The cars we loved.
The sinking worldwide economy has the masses holding on to older cars longer or opting for new more ones. While those able to secure a loan are shopping for a Prius, the bank’s CEO is pondering a Panamera. The top of the market seems to be expanding to cater to increasingly wealthy elite. In the supercar category, two seat coupes were once the only real option for the carefree playboy or lottery winner, but that trend could swing to new sedans. Sure there were always big executive sedans, but they lacked the style of sexy exotic coupes. Now that Maserati, Aston Martin and Porsche have had some measure of
success with four door sedans that resemble their two seat exotic brethren, other players like Lamborghini is now considering testing the waters.
The concept of a high performance sedan is not new. Cars like BMW’s M5, Jaguar’s XJ and various AMG Mercedes have been offering high performance with four doors to rich people for decades. The super-rich have clamored for even more. First it came in the form of expensive SUVs from a handful of luxury makers. As nice as they were, they lacked the sexiness of an exotic coupe, even if your truck had the Porsche crest on it. The move from sedans to SUV’s and back to sedans has a long and disjointed history that has stretches across all many price points.
Maserati was an early pioneer of the exotic sedan movement with its 1963 Quattroporte. There has been some form of Quattroporte in Maserati showrooms ever since. During the late 70s, Aston Martin followed suit with an angular exotic for the modern era called the Lagonda. So it was fitting that Aston Martin would be one of the first to revamp the segment with the Rapide decades later (it actually had this car type in production as early as the 40’s). The exotic sedan seems to be catching on, but this time with cars whose profiles blur the lines between sedan and coupe. With coupe like styling becoming en vogue in lower priced luxury cars from Audi, BMW and others, exotic sedans have only two door super cars as inspiration. Many of these new breed sedans are nearly indistinguishable from their two door descendants from most angles.
Late and Near Attempts
Noticeably absent from this super sedan fest was Ferrari and Lamborghini. Ferrari toyed around with the ideal in the 90’s by building custom four door versions of its 456 GT for wealthy Arabs. Although just a few of these one offs were built, the Ferrari sedan would never become widely available. Ferrari’s parent company, Fiat S.p.A. also owns Maserati, so the urge to market a sedan is less urgent due to the Quattroporte filling that niche. A case could still be made for high end exotic sedans today, although not as compelling as in previous decades. The performance of main stream sports sedans has improved as Cadillac, BMW and Mercedes are bridging the gap. However good those cars might be, they are still the products of common brands and the super-rich always want something more exclusive. This may explain the rise in popularity of cars like the Rapide and Panamera. The most successful looking exotic sedans have given up nothing in performance or aesthetics in the transition to four doors. Aston Martin’s Rapide for example looks very much like a Vantage or DBS coupe.
The Late But Great
As a potential late player to the sedan ranks, Lamborghini created a stir with word of a new four door vehicle coming. Many thought it would be a successor to the ugly LM002 SUV from the late 80’s. The Paris Auto Show debut of a sleek sedan with the prancing bull on its nose excited the press and was all the rage on the show circuit. Aside from the rear passenger doors, the front engine configuration was a first for Lamborghini who is known for mid-engine designs. Never one to waste resources or design talents, Lamborghini has established a long history of making concept cars that find their way to production in some form. In continuing its naming convention of bullfighter imagery, the word Estoque is derived from the sharp sword of a matador. The sharp edge metaphor translates to stealth bomber lines inherited from the limited production Revention of 2009-10.
From some angles it looks as if the Estoque owes as much of its design to the Dodge Charger R/T concept car of 1999 as the Revention. The Estoque concept car was fitted with a V12 similar to what was in the Revention with an estimated 560 or so hp. According to Lamborghini, the Estoque might be equipped with any number of power plants from Lamborghini’s existing engine inventory consisting of V10 or V8’s as well as hybrid engines.
The good news is that according to Lamborghini’s CEO Stephan Winkelman, a third model with four doors will be added to Lamborghini’s line by 2014 and it won’t be a SUV (thank goodness). A sedan will be a nice option for those bored with or worried about seeing duplicate Gallardo’s or Aventador’s in swanky hotel parking lots or valet entrances. Ferrari took the unprecedented step of releasing a four passenger hatchback called the FF. No doubt the decision to develop such a car may have been influenced by Lamborghini’s successful auto show tour of the Estoque. Ferrari is no stranger to four seat GT cars. The FF while not a four door sedan, it follows a long succession of four seat coupes that date back to early 60’s with the 250GTE. While not a sedan, the FF may signal Ferrari’s willingness to take the versatility of the hatch further with a full-fledged sedan.
Ferrari vs. Lamborghini: a New Battleground
Ferrari’s claim that the FF is the world’s fastest four passenger car is just the latest salvo in a game of one-upmanship that has been going on between the two Italian rivials since Lamborgini’s inception in the early 60s. The final production car rolling out of Sant’ Agata Bolognese is likely to answer Ferrari’s challenge if fitted with a V12. Estimated to cost about $250,000, the cost will likely to rise if made in limited numbers like the Revention. Wealthy executives and fast living families of the world your car will be arriving soon.