June 19, 2014
2014 Luxury Flagships. Click image to enlarge
2014 Jaguar XJL
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged
2014 Lexus LS 460 F Sport
2014 Mercedes-Benz S 550
2014 Porsche Panamera S e-Hybrid
Review by Peter Bleakney, Lesley Wimbush, Jacob Black and Jonathan Yarkony
Photos by Chris Coughlin and Jonathan Yarkony
Introduction, Peter Bleakney
Whenever a new Mercedes-Benz S-Class breaks cover, kings, captains of industry and, well, everyone else takes notice. We sure did here at Autos.ca. We snagged a 2014 S 550 as soon as it entered the Merc press fleet, with plans of a mega comparo brewing in our collective craniums.
Our long wheelbase S 550 carried a base price of $115,200. A slew of packages, including the requisite bits for the much-hyped semi-autonomous driving brought it up over $140,000.
A bit of history. Benz was building oversized opulent sedans when those other Swabian upstarts were still in diapers. And Lexus was just a spelling mistake. Hence, we really wanted to see if this latest S was going to redefine the segment.
Problem was, both BMW and Audi went into hiding. There was neither a 7 Series nor an A8 in their respective press fleets. Hmmm.
Luckily for us (and those with 100 grand plus to spend on some rolling fabulousness) there are other choices besides the default Germans.
Representing Japan is the 2014 Lexus LS 460 AWD F Sport, and with an as-tested price of $97,500 it proved to be the most affordable. Its naturally aspirated 4.6L V8 was the only unadulterated lump here – no turbos, superchargers or electrification. The $7,450 F Sport package adds upgraded air suspension, 19-inch wheels, some special trim and body bits.
It’s no secret Lexus has made a good business of building high-quality and highly serene German wannabes, and offering them at a price a couple of rungs down on the ladder. Fresh off a 2013 refresh, could this LS hold its own?
Also recently refreshed was the Porsche Panamera. We know the Panamera to be a true driver’s car, but the way it straddles the sport and luxury worlds plunks it into a pretty specialized niche. And of course, one of the main reasons you buy a Porsche is for its engine. However, as Technical Innovation was one of the ranked categories, we thought we’d take the most advanced Panamera in the lineup, the Hybrid, rather than the more limo-like long-wheelbase Executive model (which, admittedly also would have made a certain amount of conventional sense).
2014 Luxury Flagships. Click image to enlarge
We wondered how a supercharged 3.0L V6 with all that groovy hybrid gear would play into the Zuffenhausen zeitgeist. The Porsche Panamera S e-Hybrid (a plug-in hybrid no less) with a starting price of $113,300 is surely the oddest version of this already somewhat left-field Porker. The usual litany of Porsche standalone options escalated the bottom line to $125,520. It was the only vehicle in the test not driven by all four wheels.
Rounding out the comparo is a pair of disparate offerings from Ol’ Blighty – the 2014 Jaguar XJ L 3.0 AWD and 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged.
Jaguar fortunes have been surging of late, and much of that has to do with Jag offering a supercharged V6 and all-wheel drive (finally) in the mid-size XF and flagship XJ. The 2014 Jag XJ L 3.0 AWD carries a list of $96,490. This tester rang in at $113,440 – the $7,750 Premium Rear Executive Package being the biggest contributor to that figure.
The XJ is now into its sixth model year, yet Ian Callum’s languid lines still quicken the pulse. Similarly, the uniquely sculpted interior (save the infotainment unit and dim digital gauge cluster) is every bit as fresh now as when it bowed. It seems good style never goes out of style.
The Range Rover is quite literally the square peg in the round hole in this group test, but hey, some people like their mobile opulence to ride one story up on the herd, and this Rangie with its spectacular 510-hp 5.0L supercharged V8 and creamy interior is arguably the best expression of that ethos. Besides, you never know when the urge to attack the Rubicon or spend a week in the jungles of Belize might overtake your suburban sensibilities. Go ahead. Twist that Terrain Response knob. Be the first on your block.
The 2014 Range Rover lists at $116,560. A few options (Vision Package, Meridian audio, tow package and 22-inch rolling stock) bumped it to $123,995.
And so we hurried this quintet of quintessential luxury over an urban route of highway, side streets and stop-and-go hell (I heard Jacob’s horn on more than a few occasions) to find out which car delivered best on its promise.