There are plenty of cars on the market that advertise themselves as luxury vehicles. But the term is thrown around so much that it's difficult for car buyers to know what it really means. Does it refer to price? Does it refer to brand reputation? Is it about build quality and value retention?
The answer is that the industry defines luxury vehicles as those that offer more than the basics. And it also tends to mean that the features come standard – which is a key differentiator. Otherwise, we'd all have to call the Kia Optima a luxury car because it comes with available Nappa leather seats.
And there are a certain set of features that have come to define luxury vehicles today. And when you see them in a car – you'll know what they mean when they use the word luxury. Here's a list of the features that make a luxury car luxurious.
Upgraded Suspension Systems
Every vehicle on the road today is built to deal with the wear and tear of operating on paved and unpaved roads. And they're built to do it while providing decent comfort for the driver and passengers inside. But luxury vehicles take that concept to the next level with suspension systems that offer the ultimate in comfort.
Lately, many luxury brands are equipping their vehicles with air suspension systems. They're capable of monitoring the road the vehicle is traveling on and adjusting the hardness or softness of the ride to suit it best. They also respond to the speed of the vehicle and the amount of weight it's carrying. The result is a ride that's far smoother than that of a standard vehicle.
Heated Steering Wheels and Massage Seats
Another feature that's all but standard in luxury vehicles is heated steering wheels and seats. These features enhance the comfort of the driver and passengers by providing warm surfaces in the vehicle, even on frigid days. Leather is also more common in luxury cars and requires heated surfaces. There are few things more uncomfortable than sitting on cold leather.
Some luxury vehicles go even further and include seats that cool themselves in the summer, too. They're capable of cooling the seating areas far faster than a standard air conditioning system can, and they make a big difference on hot summer days. And although they're not as common, some luxury vehicles are now adding built-in massagers into their seats for even more passenger pampering.
Automatic Safety Systems
Not long ago, most vehicles on the roads had nothing but seatbelts to keep drivers and passengers safe. It wasn't until 1999 that airbags became standard equipment in all cars sold in the US. But luxury cars have a history of offering advanced safety equipment that goes well beyond what's mandatory.
Most luxury cars today come equipped with automatic crash warning and avoidance systems, driver-assist functions, and other safety features not found in standard vehicles. Some are already practically capable of driving themselves on highways (although you still must keep your hands on the wheel). The bottom line is that luxury cars are more likely to get you where you're going safely and comfortably, and they don't cut any corners doing it.
Color Heads-Up Displays
Color heads-up displays are another example of a feature you'll find almost exclusively in luxury cars these days. They project all of the vehicle's key data – like speed, fuel status, GPS directions, and more – right into the driver's field of vision. That means the driver doesn't have to take their eyes off the road for any reason, leading to a safer ride. Many are even integrated with the vehicle's other systems, allowing the driver to control things like a Bluetooth-connected smartphone or climate controls.
Advanced Infotainment Systems
Although touch-screens and navigation systems are common in today's cars, luxury vehicles often come with advanced infotainment systems that go above and beyond basic functionality. They offer multiple modes of control, with the best of them even including voice assistants that rival high-end smartphones. And they let the driver and passengers have unprecedented control over what they see and hear as they travel. The Mercedes-Benz MBUX system will even learn your preferences as you drive and offer automated shortcuts to features and settings you use most.
Integrated Scent Systems
As if the aforementioned features weren't enough, there's another upgrade that's starting to become common in luxury cars: integrated scent systems. Automakers like Mercedes Benz are custom-designing scents that keep the interiors of their vehicles smelling like a million bucks every time you get in to take a ride. And unlike add-on air fresheners, these integrated scent systems are invisible and freshen the air as it passes through the vehicle's air vents for maximum effect.
Luxury You Can See and Feel
As you can tell by this list, luxury vehicles are truly in a class by themselves. They offer standard features that make the driving experience amazing, and the passenger experience unbeatable. And even though you might find some of the features listed here available on lower-end models, that doesn't make them any less exclusive. So the next time someone tries to tell you that a certain vehicle is a luxury car, you'll know if it's true. If it comes with most if not all of the features listed here, you're in a true luxury ride.