Top 6 Premium Luxury Coupes
A few of you might have read my previous article where I pitched some of the best compact luxury coupes against each other.
This article will take the comparison against luxury coupes up by a few notches as it will compare the likes of the BMW 6 series, the Mercedes CL-Class, Aston Martin DB9, Ferrari California and Maserati Granturismo against each other and what are the pros and cons of each of them.
This segment of cars is exclusive and not easily accessible by mainstream buyers as they're expensive to buy and top-end versions of, for example the Mercedes CL-Class can cost as much as a Ferrari 458 Italia or a Lamborghini Gallardo.
The benefit of spending that kindu get of money on cars like these is you're essentially getting the best of both worlds - you get super car handling and engine notes with the drip dry practicality of 4 seats, decent sized boot space and a ground clearance practical for everyday driving.
So let's see, what's what...
NB While there're 4 door cars which are considered coupes too - This article will focus on 2 door coupes.
BMW 6 Series
A few of you might have read details about my test-drive of the brand new BMW 4 Series in this article and how it was released as a 2 door version of the F30 3 series. However lets not forget where this trend originally began.
Ever since the 6-series was relaunched as essentially a two-door version of the BMW 5 series during the early to mid 2000s, auto enthusiasts, critics and buyers across the world have hailed it as possibly the best looking BMW around for sale today.
Unlike the 5 series and 7 series which look like briefcases, the 6 series is astonishingly good looking car and thanks to its high price and exclusivity, if you're ever seen driving one (even if you've purchased a decent used 6 series), anyone who sees it will know your life has worked out till some extent that you wanted it to.
The current incarnation of the BMW 6 series, on the F12/13 platform (for the convertible and coupe respectively) and the F06 platform (for the 4 door Gran-coupe, which competes against the Mercedes CLS Class) is available as a 640i, 650i and the M6 (which is the most expensive M-powered BMW available today).
The BMW M6 can sprint from 0 to 100 kph in 4.6 seconds, thanks to its twin-turbo 4.3 liter V8, which churns out 560 bhp! (which is easily within Ferrari and Aston Martin territory).
In Australia, the BMW M6 Gran-coupe, sells for roughly $320,000.00 AUD to driveaway, while that sounds a lot, it is still the cheapest in its class of full size luxury coupes in the market today.
BMW M6 review by Fifth Gear UK
In my article where I wrote about the compact luxury coupes including the Mercedes C63 AMG, I had not held back a bit about how fascinated I was with the way Mercedes had upped their ante to match BMW's M-Division in the way they make cars - and in the premium luxury coupe segment, they have not let any one down at all!
For much of the 2000s, the CL Class was considered the ultimate benchmark in performance coupe luxury and handling, with the CL65 AMG being ranked by even the Guinness Book of Records as the most powerful road-legal production car in the world!
Originally conceived as a competitor for BMW's 8 Series coupe (which was essentially a 2-door version of their E38 7 Series), the CL-Class was released during the early ears of the 21st century, when much to their amazement, BMW announced it won't continue producing the 8 series coupe (a mistake which would cost them a whole marketing segment in the years to come!). Since then, the CL-Class has undergone two major face lifts (The most recent one coming in 2012-13) and the car being available as a base model CL-500 (which comes mated to a 5.5 liter V8) or the ultra-powerful CL-65 AMG (which is bolted to a twin-turbo 6 liter V12, similar to an Aston Martin DB9, but develops 1000 Nm of torque!).
Despite this immense power, the CL65 sprints from 0 - 100 kph in 4.4 seconds (only 0.2 seconds quicker than the BMW M6), primarily because like the BMW, it is still rear-wheel drive hence some of the power does get lost.
The CL-Class Mercedes is considered the 2 door version of the flagship S-Class, so its guaranteed that all technical gizmos found on an S-Class will be found on the CL - justifying how the CL-65 AMG is actually the most expensive car Mercedes sells across its entire range - with Australian selling prices exceeding $500,000.00 AUD!
Nevertheless, if you're after sophistication and discretion as against the showiness of Maserati and Ferrari - this is really the car to buy.
Mercedes CL65 AMG review by Tiff Nedell
Gone or the days when the first thing that popped into anyone's head when they thought of a Ferrari California was the legendary (and now 50+ years old) 250 GTO or the 250 California GT, a model of the latter version which was reportedly purchased by British DJ Chris Evans for roughly 5 million Sterling!
The California has to be Ferrari's most unusual car, since unlike Lamborghini, they decided to finally build something which appealed towards a 'cheap' super car audience who could also use this car everyday.
While Audi markets its R8 as a super car which one can use everyday, the Ferrari California is superior to it in every way possible and thanks to its rather conservative 4.3 liter V8 engine (which is actually the same as that found in the BMW M6 and Maserati Granturismo) which makes a decent rumble and thanks to the car's 'tiny' proportions, it truly is something one can use everyday while sporting they drive a Ferrari.
The California sports a 340 liter boot (which is comparable to a small sedan or a decent sized hatch), 4 seats and all the technological gizmos one will expect in a car of that stature.- GPS, bluetooh, cruse control and the brand new HELE system.
The Ferrari California also retails cheaper than the Mercedes CL-Class so is certainly a bargain as against the gigantic German coupe that offers the same level of practicality.
Ferrari California, Lamborghini Gallardo and Aston Martin V12 Vantage in Romania (Top Gear UK)
Perhaps one of the most beautiful looking cars with the melodiously brutal sounding engines under the hood (something like an AOR Guitar hook) - The Granturismo is Maserati's current entry into the premium coupe market. The car was launched during the late notties when they decided to upgrade from the Gransport and Cambio Corsa lineups.
The Granturismo base coupe is generally considered the Ferrari California's 'fatter' sister, considering its at least 50 cm longer than the compact California and the other dimensions are equally 'vast' in every conceivable way.
Despite the Granturismo's vast size, the car has always gathered a cult following among performance car racers who don't like a bit of a mammoth size, but then don't want to seem 'boring' in a Mercedes CLS or CL Class or too 'drug dealerish' as they might look in a Ferrari - In other words, Maserati's meant for not, as James May of Top Gear UK put it while reviewing the Merak, "new money riff raff like footballers and rock-stars, but sophisticated people".
The Granturismo's soft-top version, called the GranCabrio, is also unique among cars where the base model of the convertible is actually more powerful across the range as against the coupe - with even the base Grancabrio sporting a 4.8 liter V8 as against the 4.3 liter V8 in the hard-top base model.
The GranCabrio's available in 3 variants - with the sportiest and taut version being called the Granturismo-MC, which offers sports-profile seats and carbon fiber without sacrificing the rear-seats, while the top of the line Granturismo does sacrifice the rear seats on the Granturismo-MC Stradale.
All in all, I'd love to own a Granturismo/GranCabrio someday simply because of the engine note - A word of caution though, these are hard to maintain as problems do begin to occur after roughly 50,000 km or so.
Maserati Granturismo review on Fifth Gear UK
Aston Martin DB9
There's probably no petrol head in this world who has not heard or has not followed the development of Aston Martin over the last 49 years - since the time we saw James Bond driving his DB5 in Goldfinger, trying to escape Auric Goldfinger's henchmen.
Thanks to Ian Fleming's most famous creation, Aston Martins have always been the cars which one can call, a 'gentleman's racer'.
The DB9 has been in existence since at least 2003-2004, when Aston decided to drop the DB7 in retaliation to Ferrari's announcement they were upgrading the 550 Maranello to the improved 575M.
The DB9 is one car which is closest in comparison to the Maserati GranCabrio/Granturismo or the Ferrari California in terms of its 4-person seating and boot-space - it actually fits perfectly in between the compact and cheap Ferrari and the large Maserati. However, that's when things really begin to look different - The Aston is mated to a monstrous 6 liter V12 which churns out in excess of 500 PS and catapults the car from 0 to 100 kph in 4.6 seconds. Aston also claim that they redesigned the entire car ground up without altering the looks including the installation of the new AM11 engine.
Despite the ownership of Aston Martin by Ford and the use of a Volvo Navigation system on board, none of the unique British touches to its styling and luxury have been done away with - this truly is one luxury coupe with the reliability of British engineering which has truly stood the test of time, style and elegance.
The DB9 is available as either a hardtop (which can have the backseats removed) or the cabriolet (or what Aston call the 'Volante') is retails at a price similar to the Maserati and Ferrari California.
Aston Martin DB9 on Top Gear UK (Race to Monte Carlo)
Bentley Continental GT
Often mocked as a pro footballer's car due to its large muscular proportions, the Continental GT was released in 2003 when Bentley was taken over the Volkswagen Group.
Priced in exactly the same bracket as the Ferrari California, Maserati Granturismo and the Aston Martin DB9, the Continental GT was released as a successor the Continental R, which during the 90's and early notties was Bentley's performance car of the time, but to high prices at the time, the car was out of reach for most consumers.
The Continental GT essentially transformed Bentley's image and brand-positioning and thanks to Volkswagen deciding to manufacture the Continental GT across a shared platform as a VW Phaeton (which was at the time considered the 'S-Class Mercedes' of the VW Group), production costs were kept low, enabling Bentley to mass produce the car which easily appealed to a wider market, including keen interest from emerging markets.
The Continental GT also has the most powerful engine setup among the full size luxury coupes - a 6 liter W12! (although an Audi derived 4 liter V8 for the budget conscious owner is available too) and thanks to a high riding height and big boot-space, it easily is drive-able in a variety of driving conditions, with the Continental GT-Speed (for example) being available with 4 wheel drive and easily able to traverse rally-style gravel surfaces with easy.
The only drawback in the Continental is its size (with the Mercedes CL class and the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe being only marginally larger) and its fuel consumption but the rest of the car is pretty sort after and sturdy and a decent buy for someone who doesn't wish to be stuck in the 'low slung' super car rut.