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Guide to long wheelbase cars

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    Holden makes long-wheelbase versions of its Commodore and calls them Statesman and Caprice (pictured), with a starting price of $63,990.

Often it's the capital L in the model name that tells all.

No, it doesn't mean a luxury version for the models they are based on are more than luxurious already. The L means long, or more correctly long-wheelbase.

Selected manufacturers take their luxury big sedans and stretch the wheelbase to create a long-wheelbase (LWB) model featuring enormous back-seat leg room. We're not talking about the almost-comical stretched limos here; they are custom modified. The cars we look at here are off the manufacturers' production line and can be ordered by any buyer at the dealer's local showroom. Any buyer with enough dollars, that is.

Pricing

An LWB car can cost a round-figure half a million dollars the Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG in L trim is listed at $483,000 plus on-road costs (although it does come with a turbocharged V12, six-litre engine with Supercar-like 450kW power).

Rear legroom can come at a lower price, though. Holden makes long-wheelbase versions of its Commodore and calls them Statesman and Caprice, with a starting price of $63,990 which is a lot of car for the money, compared to the luxury brands.

Wheelbases

The wheelbase is the distance between front and rear wheels. European car makers when stretching the wheelbase tend to give all the extra length created to the passenger cabin, particularly the rear seat area, leaving the boot unchanged at the tail of the car.  Jaguar XJ LWB has a 125mm longer wheelbase and the car grows by that amount too, while designers have created 134mm more rear legroom.

BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Japan's Lexus LS600h have wheelbases of 140mm, 130mm and 120mm longer respectively, those measurements reflected exactly on the longer overall length of the car.

Holden is different in this regard. The wheelbase is lengthened only 94mm. Rear legroom is 97mm longer than the Commodore yet the car is a full 263mm longer, Holden being unusual in providing a larger boot in the extra length.

Indeed, if buyers want the most legroom in a Lexus, they will need to order an LS600h. The "h" indicates it is a hybrid which means electric motors and battery packs, which take up space in the boot. You get a 5.2m car with a 370-litre luggage space. Presumably, the wish to be more environmentally aware overcomes this. Also on Lexus LS600h, buyers can order a two-seat rear for an extra $5000. The rear three-seat bench is ditched an in go separate chairs with reclining ottoman and inbuilt massager.

It's usual for manufacturers to not only give more rearseat legroom on their LWB models but provide further luxuries, technology and convenience in the rear. After all, this is where royalty, rockstars, presidents and business tycoons will be sitting.

"The extended-wheelbase versions set new standards of rear-seat comfort," says BMW of its L versions of the 7 Series. "Both because of their enormously generous leg and headroom and because of the wide range of attractive communication, entertainment, climate control and seat comfort features.

"All extended wheelbase models come with a rear climate control package which allows each of two zones to be independently controlled in the rear.  The 750iL features rear Comfort seats with the option of massage and ventilation functions, headrest, backrest angle and seat cushion are all individually adjustable."

The priority of importance of the rear passenger in LWB cars is proven by some allowing the rear passenger to electronically adjust the position of the front passenger seat, for even more legroom.

Disadvantages of LWB cars? They are longer which makes them more difficult to kerb park and their longer wheelbase means they have the turning circle of the QE2. But at a stretch, they are kings of spacious luxury.

Jaguar Premium Luxury LWB

$254,000

Engine: Five-litre V8.
Power: 283kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 515Nm @ 3500rpmTransmission: six-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Length: 5247mm (standard XJ, 5122mm)
Wheelbase: 3157mm (standard, XJ 3032mm)
Rear legroom: 1121mm (standard XJ, 987mm)

Holden Caprice V8

$75,490

Engine: Six-litre V8
Power: 260kW @ 5700rpm
Torque: 517Nm @ 4400rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Length: 5160mm (Commodore, 4897mm)
Wheelbase: 3009mm (Commodore, 2915mm)
Rear legroom: 1098mm (Commodore, 1001mm)

Mercedes-Benz S500L


$307,900

Engine: 5461cc V8.
Power: 285kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 530Nm @ 2800-4800rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Length: 5226mm (standard S-Class, 5096mm)
Wheelbase: 3165mm (standard S-Class, 3035mm) Rear room: rear seatback to back of front seat, 870mm (standard S-Class, 740mm)

BMW 750Li


$291,200

Engine: 4395cc turbocharged V8
Power: 300kW @ 5500-6400rpm
Torque: 600Nm @ 1750-4500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Length: 5212mm (BMW 750i, 5072mm)
Wheelbase: 3210mm (BMW 750i, 3070mm)

Lexus LS600h

$243,900

Engine: Five-litre V8 plus electric motor
Power: Combined, 327kW
Torque: n/a (has supplementary electric power)
Transmission: CVT automatic; all-wheel-drive
Length: 5180mm (Lexus LS460, 5060mm)
Wheelbase: 3090mm (Lexus LS460, 2970mm)

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 3 comments

  • Long wheelbase cars look way more attractive than the originals but why spend 300k on an S Class when you could buy a Maybach insted?

    W Posted on 16 January 2011 5:17pm
  • I own a V8 caprice and I must say I get more cred and looks than most cars as they are not as big and stylish and smooooth...

    alex of sydney Posted on 21 July 2010 11:33pm
  • Love the LWB models. More often I think they can look better than the original short wheel base models. Lots of metal for your money from the local cars.

    Dave Posted on 06 July 2010 5:37pm

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