As the auto industry gathers at Frankfurt amid one of the worst economic downturns in decades, you'd think that the last thing on an agenda chock full of electrics and hybrids would be luxury cars. Quite the contrary. Just as the Great Depression in the 1930s witnessed the production of some of the greatest classic cars of all time, we are now seeing the introduction of new high-end models that will be judged by future generations as classics in their own right. Here's a sampling.
2010 Aston Martin Rapide
British cool meets bespoke luxury in the form of the 2010 Aston Martin Rapide as it makes its much awaited debut in production guise at Frankfurt. Viewed from a distance, the Rapide looks identical to the concept; it's only upon closer inspection you'll learn that the roofline has been lifted slightly to improve rear seat headroom. Think of it as a 4-door DB9 and you'll understand the serious sporting intent behind this sedan with coupe styling. Beneath the hood is a 6.0-liter V-12 pumping out 470 horsepower. The engine is mated to a 6-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission. While the car has 40 less horsepower than the range-topping DBS, it boasts 23 more lb.-ft. of torque (443), which will give the car a snappy feel off the line. About 600 Rapides are destined for the U.S. market next year with price tag of about $215,000.
2011 Bentley Mulsanne
The replacement for the flagship Arnage is the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne, an all-new 4-door sedan that despite its size makes extensive use of high-strength steels, composites and aluminum to minimize weight. With conventional front and rear doors, the Mulsanne is designed to rival the Rolls-Royce Phantom in presence thanks to its large stand-up grille and round headlamp assemblies. The car is large, with an overall length of 215.9 inches, a wheelbase of 128.6 in., a width of 75.8 in. and a 60.0-in height. Powered by Bentley's venerable 6.75-liter twin-turbo V-8, the Mulsanne produces 505 horsepower and 752 lb. ft. of torque. As expected from Bentley, the interior is trimmed in leather and wood veneer, as much as 50 percent more veneer than was used on the Arnage.