Car of the Year


The top 2009 models compete for the prize. Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Tesla & more. Plus, Spring fashion essentials. Refresh your style this season.

From This Issue

From the Editors: The Wheel Turns Full Circle

An article on the discovery of an ancient Thracian chariot near the village of Karanovo in Bulgaria recently set off, in my mind, a series of reflections on the curious culture of our own form of personal transportation, the automobile—which happens to be the subject of this, our Car of the Year 2009 issue. The […]

Robb Design Portfolio: Silver Bullet

1960 Porsche Type 718 RS 60 Spyder In 1960, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile—motor racing’s governing body—ruled that competitive automobiles should have wider cockpits and taller windshields. To accommodate this regulation change, Porsche widened the space frame and slightly lengthened the wheelbase of its Type 718–series RSK. The new car, known as the Type 718 […]

Robb Design Portfolio: Haute Rocks

Earth’s jewels from Astro Gallery of Gems Occasionally, gem expert Dennis Tanjeloff allows potential buyers to view treasures from his private collection, such as a piece of crystallized gold (opposite, $120,000), found at California’s Eagle’s Nest, that he says is “the size of a man’s hand,” and garnets in albite (above, $65,000) discovered in Pakistan. […]

FrontRunners: Audi R8

The original Audi R8 may be a great car—even fine enough to earn top honors at Robb Report’s 2008 Car of the Year fete—but with just eight cylinders and only 420 hp, it is no supercar. However, the R8’s latest iteration, the $160,000 Audi R8 V10 (www?, has clear supercar credentials. Those qualifications begin with […]

FrontRunners: See Creature

The profile of Schöpfer Yachts’ first project, called the Oculus (—Latin for “eye”—is supposed to evoke the eye socket and jawbone of a whale or fish. The boat’s nontraditional shape is not so surprising, considering that Schöpfer Yachts was founded, in January 2008, by E. Kevin Schöpfer, the Boston architect who designed the International UFO […]

FrontRunners: Simply the Best

With Benetti’s Exclusive Sea Technology (www.benetti?, or BEST, the Italian boatbuilder brings the smart-home concept to the high seas. Functioning as a kind of central nervous system for a yacht, the new technology features a device for controlling dozens of onboard functions, from lowering the blinds in the salon to monitoring the infrared alert system. […]

FrontRunners: Art of Writing

Addled by absinthe and hashish, Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) destroyed many of his early portraits and sculptures, calling them childish baubles. However, he held his later work in high regard—as does Italian penmaker Montegrappa, which has dedicated the latest edition of its Genio Creativo series to Modigliani. The Montegrappa Tributo ad Amedeo Modigliani ( […]

FrontRunners: Luz Interpretations

The bracelet shown above exemplifies the unconventional jewelry designs of Luz Camino (available at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan, 212.872.2578). To make this one-of-a-kind, $42,200 piece, she paired kyanite, a blue silicate mineral, with tourmaline and diamonds. “I like to take commonplace materials and make them precious through my interpretation and treatment of a design,” says […]

FrontRunners: Second Gear

If watchmaking maestro Vincent Calabrese were canonized, he would become the patron saint of gearheads. The artful arrangement of the gear wheels in a watch movement—such as his linear Golden Bridge design for Corum—has been his specialty for almost three decades. Calabrese recently joined Blancpain, the Swiss watch manufacturer for which he designed an off-center […]

FrontRunners: Gaining a Foothold

If, as Gianluca Isaia says, a man’s shoes reflect his personality, then the Italian fashion designer’s new line of Isaia footwear (212.245.3733) should appeal to men who appreciate tradition but are not stodgy. Isaia’s handmade collection comprises 21 classic styles that range in price from $795 to $995 and display subtle contemporary details, including topstitching […]

FrontRunners: Carbon Flyer

The Learjet 85 (, the latest model from Bombardier Business Aircraft, will be the company’s first all-composite jet and the biggest Learjet ever. Thanks to a lightweight carbon-fiber fuselage, the plane’s cabin can be larger, fuel usage will be lower (low enough to allow for a 3,450-mile nonstop flight), and the plane will be able […]

FrontRunners: Masks On

The International Asian Art Fair, the flagship event of New York’s Asia Week, has been canceled this year—another recession casualty—but Asia Week itself will continue. The majority of Asia Week will take place March 11 through 15 in galleries throughout Manhattan, including the Neuhoff Gallery (www?, which will display 19th- and 20th-century Himalayan masks from […]

FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

Although Quinta do Vallado was founded by the Ferreira family in 1716 and served as the primary grape supplier to the Ferreira Port House, locals identify the history of this Douro estate most closely with Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, its 19th-century chatelaine. Widowed at 33, Dona Antónia assumed command of the Quinta, expanding the Ferreira […]

Grand Openings: Raising the Roof

The views at Restaurant Terrazza Danieli—which, from the rooftop of the Hotel Danieli, overlooks Venice’s Grand Canal, the campanile in St. Mark’s Square, and the lagoon islands of La Giudecca and San Giorgio Maggiore—often upstaged the eatery’s cuisine. That situation changed last year, when chef Gian Nicola Colucci arrived in the midst of a six-month […]

Grand Openings: Opposite Attracts

The Opposite House opened in Beijing last August as the first property from the new Swire Hotels group. The Hong Kong–based firm’s parent company, Swire Properties, has a 37-year history developing retail and residential spaces throughout China, Europe, and the United States. Conveniently located in one such space—a contemporary retail village in Beijing’s Chaoyang District—the […]

Grand Openings: Fort Nights

For more than a century, Fort Baker guarded the northern peninsula at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. The army base, which never faced any military incursions, eventually became part of Golden Gate National Parks, as well as a historic district in the National Register of Historic Places. Following a transformation led by Passport Resorts, […]

Grand Openings: To the Nines

Portland, Ore., is a walker’s paradise, and the new Nines hotel serves as an ideal base for exploring the city by foot. Set near Pioneer Square in the center of town, the Nines—?a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel—opened last fall on the top nine floors of the century-old Meier & Frank department-store building. (A Macy’s department […]

Boating: Lone Wolf

Every summer evening, just after the sun sets over Coeur d’Alene Lake in northern Idaho, the Wolf Lodge Express gathers steam in an eastern bay and hurtles west across the 50-square-mile body of water. The Express—a land breeze that forms when the hills around Wolf Lodge Valley cool faster than the lake’s surface—is as powerful […]

Aviation: Water Wings

The Dornier Seastar looks like a prop created for a James Bond movie. It has the hull of a boat, the wings of an airplane, and two big turboprop engines placed back-to-back above the cabin. Yet despite its almost cartoonish appearance, this is a serious and capable aircraft. “It’s big, it’s roomy, and it’s fast,” […]

Watches: Finding the Time

Standing on the terrace of the Petit Trianon, on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, Nicholas G. Hayek— president and CEO of Breguet—muses on the interplay of business and culture. Breguet has just poured millions into what was once Marie Antoinette’s private palace, but this act of corporate philanthropy is deeply tied to a […]

Jewelry: Rock-Solid Values

At a Christie’s London auction in December, diamond mogul Laurence Graff stunned his competitors when he paid a record-breaking $24.3 million for the 35.56-carat deep-grayish-blue Wittelsbach diamond. This storied stone, which dates to 1664, became part of the Austrian (and, later, Bavarian) Crown Jewels after King Philip IV of Spain presented it to his daughter […]

Art: Welcome Back, Qatar

Having drifted on and off the Western cultural radar for decades, the Qatari art market is enjoying a seemingly permanent revival that is rapidly influencing the artistic landscape of nearby emirates. “Doha is today a center of dynamic economic and cultural growth,” says Bill Ruprecht, Sotheby’s president and CEO. Jussi Pylkkänen, president of Christie’s Europe […]

Wine: Purple Dreams

Jayson Woodbridge inhabits a world quite apart from our own. One senses this upon entering the office of the Canadian-born former investment banker, who, in 1998, purchased a piece of land in Napa Valley with the intention of launching his own wine label. Concealed behind a pair of steel security doors in a 19th-century office […]

Smoke: Prime Aged Leaf

While students of military history define a tercio as a 15th-century battle formation in which armed soldiers assumed a box-shaped configuration, cigar manufacturers employ the term to designate a covering of hardened palm bark used to age tobacco gradually. This mid-19th-century Cuban aging technique has fallen out of favor with most cigar makers because of […]

Golf: Easy Does It

In person, on the course that he designed at the new Four Seasons Golf Club Mauritius at Anahita, Ernie Els does not look as imposing as he does on TV. But his swing—the one that, together with his 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame, earned him the nickname the Big Easy—is as smooth and seemingly effortless as ever. […]

Travel: Magic Isles

David Copperfield once spent $1 million restoring an antique Orient Express train car, just so he could make it disappear in front of a live audience. So the extent of his latest restoration—of 11 private islands that he acquired in 2006—comes as no surprise. “The whole point is to make it the best place in […]

Dining: Homegrown on the Range

With a fire blazing in the hearth, we sit around Otahuna Lodge’s massive dining-room table discussing the day’s activities and past travels. This room has hosted countless such conversations since 1895, when Sir Heaton Rhodes, a member of New Zealand’s Parliament, built the sprawling Queen Anne–style structure, the largest residence in New Zealand at the […]

Car of the Year 2009: Driven to Decide

The sedentary life adopted by our species when we gave up the exhilarations of hunting and gathering for the prosaic demands of agriculture is a relatively recent invention. From the beginning, we human beings have been burdened or blessed (depending on one’s viewpoint) with the inclination to get someplace other than where we are—and to […]

Car of the Year 2009: No. 3: BMW M3

Shifting Gearboxes The BMW M3 is the dark horse that almost took this year’s title. None of our judges expected the top-level 3 Series to blow them away with its perfectly balanced combination of engine performance, handling prowess, and what can only be described as the best automated shifter on the planet. BMW’s long-reviled sequential […]

Car of the Year 2009: No. 8: Jaguar XF

Saving Grace The XF represents Jaguar’s road back from perdition. It may even be the brand’s salvation after Ford fumbled with the company for 18 years and left its once-?elegant stable of cars as a clutter of outdated saloons and rebadged Tauruses. Despite its homely, misshapen grille, the new sedan is a handsome, well-proportioned looker—from […]

Car of the Year 2009: No. 9: Nissan GT-R

Super Effort If you stripped all badges from the GT-R, nothing about the car would suggest it was engineered by Nissan, let alone made in Japan—a country that has not produced a supercar since Acura’s fabulous NSX of the 1990s. The GT-R’s twin-turbo V-6 generates more horsepower than the V-12 in the Aston Martin DB9, […]

Car of the Year 2009: No. 10: Tesla Roadster

Stuck in the Lotus Position The Tesla Roadster has amped up everyone’s faith in the future of battery-powered vehicles. The car is already a phenomenon for its triple-digit top speed, its Ferrari-like acceleration, and a range that can take you across several counties. Unlike with the Ferrari, every twist of the Tesla’s astounding torque is […]

Car of the Year 2009: No. 11: Bentley Brooklands

No Apologies The Bentley Brooklands is heavier than vehicles that deliver refrigerators, costs more than most small businesses, is big enough to overflow any carport, and contains no iPod jacks, paddle-shifting, keyless ignition, or similar modernisms. It may be one of the last behemoths, the cars with cavernous interiors in which you are coddled, not […]

Car of the Year 2009: No. 12: Smart ForTwo

Boxcar Willies The Mercedes-developed Smart is cute, can be parked sideways in Paris (but not in Beverly Hills), and costs about the same as (and gets better gas mileage than) a Volkswagen Beetle. And for making pizza deliveries, solo runs to the store, or commutes between your midtown loft and downtown office, this vehicle has […]

Car of the Year 2009: No. 13: Iconic GTR Roadster

Broken Dreams In this era of cookie-cutter prefabrication, designer-dreamer Claudio Ballard deserves plaudits for creating a car that is hand- and purpose-built right down to its gauge needles and start button. The Iconic’s silhouette resembles that of the Shelby Cobra (a truly iconic car), revealing Ballard’s respect for the past, not his proclivity for plagiarism. […]

Car of the Year 2009: Steering Committee

The following Robb Report readers were among the guests who joined the magazine’s editors and writers in driving, evaluating, and ranking the 2009 Car of the Year candidates. Norton Alderson is CEO of Universal Switching Corp., a high-tech firm specializing in switching equipment for communication and defense agencies. Charles Banks is the founder and a […]

Refining the Blues

Menswear designers are turning to the blues for comfort in these tumultuous times, presenting tailored suits and casual wear in a soothing and versatile palette that ranges from azure and turquoise to indigo and classic navy. In contrast to the somber tones and monotonous neutrals of winter, these harmonious shades strike notes of confidence and […]

Spring Essentials

Fashion leaders share their favorite apparel and accessories for spring, including a bright gingham jacket and sleek loafers—pieces that can update a classic look or serve as the building blocks of a smart, functional wardrobe. “Style is most potent when it is least complicated,” says Tom Ford. “Finely made things add meaning and grace to […]

Journeys: High and Dry

It has not rained in the Valle de la Luna for two years, and the dusty red landscape looks otherworldly as Rosa Ramos, a guide for the Awasi hotel in San Pedro de Atacama, leads me up a sandy incline for a view of the national park’s massive mineral sculptures, salt hills, and sand dunes. […]

The Robb Reader: David Copperfield

David Copperfield, who has been performing magic tricks since childhood, plans to put on 500 shows this year in Las Vegas and other locations around the world. When he is not on stage, the 52-year-old illusionist spends time at his four-story penthouse in New York, where he maintains a collection of antique coin-operated arcade machines. […]