Luxury limos and sports cars made in Britain or Italy have always exuded a different air than do a mere Mercedes or BMW. German cars may be beautifully engineered, efficient, reliable, but they lack the class, polish, and glamour of a Bentley or a Ferrari.

Traditionally there has been another difference as well: price. But in what may be a new form of austerity, basic models of ultra-luxe vehicles are increasingly priced very near to cars in the upmarket “normal” category.

The new Bentley Continental GT V8, for example, sells for 160,000 euros ($202,000). The Lamborghini Gallardo is priced at 164,815 euros while the Ferrari California is available for 176,200 euros. Compare that to the Porsche 911 Turbo S (170,000 euros) or the AMG version of the Mercedes S-Class at 230,000 euros.

And that’s by no means the lowest end of the price scale. A Maserati GranTurismo sells for 112,280 euros, an Aston Martin V8 Vantage for 115,150 euros. Those are middle-range prices for the Porsche 911 and Mercedes S-Class.

Even the traditionally higher maintenance costs for British and Italian models is now becoming less of a concern thanks to options like Lamborghini’s competitively priced “Routine Services” program. And although the aristocratic brands are loath to admit it, greater technical reliability also comes down to the fact that the bluebloods share some technology with the commoners.

Aston Martin’s 8- and 12-cylinder motors have Ford genes; the Lamborghini Gallardo is technically closely related to the Audi R8; and the Bentley Continental shares a significant number of components with the VW Phaeton. While this may not be great for their image, one advantage is greater reliability, easier maintenance, and less problem locating spare parts.

Still, a Bentley is not a VW. The Continental GT W12, for example, can race at speeds of up to 318 km an hour. No Phaeton can do that – nor for that matter can a Mercedes or a BMW. Most saliently: the deluxe wheels offer unforgettable driving experiences.

Anyone who has put a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4 through its paces, sat in a Bentley Continental GT as the speedometer passes 300 km, or stroked the wood and leather dashboard of a Maserati Quattroporte can tell you that – regardless of pricing policies, maintenance packages, or even how perfectly other cars may be made – they remain a class apart.

Read the full story in German by Jens Meiners

Photo - Ed Callow

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations