The term “sedan” in reference to a passenger car—typically characterized by four doors and five seats—doesn’t always conjure up the idea of elegance or style. In reality though, the word sedan—or the concept of comfortable and luxurious travel—has come a very long way indeed from its earliest etymological usage in Great Britain, and throughout the English colonial empire. A transportable box, the coach sedan was literally a “covered chair” suspended by poles and run on manpower.
Fast forward to the present. Aston Martin will celebrate its centenary next year, and with the Rapide Luxe, the passionate pedal stomper has a lot to rejoice about. Its dynamic, eye-catching split grille holds an all-alloy, 48-valve, V12 engine that makes 0-to-60 playtime a breeze—in five seconds. Another gem of the British Isles, Bentley’s Mulsanne, storms across the countryside with a twin-turbocharged V8 that gears up from 0-60 in 5.1 seconds, and tops out at 184 mph. Whether being chauffeured in the roomy rear occupancy seats or gunning it in the driver’s seat, these regal sedans make the heart—including mine—all aflutter. I’m only human.
Bentley and Aston Martin are proof that when it comes to craftsmanship, few make ultra-luxury sedans better than the Brits. Though the usual marked difference that distinguishes luxury sedans from their fiendishly fast, speed-hungry sports car cousins is two extra doors, a roomier interior, larger body and more amenities to play with—the usual catch is what lies growling, or purring, under the “bonnet.” With ultra-luxurious sedans like these, however, the driver should expect all his or her merry horses.
While not sacrificing any British ingenuity, guile or speed with its new line of Jaguars, Tata Motors, the Indian auto company that four years ago acquired Jaguar Land Rover, has another hot ticket for the comfort enthusiast. Roaring out of the Castle Bromwich Assembly in Birmingham, the XJ boasts a 340-hp 3.0-liter Supercharged V6 with an 8-speed transmission and mounted steering wheel paddle shifters. However, an argument can be made that the gadgets, not what lies under the hood, are what defines these vehicles best.
Most sedans come equipped with your standard bread-and-butter creature comforts, but these British autos add a certain, well, British charm to the ride. All of these cars have characteristic attachments including iPod connectors, picnic-mounted passenger trays and veneer lining, among a slew of other features. But the Mulsanne Executive interior prides itself on truly bringing together the office and entertainment rooms of the house into one luxurious driving experience. Options include tray-mounted iPads, equipped with wireless keyboards; a hand crafted bottle cooler that can fit two full size bottles of champagne; an HD 15″ monitor in the rear seat—all this wrought together with customizable pinstripe veneer stitch.
The age old query of “When are we going to get there?” has been rendered mute in these sedans. From the inside of these ultra-luxury sedans, getting “there” is overrated.