I recently climbed into a BMW with an interior from 10 years ago. I plugged my phone into a USB port, paired it with a Bluetooth phone and audio, and quickly selected a song from a playlist using the iDrive knob. This particular car didn’t have blind-spot warning or adaptive cruise control, but with the right options checked, it could have. The materials are utterly lovely, from the usual plastics to the switchgear and wood trim. Seats, sensational.
It got me thinking: Have luxury cars really improved that much in the past decade?
Oh, there are more gadgets and gizmos, sure. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto may be nice, but they can also cause enough headaches that the car’s native systems may be easier to use… including a 10-year-old BMW X5. There’s now even more USB ports and wireless charging, which is great with Bluetooth audio. Screens have all gotten bigger, and touchscreen capability has increased, but their functionality hasn’t always improved. It does go bad sometimes, especially in the cases of Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. Then there are screens that are replacing traditional gauges. Is all that extra information in front of you really necessary? Is it rather distracting? And in the case of BMW, is the design harder to read?
Now, I don’t want to sound too much like an old man yelling at a cloud. It doesn’t lament the loss of the analog purity of older cars in favor of newer cars rich in tech. This is probably something you could do in 2011 about cars that were 10 years old at the time. Indeed, the difference between a luxury car in 2011 and 2001 was far greater between 2021 and 2011 than it is today. And that’s exactly my point. I’m not sure how much progress has been made recently compared to previous decades.
In fact, it’s hard not to wonder if some brands might have gone a little worse. In terms of internal functionality, all the extra technology can be distracting and confusing. Tasks that were once easily accomplished with the press of a button can now be head-scratching and/or hair-pulling matters. It also makes me wonder whether the increasing reliance on screens in place of switchgear is more about the car companies saving money, it’s consumer demand and/or the belief that they are superior. Two screens (or one) should be much cheaper than designing, sourcing and then fitting an analog gauge pack and many buttons and knobs.
The second question is, do people really use all the extra stuff that’s been added in the last decade? I have serious doubts, especially among the older demographic—you know, the very first people most likely to have the cash they need to buy a gadget-packed luxury car. My mom doesn’t even know what a podcast is, let alone that her Mercedes can play one in many different ways. This observation extends to security technology. While the adoption of industry-wide automatic emergency braking is a significant advance, many people (including myself) turn off lane-keeping assist because it is too intrusive and does not use adaptive cruise control (myself included). No) because they “don’t count on it.”
In terms of interior quality, there’s clearly more bling, plus leather or feathers applied to non-seat surfaces, and of course those big, pretty screens. But the overall quality of the material? This is nothing like the reforms achieved by mainstream brands, where cars like the Nissan Sentra and Hyundai Tucson once bordered on the luxury segment. The gap has certainly narrowed. In fact, the quality of the ingredients of some luxury brands has gone downhill. The interior of my 2013 Audi Allroad was of a higher quality than that of the 2021 second generation model; The similarly disappointing Audi Q5 has hard plastic that we at Volkswagen take for granted. This was not the case with the original generation.
And then there’s the driving experience. Or, perhaps more accurately, the choice of driving experiences. Almost every car nowadays has a menu of drive settings that changes steering effort, throttle and transmission response, stability control interference, and if properly equipped, suspension firmness. My old, second generation X5 is one of the last BMWs to go without such adjustable settings and is better for it. Of course, that’s because BMW’s adjustable drive settings were pretty poor in other cars of that era. However, my X5’s steering is a lot more communicative than any non-M BMW out there today. The suspension, which isn’t adjustable (though it could have been), is on the firmer side but rammed beautifully and benefits from wheels that aren’t huge. Throttle and transmission response? There is no problem there.
I had a similar experience when comparing my old ’13 Allroad to the latest version. Yes, the 2021 has more power and is more efficient, but you have to put it in Sport mode to respond just like the old car – and the old car was hardly sporty. I would drive that old Allroad as much as I would drive a 10-year-old X5. This is admittedly more a matter of taste, as BMW has clearly chosen to make its cars more customizable and comfort-oriented for a wider range of buyer tastes. I don’t think driving its cars has gotten better in the past decade, but others may. (Again, that’s why I stopped talking about the interior). So at least, we’re talking about cars Different Better to drive instead. There is a big difference.
I also have to admit that most of it pertains to German luxury brands. Volvo and Lincoln are undeniably better than they were a decade ago. Every Lexus sold today is much faster and more responsive to drive. Acura is also making big strides, while the Genesis has gone from a Hyundai-badged sub-brand into a legitimate heavy hitter in the luxury space. Meanwhile, the in-car technology from some brands like Land Rover and Cadillac is far easier to use.
There are other areas to consider. Crash ratings haven’t really changed much over the past decade… just the number of new tests designed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. If engineers needed to make sure its cars passed the same extended number of tests a decade ago, I’m pretty sure they could have accomplished it, given how quickly they were able to adapt. proved capable.
Two related areas that have undeniably improved are fuel economy and acceleration. Perhaps engines, whether internal combustion or electrified, are not nearly as distinctive as their predecessors. This happens with fewer cylinders and more turbochargers. Still, we really should stop and appreciate what powertrain engineers have accomplished. As just a data point, a 2013 BMW X5 with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six produced 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, hit 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, and back combined 19 mpg. returned. The 2021 BMW X5 with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six produces 335 hp and 331 lb-ft, hits 60 in 5.3 seconds, and delivers 23 mpg combined. This will save you upwards of $550 on gas each year. And remember, this is a car that has gone from six cylinders to six cylinders – the differences between those that have been reduced and/or added mild hybridization are even greater.
However, the biggest difference lies with the fuel savers. My own X5, the diesel-powered xDrive35d, at 22 mpg combined was the fuel economy winner of its day, but it’s been wiped out by today: the plug-in hybrid X5 xDrive45e you can get for the same price as my car when it was new. And that is without considering tax exemption.
We may or may not need much more than what we offered a decade ago. Maybe luxury cars, or at least German cars, were so well engineered and well executed a decade ago that there really wasn’t much left to do but put lipstick on a supermodel. . The bar was raised, and it couldn’t go higher. Alternatively, perhaps all those development dollars are being funneled into electrification efforts like the X5 xDrive45e.
Either way, don’t worry too much about buying a 10 year old luxury car – well, other than the maintenance. there’s a good chance you won’t miss it He very.