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Absolute Luxury

Premium cars offered higher levels of comfort, convenience, safety, and performance than ever before. Sophisticated electronics were one of the big developments, with computer control providing features and benefits that had previously been impossible, Engines were still big V8s—or occasionally V12s—but electronic fuel injection offered more precise control, cutting emissions and fuel consumption while increasing power and flexibility. Antilock braking and traction control added an extra layer of safety, while electric seats and sophisticated air-conditioning systems enhanced the luxury feel. Cars had never been so comfortable.

Bentley Turbo R, 1985


Engine6,750 cc, V8
Top speed143 mph (230 km/h)

Rolls-Royce transformed Bentley’s flagging sales by making the cars more distinctive, and the introduction of a turbocharged engine restored the marque’s sporting credentials. The R added reworked suspension so the road manners matched the straight-line urge. It was ultimate luxury with a big kick

Traditional craftsmanship

The Turbo R may have adopted newfangled engine technology but inside it was as traditional as ever. Acres of soft leather covered the seats and door trims, while the dashboard was built from fine veneered wood by skilled craftsmen.

Turbo technology

Turbocharging was all the rage in the 1980s, as it offered an efficient route to greater power while retaining reasonable economy when cruising. Underneath was the familiar Rolls-Royce/Bentley push-rod V8, which dated back to 1959.

Bristol Beaufighter, 1980


Engine5,900 cc, V8
Top speed150 mph (241 km/h)

Named after a WWII aeroplane, the niche-market Beaufighter was based on the 412 and rather bluntly styled by Zagato. With the extra appeal of a turbocharged Chrysler V8 engine and a lift-off roof panel, it was rapid, classy, and exquisitely built, but fewer than 20 were made.

Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, 1980


Engine6,037 cc, V8
Top speed104 mph (167 km/h)

The top of Cadillac’s prestige saloon car line remained its most conventional car. Although smaller than before, its dimensions were still ample. The V8 was Cadillac’s biggest, there was a live rear axle, and luxury trim and power steering came as standard.

Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC, 1985


Engine5,547 cc, V8
Top speed156 mph (251 km/h)

The 560 SEC was at the top of Mercedes’ S-class coupe range. Very expensive when new, it had 300 bhp from its big M117 V8 engine and 6.8-second 0-60 mph (96 km/h) acceleration. Quality, performance, and comfort appealed to well-heeled buyers, and nearly 30,000 were built.

Jaguar XJS, 1988


Engine5,343 cc, V12
Top speed150 mph (241 km/h)

XJS began in 1975 as a coupe and later there was a cabriolet with a removable roof panel, but it took until 1988 for Jaguar to introduce a full convertible. It came with an electric hood, antilock brakes, Jaguar’s silken V12 engine, and abundant style.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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