Expensive, fast, and as comfortable as relaxing in your favourite armchair, luxury cars might only be obtainable by a few, but they have a huge impact on the car industry as a whole. Here we look at what’s in store from the next generation of a manufacturer’s flagship model, and what it means for drivers as a whole.
The recent Frankfurt Motor Show has reinforced where cars are heading, and that’s towards an electric future. The likes of the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS is effectively a new look at the company’s famous S-Class - a long-term byword for large executive models.
And electric motors make great sense in luxurious models. A Rolls Royce for example is renowned for its almost silent drive. Its engineers would no doubt welcome a move to a quieter powertrain. Electric motors make far less noise than even the most refined petrol or diesel engine, as it’s tricky to keep the noise and vibrations from the thousands of tiny explosions quiet.
Driving range has been the sticking point until recently, where manufacturers are now comfortably able to offer a real-world range of 300 miles on a single charge. The ability to increase that further, and reduce charging times, is being constantly developed, and next year’s Porsche Taycan is an example of how quickly things are moving forward.
A range of almost 300 miles is complemented by charging times of around 10-15 minutes - about ideal for any trip. A driver will likely need a break before the Taycan does, and by the time they’ve stretched their legs, grabbed a spot of refreshment, and made use of the facilities, the car will have another 250+ miles available.
The Mercedes - although a concept - does more than 430 miles on a charge. Add in Jaguar’s confirmation that its XJ replacement will be all-electric, and encouraging noises from the likes of Rolls Royce, Bentley, and Aston Martin, and it’s clear that luxury EVs are on their way.
Reports of driverless cars are regularly published, with predictions as to when they will arrive varying wildly depending on who’s looked into the technology. Considering how difficult it is to make a car drive by itself, don’t expect fully autonomous cars any time soon. When they do arrive, though, you can expect them to start rolling out on the top models.
Until then, advanced driver assist systems will be fitted to the next generation of models. We already have adaptive cruise control with lane keep assist on a number of cars, which can control speed and keep the car in position in traffic jams or along a motorway. The driver always needs a hand on the wheel, but it can reduce fatigue over long distances or in heavy traffic.
Next generation models will get all the technology needed for fully-autonomous driving, even if legally they can’t be used yet. Over-the-air updates such as those used by Tesla, mean that a car can be improved while parked on a driveway, with tweaks to software fitted. Should laws be changed to allow driverless cars on the road - either in general or in defined areas - these systems could then be unlocked.
Flagship models such as the S-Class have long been pioneers in automotive technology. What appears in a new generation of luxury vehicles is often then found in the following generation or two of more conventional models.
Larger screens are coming, but mainly for passengers. Manufacturers are taking into account the safety impact of having so many information sources for the driver to look at and understand. Easier controls and key information displayed in a driver’s line of sight are trends that are coming through.
Here, technology such as augmented reality displays, gesture control, and natural voice commands are being fitted to the latest and future generations of luxury car. Improving technology means these become less gimmicky and more useful as they are developed. If you want to find out what the next version of Ford’s Focus will offer, it’s a good start to look at features fitted to the likes of the S-Class, Audi’s A8, and the BMW 7 Series on sale now.
1st of January 2019