Picture a big luxury saloon and you will almost certainly come up with something German. Or maybe a Jaguar.
Between them, the Germans and the Midlanders have had the luxury car market to themselves for decades. But that hasn’t stopped other manufacturers from trying to crash the party.
Some attempts were valiant, others pretty hopeless. The vast majority sank without trace. Here is the Only Motors top five failed interlopers – forgotten luxury cars.
Audi is now an established player in the luxury car market with its big A8, launched in 1994. Six years earlier, Audi brought out the V8 as a sort of rolling test bed.
As the name suggests it was powered by a V8 engine, coupled to an automatic gearbox and quattro four-wheel-drive, a combination that had never been tried before (in some markets a manual ‘box came as standard.)
The result was a car with huge cross-country pace, but it was neither as sharp to drive as a 7-Series or as cossetting as an S-Class. Still, the drivetrain worked so well that Audi decided to enter the hard-fought DTM series with the V8, claiming back-to-back titles in 1990 and ’91.
The achievement didn’t really translate to sales, though. Partly because it simply wasn’t quite as good as its rivals and because it looked to much like the more prosaic Audi 100, on which it was closely based.
Built 1988-1993 Engine 3.6-litre V8 Power 247bhp 0-60mph 7.6secs Top speed 152mph (1988 model)
There are many people, mostly Americans, who would argue that Cadillac builds the best luxury cars in the world. For a lot of its history that hasn’t really been true, least of all with the late-Nineties Seville.
Now, we wouldn’t care about the Seville at all if Cadillac hadn’t thought it a good idea to build a right-hand-drive version and attempt to sell it in the UK. But they did. And they really shouldn’t have bothered.
The Seville was at least powered by Caddy’s amazing 4.6-litre Northstar V8 engine. But it put its 305bhp through the front wheels. The wrong wheels.
The result was a dynamic mess. And the interior was nasty. It wasn’t even especially handsome. Amazingly, several hundred people actually bought the damn things.
Built 1998-2004 Engine 4.6-litre V8 Power 305bhp 0-60mph 6.7secs Top speed 149mph (Seville STS)
Honda was the first Japanese manufacturer to make a concerted effort to beat the Europeans at the luxury car game with the Legend.
The first generation version came out in 1985, sharing much of its structure with the Rover 800. It was decent enough, with a notably smooth engine, but the ride was pretty harsh. Unusually, the Mk.2 of 1990 switched to a tidy-handling rear-wheel-drive platform and was available as a very handsome coupe.
The next iteration became distinctly bloated and deeply dull. Honda made a brief attempt to sell the ultra high tech 4th-gen car in the UK, but it faced the same problem as all the Legends that went before: no-one wants to spend Mercedes money on a Honda.
Built 1985-2012 Engine 2.5-litre V6 Power 172bhp 0-60mph 9.4secs Top speed 128mph (1985 model)
There is a place in the world for a big, sumptuous saloon that costs the same sort of money as a high-end Mondeo. But not when the result is this horror show.
The styling was garish, the interior a sea of shiny plastic, the handling barge-like. Clearly, it had been benchmarked against American cars. And American cars of the time were particularly hopeless. On the plus side, it was spacious, very generously equipped and extremely comfortable. Still, just look at it.
A few hundred XG30’s did sell in the UK – catastrophic depreciation meant many spend a second life as minicabs. It was discontinued in the UK in 2003 and Hyundai hasn’t bothered trying to sell a luxury car here since.
Which is a shame, as Hyundai learned the lessons and the current Genesis and Equus and credible Mercedes rivals.
Built 1998-2005 Engine 3.0-litre V6 Power 180bhp 0-60mph 9.0secs Top speed 141mph (UK model)
Mitsubishi spent the Eighties developing some highly advanced technology and they stuffed all of it into the Sigma. So it had a 3.0-litre, 24-valve, double overhead cam V6 engine, four-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steering and traction control. All in 1990!
The result was a very fine executive express. It had loads of space, came lavishly equipped with all the latest gadgets and was immensely fast point-to-point.
A few years later there was an enormous, albeit less sophisticated, estate version. It was, again, an excellent car, but suffered the same problem as the saloon. It was simply too expensive, so everyone bought a Vauxhall Omega instead.
Built 1990-1996 Engine 3.0-litre V6 Power 205bhp 0-60mph 7.5secs Top speed 140mph (1990 model)
By Graham King