As these words are pecked out, the American economy is barely turning over with the slow wuhn-wuhn-wuhn of an 11-year-old DieHard after a three-week cold-soak at the Minneapolis airport. But last November, we threw a bunch of those 'hopey-changey' bums out, and the lame-duck 2010 Congress has set the trickle-down wheels in motion by extending the Bush tax cuts for all.
So surely any day now, our economic engine will be ticking over smoothly, and all you business owners and top-bracket investors who have been hoarding your cash will be spreading it around, right? We hear the extension saves you rich folks $103,835 per million of annual taxable income. What better economic stimulus for you to spend it on than a shiny replacement for that tired old barge you've been driving since the credit-party music stopped. But which flagship to choose?
Restraint is still called for. Pop for a V-12 and your Tea Party pals will tsk disapprovingly at your liberal-elite profligacy. Better to demonstrate some "shared sacrifice": Order the entry-level powertrain and go easy on the options. Then, if cap-and-trade sends energy prices through the ozone hole, you can brag about your forward-thinking choice of a thrifty V-6, hybrid, or small, naturally aspirated V-8.
The obvious entry-level choices begin with the perennial benchmark Mercedes-Benz, whose S400 Hybrid promises to peg the smugometer. Its 3.5-liter V-6 is augmented by a 118-pound-foot electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack that allows this leviathan limo to sip premium at the penurious rate of just 19 mpg city/26 highway. BMW's 740i goes all EcoBoost-y by using a turbocharged inline-six. Audi
will eventually offer a blown V-6 in the A8, but entry pricing currently buys a 4.2-liter direct-injected V-8. Jaguar's slinky new XJ opens with a free-breathing V-8 that delivers class-leading power, but you needn't 'fess up to that factoid. The short-wheelbase version would be the political play, but we could only get a stretched XJL. The Lexus
hybrid flagship is priced (and powered) like a V-12, so these times call for an LS 460 V-8.
To these obvious contenders we're adding two wild cards. Porsche
has sawed two cylinders off the four-door Panamera's V-8 to produce a 3.6-liter V-6 (Porsche's first ever), with a nearly puritanical base price of just $75,375. And Korea has mustered the chutzpah to field an entrant in the über-lux segment with the Hyundai
Equus. It matches the mainstreamers on power, space, and amenities at a price that could almost make T. Boone Pickens consider trading in his Town Car for one (with natural gas conversion). Which vehicle offers the perfect balance of performance, panache, and propriety? Read on.