In one hand, I hold a Faberge egg. Beautifully made, artistically conceived and definitely aimed towards the extremely well heeled. In the other, I hold a Savelli Champagne Diamond cellphone, inlaid with 395 white and cognac diamonds and running Android. One of these items is a guaranteed future heirloom, an instant blue-chip collectable that might never lose its value. The other is a mobile phone with a bunch of shiny bits glued on. By dint of being obscenely expensive, both are regarded as ‘luxury’ items.
SUVs, then. If you’ve got lots of money, you can buy a Range Rover, and be the envy of many. If you’ve rather more money, you can buy a Bentley Bentayga, and be the envy of Range Rover drivers. If several of your rap albums have gone platinum, you can roll in a Rolls Cullinan and be the envy of anybody who reads Hello magazine. Thing is, while any of the above are undoubtedly luxury cars, can they truly be regarded as posh?
The nations of the United Kingdom are scattered with stately homes. These heraldic piles, with their moats, tree-lined avenues and classical proportions — familiar from the pages of Pride and Prejudice — have been passed down through increasingly less wealthy generations. Outrageously costly to run, many have been sold or even donated to the National Trust, by whom they’re preserved to educated the curious masses as to exactly what ‘posh’ truly means.
Today’s wealthy people have to live somewhere, of course, and they have plenty of choice. One step down from the Stately Home comes the Country Manor. Typically dating from anywhere since medieval days, and not necessarily absolutely gigantic, they’ve come to embody British snootiness. Unattainable by most, but generally regarded as tasteful and discreet. Alternatively, a wealthy person might commission a newbuild from somebody like Octagon or Wentworth. Big and ostentatious, these are usually decked out with hot and cold running media rooms, en-suite underground garaging for dozens of cars and are invariably tucked up behind Paparazzi-proof electric gates. There’s no history to them, no particular design merit, just lots of big rooms and expensive surfaces.
It’s parked on the immaculate block-paving outside one of these ‘bespoke yet formulaic’ drums that you’ll see many of today’s most high-end cars. The two products are inextricably linked. To purchase either, you need only have money and desire. You phone or visit a supplier and you ‘get’ one in exchange for a huge pile of money. Such cars and properties offer no real insight into one’s personality, they only show their owner to have access to a certain amount of credit. On the basis that both are merely products, I hereby suggest that they are not posh. Rappers, footballers and suddenly-famous TV celebrities are not posh people. They’re merely wealthy ones.
Rather more posh than ‘getting a new house’ or ‘getting a new car’ is searching for the right classic car or house and living with it. Who, with any sense of good taste, would choose a brand new ‘Georgian style country retreat’ when they can find the real deal for the same money and get all that extra authenticity into the bargain? Of course, you can have the latest technology and do a bit of internal remodelling, but that’s like restomodding a classic car. Keep its classic looks and timeless proportions, but make the necessary improvements to make it less of a pain to live with. I’m going to say that a 300-year old manor with a ‘reborn’ Range Rover Classic on the gravel drive is posher than the same value of mock-tudor mansion with a Bentayga on the block paving.
But you know what’s even more posh than that? Owning very expensive stuff that doesn’t look it. Bentley and Rolls Royce no longer build cars for people of breeding, perhaps because the latter don’t really have very much money any more. The SUVs of the New Order are decidedly arriviste because their customers are, too. And anyway, what about the Bentayga and Cullinan makes it so luxurious and desirable anyway? Well, of course, both are filled to the gunwales with sophisticated gadgets and comfort features, the materials used are exquisite and the power beneath your right foot is flabbergasting.
And you don’t really need any of that. Back when Rolls Royce touted its cars’ engines as ‘adequately powerful’, that actually meant a whole lot. Rather than chasing ultimates, Rolls concentrated on absolute sufficiency. In the ’70s and 80s the S Class and 7 Series both considerably outstripped the Silver Shadow and then Spirit for technology, handling, speed and even ride quality, but not for good taste. While the ‘best car in the world’ claim was perhaps a little bullish, the attention to detail displayed as part of Rolls’ stoic reluctance to chase new trends was enough to maintain business from loyal customers, for whom the cars were ‘good enough for me’.
The truly posh understand sufficiency. In Japan, they have the Toyota Century, a car whose very ethos is absolute sufficiency. No man should need more than the Century can provide. It’s the favoured conveyance of Japan’s most successful and influential, and to choose any other car is seen as a trifle vulgar and new-money. We don’t get the Century in the UK, but we do get the Land Cruiser, and some models in this legendary SUV lineup really are as posh as posh can be.
I’m not talking about the glitzy, tech laden flagship, either. The range-topping Invincible has glitzy 19-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass and an interior swaddled in h leather trim and a wood-like substance that decorates the dashboard and steering wheel. It also pulsates with gadgetry, from the Toyota Touch 2 infotainment system, 14-speaker JBL stereo, triple-zone climate control and seats that electrically adjust in every conceivable way. It also has devices to augment its manoeuvrability; adaptive variable suspension, off-road turn assist, multi-terrain select, crawl control and more. However, at the other end of the price list you’ll find the Utility model, and where the Invincible is flashy, the Utility is noble.
The Utility has the exact same mechanical package. The same stump-pulling four-cylinder engine, the same four-wheel drive system, the same body-on-frame construction. Exactly the same meat and veg, without any of the showy garnish. And, you know, what? It’s all the better for it. Hop up into the driver’s seat, thumb the starter and there’s no more noise from that 2.8-litre diesel in the Utility than in the Invincible, whether you’re idling or giving it the beans. What’s more, there might be only 177hp to play with, and a 12.1 seconds 0-62mph time may sound so long you need to put your vacation plans on hold, but the Land Cruiser still doesn’t feel disastrously slow.
It has a real feeling of authority and unstoppable momentum to it, which makes it all the more reassuring to find just how much heave the brakes have in them. It’s smooth, too — very, very smooth thanks to the balloon-like sidewalls that surround those unfashionably small 17-inch wheels. But since when did being posh have anything to do with fashion? Stately homes are not fashionable places, they’re full of tweed, overstuffed wingbacked armchairs and the kind of lurid carpets that you only ever see in heraldic mansions and curry houses. The truly posh do enjoy a relaxed, languid pace of life, though, and the sedate Land Cruiser fits in with that rather well.
But it’s the Commercial that landed gentry really need. They can buy a Bentayga or a Cullinan with a tailor-crafted compartment for carrying a brace of shotguns when you head out to shoot pheasants, or peasants, when it takes their fancy. Or, they can buy a Land Cruiser Commercial with a huge chequerplate flatbed where the rear seats would be, into which they can throw a veritable arsenal of weaponry, gun dogs, traps and whatever other wildlife-slaying accessories they feel. No car seems better suited to proper upper-crust sporting pursuits than a stripper Land Cruiser. Or, if you’re less inclined towards huntin’ shootin’ and fishin’, it’s just the job for taking your Grandfather Clock to have its escapement looked at or to carry six drums of International to antifoul your yacht yet again. What’s more, with its two seats and blanked out side windows, the Commercial implies that you have other vehicles at your disposal for such menial tasks as carrying people.
Plebeian types will coo and wow when a Bentley or a Roller hoves into view, in much the same way as they’ll gawp at any celebrity spotted in the wild. These people won’t bat an eyelid when a Land Cruiser Commercial wafts past. Car people may nod approvingly in reverence, though. Anybody who knows a thing or two about all-terrain vehicles know just how much heritage and breeding Toyota has in that arena. It’s become almost an Australian proverb that you can take a Land Rover Defender into the outback, but in a Land Cruiser, you’ll get back out, too. The basic Land Cruiser, the least burdened by extra baubles and dressy accessories, is the authentic rough-terrain travelling tool. It has proven its worth over generations. That’s posh in itself.
SUVs from Rolls-Royce and Bentley both fit somewhere between my Faberge Egg and diamond encrusted cellphone extremes — one is an exquisite yet gaudy trinket, while one is a more ostentatious version of the same mundane tool thing that everybody else uses. Meanwhile, the genuine aristocracy probably reaches for the same Nokia 3210 they bought when the analogue cells were switched off. That simple, effective and long-lasting 3210 is that Land Cruiser Commercial.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Redusernab 2018 except images of houses sourced from The Internet)