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A New Kind of Luxury

Be Pampered By Your Car In The Spring

What is luxury? In the 1970s, it meant “Corinthian leather” seats with tufted upholstery. In the 1980s and ‘90s, it meant “Teutonic starkness,” with the focus on performance and purposeful—not beautiful—looks. Now, luxury has a new style, and as we’ll see with the Cadillac ELR and the Lexus IS Series, we are firmly in a new mindset for the 21st Century when it comes to cars.

Charge it to the Limit!

Cadillac. The name itself evokes memories of American success. Elvis loved them and our President tools around in one. Cadillac’s design direction, in the last 10 years, has been nearly flawless; in short, Caddy is one company that finds it difficult to make an ugly vehicle. Yet, they’ve topped themselves with the (mostly) electric/hybrid, ELR two-door coupe. Cadillac’s “tailfins” are legendary, and starting from the New Century’s version of them, and following a razor-sharp crease, the ELR ends (or, rather, begins) at a front-end that’s more “spaceship” than anything else. A cutting-edge grille leads the way for this $75,000 car that takes GM’s Chevrolet Volt technology a notch higher for the Country Club set.

Inside, the ELR ain’t Elvis’ Cadillac. Sumptuous, soft leather cascades across a breathtaking interior that would be more at home in a Jet-setting Euro-Princess’ pied-a-terre than in a mere car. For just $2,400 more, one can order even lusher cow skin that makes one feel like they’re inside an expensive Italian handbag. The instrument binnacle, directly in front of the driver, feeds crisp, clear information and it’s customizable to inform exactly what the driver desires. Meanwhile, on the center console, a large, eight-inch, color display spits-out more information than Fox Business News. There’s standard navigation; HD radio; and best of all, Cadillac’s CUE system of “apps,” which is similar to a smartphone’s goodies. GM’s “halo” division also outfits the ELR with an Active Noise Cancellation system, which makes the vehicle hush-hush quiet.

Some may see the ELR as Cadillac’s modern-day interpretation of the Eldorado “personal luxury coupe” that reigned over Interstates for decades. The ELR is, indeed, a continuation of that legend and a sure sign that there’s at least one American luxury marque that’s here to stay.

The Definition of IS

Bill Clinton helped re-define what “is” meant, back in the late-1990s, and the first-generation Lexus IS re-defined the entire sport-luxury sedan market. Since then, BMW’s 3-series has been nervously looking over its shoulder at the rock-solid reliability, the many standard features found on a Lexus, and the continuing development of the IS “breed.” The new IS250 and IS350, both available in all-wheel-drive, have raised the bar even higher for the competition.

At the stern, a somewhat menacing grille (Lexus’ new corporate look) snarls the way forward; the car’s side flanks are “simply sculpture;” and the look doesn’t merely “tail-off” into ether. Rather, the avant-garde rear lamps proudly tell all those who have just been passed that they’ve been vanquished by the Japanese paradigm of luxury and sport.

Available with either 2.5-liter V6 or a 3.5-liter V6, the IS Series fits four comfortably inside its baby-soft, hide-lathered cockpit. By now, everyone knows that Lexus goes above and beyond with options and available upgrades, yet even a “base” IS makes an “optioned-out” Audi A4 look like a poor value for the money. Check-off a few options on the IS, such as the Enform App suite (similar to Caddy’s CUE), or the Intuitive Parking Assist, and you’ve got a car that truly does roar past the competition. (With the IPA, the IS even parks itself.) More bad news for BMW: the coupe version of the IS (called the RC) is debuting soon, and with a V8 in the front, it roars even louder. It’s also gorgeous, like its four-door sibling…but with well over 500 ponies under the luscious hood.