We were pondering high-end luxury the other day and there was some debate about the Maybach’s interior. What is it up against?
It is up against almost everyone selling a car for more than 50,000 euros. Almost any car firm can produce a very impressive interior if they put their mind to it**. Take a look at the two images in the slide show and have a guess which one is the most recent. Then we’ll take a little look at what you can sit in for less than the kind of money Maybach/Mercedes might ask for.
Should one really want to have a certain type of high-end interior, one does not have to go all that far up the price hierarchy.
Still with our 2019 Kia K900 interior, this is the rest of it (above). Car and Driver do a thorough job of explaining why the K900 is very good value for money. I liked this part: “ Ambient interior lighting in 64 colors (seven selected in collaboration with Pantone) and a Maurice Lacroix–branded dashboard clock add a touch of exclusivity, as does the open-pore wood that can now be chosen to trim the dash, center console, and door panels.” If you want to find out about Maurice Lacroix then click here. They make watches (shades of Oleg Cassini for AMC?)
Moving over to Infiniti, this is the Q70 interior:
Granted it’s very dark. So was the official website photo as well.
Without going all the way to the top of the Lexus tree, we find the GS which looks like this (though I note the car only has a 450 litre boot).
Critics may accuse the Lexus of being a bit plain and planar. I have to say it come across as a rather soothing kind of interior. Either way, there is little sign here that the driver or passengers will suffer much should they find themselves compelled to sit there.
I went over to the Kia site to find the Genesis range (it is still sharing space with its cheaper sister brand). This image stuck out as being one which ought to strike fear into the minds of premium car makers:
What Maybach Mercedes have done is react to this kind of interior by making it light (as in white) and leaving the chairs in place as if removed from a small private jet. Let’s remind ourselves of that:
It is easy to criticise but far harder to come up with a good alternative. Maybach’s designers clearly see that offering even more stitching and a higher part count is not going to be a winning strategy, hence the attempt at simplicity.
The images of the Kia, Genesis and Lexus interiors show that some of the non-prestige manufacturers have caught up (not Cadillac – and Lincoln’s designers seemed to have worked hard on their Continental interior only to be sabotaged by the suicidally poor exterior proportions). The excellence of Kia, Hyundai, Genesis and Lexus is staggering if you consider that in 1995 only perhaps Lexus came close to touching the quality levels of the German prestige three.
This brings us to the hen in the bed: within the framework of what constitutes contemporary quality, most of these interiors are very good indeed. I am rather taken with the Kia’s interior (especially if it came in tan or mid-blue). However, the paradigm is broken or at least breaking. There is now too much happening inside cars. It is becoming a shouting match.
Try to imagine what is happening in advanced styling studios and production studios now: the replacements for these cars are being planned. They have two enemies. One is the model line below these cars which must be better than it is now. In that way the next G80 will have to be better than the current one, bringing it up to current G90 level.
The next G90 has to be “better” than the planned G80 and the current G90. The other enemy is the competing cars from the other brands (who are also engaged in an arms race with themselves).
There are two choices here: pointless and slightly incremental difference or a radical re-thinking of what high-quality and luxury looks like. If you want to see pointless and slightly incremental difference, look again at the slide show:
Is the 2016 car really any worse than the 2018 car? Are you sure which is which?
** The French aren’t bothering to try. Not one French car is in the same league as Infiniti or Lexus. They are often very nicely designed though e.g. the Espace present and previous. Jaguar is trying and failing as are Cadillac and Lincoln. Maserati has a patchy approach to quality: nice materials and patchy execution.