Luxury Automakers are Focusing More on Passengers, Less on Driver

By Jacob Brown | June 06, 2012
Luxury cars used to be all about the passengers. Back in the 1970s, there weren't side bolsters on seats for taking corners quickly; there were tufts of quilted velour for making you feel like you were sitting in a smoking room at a yacht club instead of driving. Then, a few outfits from Germany had to screw it all up with making driver involvement part of the equation. But it looks like the trend is starting to reverse again, with automakers placing an added focus on passenger room and coddling amenities over smaller, more intimate vehicles. And they're starting with the back seat. Luxury cars are getting bigger in the back for two reasons. Let's start with the first one: China. Over there, the burgeoning luxury-car market has forced automakers to reconsider how they develop cars with a greater focus on rear-seat accommodations. That's because if you can afford a high-brow nameplate, you can probably afford the chauffeur to go along with it. Most owners are finding themselves relaxing in the back instead.
The other reason comes by way of a shift in lifestyle for well-heeled owners in the States, taking their friends out and showing off their new cars. The 2013 Cadillac XTS sedan gains two inches of rear-seat legroom over the STS it's (kinda)  replacing. Its 40 inches of space is still 1.6 inches behind the outgoing Cadillac DTS, though. Lexus is adding 4.1 inches of rear legroom to the 2013 ES 350 and ES 300h versus the 2012 model, a huge number. Other automakers like Lincoln, BMW, and Audi are following suit, repackaging vehicles that are nary bigger on the outside than the ones they replace but have plenty more space on the inside. Acura's assistant vice-president Vicki Proponi told USA Today that customers "were not buying for fun-to-drive factors," instead opting for space in larger luxury sedans. Does that mean those who can afford the $50,000 luxury sedans of their dreams are destitute to lives of driving whale-sized plush-mobiles as drivers once did in the 1960s and 1970s? Hardly. Sportier luxury sedans are coming from every which way, from the Lexus GS to the Audi A6. And plenty of others are still very much driver-focused, despite the added size, like the BMW 3 Series and 2013 Cadillac ATS compact sedan. More than ever, luxury-car shoppers are able to have their cake and eat it, too. Priorities shifting back to passenger comfort, however, just look to be yet another added luxury. Source: USA Today