luxury, performance, or some combination of the two. The latter also never interested me that much.
If a psychotherapist analyzed me they’d probably conclude that my relative distaste for higher priced vehicles stems from being raised in a single parent, literally blue collar household, plus my political leanings. I think there’s a simpler explanation though. Cool cars will always be cool and that gets boring after awhile. What’s my definition of cool, at least in automotive terms? A vehicle that is visually attractive and desirable on the merits. Many of cars fall under this umbrella. Sports cars of all ages, many luxury vehicles, and exotics like the ones in the above picture. And performance variants of family vehicles qualify too. Curbside Classic has yet to fully write up the history of the Taurus SHO. It’s no surprise as to why. Those will always be desirable models. And this community values the cars that don’t traditionally get the respect they deserve all with all the other stuff. The best of both worlds.
I don’t hate luxury brands simply because they exist. I’m just interested in the ones with more appealing stories to tell right now. Like the ones who seem to be gaining traction (Genesis and Lincoln), the basket cases (Cadillac), and the yet to be introduced (Rivian). I also like when established luxury automakers jump into a new segment, so products like the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Taycan have me paying attention to companies I’d normally ignore.
Anyway, that’s my stance on automotive luxury. What’s yours?