Sep 032011

It really seems as if a major shift is upon us. Luxury was once marked by profligate consumption but ever since Hollywood embraced the Toyota Prius, it seems as if we’ve been carried along on an ever-accelerating, ever-more-electrified train barrelling down the hill towards environmentally-responsible motoring.

Toyota Prius - Hybrid Eco Green Car

Toyota Prius - Hybrid Eco Green Car

A recent example seems to illustrate how far we seem to have come as a species. The Pebble Beach Concours, more traditionally known for showcasing gaudy hair, brilliant teeth and fake tans amidst millions of dollars of exotic modern and historic cars, has been invaded by green cars.

Known properly as the Concours d’Elegance and held at California’s Pebble Beach Resort, this annual event brings glamour, glitz and glowingly-restored old cars to the coast between Monterey and Carmel. Ferrari GTOs, Bugatti T51s, V-16 Duesenbergs and Porsche 917 race cars are more typical fare for this mouth-watering display of spending.

This year, however, things have changed, and by not a small amount. The hulking Phantom electric project car, which has been touring North America to survey the response of existing and prospective Rolls-Royce owners, put in an appearance, complete with its ‘suicide’ doors and a charging point prominently visible in the C pillar.

The green Roller, known officially by the code name 102EX was not alone. It was joined by fellow Brits Jaguar, who brought a long a truly spectacular eco-car concept vehicle of their own.

Rolls Royce 102EX Electric Vehicle

Rolls Royce 102EX Electric Vehicle

While Rolls-Royce essentially just slotted a battery-powered electric drive system in the huge engine bay normally reserved for a petrol-gulping, fossil-obliterating internal-combustion engine, the Jaguar CX-75 is a ground-up attempt at re-inventing the modern automobile based on environmentally-friendly technologies.

The Jag is not totally green, one might argue, however. Though it uses four electric motors, they get their juice from a pair of gas-turbine generators.

The Jaguar can still manage a range of 68 miles on electric-only power, though. Should you need to put your foot down, the Jaguar can muster all four of those 195hp motors to generate a total of 778 horsepower and a staggering 1,180 lb-ft of torque.

That is real power. The CX-75 has the potential to get from rest to 60mph in only 3.4 seconds. Should you have the room and need, it will top out at 205 mph.

Jaguar CX75 Eco Car

Jaguar CX75 Eco Car

Such behaviour is quite likely to have a noticeable effect on all-electric range, mind. Running with gas turbines alight, the Jaguar can keep going for 560 miles.

The Brits didn’t have Pebble Beach all to themselves, however. Lexus, the premiere performance and luxury brand from Toyota, shipped over its LF-Gh concept saloon.

The LF-Gh, or Lexus Future Grand-Touring Hybrid, is taking a stab at the hybrid market and brings some futuristic styling to what is often seen (at least if you weren’t at Pebble Beach) as a rather staid and un-exciting market segment. If only the Japanese could figure out naming conventions that didn’t sound so lame on this side of the planet.

Not to be outdone in the Japanese upmarket hybrid concept stakes (or the bid for naming silliness), Nissan’s luxury division Infiniti brought the Etherea to the Concours. This ‘breakthrough hybrid compact concept’ (Infiniti’s words, not ours) isn’t too bad a looker, if you like 1970’s futuristic Matchbox design. We’re not too sure about that arched bubble rear, and the furrowed brow look at the front end is truly clumsy.

But still, we’re here to talk about green motoring and frankly, one cannot fail to be heartened by such a turnout at an event more typically given to gaudy displays of excess. Roll on the next decade of luxury and performance motoring, we say. We might just get that Jetsons’ flying car yet!

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