- Jul 1, 2015
British cars we love in America
Let The Red Coats In
Despite having declared our independence from the Crown some 239 years ago, America retains a “special” relationship with England. Much of this boils down to the fiscal and the martial; we are economic and military allies. But it must also be based, at least in part, on our shared linguistic heritage, and our interest in asking each other to say things that sound funny in our respective accents.
Very few of the words the British use to describe their cars (boot, wing, bonnet, quarterlight, windscreen, etc.) correspond to the ones we use. But, despite these syntactical vagaries, we personally maintain a special relationship with British vehicles. The Germans may marvel us with refinement and technological superiority, the Italians may liquefy our faces and hearts with unbridled passion, the Americans may slay us with affable and affordable horsepower. But the Brits are the erudite choice for the cog cognoscenti: those who crave an alchemical combination of luxury, performance, exclusivity, and personality.
So deep is our love for the English wheeled, that for the weeks leading up to the forthcoming July 4th holiday, we arranged our test-driving schedule to include a half-dozen vehicles that originate there. Doling out their perfection in very different ways, but without a dud in the bunch, we would gladly be re-colonized by any one of them.
Aston Martin RapideThe number of $200,000 sedans that trump the Rapide on every rational metric – technological doodadery, rear legroom, long-term reliability, resale value – is, roughly, all of them. But if we were spending our own (imaginary) money, we would pick the Rapide every time. Not only is it roomy enough for a weekend excursion for four, and endearingly unique enough to garner the catbird slot in every valet queue (reserve time for a tutorial on how to release the handbrake, start it, and put it in gear), it is also seductive to every eye, ear, nose, and hand on Earth. No one ever said that about a Panamera.
Aston Martin Vanquish Volante Carbon EditionIf you’re rushing to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for a lunchtime appointment, it’s not advisable to drive this car by Hollywood High, as you’ll be mobbed by hordes of hungry teenage boys like you’re the world’s biggest stick of beef jerky. Neither is it advisable to drive this car around LA only in first or second gear, winding out its V12 in a symphony of bombast profundo enough to cause mastodon skeletons to burbble up from the La Brea Tar Pits. But we did both, and we do not regret it for one second. “What’s new about this car?” one of our friends asked. We neither know, nor care.
Jaguar F-Type V6 ManualDon’t get us wrong. We worship the obstreperous incorrigibility of the supercharged V8 engine, and back-splatty exhaust, that Jaguar shoehorns into the tapered nose of its supple F-Type. But the V6 comes with plenty of power (albeit, up to a staggering 210 horsepower less than the eight-cylinder model), rear-wheel drive to the V8’s now standard all-wheel drive, and, praise be to Carrus – the jackal-headed, swimmer-bodied god of all things automotive – a real manual transmission. Raise your hand if you’re opposed to cheaper, lighter, more tossable, stick-shifted cars. Those of you with your hands up are traitors. Carrus, eat their brains.
Land Rover LR4
In an era when Land Rover’s audacious rectilinearity has been replaced by a rounded and recherché recumbency, you will be excused for not knowing that the storied brand still manufactures the right-angled LR4. Well, it does – for now. And it’s a bargain. Nearly three tons of electronically selectable, off-road capable, all-wheel-drive truck, with premium surfaces, a smooth supercharged V6, and seating for seven (along with luggage), starting at just $50,000. Added benefit: It looks vintage (but comes with a new car warrantee) so you can look riche without appearing nouveaux.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVRThe 1979 film The Black Hole bummed us out. Not because of its shitty kite-on-a-string computer special effects, or because it was the first Disney movie to incorporate swearing. Because of the metaphysical ennui. (How did your feeble ten year-old brain respond to the notion of inescapable gravity?) This sport ute is the antidote: the blackest, holiest Land Rover ever produced. In space, or inside of this growling 1,000-decibel beast, no one can hear you scream (with joy). Do you really need a 550-hp, $125,000 SUV? When you’re being pursued by an inexorable and advancing nothingness, it can’t hurt.
Rolls’ recent vehicular lineup was not exactly known for it delicacy of design. Hand-hewn details, painstaking paint process, bespoke bespokery, and Brobdingnagian sense of scale, certainly. But no one would point at a Phantom II, or even a Ghost and say, “Look, diaphanous grace.” (More likely, they’d say, “Don’t look, it arouses the ire of our fearless leader, praise be to him.”) The Wraith has changed all that. It has an almost Art Moderne, Delahaye-esque profile. It harnesses celestial magic in its Starlight Headliner. And, like good sex, it goes on forever in surprising ways, and you never want it to stop.