Can you equate cars and wine?
Our writer, Jon Alain Guzik, stretches the credulity of the idea.
How I think about cars is similar to how I think about wine or spirits. While cars can’t really be discussed on a phenolic level – maybe they can, but how annoying would that be? – you can describe a car’s qualities and tasteful attributes like you would any fine wine or spirit.
When I get to thinking about cars – and, as a lucky fella, I get to drive them all – I like to align my thoughts by separating them into a few buckets and, from there, get specific, just like you would at a tasting or when building your collection.
EVs, Sedans, SUVs, Sports Cars, and Pickups are all basic signifiers, but when you get into the granular details – super-sedans, electric-pickups, sports-SUVs, hypercars – well, dear reader, that’s when you get to describe what makes a car so special.
While it may be goofy to describe an electric car like the Polestar 2 as analogous to something like a Meinklang natural wine – bubbly, under the radar, not for everyone but crowd-pleasing nonetheless – you get my drift. I like both quite a lot.
So, for the sake of brevity, and as part of an ongoing series, let’s get into cars and please, don’t drink and drive.
Luxury EVs are the Napa Cabs of the car world.
Best Pairing: City Traffic and a good song.
Big and brash with a high price point and limited allocations and, when you mash the pedal and hit some serious speed, some astringent tannins. While everyone is talking, driving, wanting, or even slagging electric cars nowadays, the EV segment is bifurcated between the somewhat affordable and the high-end, with the middle yet to be filled out. Me, I like the mouthfeel of a luxury EV and if a high-end EV is for you, there is a lot of choice at the top of the market.
The Mercedes-Benz EQ electric lineup is top notch and I had a chance to experience a horizontal tasting of all of the EVs from the brand – from the sedans to the SUVs – and all of them are comers. I quite liked the EQE sedans – from the base EQE350 (from $74,900) to the more upmarket EQE500 (from $85,900) to the sporty all-get-out AMG-EQE (from $106,900) but if you’re looking for something with a lot of oomph, the recently released 2024 Mercedes-AMG EQE SUV (from $109,300) is a standout and held a special place for me.
While the range suffers somewhat from the non-AMG version – think of a sporty EV SUV as having a V8 under the hood and like a V8, the MPGs can go way down – the AMG EQE SUV I drove – 617 horsepower and 701 lb-ft of torque – was some of the most fun I’ve had driving a behind the wheel in a long while and it looked great too!
If BMW is more your thing, the new BMW i7xDrive60 Sedan (from $124,200), is big and bold and one of the most surprisingly awesome cars I’ve driven in a while. Around a 300-mile range, all-wheel drive, 449 horsepower, a top speed of 130 mph, and, one of my favorite options ever, where once seated, when you press on the brake pedal, the driver’s door automatically closes. If you want to have some fun, go and spec one out online to see how insane you can get with the options.
The 2023 Lexus RZ 450e Luxury (from $65,150) is the first all-electric entry from Lexus and its interesting body style and shape – sort of a cross between an SUV and a jacked-four-door hatch – had a lot going for it in terms of style and comfort. It was a straightforward luxury like a Caymus and, at the sub-70k price point and battery range, made for a luxurious electric daily driver.
Both Lucid and Rivian are standouts at the top of the EV market. The futuristic-looking Lucid Air (from $87,400) turned a lot of heads and the Touring trim model (from $107,400) I spent cruising the streets of LA, was fantastic, a near-perfect blend of style, range, and power. The same could be said about Rivian and their new R1S SUV, which, after a somewhat perilous offroading excursion in the hills outside of Los Angeles, where I got stuck in a ditch off-roading only to be rescued by another Rivian, an R1T pickup, made me think the R1S is one of the best and most capable new cars on the market by far. That said, I drove an F-150 Lightning Platinum (from $91,995) and it’s big, luxurious and, if you’re used to rolling around in an F-150, it’s the perfect way to go electric in a massive way.
To whet your appetite for an EV without breaking the bank, the VW ID.4 Pro (from $43,995), with its 275-mile range and future-luxe packaging is a nice place to start as is the Ford Mach-E (from $42,995). I think both are underrated and if you can stick the landing on tax and dealer incentives, both electric cars offer affordable luxury, like things from the Carneros AVA and the Bouchaine Winery 2019 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon I tasted over the summer. It’s all there in the glass – or in the seat- and won’t break the bank.
Super Sedans and SUVs are like Super Tuscans
Best Pairing: An open road and time to kill.
Super Sedans and SUVs are all the rage these days – just think of those luxury four doors with power and room to spare you see on the roads today. When I get to experience a week behind the wheel of one of these, I get super excited. How are these types of cars like Super Tuscans? Think of the open road as a decanter and a little speed to open them up. Both Audi and Lexus are making some quality vehicles and are well worth a look.
Audi and their ultra-luxe S8 (from $120,600) and their S4 (from $53,800), represent both ends of the spectrum. The S8, with its imposing size, modern Teutonic looks, and 563-horsepower twin-turbo V8, is such a sleeper car, where the luxury and speed are so a part of its DNA, that the understated looks add to the package. Same with its stablemate, the S4, at about half the price, it provides an excellent entree point into the brand’s S-line.
I’ve come away so impressed with the entire Lexus F Sport lineup, from their super sedan LS 500 F Sport AWD (from $87,275) to the mid-size SUV, the RX 500h F Sport (from $61,600) to their massive LX 600 F Sport SUV (from $101,000), which was one the best SUVs I have driven in years. All have power, looks, and great packaging and present, to me, a revival for the brand.
Again, BMW comes correct with the all new BMW XM (from $159,00), their first plug-in electric M series vehicle. Do you really need a twin-turbo V8 powered SUV with 644 horsepower that goes 0-60 in 4.1 seconds and has up to a 30-mile electric-only range? No, but seriously, why not? What makes it super? It looks great, goes like hell and has an added bonus of driving around town in silence on all-electric power when needed.
If you want something big, fast and American, the Chevrolet Tahoe RST with the 433 horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 engine (from $71,015) is a choice pick. MotorTrend gave a 5.9 second 0-60 time, which for a 5,800 pound SUV is mighty fast. My kids loved the optional rear-seat entertainment package, which gave me some well-needed quiet time driving with them in tow. It’s also a perfect SUV for a tailgate.
Inexpensive Sports Cars are the Grower Champagnes of the car world!
Why? In today’s big batch world, each of these cars offer more bang for the buck than should be legally allowed and present, what I think are the best each brand has to offer, just like a grower champagne. All have speed, lots of power and offer a compelling sports car package, each for under 50K.
The two-seater Z, which my toddler son loved because he got to sit shotgun in a special car seat – shout out to TK – was a blast. The VW GTI and Subaru WRX, both offer a sporty zing and something extra to their base models and focus on the thrill of the drive, are great options if something standard isn’t for you.
That said – and I mean this – the most fun I’ve had behind the wheel in years was in the Honda Civic Type R. Giant rear wing, check! Six-speed manual, check! 315-horsepower, 2.0L Turbocharged VTEC Engine and a 0-60 time of 4.9 second, check, check and check! The Type R was bracing at first and then settled into something special on the palate, like the first time you taste a cult grower Champagne. I had a similar experience with Inman Family Wines 2015 Extra Brut Luxe Cuvée but, to tell the truth, the Type R was a lot more bubbly.
Jon Alain Guzik is a seasoned journalist, serial entrepreneur, and lifestyle columnist for Monarch Wine. With extensive expertise in luxury, lifestyle, automotive, and timepiece markets, his writing has been featured in publications such as The Hollywood Reporter, The Los Angeles Times, TheDrive, Automobile Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, and LeoEdit. He lives in Laurel Canyon with his wife, two kids, and a rambunctious goldendoodle named Rosie. Although he adores White Burgundy, his family, oddly, doesn't share the same enthusiasm.