A guest – someone involved in the high-end luxury car business – pulls a face when the S-Class is mentioned. “That’s not luxury, that’s premium,” they say of a car whose base price can be as high as £192,805 – higher than the starting price of some of the luxury cars their own interests involve.
So I try to define luxury. Is it exclusivity? That’s part of it, but the fact that nobody else has one can’t alone be a reason, otherwise an MG 6 would be a luxury car.
Okay, that’s facetious. Sorry. Luxury also, presumably, means expensive. But clearly that’s not enough either, if the opinion of our expert is to go by, otherwise an AMG S-Class would be a luxury car, and apparently it isn’t.
Is it craftsmanship? That there’s a personal mark on it? Possibly. Recently I watched a Bentley steering wheel being stitched together. The leather wrapping each rim is cross-stitched by hand. Before they start, the craftspeople who do it make a series of indentations in the leather, so they know where to put their stitches. To do that, they work their way around the rim, pricking it with a fork. Each of them has their own fork – any old kitchen fork – which means the pitch between the stitching is unique to whoever hand-stitched your wheel.
That is my steering wheel, made by that person. By hand. It took time. It is unique, to me, made by them. That, I will accept, sounds like the very definition of luxury, as opposed to premium.
So I’m getting closer to a definition, but that can’t be enough, otherwise Mercedes wouldn’t have thought it worthwhile to launch the Maybach brand (recently resurrected as a trim level). Just putting in time and effort would have been enough.