Note: Originally written in November 2013
The cars that state that you've arrived in Life
This is one of those impromptu thoughts that come up as you look at a newly unveiled car. It has come to tradition in the automotive market and enthusiast realms that when any new car comes out, one determines, wearing the big judge's hat, the philosophy for the sheer existence of that car. This happens with no regard to whatever market segment and buyer group the manufacturer of the car is actually pitching the car at. I'm guessing it's just an extraction of the basic human nature of judgement and philosophy and applying that to things. We tend to deliberate and decide where the car exactly fits in the automotive world, who it is defined for, and what element the car brings into the buyer's life.
Come to think of it, the last bit exactly defines automotive enthusiasm. The understanding and appreciation that automobiles aren't just machines taking one from point A to point B, but just another variation in humanity's eternal effort to express itself and in return, derive a meaning to its existence and purpose. So here goes, another such elaborate attempt to 'judge' cars and find some sense in them.
Imagine what it is like to have truly arrived in life. Well, one basic definition has it that you become rich enough to lavish yourselves with whatever expensive thing you set eyes upon, but often there's a huge variety in the way you can splurge your money. Most people get rich after years of hard toiling, some get lucky through raffles and stocks, and there's others who have the creative talent to grab a million eyeballs and eardrums, and get filthy rich. In the cases where there's a rags to riches story attached, its completely understandable that the money is plonked on the most popular car in town, or the most powerful one. Usually, there's a dream involved there and that's not to be messed with (I'm just saying this, coz that's what I'd do!). Then, there are the cases where folks are usually bored with just the sheer amount of money they have. That brings us to the extremely weird choices - where the committees for the prevention of cruelty to innocent cars have actually some hard work to do - banning awkward and repelling paint jobs, horrendous mods, hypnotizing wheels, the works.
Then, we have the kind of people who have actually arrived in Life. They've the money, but they also have the wisdom to plonk it on the nicest of things, the most needy of places and the most deserving of people. Their idea of a nice time involves smiling back at a rising sun after an early morning hike to the top of a mountain, working halfway around the world in a nature park to save penguins, watching their kids grow up, ensuring good art lasts, etc. Their idea of a good car involves elegant design, just enough power and potency to cruise continents, cabin quality to let them drive through the day and arrive at a candlelight dinner unfazed, and the capacity to deliver a moment with a sunset at the end of a winding road, with a few 'driving pleasure' smiles thrown in enroute.If you're one such person, here's the definitive list of cars for you. Or I could even put it this way; if you find yourself desiring these cars, then here's your psychological brief. Cancel that trip to the shrink!
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe
This is the car that actually inspired me to write this piece. The S-class sedan is probably the segment leader in luxury cars at this price before Rolls/Bentley territory kicks in. Every A-lister or wannabe A-lister, one day, buys the sedan. And doesn't buy this one, the Coupe. That way, this car bags exclusivity. What it also bags is; one, the classic coupe stance, two, all the tech and luxury Merc has to offer, but above all, three, a subtle beauty and slight anonymity of being just a 'blink-and you miss it-two door' luxury car amidst its competition. That makes it the right choice for an "arrived" person to drive, use, not show off, fall in love with, and not care for what the world has to say!
Jaguar F-Type Roadster
The successor to the venerable E-Type, a car that would have its pride of place among the most desirable cars ever, has got to be something right? This car is that, and a few things more. Seldom has there been a car that fuses rich heritage with comtemporary technology and manages to have an evocative design. Add to that, Jaguar did the unthinkable and revealed the convertible first, more so in a world where convertibles are increasingly going the hard-top way. They then plonked in engines which felt overpowering for the chassis and priced it right up in the stratosphere, amidst obvious choices like the Porsche 911. This meant that it ended up being this uncommon, pricey, raw, fiesty car which looks like a cross between Gemma Arterton, Keira Knightley, and Kate Winslet!
BMW 8-Series Coupe
To be brief, all that I'd stated for the Merc S Class coupe stands absolutely valid for this one. Okay, change the grilles, the body panels, and the badge, and voila! Same soul, new shape. It probably is a little more driver centric, given the fact that it's a Beemer inherently. Also, the 8 series loses some of the stodgy looks of the 6 series rendering looks that are way more pleasing. Sheer class!
This car actually takes place on this list owing to this one night I spent in South Mumbai (Colaba, the poshiest of places in India). Amidst a slew of Rolls Royces, Jaguars, and Bentleys on the roads, one A8, not chaffeur driven, had a very refreshing charm to it. Think of it, it looks slightly utilitarian yet correctly stylish. It is not aggressively regale like a Jaguar XJ, neither is it as commonplace as a Merc S Class (that night, I swear I saw a Hotel Parking lot full of S Classes!). The BMW 7 series? Well, I saw a movie where Carmen Electra plays a famous porn star who rides in a 7-er. Enough said. Thus, the A8 - a perfect fit for the working executive who believes he can drive his luxobarge to work and still remain cool.
Aston Martin DB9
How can I make a list and not include the very car that defines that list! This is probably the car, that started the trend of 'at-ease, not-caring, supremely-capable and super-stylish' grand touring cars. And it has its own special self amidst the row of overtly classy and spangling Aston Martins. Its not puny or entry-level like the Vantage, and not excessively grandiose like the Vanquish, the Db11, the Virage, or the DBS. Its not bullying like the Ferrari F12, neither is it 'barely there' like the Jaguar XK. Simple, elegant and just right.
Spyker C8 Preliator
They say life is all about the details. An eye for the tiny and interesting details that fill up the mundane is what defines the ones who've truly arrived in life. And talk of automotive detailing is never complete, without a reference to the dazzling line up of cars Spyker has been rolling out. The C8 felt like stumbling upon Michelangelo amidst a crowd full of abstract graffiti artists. Spyker followed that up with the Preliator edition. Sitting in a meticulously handcrafted cockpit and having the chance to look at a working lever mechanism in the flesh, everytime you change a gear is truly something, innit?
Alfa Romeo 8C
Firstly, you have a brand that stands tall amongst the oldest in the business, with rich heritage in terms of design, style, engineering and racing, and then, you have the contemporary audacity of blatantly braving financial turmoil and still churn out extremely stylish cars, let alone, make a station wagon look like Monica Bellucci. The 8C is what happens when that brand makes a car they deem to be worthy of calling their ultimate flagship. A V8 engine, rear wheel drive, and a body that God wouldn't mind being seen inside. Yet it had its own mighty flaws like every other Alfa did, and that gave this car, its character. This is probably the car that you need to arrive in life, not what you buy after arriving!
Owing to the shift of convertible car market-share towards hotter regions like the Middle East and South East Asia, and with rapid transition towards hard topped cars, the classic fabric-roofed convertible remains a dying breed. This, more so, is the case with the four seater convertible. Pictures of four seater convertibles (Saabs, I guess) and their long, sleek silhouettes against skylines are my earliest memories of lusting after cars. This car, is exactly that, and is probably the only specimen left, as far as I can think of. There's no special mention needed for a Maserati on desirability gradesheets, but this is the only car with a fabric roof and a 'not-fat' rear end. It's got the art and the fashion, but what it also has in oodles is nonchalance.
The Cool Wall
The point with these cars is, they speak a lot about the owner's preference of style in getting from point A to point B, but they also speak about their preferences before point A and after point B. In addition, I may dare say this; if you've been acquainted with the TopGear Cool wall, forget being cool, but Kristin Scott Thomas would actually go to dinner with you if you showed up in one of these. I'd end this on that note before a certain Mr.Clarkson decides to write/say something and embarrass me to bits.