ECONOMY

DREAM CARS ON PARADE

Luxury cars represent an ideal of comfort, security, prestige and elegance. Economically speaking, these ultra-luxury vehicles are usually out of reach for most consumers, with base retail prices in Greece starting at around 100,000 euros. Yet, even in these times of worldwide economic uncertainty, there apparently is a market for the dream car. About 50,000 people are expected to visit the 9th luxury car exhibition «Executive Cars 2006,» being held in Athens this week under the aegis of the Association of Motor Vehicle Importers-Representatives (AMVIR). Organized by Simeon Tsomokos SA, the exhibition this year features some of the world’s most prestigious luxury car models. Among these are the Bentley Flying Spur, the Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640, the Cadillac XLR, the Dodge Viper, the Maserati Quattroporte and the Volkswagen Phaeton. The Bentley brand, which stakes a time-honored claim in the ultra-luxury class, is exhibiting its Continental series. The Continental GT is one of the fastest four-seat coupes available in the world, boasting a 552-horsepower twin-turbo W12 engine that powers all four wheels. The four-door Continental Flying Spur shares styling with its coupe sibling, as well as the powerful W12 engine and all-wheel drive. In Greece, they both have a starting price of 244,000 euros. Lamborghini’s awesome Murcielago LP 640 sports a 6.5-liter, 48-valve V12-engine that produces an incredible 640 horsepower. Driving all four wheels, the V12 powers the Murcielago to a top speed of more than 320 km/h. It boasts acceleration to 100 km/h in 3.3 seconds. Named after a breed of fighting bull, the Gallardo, or baby Lambo, features a 5-liter, 40-valve V10 engine that boasts an output of 500 horsepower, reaching 100 km/h in four seconds and topping out around 320 km/h. The stand of Brabus, the award-winning German company which provides high-end tuning for Mercedes-Benz and Maybach automobiles, features two of the sexiest cars. The Mercedes-Benz Brabus SV12 S Roadster has a V12 6.2-liter engine which provides a mind-boggling 730 horsepower, a top speed of 350 km/h and accelerates to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. The SLK 6.1 S has a V8 6-liter engine providing 445 horsepower, a top speed of 305 km/h and acceleration of 4.3 seconds to 100 km/h. Cadillac, which last year was the only US-based brand to rank in the top three luxury makes, is exhibiting several models, including its highest-priced car, the two-seat convertible XLR, which starts at115,000 euros. The sleek model features a 4.6-liter V8 engine with 320 horsepower. Dressed to thrill, as advertised, is the new BMW Z4 Coupe, an extremely powerful two-seater, whose 3.2-liter 330-horsepower engine offers performance of the highest conceivable standard. It has an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h and accelerates to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds. The Dodge Viper, considered by some as the ultimate American dream car, with its 8.3-liter V10-engine delivers 510 horsepower and accelerates to 100 km/h in less than four seconds. Also on show is the 612 Scaglietti, a Grand Tourismo four-seater coupe produced by Ferrari. Its 5.7-liter V12 engine produces a staggering 533 horsepower and a top speed of 315 km/h. The majestic new Pinafarina-designed Maserati Quattroporte is the ultimate embodiment of qualities for which Italy is renowned throughout the world. The sensuality of a line created by the world’s most celebrated stylist, and a sophisticated leather and wood interior personalized to suit each individual owner, combine to make the new Quattroporte absolutely irresistible. Featured are the GrandSport Spyder and the Quattroporte Sport GT. Appearing for the first time in Greece is the Honda Legend, the new fourth-generation flagship luxury performance sedan with a 300-horsepower engine. The new Legend offers a range of advanced driver support technologies, including the world’s first Intelligent Night Vision System, which detects pedestrians during night-time driving and provides visual and audio cautions to help prevent accidents. Volkswagen is presenting its flagship, the Phaeton sedan, which amounts to an ultra-premium limousine, and the Touareg, its sleek five-door SUV. The Phaeton V8 contains a 4.2-liter engine producing 335 horsepower, while its sibling, the Phaeton W12, carries a 12-cylinder engine at 6.0 liters for 420 horsepower. Audi is showing a number of its luxury models, including the A6 Allroad Quattro, the TT Coupe and the new Audi 8, a beautifully engineered sedan of exceptional power. Other brand names exhibiting their latest models are Chevrolet USA, Corvette, Hummer, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, Lotus, Morgan, Nissan, Pagani, Ssangyong and Volvo.