Comparing old luxury to newer cars ?

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Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2013 1:07 pm

Comparing old luxury to newer cars ?


A question that has been plagueing my mind for a while is how to properly compare, or define, luxury between an old car and a new(er) car.

When i look at reviews, i mostly come to comparisons that i think are not actually hitting the point; they're comparing that for the 80's an 80's luxury car was luxury, and that that is obsolete for today's luxury standards, and in general i can only pinpoint it to just a few things that i dont neccesary concider a luxury, more a 'feature' that, well, to be honest, you can add or buy just as easy - mostly telephone integration and navigation. Now that is not neccesarily new, but we're offcourse talking smartphone integration, and well, modern navigation but usually it's more about the entertainment system which used to be called 'radio'.

Offcourse 80s luxury cars [or 90's] dont have that, so yeah, cheap shot, they're not luxury to todays standards.
but there's a real problem there for me, as i don't get the actual answer.

I'm not talking about comparing a brand new economy car to a 80's car with the weight of a tank and how the economy car would be better off looking at your fuel consumption and - probably - maintainance, though i think there's some big catches there.

I don't personally think things like a computer that tells you how many miles you have left before you need to get to the gas station is a luxury thing - it's a tech feat. that also goes imho for reading your consumption 'live' on your [board] computer. also whether i need to shift up or down. engine start/stop also.

offcourse it starts getting a bit more tricky/decisive when thinking about safety. ABS, T/C, ESP, Airbags. have a really big thing to it. when needing to hit the brakes full on in the rain, ABS helps a lot. and should you have a hefty accident, an airbag - should- be a benefit. I could make a side note here though - for example, a 2005 or 2010 Citroen C1 might get some really good crash test results , perhaps even 4 or 5 ncap stars. But is that really better than a 1995 BMW 7-series? or a 1986 bentley? Perhaps the bentley is too tricky, but where lies the 'equilibrium' ? where does a modern compact base model become better than a 10, 20 or 30 year old 'super' luxury machine - one that was the safest of ITS time? but i'm drifting off as i'm not really interested in that answer.

far more, i'd be interested in the driving experience, the daily drive, the enjoyment, of the ride itself.

when is an old luxury car obsolete compared to a modern - well - non luxury car ?

i don't want to implement phones, or satnav. not parking sensors or stuff like that.
purely the drive. the comfort, the control.

for example; a '86 bentley drives a lot better than a '86 honda civic. and obviously is much more luxurious.
and a 2010 honda civic obviously drives much better than a 86 honda civic, and, is more luxurious.

but does a 2010 honda civic [sedan] drives better than a 1986 bentley?
or how about a 1995 BMW 5-series?

that's where i'm aiming at.

and let's say you have eyes on the following cars;

1986 Bentley Eight/Mulsanne
1991 Mercedes S-Class
1995 BMW 5-Series
1998 Lexus LS-400
2001 Skoda Fabia
2008 Honda Civic
2012 Citroen C4

would the Bentley Beat the C4? Would it beat the Civic? Would it Beat the Lexus? The Mercedes?
Or would the BMW beat the lexus? Or the Skoda?
Would the Honda beat the Mercedes ?

i mean, lets say one has a good couple of grand to burn into a daily driver, and we WOULDNT look into fuel economy, NOR that your computer tells you you can go 150 miles on this tank [ i know that myself anyway ] and that you can connect your own radio that has bluetooth and navigation that can work with your phone.

would you buy a fully-loaded, leather, all on it, BMW 5-series made in 1995, in mint condition, original owner, dealer serviced, over a 2008 Honda Civic ?
Or how about a 2001 Honda Civic with all the options, over a 1995 BMW?

please don't try to look too much in status with these cars. just real, driving comfort and ride.
let's say you use your car to go to work 30 miles commute and 30 miles back, through traffic and city centre,
that you'll travel twice a year to a vacation destination, like france, or spain or italy and you travel atleast 1000 miles on that - each trip.
Dumpster sounds so much more classy. It's the diamond of the cesspools.

Greg Locock
Greg Locock
Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2012 11:48 pm

Re: Comparing old luxury to newer cars ?


In a head on crash, mass wins. Airbags are also a big plus. As to the rest it is largely a matter of taste, cross shopping a Skoda and a Bentley (even if they are manufactured by the same company) seems a bit odd. Of those I'd pick the Lexus.

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 4:10 am
Location: Altair IV.

Re: Comparing old luxury to newer cars ?


M2u, my take on it..
..having as a 'classic' driver, - a 1992 M-B coupe, which was a $100,000+ car, when new..
& via driving many hours in current Toyota Camry/Aurion sixes, now standard with what was once "luxury" equipment..

Is.. that the tangibly classy-comfort feel of the Mercedes-Benz as a driving machine.. is still a cut above, quite frankly.. is the level of respect - shown by other road users..
Dr Moreau sez..
"Who breaks the law... goes back to the House of Pain!"

Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:36 am

Re: Comparing old luxury to newer cars ?


Having driven/owned a couple of these, here are my impressions.

I define luxury as excess, sublime comfort (NVH, ride, materials, tactility, scents/smell, mechanical authority, power [yes, I consider this aspect as comfort], privacy), meticulous and honest mechanicals, artful ways of mastering mechanics, # of cylinders, the perception of rarity/specialty, to-be-seen-in feeling, the-way-of-staring factor and a healthy (?) dose of untouchability.


I like certain mechanical aspects of engineering. For me, a tourbillon is a fascinating piece of art, but a smartwatch is a worthless crap. Similarly, I can see more elegance in a VHS cassette than in any pendrive. Therefore I consider an analogue dashboard luxurious, but screens like in the current S-Class are utter junk. They are technology just for technology's sake. They are not nice, not nicely integrated, they have no niveau, no class. Yes, they are informative, but I don wanna watch TV while I'm driving.

Having owned a Series 3 Daimler Double Six, I was then fascinated by the extreme comfort and harmony of the silken V12. Jaguar's sophisticated suspension gave the car a surprisingly modern, contemporary feel, and the supple ride was fab.
Then I tried an LS400. Astonishing silence, absolutely ZERO vibrations, undetectable idle. My most shocking automotive experience ever. Later LS430s let a bit more engine texture and noise into the cabin above 3000 RPMs.
The old 6.75 RRs/Bentley were cushy, velvety trucks. The memories are coming out of the shade... the loud, metallic "clutch"-sound of the doors, the cool, heavy metal flutes, the thin wheel, that flimsy, magnetic trunk lock cover... But the early, hand selected Connolly hides in those Brits were just magnificent and certainly different than the modern pressed-texture, lacquered, semi-synthetic s#it. Watching an appropriate, thick, rich hide food lotion to disappear into the pores of that leather was therapeutic. As much as they were "adequate", they were nothing more power-wise. Yet the waft-factor was definitely there. But I don't dare to say that is drove better than a Civic. Did Zeppelins fly "better" than the Red Baron's Fokker?

The W140 was like riding on Helmut Kohl's belly. The seat construction was more modern than the wire sofa W126, and the thing was basically just as overbuilt like previous S-Classes, but I missed "something" and the plastics were subpar.

I loved the E39 gen 5-Series. For me, the last true BMWs, as each subsequent generations were either absolute crap like the E60 (a friend spent USD38k on his 530d; four engines, three trannies and 19 software updates. The car was pristine, never had any damage, and the software "updates" completely transformed the car in a wrong way), or heavyweight, isolated, like the F10.
I sampled a 523i first and it was fabulous. You could literally feel the sophisticated suspension working, the steering had a near-perfect balance of the weight and feel. Yet the E39s got old very quickly. Door latches lost their tightness, rattles here and there, failing electronics, etc.

During those times, I felt that the E39 and the Golf IV were the new, invincible Germans, as their initial quality was spot-on. However they could NOT keep their integrity and promise.

The Škoda Fabia was a quantum leap for VW. It was way better than the Polo and most certanily anything Škoda has ever offered. They lost their initial tightness too, but thanks to their segment, this wasn't seen as dramatic.

The Civic is a trusty little something. It has a cohesiveness, which makes it unique. They keep motoring along without any murks. And older Hondas are more than often absolutely rattle free. In this regard, I can only praise the products from Honda. You never have a feeling that it won't start, or anything like that.

The 2012 C4 was a significantly better car than its predecessor. The jump was so big, that you had to drive it only for a couple of meters to tell that it was soo much better. PSA's 206/307/C3/C4 was a terrible model portfolio then. The quality OMG, sad, sad, sad. Then with the 2nd gen started something. 207s, 308s got better, C3s, C4s got better, and finally the current 208s, 308s, 508s, C3s, C4s and C5s are really good cars with convincing long-term quality.

But back to the original question: luxury is luxury. If the heritage and the DNA is there, you won't miss it. Always and immediately recognizable - even blindfolded. Wannabe or semi-luxury, like the VW Phaeton/Bentley Continental/FS trio is incomplete, with frumpy hardpoint dimensions, more plasticky details.
Yes, even modern compacts can provide features and even NVH of yesteryear's luxury vehicles. That's a good thing. Pleasant, modern, concern- and thoughtless. Don't look for any soul in our contemporary vehicular appliances. If you can look through it or away from it, certain compacts/hybrids are definitely better luxury cars. A precise DW-suspension Civic was always a better drive than any heavy leviathan - if you wanted a high fun-factor.

5 years ago I bought a 1996 Infiniti i30 with 4.000 miles for a friend. That thing was a luxury car. Spotless, new leather (okay, clearcoated), a silky VQ V6 and a silent ride. It drove great. Yes, its beam suspension was unrefined, but overall the car was and still is a luxurious car.

Luxury cars are good for a ride to... nowhere, when you don't have any goal; when you just go for the ride itself. My old Double Six was indicating an instant fuel economy figure of 197 l/100km for a brief moment. It was beautiful!

Satnav, screens, modern features are often answers to questions nobody asked. Hidden menus are far worse than any button-orgy.

I'm following the entire vector of "car" development with some apprehension... But out of this list, I'd take a perfect Lexus LS400.