Car of the Year 2004

Overview

Architectural ambience: grand new hotels summon a sense of place.  And, 12 vanguard vehicles, the most revolutionary designs in decades hit the road.

From This Issue

Furnishings: The Paris Review

The career of furniture designer Maxine Snider is a case of life imitating art. Snider first became enamored with early-20th-century French furniture while eyeing the sketches by furniture designers Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, Jean Prouvé, and André Groult at the Musée d’Orsay’s research library.   The year was 1997, and she was in Paris while her husband, […]

Appliances: At Your Service

Clothes may make the man, or woman, but what about their upkeep? Too often, little, if any, thought is given to the maintenance of these valued image shapers. With the best of intentions, most garments are dry-cleaned or laundered so often that the fabric is permanently damaged.   “We know from research that the majority […]

Home Electronics: Switching Channels

In audio circles, Jeff Rowland Design Group is to two-channel hi-fi as Brooks Brothers is to button-down collars. Now, however, the Colorado Springs, Colo., company is venturing into home theater territory, which, to extend the analogy, is equivalent to Brooks Brothers releasing an haute couture line. It is out of character—or, at first glance, appears to be.   For nearly […]

Travel: Breaking the Fourth Wall

The waitress smiles as she places a loaded water pistol on the breakfast table in the dining room at St. Lucia’s Ladera Resort. “It’s for the birds,” she says. The view from the table is unblemished by obstacles such as walls. You take your morning coffee while gazing down upon Jalousie Bay, its blue Caribbean […]

Relevance Revolution

Miami gallery owner and hotelier Diana Lowenstein was surprised when, in early 1998, she heard the news: The venerable Ritz-Carlton chain wanted to turn the DiLido Hotel, which she and her family had owned since 1973, into one of its properties. Lowenstein knew that changes would be on the way for the 11-story hotel, a […]

FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

  Robert Mondavi 2000 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet SauvignonAll things, they say, come full circle: Though Napa Valley fixtures like Robert Mondavi Winery may share the oenological limelight with impressive newcomers to the industry’s ever-growing pantheon, lovers of all that is best about California will return, when occasions call for a native Cabernet Sauvignon, to […]

FrontRunners: Mega Fortune

Imagine a fortune cookie, smothered in chocolate, caramel, toffee, or nuts, that weighs in at just under one pound and measures more than half a foot across. Karen Belasco Staitman did just that—and built a multimillion-dollar gourmet cookie company around the delectable confection.   Good Fortunes (800.644. 9474, http://www.goodfortunes.com), which Staitman founded in Los Angeles […]

FrontRunners: Select Smoke

Trinidad Fundador Trinidad, a fondly remembered Cuban state cigar brand, is now being produced in the Dominican Republic. Dominican “Trinis” are available in seven shapes, but we suggest the 71¼2 x 40 Fundador, the only size in which the original Cubans were made. Contrary to its billing as a powerful smoking experience, we found the […]

Smoke: Small Wonders

Unless a restaurant is especially busy, most chefs are willing to accommodate a patron’s special request. One dish, however, is often craved but seldom provided: an ashtray. As he steps outside a London restaurant on a blustery night to light a Partagas Serie D, Italian importer Enzo Natali says he is becoming accustomed to the proliferating […]

Dining: Culinary Quest

A May rainstorm was turning to snow, and I had another 12 miles to hike before lunch. Pushing through the glazing mud, I consoled myself by remembering that countless thousands from the far ends of Europe, many barefoot and threadbare, had preceded me up this steep, forested pass in the foothills of the Basque Pyrenees. Yet […]

Leisure: A Sleeping Beauty Awakes

She lies nude and asleep upon draperies of red and white, one arm coiled around her head. A small cluster of buildings is in the distance, but she has chosen to nap here, in the open, under a cloudy blue sky. She appears divine, as she should; she is Venus, the goddess of love. Her […]

Golf: Stone’s Throw

It may seem sacrilegious for a golfer to visit the Monterey Peninsula and not stay or play at Pebble Beach. But an excellent alternative to that sacred ground along Seventeen Mile Drive has long existed just a few miles east in Carmel Valley. After completion of a major refurbishment in July, the Quail Lodge is […]

FrontRunners: Love Letters

Although he became a legend for his amorous proclivities, Casanova was also a renowned adventurer and writer who authored epic memoirs depicting his exploits in 18th-century Venice. Last year, Italian artisan penmaker Omas (800.321.4832, http://www.omas.com) paid homage to the Venetian Republic with three special collections, the third of which honors Casanova. Created in partnership with […]

FrontRunners: Fancy This

Fancy colored diamonds are gaining prominence as awareness of their extreme rarity and value spreads. The inaugural Palm Beach Jewelry and Antique Show (www.palmbeachshow.com), from February 13 through 17, will display the Rainbow Diamond Collection, comprising 300 fancy colored diamonds weighing more than 350 carats total.   The collection was assembled over the past 34 […]

FrontRunners: Royal Plush

Chie Imai’s (800.957.3808, 212. 588.0555, http://www.royalchie.com) distinctive designs are characterized by dyed strips of fur that are cut and sewn to achieve a basket weave effect, which she calls Mosaique. Her latest Mosaique collection blends Hakata woven silk—the fabric of choice for kimono obis, or sashes—with her colorful furs. The official furrier to the Japanese […]

Health & Grooming: Aromatherapy

Purchasing perfume as a gift always frustrates me. Every time I walk away watery-eyed from the trendiest boutiques, assured that I’ve just acquired the latest and most exotic, I am later told in no uncertain terms that I missed the mark by a wide margin. My lady friend, you see, just loves fragrances, and she […]

A Flourish for Ferrari

The fountain pen and the stick shift are two 20th-century inventions that hold their appeal for purists. A beautiful writing instrument, after all, affords a tactile satisfaction not unlike the pleasure of a manual gearbox exploiting an engine’s precise power band—a sensation absent from both the soulless keyboard and know-it-all automatic transmission. As these commodities, […]

Style: Andean Gold

High in the Andes mountains of southern Peru, a skittish herd of deerlike vicuñas madly dashes from left to right in formation, desperately seeking a break in the circle that is slowly closing in around them. The human chain of more than 400 participants clasping hands shifts clumsily while trying to block the doe-eyed animals’ […]

Car of the Year 2004: Lamborghini Gallardo

The Lamborghini Gallardo is my hands-down “Car of the Year” winner, simply because it does its job as a sports car so well—and its beauty seals the deal. The styling is fresh and new, not a hackneyed retro-pastiche or a caricature such as Ferrari’s Game Boy Enzo. Those Audi-phobic detractors claiming that Italian heritage is […]

Car of the Year 2004: Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

Anyone who has lived with Porsches knows that they represent the best real-world solution to sports car ownership. I have always thought that it is precisely because they do everything so well but so differently, without cowing to styling trends and me-too clichés, that they excite either ire or lust and not much in between. […]

Car of the Year 2004: Maybach 62

The passenger seat of the Lamborghini Gallardo is no place for a stenographer to call home. As Ron Jackson, president of Girard-Perregaux USA, rocketed the Gallardo through turns and along straights, I scribbled down his impressions of the car. “Let’s go around again,” Jackson said as he completed the circuit. “That was fun.” Not for […]

Car of the Year 2004: Rolls-Royce Phantom

  When BMW assumed ownership of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, many loyalists despaired that the heritage-laden British marque would soon sprechen Deutsch. The Bavarian firm has taken pains, however, to ensure that the unapologetic luxury in the Phantom, its first new Rolls-Royce offering, speaks the Queen’s English with a satisfyingly plummy accent. In the same way […]

Car of the Year 2004: Audi RS6

In our field of finalists, which includes ocean liners masquerading as automobiles, vehicles sporting shades of yellow that beg for the attention of speed-monitoring law officers, and machines designed with lines edgy enough to belong in a cutlery cabinet, the Audi RS6 appears relatively inconspicuous—which, for some drivers, is its most attractive attribute. One of […]

Car of the Year 2004: BMW 645Ci

  Mainstream BMWs have typically been safe, three-box designs—handsome but never sensual, clean and catchy without being really clever or truly eye-catching. The 645Ci coupe, however, exorcises all that has been BMW bland for too long and begs a standing ovation for being first-cabin, soul-deep, triple-distilled gorgeous. Remove the roundels on the hubs and the […]

Car of the Year 2004: Jaguar XJR

  Improvements to the Jaguar XJR are so impressive that they should have made this car a serious contender. Sadly, the modifications for 2004 are not readily apparent, and so the car stands as a dowager of design: same old exquisite lines, same old peerless leathers and woods, same old engine that purrs before it […]

Car of the Year 2004: Porsche Cayenne Turbo

Building an SUV might not have seemed an obvious choice for Porsche; when announced, the news prompted head-scratching, even amid the extreme vogue for SUVs. (Lamborghini did set a precedent in the 1980s with its LM, but that was a supercar anomaly.) The Stuttgart automaker famous for rear-engine, 2+2 sports cars nevertheless attacked the category […]

Car of the Year 2004: Subaru Impreza

The number of smiles the Impreza WRX STi inspires is inversely proportionate to the amount of dollars that Subaru is asking for its purchase. In terms of performance versus its 11 “Car of the Year” competitors, the Subaru stands unchallenged when delivering bang—in this case, a seriously turbocharged fourbanger—for the buck. Consider the Audi RS6, […]

Car of the Year 2004: Cadillac XLR

  Cadillac’s stylistic renaissance, which began with the CTS sedan several years ago, continues in earnest with the stunning XLR. The new familial design vocabulary of sharp creases and broad planes—combined with plenty of swoop—works especially well on the large roadster, which may be the company’s most important design since the elegant Eldorado in 1967. […]

Car of the Year 2004: Morgan Aero 8

Morgan, the oldest family-owned carmaker in the world (founded in 1910 by the grandfather of present owner Charles Morgan), enters the 21st century offering its state-of-the-art Aero 8. Such longevity represents a colossal achievement given the esoteric nature of this British marque and the stifling requirements that today’s car builders must meet. Yet Morgan has […]

Back Page: Whither the Exotics?

Like a vehicle model that remains in production for 11 years, Robb Report’s “Car of the Year” feature has evolved considerably since its debut in 1994. While remaining inclusive—a Subaru was among this year’s 12 finalists—the field of competitors has also become more exclusive—we judged a BMW 6 Series this year, not the 5 or […]

Aircraft: Power to the People

For a stretch of time in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Coast Guard was confronted with a dilemma that the Italian-made Agusta A109 Power helicopter eventually helped solve. Caribbean smugglers were using high-powered speedboats to transport as much as two tons of drugs per shipment. Traveling at speeds of 50 mph or faster, they regularly outran […]

FrontRunners: The Last McLaren F1

The McLaren F1 became an instant classic when it rolled onto the automotive scene in 1994. All of the 64 production road cars that were built quickly sold, except for one, which had been parked in the company’s London showroom for a decade, until it recently was removed to make way for the XP5 prototype. […]

Car of the Year 2004 Winner: Bentley Continental GT

he introduction of the braw and brawny Bentley Continental GT has been a tease probably unmatched since Eve elevated the apple into foreplay. After four years of recitation, the vital stats and catch phrases associated with the Continental GT are familiar to even casual followers of the new Bentley breeders. It is an ungoverned, 198 […]

Car of the Year 2004

The competition depicted in the following pages marks several milestones. First, it denotes the beginning of the second decade for Robb Report’s “Car of the Year” event (our 11th annual). While the methodology has shifted and been fine-tuned during that span, the atmosphere of passion, anticipation, pure childish fun, and (somewhat more seriously) connoisseurship has […]