It's not enough to get from point a to b. One must, in true flaneur tradition, arrive in style—preferably in something that conveys more than just cookie-cutter luxury. Therefore, we imagine what a modern-day flaneur might choose, should he get tired of strolling—focusing on the style and comfort of the best back seats of the world.
Boasting of an enviable gentleman-racer heritage established by its very enthusiastic founders, Walter Owen Bentley and Woolf Barnato, modern Bentleys easily draw stares owing to their classic lines and surprising performance. As such, it's an appropriate vehicle for the fop who likes to make a more sophisticated arrival but wants his vehicle to still be capable of performing under pressure. None will dare call its owner a "fat cat," what with a 6.75-liter twin turbo that can rocket the nearly three-ton car to 100 km/h in just over five seconds.
Besides performance, the Mulsanne also pampers with its fair share of amenities. Burl walnut, or any choice of wood inlay, generously covers the dash. Diamond-quilting upholstery, a part of the Mulliner package, abounds, whether in the seats themselves or the door panels. Veneered tables deploy from the seat backs. When relaxation is the order, window blinds shutter the rear windshield and side windows for a more intimate atmosphere. An 11-piece Naim surround sound system accurately recreates the sound stage of the chosen orchestra to belie that old saw, "You had to be there." Finally, power seat adjustment allows stretching and recuperation.
JAGUAR XJ L
For the especially rakish, there’s nothing more suitable than the Jaguar XJ L (long wheelbase) to make an entrance. Long known as the flagship model of the Coventry-based brand, the XJ has remained largely unchanged since the late 1960s. Under the direction of designer Ian Callum, it only recently underwent a radical styling change in 2009, though still making sure to retain classic XJ trademarks like its large wheel-to-body ratio, quad headlamps, and broad rectangular grille.
The new XJ is updated in a big way, eschewing the side character line that runs across the handles for a more flush finish. Its roofline practically blends into the tail for a coupe-like profile. Inside, typical analog dials have been thrown out in favor of a full-LCD instrument cluster. Gone is the automatic stick shift. In its place is a drive dial that rises from the center console. Easily the most alluring of all seats is the rear. A glass roof grants a generous view of the skies. On the backs of the front seats are LCD screens for the in-car entertainment. They’re complemented by at least a 14-piece Meridian surround sound system. A retractable tray table can be deployed should the need for work—or the compulsion to jot down observations by longhand—arise. Accoutrements can also be stowed on the folding armrest’s compartments. But if unwinding is the higher priority, the seats can be reclined as desired, with controls on the side of the armrest.
RANGE ROVER SDV6
Some affairs aren't always in the city. For provincial estates that need attending to, there's the more capable Range Rover. The more luxurious alternative to the spartan Land Rovers boasts of an aluminum monocoque body to be light on its feet in spite of its perceived heft. And while it has changed quite a bit from its boxy origins, it still retains its trademark clamshell hood and floating roof. Not surprisingly, as they are often marketed together, the Range Rover boasts of similar luxurious amenities to the Jaguar XI.
Among them are the glass roof, Meridian surround sound system and a folding armrest with seat controls on its side. Those making the bold leap from luxury sedan to SUV might prefer the Executive Class Seating option that transforms the rear bench into two truly luxurious chairs. Nonetheless, the Range Rover will easily make up for its deficit in amenities with its off-roadability. Electronic ride height and damper control as well as Terrain Response ensure there is no surface this vehicle can't conquer smoothly even with a neophyte at the wheel.
ROLLS-ROYCE GHOST SERIES II
Few other vehicles part a crowd quite like one bearing the Spirit of Ecstasy. For one that yearns for a car that reflects his tastes, perhaps only the Phantom can rival the sheer customization presented by the Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II. From the very pinstriping that runs along the side to the leather and even symmetry of the wood inlay, nearly every aspect of the car's interior can be changed. Rolling on 21-inch wheels, the Roller's trademark wafty ride and acceleration ensure that no bumps or application of the throttle will ruffle any feathers.
Alighting from the vehicle is another enjoyable exercise, with rear suicide doors. If the weather is unfavorable, an umbrella can easily be retrieved from the sill of the front doors. Inside, seats with generous legroom await the master. An armrest folds down with controls for reclining. An entertainment dial allows one to select the audio source to pump music through its 18-piece surround sound system. Most important to the flaneur, perhaps, are the compartments on the seats or sides that can be customized to carry everything from a wine chiller to a humidor to even watch winders. It all depends on the desires of the wandering owner.
Photographs by Ian Castanares
Models: Tohid Ajdani and Julia Nunes
This story first appeared in Vault Issue No 21 2015.