By on January 7, 2015

1976-rolls-royce-camargue

Derek’s editorial yesterday on the idea that you need to look upmarket for truly awful cars nowadays ruffled quite a few feathers among the B&B. Some of you thought Derek was simply repeating the usual TTAC tropes. Others wanted to hear more about why expensive cars often fail to meet the same expectations that a Camry or CR-V easily exceed. To the first group of readers, I can only say: You’re going to hear about ethics in journalism on this site almost half as often as you heard about the Chevy Sonic when they were co-branding with Jalopnik. To the second group of readers: click the jump, okay?

We can break this down into three questions:

0. Why is it tougher to build a great upmarket car than it is to build a great mass-market car, if indeed that is the case?
1. Assuming the truth of the above assertion, why does anybody buy these not-so-great cars?
2. What is the mechanism by which this mediocrity is perpetuated?

Derek went some way to answer the third question with his column; I’ll only say in addition that the prestige manufacturers are much more sensitive about the behavior of their media, ahem, partners than the mass-market crowd is. You can say some pretty harsh things about Volkswagens and still catch an invite to next year’s event. Criticizing the Robb Report brands, even by praising them faintly, is unforgivable unless you have a really big media organization standing behind you.

Enough about that, let’s turn to Question Zero. What I’d like to suggest to you is that it was easier to build a great prestige car than it was to build a great mass-market one — until the Seventies or thereabouts, when the game changed and the opposite became true. The successful London merchant who was the owner of a Rolls-Royce or Aston Martin circa 1950 could be reasonably assured that his money had purchased a car that was more reliable, and more durable, (remember, these aren’t the same thing; a 1978 Accord was reliable, a 1978 911SC was durable) than the prole-mobiles driven by his house staff.

His grandson, however, is likely to find that his Rolls-Royce Ghost or Aston Vantage doesn’t run for as well or as long as the Corollas and Cruzes with which it shares the Queen’s road. Across the pond, it’s common knowledge that an Ohio-built four-cylinder Accord can run a half-million miles with relatively little mechanical intervention and that a Maybach 62 will likely find itself facing a repair bill in excess of its value in much less than half that time.

The same’s true for performance cars. A Corvette Z06 or Shelby GT500 will run as long as you’re willing to visit your local AutoZone periodically. A Ferrari 575, on the other hand, can cost several dollars a mile to operate, as Keith Martin has demonstrated in the pages of SCM, and you’re never sure when the bill will come due. A friend and racing pal of mine has put over 100,000 miles on his ’94 Supra since he turned the wick up to 580whp. Total repair cost so far: zero.

What happened to turn the price/reliability equation on its head? It was a combination of several factors. Prior to the era of computerized design and assembly, quality was a function of materials quality, which cost money, and quality control during assembly, which also cost money. Think of a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman, chock-full of expensive materials and subject to hours of post-assembly rectification, compared to a Pinto.

Once computers got involved, however, it became a matter of available computer processor cycles in the design iteration, the size of the engineering staff, and the economies of scale possible when sharing platforms and engines over a large production volume. We all accept that the infotainment system in a low-volume sports car won’t be any good, because the cost of developing it has to be amortized over a thousand cars instead of a million and not even Rolls-Royce can make up a thousandfold shortage in volume with individual price markup. The same thing goes for everything from seat heaters to stub axles. In 1930, the route to a quality part was to put time into it. In 2015, it’s computer cycles and high production volume to absorb costs. A CNC machine makes just as perfect a part for Hyundai as it does for Aston Martin, and Hyundai can afford more design iterations for the product, as well as more eyes on the problem.

The amazing amount of engineering effort that a modern megacompany can devote to a single problem leads to unexpected dividends. When Lotus decided to create the Evora S from the Evora, they took the stock Camry engine that powers the Evora and… they added a supercharger. That was it. No reinforced internals, no “X51 Powerkit”, not even a different cam. It’s the same engine, with a supercharger, because the Camry engine is dead-nuts reliable and it has enough capacity designed in to take forced induction without any problems. Compare that to Porsche, which for years was afraid to use its modern M96 engine family in turbocharged applications because they supposedly couldn’t afford to engineer it properly. It’s hard not to suggest that the 911 would have been better off with a Toyota V-6 in the tail. It would have done wonders for the resale value, I’ll tell you that.

Of course, the rest of the Lotus Evora is straight out of the Bricklin SV-1 school of design, right down to the aftermarket radio that comes as standard equipment. Lotus probably had fewer engineers working on the entire Evora project than Toyota has working on taillights.

Therefore, when you come to an exotic or prestige car from a lifetime of owning cars that were engineered to the nth degree by hundreds of briliant people, you’re likely to be shocked at how poorly they work. I’ve driven a lot of brand new $250,000 cars and I’ll tell you that not one of them started as reliably as my Town Car did at the 100,000-mile mark. It’s common for seats to wobble, for infotainment screens to go dark, for turn signals to cut out, for the whole car to need a “reboot”. I don’t need to name names here because it’s universal.

And then you get the little problems. No prestige car since my Phaetons has managed to provide climate control that is both adequately powerful and properly unobtrusive the way it is in, say, an Infiniti Q50. Small-batch cars don’t get all the details sweated out. There isn’t time or manpower to do it. Let me tell you, the Rolls-Royce Wraith is a wonderful automobile but the iDrive just seems, shall we say, difficult compared to the same screens in a BMW 5er.

Of course, people buy the Wraith anyway, which brings us to the second question I posed above. I think you’d be better off owning a Camry than a Wraith in the long run, but in the short run I definitely want a Wraith, because it pulls tail and gets mad house on the boulevard and can spin all four wheels in a light rain shower on Ventura. If I had enough money to buy a Wraith, I wouldn’t worry about the little stuff because I’d be in search of greatness, of unique qualities, of things that you just can’t get in a Camry.

I’m not wealthy but I own a lot of things — handmade shoes, air-cooled Porsches, vintage tube amplifiers — that can’t match up to the modern mass-produced crap out there in any quantifiable manner. What I want from these things is the sense of special, so to speak. I don’t want to wear fifty-dollar Nikes and throw them away when they’re tired. I want to have my shoes recrafted and I want to live with them for decades. I want to drive down the road and not see my car coming the other way. (The alert reader will readily conclude that, with my current Accord, living thirty-three miles from the factory, this wish is not currently being granted to me in daily usage.) I want something special and I’m willing to pay in money and inconvenience to get it.

Derek hates Astons, which is ironic to a degree because we have a mutual friend in this business who openly speaks of himself as an “advocate” for the brand. When I dragged my crippled carcass to Palm Springs last April to drive the V12 Vantage S, I expected that it would be both less refined than the competition and somewhat down on pace, and those expectations were met in spades. What I was not prepared for was just how much I enjoyed the experience of driving it. Would I buy one? Probably not, at least not when I could buy two Viper TAs and a 1957 Les Paul Goldtop for what the Aston costs. But do I understand why someone would buy it? Absolutely.

It’s been forty years since someone could legitimately say that they bought something like a Silver Shadow or Ferrari Daytona because they wanted the objectively best machine they could obtain. Truth be told, even by then it was still a bit iffy — I’m not sure if a Hydragas Bentley T1 could honestly claim to be a better car than a ’69 Sedan de Ville. In 2015, however, we expect things from even the meanest Cadillac that we’d never dare to think could be had from a Rolls-Royce. Does this abandoning of the moral high ground mean that the prestige car is no longer a worthwhile proposition?

To the contrary, I’d say that the democratization of workaday virtues in the automotive market means that buying something abysmal like a Maserati GranTurismo is more justifiable than ever. When you’re standing by the side of the road with the “Replace Transmission” light blazing yellow and steam hissing from beneath the faux-vented flanks of your Italian stallion, you’re a far better person than the man who turned his Duesey-mounted nose up at the impoverished family struggling to get a fresh tire on their flivver. You’re not spending money to buy your way out of problems; you’re buying your way in. You’re paying to experience something, and if that experience is fifty percent a hand-built twelve-cylinder engine at full song and fifty percent quiet sobbing in the bathroom of the dealership service center, then who am I to judge you?

Yes, exotic cars are often terrible, but we need them, the same way we need Leslie Feist’s voice to catch when she’s singing “The Water”, the same way we need Cindy Crawford to have a mole, the same way we need Christian Bale to occasionally tear the ass off a lighting technician. They’re a reminder that human frailty often comes disguised as human greatness.

And vice versa.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

193 Comments on “So What Makes Expensive Cars So Terrible, Anyway?...”


  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Not speaking of exotics but luxury cars like MB, BMW, Audi, Lexus have fair reliability. The reason I feel that these cars are not as reliable as a Civic is because they have a vast amount or technology and sophistication that their buyers expect. More complexity means more chance of problems.

    Google “Honda Odyssey transmission problems” or “Subaru STI ringland failure” and see what you get. You can do the same for most brands.

    My first car was a Ford Escort and I had almost no issues in 9 years of ownership. It also had a manual transmission, manual seats, manual hand crank windows…see where I’m going with this?

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      While there are certainly some “bad apples” scattered in the lineup of every carmaker, where they’ve made some major goof and replicated across the entire product line, for whatever reason the European automakers have to be batting 1.000 to produce a car of merely adequate quality.

      There’s no excuse for Euro cars to routinely have stupid problems with basic parts of the car (that are not, in fact, stuffed with unusually advanced technology.) If the problems were confined to technology that makes a luxury car a luxury car, it could be forgiven. But not problems with things like the ignition, throttle, intake, random computer modules (building circuit boards isn’t any different vs. a Chevy), etc.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Here’s an example from when I used to support a fuel-injection service shop that did business with Bosch and Denso, among others:

        * Bosch sent you service information on several CDs that had stupidly complex installer (I assume it was a copy protection scheme, otherwise Bosch was just being obstinate) that pretty much required you to buy a six-disc CD carousel that would jam, stick and fail to load unless you bought a really, really expensive one.
        * Denso also sent you CDs, but let you copy the manuals to a server. It wasn’t as elaborate as the Bosch system, but it didn’t make you want to stab your own eyes out.

        I find that pretty typical of Europe versus Japan.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re right. I would argue that European automakers tend to put a lot of technology into their cars that is either underbuilt (British, Swedish, Italians), or prototype-grade (Germans). A friend of mine was considering changing his mind about getting a Mercedes-Benz E550 coupe and going with a BMW 7-Series. I had to explain to him that a flagship from any of these luxury companies is typically getting into a whole new level of iffiness, simply because that’s where their testing beds for new technology are. I also explained that BMWs in general have more “gee whiz” gadgetry and mechanicals than Mercedes-Benz’, but Bimmers also tend to have the most irritating glitches and issues in the industry, including the issue of having the iDrive system remain on and drain the battery.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        The internet echo chamber can make comparative rare issues go supernova. Karesh’s True Delta site disabuses some of the myths – for example, that all IMS bearings will fail in 996 Porsches.

        “Doug Demuro wrote a similar piece (in topic, at least) recently. The thing is, IMS bearings hardly ever fail anymore, based on the 250 or so 986s and 996s in TrueDelta’s ongoing survey. I don’t know what percentage of cars have had upgraded bearings installed. But could it be even the majority of them?
        Of the two IMS failures that were reported in the last two years, one was an aftermarket upgrade.
        One possibility: if a bearing lasts for 60k miles, it’s no longer likely to fail.
        Spending $2,000 just to upgrade the bearing (upgrades are often done when the clutch has to be done anyway) probably doesn’t make rational sense. But it might provide at least that much value in peace of mind.
        Now the rear main seal, that’s a different story. Failure isn’t usually catastrophic, but it it very common, and fairly expensive to repair”

        http://carbuying.jalopnik.com/how-to-own-a-ridiculously-cheap-and-reliable-porsche-91-1668638286

        • 0 avatar
          tooloud10

          I must be the unluckiest bastard around, then, because I’ve got a Porsche 996 that did indeed lose an engine because of IMS, and now I’ve got a 95k mile BMW that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

          If it weren’t for my Land Rover that has managed to buck the reliability trend and be the best car I’ve ever owned, I’d have written off “fancy” cars forever and gone back to Japanese models.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            You’re a real auto-masochist aren’t you?

          • 0 avatar
            zamoti

            Keying in on the statement “There’s no excuse for Euro cars to routinely have stupid problems with basic parts of the car (that are not, in fact, stuffed with unusually advanced technology.)” I can say I wholeheartedly agree. Especially now that I’m staring down a major repair on a BMW N62 engine that has leaky valve stem seals and smokes like Ron Perlman with four cigars. Last I checked valve stem seals aren’t exactly a new thing nor is the material that they are made out of. Beyond the internal leaks, it leaves a new puddle in my garage every time I fix something. Usually oil, plenty of coolant and the latest one, windshield washer juice. The diff is the only thing that is dry on this damn car.
            Why keep it? Despite it’s sieve-like nature, it is an absolute joy to drive.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          What you’re looking at there is someone who doesn’t understand math reporting on someone who doesn’t have a statistically significant sample.

          • 0 avatar
            Nick 2012

            Fair point and I should have gone to truedelta to dig deeper. After doing so, it looks like there are only 34 2001 911’s reporting in and a similar number for other years. Unless those 996 owners are a perfect microcosm, the CI must be high and the confidence level is probably quite low.

        • 0 avatar

          Karesh is doing a great job on the methodology, but participation in True Delta is still low for anything that’s not Camry or Civic. At least I keep hitting vehicles for which he plainly has very unreliable data. In some years, for example, Toyota FJ Cruiser has participation gaps.

        • 0 avatar
          CapVandal

          1. Porsche owners are not normal people. For some owners, the ticking time bomb analogy is enough to tarnish, if not ruin the owning experience. The vehicles are pitched as having been ‘German Engineered’. The Acura TL transmission issue is probably worse ( more frequent, but less expensive to fix), but the manufacturer beefed up the warranty, and the dealers could frequently diagnose and replace in a couple of days with the owner only having to ‘suffer’ through an Acura loaner.

          2. There isn’t a lot of data by typical statistical quality control standards, but it doesn’t take a lot of data to determine a seriously defective part. With a low probability of failure, it takes a lot of data. With high probability of failure, not so much. If the probability of failure is .5, a sample of 10 cars provides a lot of information. The engines and basic design were used for a few years, so data can be combined from both the 911 and the Boxster. It doesn’t matter that much if the probability of failure is .1 or .2 or .35. It’s enough, combined with the severity (price) of failure to be a heavy psychological burden as well as costly.

          3. It isn’t like the engineering issues were deduced from statistical information. People started seeing failures on a regular basis. The failures can be directly observed, and there is a reason, so it isn’t necessary to rule out other problems, guess why they failed, etc.

          Porsche has plenty of data. I don’t know how much was disclosed during the class action lawsuits, but someone knows the failure distribution.

          The most interesting thing about this problem is that it proved to be so difficult to find a solution. The aftermarket fixes were far from trivial for the IMS problem (buy a bigger bearing). And the fact that Honda couldn’t fix the transmission flaws much more surprising to me.

          I don’t think it is prudent to buy any older expensive German car without the means to pay $5,000 in repairs over a couple of years without tears. Add another $5,000 to $10,000 to pay for a totally blown Porsche engine. People with great mechanics or personal mechanical skills and time can do this more cheaply.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    People buy terrible, yet ludicrously expensive, cars for the same reason they buy really expensive watches that keep time less well than a watch that comes in a cereal box.

    You aren’t buying the most consistent product when you buy a luxury mechanical device, you are buying “craftsmanship”. For all the advances in modern mass-production, there are still things that look and work better when done by hand. And there are sacrifices a niche product can make that would never be acceptable in a mass-market product.

    That said, I remain baffled as to why luxury carmakers (and luxury watchmakers) don’t seem to recognize this themselves, and often persist in spending ridiculous amounts of money on things they can’t possibly be as good at as the cheaper alternatives. (i.e. Porsche not simply buying crate engines that don’t suck and spending that money on the driving dynamics (which they are very good at), luxury watchmakers not simply stuffing a quartz movement inside a lovingly crafted case.)

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Excellent observation, my wife owns a watch that costs 100X what mine does, yet its worthless at its job (telling time) because the date counter has no idea that months can be 28, 30 or 31 days long. The concept that something expensive is “high quality” is nothing more then a marketing exercise. Its basically an attempt to make other people jealous that they can’t afford brand X. Land Rover and Jaguar have been using this to their advantage for years. My wife wouldn’t look twice at a Hyundai, she had to have a Volvo because its European and upscale.

      This is because cars have become such a commodity these days they are really nothing more then a fashion accessory, like a handbag or a watch. It has nothing to do with quality or craftsmanship like it did in days gone by when (for example) high end leather goods only came from Italy and the good watches only came from the Swiss. These days a vehicle’s price point is just the way society weeds out the cheapskates from the high rollers.

      Of course there are exceptions: high priced vehicles that engineered beyond belief. However at the tolerances they are designed with they either work brilliantly or fail spectacularly. When working right they are worth every penny you just have to accept the downside of that equation.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        JMII,

        A buddy and I had a similar conversation years back. I’ve got a mechanical watch, and he buys cheap quartz watches. He was ribbing me about how his watch costs a fraction of mine and keeps “perfect time.”

        We went through the numbers, and it turns out he’s spent more money over the years replacing cheap watches that I have on one good watch, plus his watches are not perfect timekeepers. He sets them against a time signal, and they will be noticeably off the next time he checks.

        Same thing here, I reset all the quartz clocks in the house/cars on the first and last day of DST, and they span a good 10 minutes between fast or slow.

        I used to own a Subaru that had two clocks (dash and radio). They didn’t stay in sync more than a few weeks. Drove me crazy.

        What does this talk of watches have to do with cars? Nothing. A good watch will last you a lifetime, and is worth nearly what you paid (to your heirs). Cars depreciate very fast if you use them daily, and a nice one costs only slightly more than a so-so one.

        • 0 avatar

          This is why I carry a Mont Blanc. A $300 pen is expensive, but less than the boxes and boxes of bics I’d lose over ten years. I always get the pen back.

          I have an analog stereo tuner from 1978. It sounds drastically better than the tuner chip in the 5.1 surround sound all singing all dancing receiver it is hooked up to.

          There is often a reason for high value items to be worth it.

          My take on German cars is that the high end ones sell to such a narrow and rich audience over there that if a hose needs to be changed, or a timing chain (think V8 powered S4) and the engine needs to come out for that, the owner is expected to accept it. Here, we see the whack-ass engineering for what it is and recoil at an 8k job for a 20k used car. I’ve replaced a few $20 hoses and seals under 3 hours of labor (DIY) while applauding and cursing “German Engineering”.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Old stereo receivers and tuners and such work a lot better than something that old should.

            Especially old Techniques stuff, which I think was basically just Panasonic back when Panasonic was a high quality brand.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          I’m a watch nerd and have several “nice” watches. Because I bought used (mostly, with the exception of a few Sinns) and chose wisely, most of them have actually gone up in value significantly over the past decade or so. Were I to sell them, they would have cost me less than zero to own and actually made me a profit.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        “watch”? It sounds vaguely familiar, maybe like something my father might have had – what is it, exactly?

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      On the car front here I agree with you, especially given how good and how cheap a crate LS motor can be had. However, on the watch front you couldn’t be farther off.

      I know for a fact that Tag Heuer and Omega will both shove a quartz movement into an otherwise identical on the outside low end model at a discount of $1500-2000. I thought about if for half a second when I was getting myself my post-deployment present before I bought a mechanical one (I’m a naval officer, bought a Seamaster – go figure). Unless you are truly a brand snob, you don’t buy a quartz movement in a high end watch.

      The reason you buy a high end watch is for the mechanical movement, assembled by hand by some old Swiss watchmaker in the mountains or so I’m told. The smooth arcing second hand has a much more refined look to it than a ticking quartz watch, I never have to worry about changing a battery, and I have a timepiece that can serve as an heirloom, like the vintage Breitling I was passed down when my grandfather passed.

      If you want a mechanical watch there are other ways to get it that don’t have a $2k+ figure price of entry. Bulova, Seiko, and Tissot makes fine mechanical watches in the $2-500 range, and some of the smaller Swiss watchmakers like Oris will sell you a $1000 watch so you can say you have a Swiss one. For something like a watch, it is special to have something hand-built. That’s why I have one.

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        Ooh, Omega Seamaster, excellent choice, way to treat yourself. Better than all of those ugly oversized wrist-clocks. I keep telling myself I’m going to get that Seamaster, but it somehow takes a backseat to other priorities. Someday…

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Giddy up on the Seamaster I’m longing for a clean one myself (at the right price of course).

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      The watch thing is different. It’s more about the device having soul than being the perfect device for measuring intervals of time.

      A colleague of mine, who has no interest in watches, was playing with one of my mechanical chronographs over lunch. After pushing the buttons for a while he said something like “that’s so cool, when you push it you can feel it actually doing something inside.” The comparison obviously being against the generic quartz he had always worn (not meant as an insult).

      It’s just different. Part of the beauty is in the delicacy and imperfection. Has anyone ever given their kid the g-shock they wore their entire life as a graduation gift? Certain things just inspire a different sense of value.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      “Its basically an attempt to make other people jealous that they can’t afford brand X.”

      The veracity of that statement probably varies on a case-to-case basis with different products, but as a general conception this has to be one of the most annoying things out there for anyone who genuinely likes “nice” things. This is for the simple reason that probably 99% of people out there go straight to the assumption that impressing people is what you are out there to do, regardless of your actual motives (I’m sure this is why Jack prefaced his paragraph on his like for high-end goods with “I’m not wealthy but…)

      I love mechanical watches, hand made shoes, hand made OTR clothing. This is for no other reason that I appreciate craftsmanship and work that goes into these items. I’m not rich, and 100 miles away from the point where shopping at an Alden boutique or IWC dealer is like a trip to Payless or Watch It!, but I put money aside to curate of collection of things that I value solely for my own appreciation for them. I know many people out there who do exactly the same thing.

      To a certain extent it’s the same with cars. I can think of a decent number of “balance sheet rich” older people out there who made decent, but relatively moderate incomes their entire lives and simply benefited from smart decisions and compound interest who buy Porches, Ferraris (likely used), Mercs etc… simply for their love of the car itself and because ownership was a long-time dream.

      Despite actual intentions though, discussing interest in these things, or having them gets you branded as a douche. Yes, I get that this is because a lot of these things have been co-opted as status symbols by classless and clueless people who are probably legitimate douche bags. It’s just sad that these days nothing remotely involving luxury can be discussed without it turning into some class-based argument.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I don’t think the issue with Derek’s article was with the unobtanium—we’re all well aware of that point—it was the suite of “normal” cars that actually weren’t bad, just either mediocre or saddled with shortcomings typical of the class.

    • 0 avatar
      marc

      That was my takeaway as well. Derek never did explain why the 4Runner, FR-S, et al are so terribly bad. I think the criticisms were being lodged at the bespoke premium brands needed no clarification, and I’m not sure why Jack needed to devote so many column inches to a defense of those, but so be it. You either accept that these cars will break (and break your bank), or you don’t, and you buy a Lexus.

      But how about a few thoughts on the most contentious part of the debate yesterday. (Jack threw a couple bones about FRS engines blowing up at track days, but I’ve yet to hear any meaningful statistics on this.) What makes that particular set of vehicles so BAD. Especially when Derek made it clear he had no interest in harping on truly bad cars, like the smart Fortwo?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Agreed. The pitchfork wielding masses want to know, Derek: what’s wrong with the 4Runner?!

        • 0 avatar
          sjd

          Its not like the 4Runner isn’t incredibly reliable with an equally incredible resale.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            Not just reliable driving back and forth to Starbucks, either. The ones I am acquainted with, have even been reliable when taking some pretty darned serious use/abuse. Like running on 30/30/30 mixtures of gas, water and rust.

            Given the right environment and usage, it’s a car that is MORE reliable than the Corolla. And no example of those have ever been known to develop a single serious problem, prior to their owners dying fro the sheer boredom of being alive.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Jack, could one argue that the coach builders are the way to go then? your example of the Lotus using a dead reliable Toyota power plant vs a Ferrari using their own design, albeit in limited numbers. My counter argument would be Morgan., they source drivetrains now from BMW and pieces and parts from others, supposedly the best available. However, they still deliver the same ownership experience of sobbing in the men’s room of the service department.

    Anymore, I think the Vette is the way to go. Lots of power, handling, & reliability. Keeps the brain damage to a minimum.

  • avatar
    jmo

    A Ferrari LeFerrari has a 9,250 rpm red line. I’m sure it would be far more durable and reliable with a 6,250 red line. But, then what would be the point?

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      A Honda S2000 has a 9,000rpm redline. Your point?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        A S2000 has a 950bhp 6.3L V-12? I thought it was a little torqueless 4 cylinder.

        And, you’ll notice Honda had to dial down the red line during the mid cycle refresh from 9000 to 8000.

        • 0 avatar
          Nick 2012

          Honda dropped the redline in conjunction with changes to make more torque. If you don’t wreck it, AP1 S2000s go well over 100k+ miles still revving to the sky. How many Ferraris cross the 100k mark?

          On that point, what ever happens to ex-exotics when they are all used up? Is there an exotic only junk yard? How has Murilee not been there?

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            More torque to improve day to day driveablity, no?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            “Junkyards” aren’t into spending $20,000 for crashed, fubar Ferraris, none of their customers ever need parts off of.

            Hard crashed exotics are usually worth more reassembled than trying to part out. I’m sure someone will lose their shirt either way, but the exotic specialists will jump on exotic fubars, long before any “junkyards”.

          • 0 avatar
            Brian P

            The used-up exotics are usually bought by specialist shops who part them out.

          • 0 avatar
            EvilEdHarris

            Very true and Honda also lowered the redline on the S2000 engine when they stroked it from a 2.0L to a 2.2L. Longer strokes don’t handle high revs as well.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            “More torque to improve day to day driveablity, no?”

            No. It just makes for less smooth idling around in stop and go traffic.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Honda dialed it down because they upped the stroke. The piston speeds are still the same (and higher than the norm).

          Plus ~200-250HP of that 950HP is from the hybrid motor. It’s more like 750HP. ~120HP/L, just like Honda did 16 years ago, without VVT, direct injection or super high compression. That 750HP is also “low on low end torque” despite all these technologies… a 9000 RPM 6.0L V12 built with Honda’s latest techs would probably do a torquey 800HP no problem.

      • 0 avatar
        J.Emerson

        The S2000 is not nearly as reliable as Honda’s other offerings, or many other mass-market cars. I would expect the drivetrains of most domestic pony cars to last considerably longer. But people don’t buy toy cars for reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Why does an engine need an RPM band over nine thousand units wide to make power when the same job can be done with six thousand?

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        Exhiliration.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “Why does an engine need an RPM band over nine thousand units wide to make power when the same job can be done with six thousand?”

        To make impressive specific output figures. Muh hp per liters!

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        The sound.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        fun.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I have owned a DOHC VTEC car and driven several… 12 years later I still don’t have the answer. I recently bought an 8th gen Civic and had the chance to get the 8000 RPM Si for the same price… truthfully, while obviously the Si is faster, the butt dyno says its just as gutless as the regular 1.8, while also being louder thanks to shorter gearing and a much more throaty induction/exhaust note. For a daily drive the regular one is a better fit.

        I was a big N/A advocate for years when I lived in NYC and pretty much all my driving was for pure pleasure. Just hopping on a highway for the hell of it and letting the engine scream. Now with a 40 mile commute and an embarrassing driving record the last thing I want is something that needs to be thrashed not just to be enjoyed but to keep up with traffic. DOHC VTEC gives you speed but robs you of the sensation of speed.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Marketing

        • 0 avatar

          +1 Lots of the issues with the early S54 M3 motor were because marketing wanted a high redline, but the long crank make it tougher. The M54 from whence it came had none of these issues but only spun to 6k.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        So that it can drive like any other Civic when in rush hour commuter mode, yet turn into a Boxster beater at the drop of a cog or two.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Ok, I get it, but can the appreciation of bespoke be learned? Does the niggling feeling that you’re an Emperor walking around in a very lightweight summer suit ever go away?

    • 0 avatar
      Domestic Hearse

      Absolutely, it can be learned.

      Whatever your hobby or interest, the deeper you go, the more you learn how the obsessed within every industry creates bespoke.

      I love cycling: Bespoke, hand-built, custom-to-measure frames and builds abound, but you’re not going to see them in Bicycle Magazine or in your typical LBS. And they’re going to cost multiples more than shockingly good factory bikes.

      Music: Having been in and around the music industry all my adult life, it’s not long until you run into instruments that cost multiples of a very good mass produced instrument. And you wonder why they’re worth so much more till you play one.

      Cars: I have the air cooled Porsche bug, like Jack. The HVAC system is a joke. Heck, even the wipers are a joke. And by modern sports cars standards, not even that fast (but still, quick in its handling). When it breaks, its repair cost can be as much as a good used compact Toyota. But the smell of old leather, hot oil and the sound of the flat six through performance exhaust is worth every penny.

      Bespoke to me is the last 10%. The last nine yards. The difference between very functional, good, serviceable versus something intangibly better, but difficult to define or describe. Pick up an American Fender Jazz bass, then Roger Sadowsky’s version of same. The first is good, and will serve a musician for a lifetime. The second has another tier of refinement, attention to detail, subtle but hidden improvements which make it virtually perfect out of the box. While almost visually identical, the second costs multiples more than the first, and a novice or non-musician could never tell the difference. But if you’re immersed in the hobby deep enough, as OCD as the people who made it, you get it. And oh, do you want it.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I certainly appreciate everything you’ve said, but the naked Emperor in me is always reminded of a business dinner I was treated to in Las Vegas a few years ago. It was a rather expensive restaurant and I was a bit shocked by the prices. I ordered the $79 ala cart steak because that’s what my host ordered. I had never had a $79 steak before. It was quite good, amongst the best I ever had, but I’d never had a steak that was more then $29. That’s when I decided that some things are only so good that no matter what you pay they don’t get better

        Of course this excludes collectables and unicorns that have a different value based on scarcity, but you get where I’m going

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        IDK bro. This sounds like some self-serving hogwash to me.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr.Nick

        All confirmation bias. Even experienced violinists often preferred new instruments to Stradavarius violins when blinded.

        “Dale Purves, a professor of neuroscience at Duke University, says the research “makes the point that things that people think are ‘special’ are not so special after all when knowledge of the origin is taken away.”

        http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/01/02/144482863/double-blind-violin-test-can-you-pick-the-strad

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Bespoke is a more obvious improvement when

        1) A product’s utility largely depends on how well it fits peculiarities of the intended user. A highly unusually shaped man, will obviously benefit from having his suits cut specifically for him. Ditto, albeit to a much lesser extent, for bike frames and perhaps some parts of guitars and other instruments.

        2)The product is very simple and well understood. Like a bike frame. Or a guitar. Or a suit.

        3)The product is fundamentally so expensive that there is pretty much no demand for more than one. Think bigger yachts or ships. Or, for that matter, spaceships.

        The further you move away from the above, the more you benefit from the additional feedback obtainable by having multiple identical copies out i the wild. Doing fully bespoke street car engines is completely crazy these days. As is the case for microchips, or pretty much any electronics. Even having some dude mess around with a perfectly good Corolla, is pretty much guaranteed to only yield improvements in some areas at high cost to functionality in others.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      For many aficionados of bespoke and/or ultra-luxe, the appreciation develops not as a result of the product function itself, but rather as a result of the impact it makes on others. To use Jack’s pet phrase, goods that make the panties drop have an extrinsic value for the owner. Even if all you do is convince others that you have more money than sense, it’s the reaction that counts, the respect for your ability to waste money. So, yes, that can be learned, and can be learned at all economic levels, e.g. high-end gym shoes.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I really can’t agree with this article at all. You are describing these luxury brands as if they are little workshops hidden away in quaint villages. All of them are subsidiaries of giant auto companies with the resources to design systems properly. The idea that there are functional and mechanical flaws in a $300,00 Rolls Royce designed by BMW engineers is ridiculous. That you can have mechanical meltdowns in a Ferrari or Maserati when they have the backing of the Fiat auto group is unacceptable. Blown motors in a Porsche? Hey VW, WTF??

    I’ll give Lotus and Aston passes, but not the others.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      Because if you merely wanted a luxed-up version of a hyper-reliable car, you’d be driving a Lexus and, in all likelihood, whining about the Toyota-sourced switchgear.

      One point I would add to Jack’s is that $40k or less these days buys you not only 200k+ of basically trouble-free motoring but also more performance than you could ever legally put to use on the street, in any number of form factors. And $60k will let you do it swaddled in luxury. The Excluseratius 550 shows you have the greatest luxury of them all: the time to find and look after something rare and tempestuous.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Show me an Audi A8 with over 400,000 km on it. Show me even one. (There probably IS one out there, somewhere …)

      I’ve owned two run-of-the-mill VWs built by the same organizational umbrella that both went well beyond that when I sold them, and I have no idea how much the next owner put on them beyond that.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        That’s not a quality issue, it’s a cost issue. As my mechanic puts it “if you can afford to keep an A8 running for 400k, you can afford to buy a new A8 instead.” They are good cars, but nothing to get emotionally attached to.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “You are describing these luxury brands as if they are little workshops hidden away in quaint villages.”

      Do you mean that BMWs aren’t hand crafted by Hans and Franz in their hollow tree garage deep in the Bavarian Black Forest? No, say it ain’t so

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Furthermore, I don’t believe the presumption that auto engineers design each of the parts in the car. Rather, I believe “catalog engineering” is the norm (as illustrated by the Evora example) even for mass-market cars. I recently heard that GM is now getting more involved in the design of minor components (door latches, light assemblies, etc.) than they were pre-bankruptcy, so certainly this is a dynamic issue.

      A point not made is that with a higher price point for a car, the catalog engineers would have greater liberty to pick better parts from their catalogs. That would be a real improvement to quality, reliability, durability, etc., and it seems reasonable to expect that exact thing to occur with luxury arms within major companies (e.g., Lexus).

      Or, for parts that are designed, higher-priced cars won’t have the same same restrictions as the mass-market car. I don’t buy the claim that analysis time & cost-distribution is the main restriction. Rather, it could be manufacturability–how much does the widget cost to make. Any part can be designed to be more durable/reliable, but if it costs more to make, don’t expect it to make it into a mass-produced assembly. Higher priced cars have more flexibility. Thus, if the goal is to improve reliability & durability, more liberty is offered to design/make parts to meet that end. But I don’t think that is the goal. Rather, the higher price is eaten up by adding features & fidelity, not by spending more to manufacture parts that last longer. Buyers think “high end” means more boxes are checked off on a spec sheet, not on internals that last longer.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        redav, volume matters when it comes to engineering support from parts suppliers. A couple years ago I was working on a government project where the RF power transistors in a huge RF amplifier were failing. The federal government and the defense/government expensive product oriented prime contractor, Harris, wanted the part supplier to drop everything and do failure analysis. However, the primary market for this part was for cellular base stations so the part supplier just laughed at the support request. If an important large volume commercial customer who bought huge volumes like Ericsson or Samsung had a problem, the supplier would have been all over it, but a small volume bureaucratic paperwork intensive exceptionally annoying government/defense oriented customer wasn’t worth their time. I had the unfortunate job of passing along the message that the semiconductor manufacturer told the government to go pound sand.

    • 0 avatar
      superchan7

      That only applies if you just take parts off a Golf and plop them into a Lamborghini.

      I’m sure a 911 or a Huracan with a 4-cylinder TDI is going to sell very well. Those TDIs are only so “reliable” (as reliable as a VW can be, anyway) because they are engineered for a build run of several million units. By the 100,000th unit most issues have been discovered and eliminated.

      Bentley might sell 10 or 15k Continentals, total. And you can bet their buyers expect things like soft-closing windows, self-closing doors, soft windscreen wiper reversals, soft HVAC fans, etc. You can’t get this fluffity-fluff on a Beetle.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Task even Corolla engineers with engineering a $100 million dollar car with 10,000hp, every part made of 24K gold, and the requirement that it, for exclusivity reasons, shares no common parts with anything anyone not on Yellen’s drip list can afford; and they’d end up with contraption that is untested, unreliable and largely useless for the things people expect a Corolla to be good at. Will likely drop panties, though…..

      There’s nothing “wrong” with BMW engineers. They, along with other Autoco’s engineers, have largely perfected the art and science of making reliable cars. It’s just that people will only pay $300K for a car that stands out sufficiently from those reliable ones, to no longer be able to reuse much of that hard earned knowledge.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I don’t agree with this article at all. You talk like these luxury brands are small boutique brands hand making cars in little countryside workshops. In fact, all of them are subsidiaries of giant worldwide auto companies. That these very high-priced cars aren’t the very best means these companies are just taking their rich customers for a ride and stealing their money.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    How many of those fancy expensive cars spend most of their lives in heated garages? Their owners have a regular car for daily use. Can they even drive their whips anywhere near the cars’ capacity?

    I don’t feel special because of any possession. Maybe because of something I’ve done. Maybe.

    To paraphrase my classical violinist cousin in re Strads, lots of them could just be chopped up and made into chairs. Only some are good.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    What exactly was RR trying to do with the Camargue anyway? It looks awful.

    And on the Wraith, I dislike everything on the outs-de. So overworked, and even the two-tone UK-luxury-throwback looks forced. The interior is another matter, as that wood parquet on the doors looks extra luxurious. But then I see the little analog clock to the side of the screen, and I’m again reminded they’re trying too hard.

    “POWER RESERVE %” is win, though.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Christian Bale is a remarkable human being.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Makes me love my Impala all the more so, even if I see myself coming and going all the time – I just know mine is so much better!

    That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it…

    BTW, Wifey’s reliable 2002 CR-V has the lousiest CD changer/player ever bestowed on a car owner – it is absolutely awful and unreliable. Always has been. GM’s CD players play anything all the time no matter what – reliably!

    • 0 avatar
      DubTee1480

      My MIL has a 2002 CR-V and the in dash 6 disc changer shat the bed late last year, ate CD’s, wouldn’t read, etc. We replaced it with the simplest double DIN Pioneer head unit that we could find off of Crutchfield. I would go that route, she loves hers.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Great. Fracking. Article.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    As long as the badge whores keep making excuses, and keep leasing/buying them, why should the OEMs improve? And mostly it’s the 2nd owners that put them to a daily grind, far out of warranty.

  • avatar
    tall1

    Jack I see where you are headed with your logic. Buying something rare that showcases craftsmanship, style and performance may require an amount of forgiveness for lack of durability or quirky operation and I think that rings true for older exotics and luxury vehicles. But brand new vehicles of these categories are for the most part owned by larger mass market manufacturers and therefore should be able to build reliability and durability into their mechanicals and electronics.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      I think the point is that at the numbers they sell they aren’t buying enough of any given part to achieve mass market reliability results. Even if it’s Audi doing the buying, they aren’t seeing anything a mainstream brand would ever call a high number in their acquisition process. A3/Q3 excluded of course, but then those are the cars WE would peg as a poor value for being an overpriced trim level. The Acura/Lincoln dilemma if you will when it dominates a lineup.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “You’re not spending money to buy your way out of problems; you’re buying your way in.”

    That’s the difference, right there.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    There’s a reason the S Class, A8 and 7 Series all have lousy resale.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The main reason is because most people who want an S-class etc. are not interested in a used one. It’s supply and demand, not fear of repairs. The price of even a 50% depreciated S-class buys you some mighty nice used rides. Used LS460s have crap resale value too. The difference between worst and first in resale in a given class of cars is less than 10%.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        A used S Class also has to compete on its utilitarian attributes with the likes of the Camry.

        For someone who has the pragmatic mindset of a used car shopper, the exclusive attributes which attracted the original owner to the S Class don’t mean much. For a used car buyer, it’s practicality and TCO for the win – and high end sedans are at a disadvantage there.

        It’s a real shame, because I WANT there to be crafted heirloom-quality cars. I’d pay for that. But I haven’t found any, besides possibly the Grumman LLV (obsolete), the Volvo 240 (also obsolete). Some of the decade-old Lexus vehicles are holding up well, but they’re not any less disposable than my Toyotas.

        What we really need is a modular architecture for bespoke cars, like the old PC architectures. That way, I can buy a chassis with a nice interior and upgrade/replace components when they wear out. Or buy a new chassis and swap my good stuff over. That would allow craftsmanship and long term ownernhip.

  • avatar
    northshorerealtr

    In my mind, there’s another factor at work here–our highly modified expectations of an exotic/very high end vehicle. It goes something like:

    (Mfgr.) “We provide the highest engineering possible on this vehicle. Our standards are exacting with ultra low manufacturing tolerences (and impled or perhaps stated: we’re as good as you’re going to buy). The fact that so few can afford our vehicles is an indication of your good judgment–not everyone recognizes our emphasis on divine engineering.”
    (Owner) “So then why do I have leaking seals/bad bearings/transmission gear grinding/problems with the AC/pick a problem?”
    (Mfgr/Dealer) “Well, if you’d only come in 100 miles sooner for your 10,000 mile $1500 vehicle inspection/oil change/sagging door adjustment, our preventative maintenance would have insured the divine engineering we’ve provided you would have been corrected for wear/tear/use and you’d have had no problems.”
    (Owner) “So, I see, it’s really MY fault. I’m so sorry to have doubted your divine engineering.” Quiet bathroom sobbing ensues.

    We’d never accept this from mainstream manufacturers, simply because we never bought into divine engineering from mass production companies. But we give exotics and high end builders a pass, because we’ve been trained to do so.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      There’s also the Microsoft effect, which is that we’ve come to expect any software/computer application to not work entirely. People accept that infotainment systems are buggy, slow, or crash, and that irritates me to no end.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Spot on Redav and this expectation is simply insane given the amount of money and time spent as a society on it. I’d been advocating for 18 months my company (a MSFT shop) slowly distance itself from MSFT products as they have just gotten worse every release. They think I am a loon, which may be partially true, but more and more I am being proven correct. The only thing they have yet to screw the pooch on has been SQL Server but I haven’t seen 2014 yet so I won’t hold my breath.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Well thought out point and I agree completely Jack. I would like to add that I think the consequences of making a ‘bad’ car is worse for a mass manufacturer like Ford, Toyota or Honda than it is for a luxury car manufacturer like Ferrari or Aston Martin. If as much as 10% of all Civics or Fusions had randomly failing electronics or indicators there would be a public outrage (torches and pitchforks anyone?) If 10% of all Murcielagos had randomly failing transmissions, there would be a small line at the service department at the Lambo dealer.
    And that is just the PR part, the economical aspects are even worse. The total cost of recplacing a part in a million Hondas eats up a lot more of the total profit for Honda, than the cost for Aston Martin, given that the profit pr car is probably higher, while the part costs are probably not all that different. Redesigning a small part of a low volume car usually takes a lot less time than a highvolume one too.
    I know some people think of Lexus as the ‘last real luxury car’, and despite the fact that they can never understand good design (YMMV), I think I agree.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    I think extremely expensive cars are unreliable for the same reason that real estate in New York City is so expensive.

    Because there will always be at least ONE guy who gets off on spending way more more than he has to for less product than he has a right to expect, just to show the world that he CAN.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Expensive cars tend to push the envelope more than mass-market cars. They tend to use more exotic and fragile materials to save that last gram of weight, they have redlines that are a little higher in order to get that last horse or two, etc. This means they may break earlier and more often, which would not be tolerated for a mass-market brand (warranty costs would bankrupt the firm). Now put this together with infrequent use and sometimes harsh use (i.e. track days, short-trip/idling limo use) and you also increase the chances of failure. Nothing damages reliability and durability more than infrequent use, but of course someone that can afford a Lambo or Aston likely had a fleet of cars for everyday use (and access to a private jet), so that also makes the lack of reliability and durability more tolerable.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    This definition of “terrible” seems to be a bit fluid. For example, Mr. Kreindler believes that the FR-S/BRZ/86 isn’t worthy.

    While he is entitled to his opinion, we should cons1der the possibility that there are others who sincerely disagree with him and like the car for what it is.

    Unless you are aware of guys who are publishing positive reviews even though they dislike the car, I’m not seeing anything more than a difference of opinion. Consumer Reports loved it, and they have less reason to lie than most.

  • avatar
    sco

    “You’re not spending money to buy your way out of problems; you’re buying your way in. You’re paying to experience something”

    I think this is true of anyone who owns an older classic vehicle as well. No one buys a car from the 60s or 70s (or older) because it’s the fastest, most feature laden, most luxurious car they can find. These cars, just like the exotics, will cost you money and time and sometimes tears but the satisfaction of keeping such a car on the road justifies the cost (for some people). But I agree, its not a rational financial decision. Sometimes its just nice to have something to take care of.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    My son’s father-in law, which BTW is Italian, has a wonderful phrase:

    Exotic cars are like beautiful mistresses. They are stunning from every angle, people on the street look at you with a mix of mirth and envy, and are an absolute pleasure to “ride”.

    But they require constant, expensive maintenance, and make your life miserable.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    The best exotics are those made by huge companies looking for a halo project because you end up with a car almost as reliable as a mass-market 4-door. NSX, LF-A, Ford GT (though I no nothing of its reliability), etc, including odd-ducks like the Gen 1 Insight and Prius spring to mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Noble713

      This doesn’t necessarily hold: the R35 GT-R is a halo exotic sports car built by a huge company, and it is notoriously expensive to maintain.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        At least it’s expensive for bleeding edge tech reasons; IIRC, super high $$$ brake parts due to cutting edge brakes, and $$$ AT fluid because of the advance DCT trans. I don’t object to that as much as I object to $$$ Ferrari service because Ferrari can’t be bothered to design for service (no access hatches, etc).

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Most of the wealthy people I know and see (and I live in a very wealthy area, Inverness/South Barrington, IL) drive mid/large American or Japanese SUVs most of the time anyways. And maybe a leased E/5/A6 type car. The Porsche/Ferrari/Lambo/Rolls/Bentley rarely leaves the garage.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I’m around cameras a lot. This article exactly applies. By any objective means, cameras from a certain German brand are objectively terrible in modern terms, but were once more deserved of their reputation, and fulfill needs that the more modern Japanese brands can’t. Also, yes,thanks for the “reminder” that Feist is a goddess.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Just say what you mean. Don’t make everyone guess around at a brand of cameras you’re talking about on a car site.

      “A certain Japanese brand which is not in Yokohama, making a specific car which was very fish-like, of which one was not sold in the USA.”

      UGH.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Leicas?

    My grandfather, a camera aficionado, would tell me that after WW2, Leicas making it back to the US after being “captured” by GIs would sell at a fortune.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      Yes. (What other DE camera maker is left?) Leica owners are the Ferrari owners of the photographic world. They know exactly what they are getting into… Modern Leica’s have “quirks”. They dont have the firmware programming resources that larger companies have and you run into some quality issues that you wouldn’t expect. However, just like how Ferrari’s are fast cars, Leica has wickedly sharp lenses, so their existence is justified. I have to say, though, they’re service is excellent when you need them, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Waftable Torque aka Daniel Ho

        The older Leicas did have great lenses (made in Canada, btw), but they really got their reputation from being excellent mechanical devices before the days of batteries. The average user could operate by tactile feel the aperture and shutter speed controls without ever taking their eye off the subject.

        The modern spiritual successor of Leica is the Fuji X100 series cameras, which have a reputation of getting exposure values, in-fill flash, and colors right the first time using factory settings, rather than being forced into driving the camera using custom settings.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    This is an awesome article.

    In Toronto during ‘the big flood of ’13’, everyone was up in arms about the guy who left his Ferrari in ANKLE DEEP WATER and TOOK A TAXI TO THE AIRPORT.

    Very few people realized that he actually left his FERRARI in ankle deep water and took a taxi to the airport.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    This series of articles is not specific enough and conflating a ton of different things which is why it isn’t as compelling as it could be.

    (1) What do you mean by “terrible”? Is it reliability? Is it actual driving experience? This is really unclear and should be very clear. Nobody expects a Ferrari to be reliable or cheap to own – but that just goes into the value for money equation that is pretty much thrown out when you buy an exotic.

    (2) Are you talking on absolute terms or relative terms. Is the Vantage a terrible car, end stop, you would never, ever buy one no matter how low the price went? Or is it a terrible car compared to its peers but is still nicer than a Mustang? The former is damning, the latter seems to be personal choice.

    This second article seems to be all about reliability.

  • avatar

    The fact that it’s the year 2015 and car manufacturers are still having issues building durable/reliable MECHANICAL parts is shameful… Cars have had bushings, head gaskets, water pumps, fuel pumps, window regulators, air suspension and the like for DECADES and you’re telling me they still haven’t figured out how to build them to last? The fact is hey know how to build durable/reliable cars, they just don’t want to… There is no money in building cars that run forever, especially luxury cars.

    I bet it’s more profitable for Mercedes to build throw-away luxury car garbage that gets replaced every three years than to build the “tanks” they were once known for.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Yup. As long as it makes it through the 3 year lease they are happy. Let the wanna be rich 2nd 3rd and 4th owners go bankrupt keeping the cars running.

    • 0 avatar

      Engines are also significantly more powerful, clean and efficient for the same cost/size/weight than they once were. Long-term durability is but one of several competing design goals. Take a modern engine and de-tune it to mid-70s power levels and it’ll probably last forever, but no one would buy it.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a simpler way to look at it: rational car purchases end at about $65k. Up to that price, you’re actually buying something: luxury features/materials, performance, tow/haul capability, etc.

      Past that point, you’re buying exclusivity, brand image, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I disagree with the underlying notion that these parts aren’t reliable.

      It used to be an accomplishment for a car to hit 100k mi. Now there are hardly any that won’t do 200k with only minimal maintenance. Cars are more reliable now than ever before. No, they aren’t perfect yet, but don’t dismiss the real improvements on account of changing expectations.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @Redav

        You are exactly correct. People say German cars are unreliable, but baring accident, every one of them sold will likely make it well past 200K miles. They won’t be free miles, but they will still do it, and with FAR less maintenance and repairs than even a simple car from 30 years ago.

        I can’t see spending 200K miles in a penalty box just because it will cost me less money to do so. I can’t take it with me, and I don’t like my brother enough to leave him any money.

  • avatar
    bultaco

    I’m not a rich man (my daily is a ’99 M3 with over 100k on it), but I know a few rich people. Not the ‘new Benz every 5 years’ kind; the ‘first class on Emirates to Dubai for an impromptu little shopping week’ kind. These people are not stupid. They KNOW that a loaded Lexus ES is much better at being a car than a Range Rover or an M5 or a Benz G truck is. They buy the Rangie or whatever because it’s exclusive and the poor schmuck who stretches his budget to buy the Lexus ES can’t afford it. They know that a down jacket from Uniqlo will keep you just as warm as a Moncler under 99.9% of conditions you’re likley to encounter unless you live in Nome, but they don’t care. Uniqlo shoppers can’t afford Monclers. They KNOW it’s all branding, and they’re fine with playing the game. Where I disagree with Jack to some degree is in the idea that this is a new phenomenon. If you put James Bond’s 1964 Aston DB-5 up against a 1964 327 ‘Vette, which would be faster? More reliable? Better handling? Which could sit in LA traffic with the A/C on for hours and not overheat? I could be wrong, but my $ is on the ‘vette. The Aston’s materials and asembly quality would be better, but people who can afford hyperexpensive stuff (especially today) don’t keep cars very long; they want the latest and not something that’s three years old. So I guess the moral is that rich people will always buy expensive stuff because it’s exclusive, not necessarily because it’s better than everyday stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I tried to shop at Uniqlo while living in Korea. Nothing fit me properly there, and I didn’t like most of it! (And no I’m not a fat person, they really just don’t make their clothes well.)

      What’s the appeal?

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      “-because the money’s just a yardstick isn’t it. It’s the only common reference people have for making other people take them as seriously as they take themselves, I mean that’s all they’re really asking for isn’t it?”

      -Wm Gaddis “A Frolic of His Own”

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      With rare exceptions, rich people have never kept cars long. That guy who bought the Aston in ’64 traded it in on a Ferrari in ’65 and the Ferrari on a Lamborghini in ’67.

      The lack of desire for yesterday’s shiny is the reason for the big depreciation on luxobarges, not fear of failure.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        Not entirely true. It’s only recently with the popularity of leasing that the wealthy turn over cars quickly. It used to be a point of pride to keep their S-Classes and E-Classes and Wagoneers and Suburbans and Land Cruisers for a long, long time. And some old money dude might buy himself a new SL or 911 or 308 on a whim and then keep it around for 10 years. Sure, the new money types have always burned through material things, but the real rich have traditionally not.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I don’t completely disagree with you on this – the real old money on the coast of Maine (and there is PLENTY of it) is still like this. Older S-classes, Range Rovers, Volvo wagons and Wagoneers in immaculate condition abound at the yacht club. And I know more than a few very cool single-owner older Euro sports cars that are still being well kept. But that has never been a volume market. The volume is in the new money, and new money wants the new shiny.

          Me, I am halfway in-between. I’ll keep my BMW wagon and Spitfire forever, but change up that other garage spot to keep it interesting.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    It’s a combination of complexity with almost prototype parts and the manufacturers knowing the owners don’t care all that much because they have the means to simply buy new every few years.

    No one that’s in the market to buy a new Rolls Royce cares what’s going to happen to the complex air suspension in 10 years.

  • avatar
    sjd

    Is anyone else thinking about wanting to build an LS powered Rolls Royce Camargue or is it just me?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Why not do it to a Rolls which is actually appealing?

      • 0 avatar
        sjd

        Its a two door and I like the look of it in a Malaise-era way.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          It is very Malaise-y, you’re right. It’s like an American interpretation of a BMW 6-Series and a Volvo Bertone.

          I’d just go for one of the Shadow coupes (fixed or drop head) from that time. If it was called a Shadow.

          But also I want to show you this Rolls coupe.

          http://static.lovedecor.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/i/m/img_81606770.jpg

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          Luxury cars lost the plot when CAD/CAM entered the picture; but I think they also lost it in styling.

          A Rolls Royce through the 1960s looked like a Rolls and nothing else; there was no mistaking it for anything else. Ditto for a Cadillac; even someone who knew next to nothing about cars could identify one.

          But when cars downsized and went aero in the 1980s; luxury builders could not maintain their unique looks while still being styled mainstream. The Camargue in this picture is a prime example; the Rolls grill looks just as tacked-on as it did on a VW Bug. Take the grill off; and it could be a Ford Cortina or any other sedan of the era.

          They have found their way somewhat in the past decade; but it is still hard to be unique when you are hemmed in by saftey and aerodynamics.

          • 0 avatar
            Joss

            Big to-do at the time on Camargues forward leaning gril. Never seen on roller before. Split level HVAC loudly trumpeted. Engine not so, the usual hush hush on power & torque. Truth was it was old and behind times. A pini refresh of Corniche.

    • 0 avatar
      hgrunt

      A few brits bought an old decrepit RR, slammed it, painted it flat black and took it to the Ring…wish I could find the article again.

    • 0 avatar
      seanx37

      I would imagine there is room for a big block…

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Well they did come with a 6.75 liter engine. A big block is usually something from 6.5 liters and up, so it should be no problem to put in a Chevy 454 or something.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    It’s this very reason why I’m sticking to mainstream cars like my Impala that just keep starting up day after day reliably with little going wrong, even well past 100K miles. My last 3 have been extremely reliable never once stranding me alongside the road and they are easy and simple if something like a battery or alternator go bad. Just try changing the alternator or starter for that matter on a Northstar or most any other DOHC aluminum V8 these days.

  • avatar
    redliner

    This reminds me of motorcycles. you can spend untold amounts of money on a custom machine, but the truth is that the high volume factory engineered models will perform just as well and last ten times as long with half as much maintenance. the only difference is that it’s not “special”… Its mass produced.

    People would like to feel like they are unique, special, deserving. In truth everyone is just like everyone else.

  • avatar

    Most folks that own/lease expensive/exotic vehicles, have the warranty to deal with issues, foibles, of the vehicle, and a comparable courtesy car if it requires repairs or service.

    These folks pay the price to have a seamless/frictionless ownership experience.

    To protect their investment, they never keep these vehicles long enough to experience the longer term wear and tear issues that will arise.

    A mass produced vehicle is of comparable quality, and durability, but lacks the “f#*ck you” factor that is intrinsic with expensive/exotic vehicles.

    The majority of luxury vehicles are leased, and then remarketed as a CPO the second time around, again with a warranty to provide peace of mind, and a seamless experience.

    Is the vehicle good or no good, have quirks, costs a ton to maintain without a warranty. The brand is there, makes a statement, complements the Swiss mechanical watch, the LV purse, Allen Edmunds for every day, the Mc Mansion in the upscale area, especially in America where its fashionable top flaunt success, it all works.

    You can buy generic tools, you can get Craftsman, and you can pay a ton more money for Snap On. They will all do the same thing.

    • 0 avatar
      sjd

      You are spot on. Of course as I used to work in an Audi service department its funny to watch those LV wearing McMansion dwellers freak out because their Q7 needs brakes and/or tires again (after 20K at a cost of $2K) and then pull out two credit cards to pay for it all.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      There is a difference between Snap-On vs Craftsman vs generic. The difference is not always needed. However, if you’ve ever made your living as a flat rate tech, you’d know there are times when the Snap On tool is the only one that will enable you to beat flat rate time. As an example, in a cramped engine compartment, when a 1/4 inch drive 8 mm swivel socket on the end of a 16 inch extension is needed to access a bolt or nut, the $30 Snap-On socket is worth EVERY penny.

      • 0 avatar
        hgrunt

        And specialty tools as well!

        On W8 Passats, the factory procedure for removing the rear 02 sensors (which apparently went out often) involved dropping the engine to reach them, which meant several book hours. One savvy tech made his own 02 wrench, and was able to perform the procedure in something like 2 hours.

  • avatar
    Gene B

    This is a great post, but only a great start. I wish you journalists would really be honest with us. For my job, I get to rent A LOT of cars, and specifically a lot of cars in Germany and in the UK. I love fast driving, particularly on the Autobahn (I also have a German driver’s license) where you can really see the differences in engineering – and where the poseurs are. What is special? TO me, What surprises is in the drive. Let me share a few observations.

    Most disappointing car, but with the highest expectations – BMW 328xd Wagon w/6 speed stick – I put 1500 miles on this turkey, wishing I had picked a VW Golf. The heavy lifeless electric steering and huge turning circle ruined it for me. Plus at 200 Km/h the Skoda Superb TDI wagon I rented just before was quieter AND more stable. And can’t you guys be honest about iDrive? Jack, you just blasted Toyota for the joke NAV in the new Corolla…did you ever try out the latest BWW Nav? Super slow, blocky graphics…quality unacceptable for a $100 Garmin, let alone an option for a Corolla. Simply an awful vehicle. BMW is now just the “Big Money Waster”.

    The new Audi A3 was wonderful, silent and stable at 220 Km/h, but Audi’s MMI interface, while better than the disastrous iDrive, can’t match a good touchscreen. It still seems 10 years behind. Jack, when will the Germans be properly called out on this?

    When will you guys stop calling those German Kombis wagons? They have nothing to do with family station wagons we know in the States. They are simply cooler fastback versions of sedans no longer in style there for the executive managers who drive them. Plus, they have no room! The Audi A4 I rented in October could barely fit my one suitcase! They are useless as utility vehicles and could never be used by a family FOR ANYTHING…which is why they will never sell here.

    Mazda CX5 Diesel 6 speed vs. VW Tiguan TDI 6 Speed…and the winner is…Well, it wasn’t even a close match. Above 160 Km/h the Mazda simply fell apart, with horrid fuel consumption, poor handling AND high speed stability, and an electrical glitch that constantly put the car in limp mode (while driving 100 mph). Plus it was loud and slow. The Mazda diesel is simply not ready for prime time. 24 mpg avg. vs. 35 in the Tiguan of my standard Autobahn driving. They should keep the diesel in Japan.

    Jeez, I have so many more I could describe.

    Modern cars, with their higher weight, lifeless power steering and standard automatics, have taken the everyday fun out of driving. I realize the automotive press HAS to act as one arm of the auto industry’s PR machine. I realize there are many who put looks and material quality over the drive, but I just could not see how the BMW 3 Series had an interior really worth more than a high line Golf at twice the price, and why so many are singing the company’s praises.

    Can you start doing real comparisons of similar sized cars outside of their manufacturer-defined competitive and target markets? Is a new BMW 5er with a 4 cylinder and that horrid steering really worth twice an Accord V6? Even Consumer Reports places cars in thier proper competitive segments now!

    When can you be honest that many supposedly high end cars are just overpriced crap? People want to know the truth – especially on this website!

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Its hard to get your hands on a high end car when the manufacturers know you will tell the truth about them.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      Please tell us more..

    • 0 avatar
      cornellier

      Nice write-up Gene B. I don’t come here for fashion advice. I’d like to see auto journalists describe cars objectively from the ownership / driving point of view. I get it: for some people brand trumps functionality but it doesn’t for me. While we’re at it, the same goes for segments other than the presently-discussed. For example pickup trucks should be evaluated for what they’re used for — daily commuters, rather how than how they suit an imaginary cowboy.

  • avatar
    superchan7

    Yesterday: Exotics are mundane and disappointing to drive

    Today: Exotics are terrible to own

    Both articles are sweeping generalisations.

    Exotics tend to be spectacular in some areas, mundane or disappointing in others, and terrible in reliability relative to a Camry. You can choose which areas you want your car to be amazing in, then live with the resulting bad areas.

    You don’t get “spectacular” when you buy reliable. Whether it’s sight, touch, sound or even smell, a car that provides sensual entertainment beyond the norm cannot provide an equivalent increase in (or even the same level of) reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “You don’t get “spectacular” when you buy reliable. Whether it’s sight, touch, sound or even smell, a car that provides sensual entertainment beyond the norm cannot provide an equivalent increase in (or even the same level of) reliability.”

      Disagree. The NSX, LFA, my S2000, pre-’06 Lexus LSs, even the C7 (early engine failures notwithstanding) prove you wrong when compared with their contemporaries. Unless you specifically get off on the unreliable Europeaness of the thing itself.

      • 0 avatar
        superchan7

        NSX – Brilliant car, but Ferrari made the 348 even more bonkers in response to it (see 355), instead of making it more reliable.

        LFA – We don’t really know how “reliable” those are.

        S2000 – Great competitor to the Boxster, as long as you’re under 6′ tall.

        Where the reliability expectations really disappoint are mass-produced “aspirational” cars like the BMW 3 series. An Accord has more features, more power (V6) and more reliability than a 328i, at $10k less.

    • 0 avatar

      “Yesterday: Exotics are mundane and disappointing to drive.”

      No, just Astons

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @Derek Kreindler

        Really, who cares if Aston Martins are nothing all that special to drive. They are utterly lovely. If I had the kind of “f’ you money” it would take to have one in the garage, I would do it just to look at the thing. The average new purchaser has what, like 8 cars and drives it 1500 miles a year? You buy that sort of car to make a statement, rightly or wrongly. If you just wanted a cool bargy sportyish car to daily drive around in you would just buy a Mustang.

        The British do have a way with making kind of crap cars look and feel pretty special – that certainly applies to my Range Rover. It has a real sense of occasion to it that I can’t really quantify.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    The argument that luxury brands are less reliable because they have more technological innovation at work is belied by the facts that Lexus gets it right and a Hyundai Genesis has more available tech than a last-gen 7-series. If anything, the extra cost of the vehicle should get you more reliability. We humans know how to engineer complex machines that, statistically speaking, never break (see: commercial airliners), but it’s expensive. Since a 7-series, to pick on BMW for a second, is not reliable, and yet is somehow composed of minor parts that cost more than a winter beater, the only conclusion we can draw is that those cars are designed for people who are desperate enough to be more special than you that they’ll pay any amount of money to prove that they are.

    • 0 avatar
      superchan7

      Your point is regarding engineering. Reliability comes from both engineering and testing. Testing is where production numbers bring reliability.

      I will throw around some made-up numbers. Take a production run of 1 million Toyota Camrys. Pre-production testing and the first 50k saleable units will help iron out most issues, leaving 95% of the production run mostly trouble-free.

      Then take a production run of 50k BMW 7-series. Relative to the Camry, BMW can’t possibly hope to find and solve many of the problems within such a small production run, so the customers help them do it. Why? Because it’s got road presence, a beautiful interior, an amazing powertrain, a capable suspension…but it’s not as reliable on the daily grind next to all those Camrys.

      Lexus almost had Mercedes-Benz’s number in the 1990s and early 2000s, but today’s LS price point and interior design just cannot compete.

    • 0 avatar
      hgrunt

      To be fair, commercial airliners undergo extremely rigorous and expensive maintenance schedules, where many inspections and replacements are done.

      I find parts costs tends to depend on what it is and how it’s designed more than anything else. Some parts for my car (an ’03 330i) are relatively cheap vs a Japanese car, but other parts can be significantly more. The thermostat and fuel filter are both $70 a piece from an OE supplier, but the thermostat is partly computer-controlled, and the fuel filter has a built-in pressure regulator, so you’re effectively replacing two parts.

      If it’s a low volume part for an M/AMG, then it’ll be *extremely* expensive. Timing chain guides for the E30 M3 are the “I hope the one in my car never breaks” kind of expensive.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s true. Every airliner flying has lots of things broken on it. It is, however, considered airworthy as long as its MEL (Minimum Equipment List) is satisfied. Supposedly the squacks are fixed when the jet is rotated into maintenance.

      • 0 avatar

        Also, mathematically speaking, it’s possible that the maximum is located below $36k. With only 3 data points, we don’t know if the derivative of the optimum curve at the $36k point is positive.

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    That intangible feeling of having a more expensive, but longer-lasting and nicer version of something, is a concept that can be difficult to understand, until it’s experienced. Now that I’m a bit older, and have the income to do so, I’ve started dipping into this realm, where I spend more on something nice, and keep it longer.

    Whenever I get into a discussion with someone (who usually isn’t a car person) about why someone would buy an expensive car that does something a cheaper car does better, I frame the discussion in the context that people are buying into a specific, and often very engineered experience, whether it’s staring at the fiber optic headliner in the RR Drophead, or lurching around in front of Harrod’s, in an Aventador, pretending to look for parking.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      In the context of cars, I think we’re all agreeing that modern high end cars are hardly ‘long lasting.’ The old mercs with their stupendously over built and over-engineered components are a thing of the past. No more rebuild, just replace.

      At some point in my life I’d like to tinker with a w126 (or earlier) Mercedes just to get my hands on all of the fabled quality.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Don’t do it, you will be horribly disappointed. I have owned VERY nice examples of both the legendary W123 and W124 Mercedes. Both are pretty much unreliable heaps compared to any mid-priced car of today. Fantastic in their day, but not now. And slow and rusty to boot. And for context, adjusted for inflation my ’88 300TE cost ~$80K new, for a car with plastic seats, lousy A/C, a complex rear suspension that needs a rebuild every 75K, a manual driver’s side mirror, a truly epically awful 4 speaker cassette stereo, and a factory maintenance schedule that rivals that of a modern business jet (with costs to match if you had the dealer do it). The W123 (’79 300TD) was much the same except for the rear suspension and the fact that you needed ear defenders on the highway and it took 18 seconds to get to 60mph instead of 9. They last a long time for the same reason tractors do – not much to break, but they still cost an absolute fortune along the way. But they drive like tractors too. Charming antiques at this point, but kind of lousy as daily transportation. They were about as good as cars got in their day, but that was a seriously long time ago.

        Keep your fantasies alive, don’t do it. :-)

      • 0 avatar
        Type44

        GTemnykh: The quality is pretty much what you imagine it to be, in a W126 or its charming sibling the W123. I charge through traffic without a worry or a care in my 300TD, the wife does similarly in her 300D. Day in, day out, for years. They were priced like a cheap house when new, and will travel hundreds of thousands of miles. They don’t overheat in Phoenix. The seats are the equal of anything 2015 I’ve sampled. On Bilsteins and Michelins, (as built), they ride like magic carpets over even graded dirt roads.

        I used to say to my Volvo 240 partisan pal that every volvo wagon owner in 1985 really wished they could afford a 300TD. He laughed until he got the chance to really drive my wagon. He sold his Volvo and bought a 300D that month.

        It never really occurred to me that the W123/W126 were a sort of zenith, the last where highest priced really meant best.

  • avatar
    lOmnivore Sobriquet

    “You’re not spending money to buy your way out of problems; you’re buying your way in.

    You’re paying to experience something, and if that experience is fifty percent a hand-built [six-cylinder Maserati] engine at full song and fifty percent quiet sobbing in the [kitchen] of the dealership service center, then who am I to judge you?”

    -> Citroën SM was ahead of its time.

    We told you.

  • avatar

    This article suggests an optimization problem to me.

    Suppose that all that’s Jack is saying is more or less true. It’s confirmed by anecdotic observation that all the smart rich people (e.g. not ballers or celebs) drive something mundane like Jeep Grand Cherokee.

    In the same time, my experience at the low end suggests that money does buy quality, up to the certain point. E.g. I have access to a $16k car and a $36k car. There’s absolutely no contest that the $36k car is a much better car than the $16k one. It loses in some respects, in particular its interior room is worse, but overall it’s way ahead.

    So, if a $250k car is worse than the $36k car, there’s obviously a rough maximum of goodness on this curve. Where is it?

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      It’s not so much about the price point, rather it correlates to the volume of units produced and sold. High volume equates to problems and design defects being recognized and mitigated a lot quicker – effectively confining the negative impact to a small percentage of early units going out the door.

      Think about it in terms of the old advice to never buy the first year of a new model or major redesign.

      Assuming your premise, look for vehicles to be better quality up to the price where they start to become low-volume prestige cars. Just below that should be your sweet spot (in theory at least).

    • 0 avatar
      ccd1

      I’d agree about a $16k versus $36K car, but there is a price point beyond which you are only getting a more expensive car, and not even a better one at that. Take the C7 or Z06 Vette. Both offer tremendous performance for the money. Going from a Vette to an exotic, what do you get? Certainly no performance that can be used on public streets. Maybe a car you don’t normally see on the road, certainly much higher maintenance costs and much less reliability

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        Valid point, and excluding performance considerations, you don’t get much, if any, additional functionality much above $35K-$40K.

        Rather sadly, the C7 Corvette is a unique case. It’s what auto enthusiasts are constantly begging auto makers to do, but they almost never do – design and build a car to the absolute best level of performance they are capable of – at ANY price. Then price it so low that it ends up – quite literally -in a class by itself.
        I never particularly liked Corvettes and certainly never wanted one. I WANT a C7.

      • 0 avatar

        How much is the C7, realistically? I do not have that experience and I’m somewhat serious about gathering data points.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          Base MSRP is $55K, average price paid $59K according to Edmunds.
          If you’re seriously trying to do some sort of statistical analysis on the price/value dynamic I wouldn’t include the C7. It is a unique case, and because it compares favorably with cars costing upwards of twice the price, it would heavily skew your results, and should probably end up several standard deviations out from the norm in a really thorough analysis.
          It is quite literally in a class by itself.

          • 0 avatar
            ccd1

            The C7 is the screaming bargain in the sports car class, even at MSRP. But I see year old Z51 2LT or 3LT C7s for around $60,000. If you need more than this for public road, just make your reservation at your local jail right now (and kiss your license away). At its price point there literally is no competition. Not surprisingly, it sells in greater numbers than any other sports car.

  • avatar
    Joss

    CADCAM & robotics beat hand crafted?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Of course, as far as consistent maufactureng and tight tolerances goes.

      The soulless machine does it right every time, assuming you program it right.

      Handcrafted gets you a relationship with the person who built it. That’s cool and, as someone whose ancestors are all mostly skilled craftsmen of one kind or another. But that’s not the same thing as beating the machines. Most people would call that “soul”, I guess.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    I’m generally not a big fan of Mr Baruth’s articles with regard to substance. I think he has a gift for witty, entertaining repartee, but rarely do I find anything particularly profound in his writing.

    This article, however, is exceptional – so good, in fact, it makes me see JB in a whole new light. He has absolutely nailed some fundamental truths here (pun intended). There is so much nuanced accuracy in this that it will probably go over the heads of even some very devoted Jack Baruth sycophants.

    Outstanding article. Really.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    I don’t think there needs to be much of an explanation for why a Bentley or Astin Martin isn’t as reliable as a Corvette or Lexus. But I was hoping for an explanation for why an Audi or S-class can’t be as reliable as a Corvette or Lexus.

  • avatar
    Steinweg

    What is luxury anyway? Is it features? In that case, step aside, here comes the Kia Optima. No of course it isn’t features, much as luxury brands usually stand in the vanguard of feature innovation.

    Is it space? Nonsense. No one would’ve ever bought the Silver Cloud for its interior volume. Roomy, it wasn’t.

    Luxury is different things to different people. Really, a luxury is just anything you do not need that you can afford to indulge in. So luxury is about offering the opportunity to indulge. Reliability and dependability are not indulgences, per se, though peace of mind might qualify if you’re an anxious millionaire. In that case, it’ll be a Lexus.

    For me a luxury car is one that has adequate power, but which is so special to be aboard that I don’t want to use it. A luxury car should terminally zap any urge to road rage I might have, so that no matter what irritant, I can serenely and calmly carry on.

    In other words, a Sherman tank, with West of England broadcloth and walnut burl.

  • avatar
    vibe

    Mass produced products (cars) tend to have quirks worked out. Not so the boutique product. From my point of view, watches cost over $300 are luxury products. All products have a diminished return in term of quality, durability versus price and the value of them becomes more personal.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    It’s always comical the amount of thought people will waste describing what rich people supposedly do.

    • 0 avatar
      superchan7

      In ‘Murrrrica people worship wealth. There are Forbes articles on old money descendants and how they “achieve and maintain success.” The poor are supposed to be eternally jealous, and spend their lives thinking and writing about what it would be like to be “successful” or “rich”……or even “overworked” since that’s the new hip thing to be.

      The lesson is the same as it always has been. Walk your own road; if there isn’t one where you like, build it. And buy whatever car that you can afford and that makes you happy. Be it a Rolls, a Lamborghini, a rice rocket or a rat rod. Or a Camry. Drive it responsibly and enjoy their features and performance in suitable conditions.

      Don’t be the guy who keeps whining about how “someday” he’ll get a really cool car for himself, while driving a new $50k Toyota Highlander Hybrid that he bought “for fuel economy.”

  • avatar
    gt40mk2

    Car manufacturers have their eyes on the new revenue stream: gaming. Quality control has been shifted to the 3D modelers and coders. You don’t have to drive a real car any more to get the thrill of a (sh**ty) $250k machine.

    https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2015/01/12/microsoft-and-ford-unveil-ford-gt-as-cover-car-for-forza.html

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • stuki: Now, for the real hurdle: Produce and sell it profitably at prices competitive in markets without artificial...
  • stuki: On the other hand, what does reliably contribute to improved economic resource allocation, is getting out of...
  • stuki: Mandating that everyone use the same charging port Fred Flintstone used on his first battery toy, likely would...
  • Luke42: Ford is taking reservations on the F-150 Lightning EV pickup. GM has shown their Hummer EV pickup, and...
  • jhefner: I went from a 1974 Plymouth Fury III to a 1984 Reliant Wagon. The Reliant could seat six people in...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber