The car marques turning themselves into luxury lifestyle brands

Beyond the fountain pens and sunglasses, luxury car marques are now competing at the highest levels of fine living, from slick urban real estate to bespoke tailoring to bucket-list travel experiences. Simon de Burton reports. Illustration by Max Ellis

Foreground: lifestyle accessories from Aston Martin, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche. Background: Biscayne Boulevard Way, Miami, will be home to the new Aston Martin Residences, apartments from $2m
Foreground: lifestyle accessories from Aston Martin, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche. Background: Biscayne Boulevard Way, Miami, will be home to the new Aston Martin Residences, apartments from $2m

Last month Porsche handed over the keys to the first buyers of its latest creation – all 200m of it. And no, it’s not an absurdly stretched motorcar, but the super-luxury Porsche Design Tower, codename P’0001, a 60-floor cylindrical skyscraper at Sunny Isles Beach, that prime piece of Miami real estate on Collins Avenue between swish Bal Harbour and elegant Aventura.

Aston Martin DB11
Aston Martin DB11 | Image: Rachel Palmer

Four years in the making, the tower is described as an example of “engineered luxury” that embodies the quest for mechanical perfection pursued by the marque’s late co-founder Ferry Porsche. Acres of brushed steel and aluminium combine with curved surfaces and hard-edged industrial finishes to bring a touch of Teutonic design to Miami’s sun-soaked shoreline. And every tower resident gets the use of one of three transparent lifts that unlock automatically on recognising the unique electronic “key” signature of an owner’s car, before whisking vehicle and occupants from ground floor to home – where they will be perfectly parked by a robotic arm in the private glass-walled “sky garage” that flanks the living space of every apartment.

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The tower comprises 132 residences ranging in size from 445sq m to 1,800sq m, with two to four parking slots and price tags of $6.3m to $32.5m apiece. And they’re at the forefront of a shake-up in the high-end automotive world that is driving marques to think way beyond four wheels and an engine in order to provide their customers with ready-wrapped “lifestyle packages” that reflect the image of what they choose to drive.

Aston Martin x Quintessence Yachts AM37 powerboat, from £1,260,720
Aston Martin x Quintessence Yachts AM37 powerboat, from £1,260,720 | Image: Carlo Borlenghi

It’s fitting that Porsche should be spearheading this new outlook on motoring luxury, because it was the first maker to recognise that it could extend its engineering talents beyond cars when 911 designer Ferdinand Alexander Porsche – son of Ferry – founded the Porsche Design studio in Stuttgart in 1972 (moving it to Zell am See two years later). The studio has since conceived everything from sunglasses and cufflinks to kitchen gadgets and tobacco pipes, all produced to traditional Porsche standards but designed and made independently of the car manufacturing business.

Porsche Boxster
Porsche Boxster

The $560m Miami tower, however, is by far its biggest project to date. To create it, Porsche Design teamed up with US property developers Michael and Gil Dezer, whose firm owns 27 acres of Sunny Isles Beach, which it claims to have steadily transformed over the past 30 years from “a small enclave formerly inhabited by mom and pop motels” to a blue-chip residential location. The first Porsche Design Tower has proved so popular that plans have now been announced for a second project in Frankfurt. Due to be built in collaboration with property developer P+B Planen und Bauen, it will feature around 150 residential units, including boutique apartments fully furnished and decorated in the Porsche Design style, a group of two-storey townhouses and a range of studios and penthouses.

Porsche Design titanium sunglasses by Yoko Ono, £250, and steel cufflinks, £265
Porsche Design titanium sunglasses by Yoko Ono, £250, and steel cufflinks, £265

Super-rich buyers who are drawn to the Miami vibe but not necessarily to the cult of Porsche should not despair – because this summer, Aston Martin is also sending in the bulldozers to prepare the ground for its Aston Martin Residences development at Biscayne Boulevard Way, which will take the form of a 66-floor tower containing around 390 condominiums with views over Biscayne Bay. The sales centre will open this summer, with the sail-shaped tower being scheduled for completion in 2021. Its apartments will range in price from $2m for a one-bedroom unit to $50m for a one-off duplex penthouse. Interiors will be designed by Aston Martin’s chief creative officer Marek Reichman, whose touch will be seen in everything from the concierge desk to the bespoke door handles and infinity pool.

Porsche Design Tower, Miami, apartments from $6.3m
Porsche Design Tower, Miami, apartments from $6.3m

“Real estate is going to prove very important to our future,” says Katia Bassi, managing director of AM Brands, the firm’s luxury partnerships division. “It provides us with a way of demonstrating that we are not just a luxury car brand, but a luxury brand full stop. We won’t customise every apartment, but all the common areas – such as the reception, spa and so on – will be characterised by Aston Martin DNA and typical materials. The features in the Miami residences will become the leitmotif for all our future real-estate developments, potential locations for which are Dubai, Japan and other parts of the US, among others.” Bassi adds that Miami was chosen for the first build because it is regarded as such an international and vibrant location. And what about being able to drive one’s Aston right into one’s home? “That won’t be a feature of our residences. The idea seemed too obvious.”

Bugatti Chiron
Bugatti Chiron | Image: Dominic Fraser

But the quest to encourage enthusiasts to make Aston Martin as significant a part of their existence as possible doesn’t end at providing them with a habitat. Late last year, the prototype of the 11.3m AM37 powerboat was unveiled at the Monaco Yacht Show, having been penned by Reichman and his team in collaboration with naval architect Mulder Design and built by Quintessence Yachts. To be offered in two versions – the AM37 and the sportier AM37S – the £1m-plus vessels will feature carbon-fibre dashboards, car-type steering wheels and an innovative “sliding deck” that enables the cockpit to be completely covered by an electrically operated three-part panel that folds beneath the aft deck when the boat is in use. Aston Martin has also extended its lifestyle offering with its Art of Living portfolio, which promises owners “trips of a lifetime” and “access to the ultimate in luxury” through events such as extended tours of California, New York state, Cuba and Japan and VIP runs to race circuits such as Le Mans and Monaco.

Maserati GranTurismo S
Maserati GranTurismo S

Bugatti, meanwhile, has also invested in bricks and mortar – or, rather, polished concrete, steel and glass – with its decision to build eight Ettore 971 villas ($9.5m through Damac Properties) on Dubai’s Akoya Oxygen development. Although the plan was made public in 2015, the initial show villa is only due for completion next year, in advance of the others being made available off-plan. Various configurations can be specified, but all the properties will have floor-to-ceiling windows, up to seven bedrooms (including private quarters for maid and chauffeur), a double car port and a glass-walled parking space allowing Bugatti owners to “cherish their car, even when they’re not driving it”.

From left: Bugatti x Parmigiani Fleurier titanium Aérolithe Performance watch on calfskin strap, $22,900. Bugatti x Luxury Living Group carbon-fibre and leather Cobra chair, €9,870. Bugatti x Montegrappa carbon-fibre and aluminium Chiron rollerball pen, €3,100
From left: Bugatti x Parmigiani Fleurier titanium Aérolithe Performance watch on calfskin strap, $22,900. Bugatti x Luxury Living Group carbon-fibre and leather Cobra chair, €9,870. Bugatti x Montegrappa carbon-fibre and aluminium Chiron rollerball pen, €3,100

True Bugatti fans may also kit out their villas from top to bottom with handcrafted items from the Bugatti Home Collection, which was launched at Milan’s Salone del Mobile last year. Created in collaboration with high-end furniture designer Luxury Living Group, the collection includes a reinterpretation of the celebrated Cobra chair (€9,870) designed by marque founder Ettore Bugatti’s father Carlo in 1902. This time, however, it’s made from carbon fibre, painted Bugatti blue and upholstered in cognac-coloured leather with blue piping. Other pieces include the art deco-esque Royale sofa (€39,100) and armchair (€26,450), the wide, oval Royale lounge table (€6,300), the Ettore desk (€55,660) and the Lydia bed (€23,260), which is named after Ettore Bugatti’s daughter.

Zegna cloth woven for Maserati interiors, from £4,950
Zegna cloth woven for Maserati interiors, from £4,950

Indeed, there’s little that isn’t available to owners of one of the most expensive production cars on the market if they are really determined to embrace the Bugatti lifestyle to the full. They can buy pens (€3,100) made in partnership with Montegrappa, watches ($22,900) made by Parmigiani Fleurier, and luggage, leather goods and casual clothing run up by Giorgio Armani. The new €2.4m Chiron has also inspired its own clothing range, topped by a €3,600 leather jacket, the back of which resembles the plumply padded upholstery of a classic car’s seat. The marque even offers a bespoke tailoring service for certain customers who, the website unabashedly admits, will be “absolutely spoilt rotten”.

Lamborghini Aventador S
Lamborghini Aventador S

In contrast, the “lifestyle” offerings of Italian sports car maker Ferrari are relatively tame and generally do not reach the super-luxury bracket – probably because the firm enjoys phenomenal success selling largely inexpensive Prancing Horse merchandise from both its e-tailing site and dozens of Ferrari Stores around the world to people who dream of owning one of the cars but, in the majority of cases, probably never will. Lamborghini’s driver accessories are similarly middle-of-the-road – although the marque has recently licensed its name to high-end audio firm iXoost, which has created an 800-watt home speaker system called EsaVox (€19,900), based on a Lambo’s rear end and featuring a carbon-fibre chassis and fully working shock absorbers. Maserati, meanwhile, panders to its buyers’ love of luxury via a collaboration with Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna that extends not only to a capsule clothing collection (trainers, £500, and polo shirts, from £355), but also to the option of specially woven Zegna cloth (from £4,950) being used for the cars’ upholstery.

Maserati x Ermenegildo Zegna leather Manhattan trainers, £500. Maserati x Ermenegildo Zegna cotton polo shirts, £445 and £355
Maserati x Ermenegildo Zegna leather Manhattan trainers, £500. Maserati x Ermenegildo Zegna cotton polo shirts, £445 and £355

But what are Rolls-Royce and Bentley – among the most celebrated luxury marques in the world – doing to ensure their customers don’t stop feeling special the moment they switch off their cars’ engine and step from the cabin? For the time being at least, the former continues to confine its famous bespoke service mainly to objects associated directly with its cars, while offering occasional – and exclusive – “art tours” in which customers motor off to meet leading artists at their homes or studios. Bentley, however, is branching out to a greater degree in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve in what appears to be a dramatically changing luxury car market.

Lamborghini x iXoost carbon-fibre EsaVox speaker system, €19,900
Lamborghini x iXoost carbon-fibre EsaVox speaker system, €19,900 | Image: Fabrizio Chyrek, www.chyrek.com

Indeed, Steven Egan, Bentley’s head of marketing operations, believes offering appropriate “lifestyle experiences” is becoming almost as important to the Winged B as building the cars themselves. “In our sector, it is now considered essential to do more than just make cars. The core product remains vital, of course, but we’re now catering for a new audience that regards access to the luxury lifestyle as a key part of the decision to purchase. Many of our consumers are transient people who have interests around the globe, so buying a car in their country of origin is not necessarily something that interests them – what they are looking for is access to the brand anywhere in the world at any time. As a result, we have launched what we call the Extraordinary World of Bentley, which offers lifestyle experiences inspired by the luxury and performance elements of our cars.”

Bentley Continental GT
Bentley Continental GT

One recently staged Extraordinary World event saw 40 clients pay €18,995 each to drive across Chile and Bolivia in Bentayga SUVs, while a €12,380 trip took participants by private jet to an ice-driving course in the Arctic Circle. Other experiences planned for 2017 include the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a high-performance Bentley (from €375 per person) at major European race circuits such as Spa, Paul Ricard and the Nürburgring ahead of various rounds of the Blancpain GT endurance series, in which the firm competes.

Bentley suite at The St Regis New York hotel
Bentley suite at The St Regis New York hotel | Image: Bruce Buck

Rather like Porsche, Aston Martin and Bugatti, Bentley has been looking towards luxury living, in the form of its collaboration with the Starwood-owned St Regis hotel chain. As well as chauffeur-driven Bentleys being made available at nine St Regis properties around the world, the hotels in Dubai, Istanbul and New York offer Bentley suites replete with features such as veneered walls, diamond-quilted leather upholstery, engine-inspired accessories – and even headboards based on the look of a Bentley dashboard.

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“For people who own a Bentley or are simply passionate about the brand, walking into one of these suites provides a feeling of familiarity that makes them want to return time and again,” says Egan. “Simply put, we don’t see any reason why the Bentley lifestyle should have to end the moment an owner steps out of his or her car.”

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