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Audi Surfs The RS Wave With New High-Performance Q8

When considering inspirational young women, we are spoilt for choice in Australia. Think world number-one tennis player Ashleigh  Barty, national cricket and soccer star Ellyse Perry and teenage sailor Jessica Watson.

Right up there with the best of them is champion surfer Stephanie Gilmore who, at 23, already has seven World Surfing League (WSL) titles under her belt. She’ll have to wait for 2021 for a crack at her eighth WSL gong after unresolved Covid concerns forced the cancellation of this year’s tour – the first time the championship has been shelved since 1971.

Apart from her general awesomeness, Gilmore became a person of interest for Madam Wheels when Audi named her global ambassador for its first all-electric vehicle, the e-tron.Not the Australian ambassador, people.The world’s.

‘When you’re trying to be the best in the world at something, you want to align with brands that believe in being leaders of change for good.’

Audi chose Gilmore to be the face of its futuristic e-tron brand because, as an iconic Australian at the top of her field, it considered her the perfect advocate for the more sustainable life it’s trying to portray (especially post parent group Volkswagen’s tainting with Dieselgate).

Gilmore chose Audi because sustainability is a big cause for her, and it’s something she believes should be close to everyone’s heart.“When you’re trying to be the best in the world at something, you want to align with brands that … believe in being leaders of change for good,” Gilmore told Madam Wheels.

“Audi’s one of the best companies in the world, and to see them move into the electric world is really close to my heart because we’re travelling so much and we see the changes in the earth and the human footprint everywhere.“It’s really one of those things we need to be conscious of, and make the conscious decision to go electric and pick up our trash and learn how to leave less of a mark.”

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Luxury Car
Luxury car

We caught up with Gilmore and fellow Audi ambassadors – surfboard guru Hayden Cox and chef Shannon Bennett – on Gilmore’s home turf (and surf) on Australia’s Gold Coast, to explore Audi’s then-new Q8 SUV.

That car will be upgraded in October this year when customer deliveries begin for the $200,000-plus high-performance RS version of the SUV (pictured in the hero image and below here).Audi describes the RS Q8 as “the prestigious spearhead of the Audi RS model range”. It went some way to demonstrating why last year when the RS Q8 became the fastest production SUV around the Nürburgring Nordschleife with a not-too-sloppy 7:42.253 lap time, putting it on par with a Ferrari 458 or Porsche 997. (The driver reportedly said he could have done better had it not been for poor visibility and wet conditions on the day.)

Given the lack of autobahns in Australia, more relevant for local drivers are things like usability, on-board tech and safety.A big tick for Audi here, given the hefty entry-level price of the RS Q8, is that it doesn’t expect buyers to fork out for extra safety features.

The full suite of Audi’s driver assistance systems are fitted as standard, including adaptive cruise assist with Stop&Go and traffic-jam assist, front and rear parking sensors, Audi pre-sense front and rear, active lane assist and side assist with cross traffic assist, collision avoidance and turn assist and 360-degree cameras with kerb view. Tyre pressure monitoring, an alarm and head-up display round out the substantial safety offerings. There are, of course, optional appearance packages if you want to set yourself apart from the pack.

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The necessary green messaging turns up in the vehicle’s trunk where a 48-volt mild-hybrid system is attached to a rear battery pack. The unit can recover up to 12 KW of power when decelerating and braking which the vehicle can draw on while coasting or under light throttle. Under the bonnet, the V8 engine comes with cylinder deactivation which can coast, without power, from town speeds to beyond freeway limits.

Between you and the road, base alloy wheels are rather large at 23-inches – the first time they’ve ever come this big on a production Audi – and they’re secured with anti-theft bolts with clever loose-wheel detection for that extra peace of mind.Inside, drivers are greeted with an impressive digital panorama in their field of vision and down the center stack. Front seats include integrated headrests and firm side bolstering for fast cornering, while multiple massage functions up front and an upgraded B&O sound system can be brought in as part of an optional $9700 Sensory Package.

In the back, there’s miles of space for three people, and if you fold the rear seats down, luggage capacity expands to a size able 1755 litres – room enough for a surfboard or five.

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Meanwhile, Gilmore continues to be a beacon of hope for girls of all ages hoping to show up and be the best versions of themselves. She attributes her success to going after what she wants while being true to herself. Authenticity is the key.

The mental fortitude required to take her to the top of her game – and to stay there at such a young age – naturally followed.Gilmore has time to prepare for next year’s world title event which – conditions and local authorities permitting – is due to kick off in Hawaii in November 2020. The finals are scheduled to take place – somewhere – over a new single-day format in September 2021.

While the final’s location is yet to be named, with a southern hemisphere swell probably in the asking, let’s hope we’ll have our girl close to home.

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Porsche, Ferrari launch podcasts to relieve #iso fatigue

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MADAM Wheels has taken hedonic pleasure to a whole new level with the launch of its Cars and Champagne Masterclasses, designed to enable guests to savour some of the world’s finest champagnes while checking out the latest and greatest cars available.

Ferrari, Aston Martin, McLaren, Lamborghini and Maserati vehicles from Melbourne’s Zagame Automotive Group were in the mix alongside five cuvées from top French champagne house Taittinger.

This inaugural masterclass was organised as a networking event for female members of Melbourne’s Club of United Business, a private club set up to help Australian entrepreneurs meet and form valuable relationships to assist them on the path to business success.

The “Queens of CUB”, as they’re known, were invited to sample the individual wines while hearing about their unique characteristics as explained by global champagne force Kyla Kirkpatick, otherwise known as The Champagne Dame. Madam Wheels founder Jacquie Hayes then outlined the features of their matching cars.

Guests were welcomed on arrival to the intimate evening with Taittinger’s entry-level Brut Réserve, which was paired with a Maserati GranTurismo. These were followed by Taittinger’s Prestige Rosé (Lamborghini Urus), the Prélude Grands Crus Cuvée (a firm favourite among participants, and served with a DB11 Volante Aston Martin), Taittinger’s 2012 Brut Millesime (McLaren 570S Spider) through to the famed 2007 Comtes de Champagne Grands Crus Blanc De Blancs (Ferrari 488 Spider).

‘The masterclasses take the stress out of the vehicle-discovery session and lighten the mood with samples of the finest cuvées across the Taittinger range.’

Hayes says she curated the event to give guests a unique space in which to network while gaining a deeper appreciation for the very best cars on the market in a zero-pressure environment.

“Too often, women – and men, too, for that matter – feel out of their depth when they’re on the car-showroom floor, so may not have the opportunity to fully appreciate what a car has to offer,” Hayes says.

“The Cars and Champagne Masterclass takes the stress out of the vehicle-discovery session and lightens the mood with samples of the finest cuvées across the Taittinger range.”

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Audi Takes The Sales Pressure Off With Online Car Buying Tool

AUDI

COVID-19 has forced car brands to rethink the way they cater to car-buyers’ needs, with Audi Australia announcing a timely and novel approach – take the car salesman out of the equation altogether.

Audi has launched an online purchase platform across its full product range to tap into consumers’ growing appetite for online shopping. In doing so, it’s also acknowledging the things that make buying a car one of the most dreaded negotiations people face.From today, Audi buyers will be able to research, reserve and pay for a new car from the comfort of their homes, removing not only the risk of contracting a nasty virus but also any unwelcome face-to-face, high-pressure sales speak from number-driven showroom staff.

‘It’s probable dealerships will thrive as experience and test-drive centers, and sites where customers pick up their vehicles.’

The move to a full online platform has worked well for car brands in other countries, despite the naysayers.When Tesla announced to the US market a year ago that it planned to shift most of its sales to online, analysts questioned its ability to grow market share without physical showrooms. But the move has paid off.

In the UK, Tesla’s online sales capability is credited with helping it top sales in April, where the local car market suffered its worst month in more than seven decades thanks to corona virus-enforced dealership closures.Sales of new vehicles there were down by more than 97 per cent for the month, but Tesla still managed to move 638 Model 3s, accounting for 15 per cent of cars sold. Next best was fellow battery-electric ride Jaguar’s I-Pace, with 8 per cent (367 cars sold).

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According to a Forbes report, a new study by Frost & Sullivan estimates that almost 825,000 new vehicles were sold online globally in 2019, either through online financing or by making a part payment online. Roughly 6 million vehicles are expected to be sold through online platforms by 2025.

Buyers often do most of their research online already so the online car sales platform seems a natural progression and more dynamic. Some believe it may become a more comfortable alternative to visiting the car showroom floor.So, could this mean the death of car dealerships?

Unlikely. It’s more probable that dealerships will thrive as experience and test-drive centers, and, ultimately, the sites where customers will go to pick up the vehicles they’ve bought online.

Audi has moved fast to capitalize on our growing penchant to click-and-collect, saying it’s the first premium car brand to offer a complete end-to-end online car purchase experience in Australia.

“At a time like this, where many Australians would rather make their purchases from the security of their own home, we wanted to create a tailored online solution that allows Audi customers to do just that,” an Audi Australia spokeswoman says.The platform will enable customers to find their preferred vehicle on its homepage before refining its location, price, engine, feature and color, along with relevant Manufacturer’s Recommended Drive-away Price (MRDP) for whichever state or territory the car’s being bought in.

The local dealership will be in touch with the buyer to offer a “virtual walk-around” of the specified car, or even deliver the test drive to their door. If the ride meets will approval, it can be reserved with a refundable $500 credit card payment.Once the deal is done, the buyer can choose to have the car delivered, meaning the whole transaction could take place without going into an Audi showroom at all.

But Audi knows mistakes can still be made.It’s made it clear that if the buyer chooses not to go ahead with a purchase, they will get a full refund.

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Prestige Cars Get COVID Boost Amid Declining New Vehicle Sales

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Luxury car brands fared better than the weakening broader Australian car market last month when the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a 50 per cent drop in new-car sales compared to the same time last year.

Australia’s peak automotive representative body says the 48.5 per cent fall in April represents the largest ever monthly decline in new-car sales since VFACTS figures were first recorded in 1991.The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) says 38,926 new-car sales were recorded in April, representing a fall of 48.5 per cent over the same period last year (75,550 sales).

‘The greatest rival to people buying a European car is a European holiday, and as people are putting those holidays off, they’re more prepared to buy a car.’

Still, the Australian market is holding up well compared to its European counterparts. The Financial Times has reported that the UK automotive industry is expected to announce an April sales decline of 97 per cent, with similar falls in Spain and Italy.

Back home, things look even better again at the luxury end of the market.Among the prestige marques, BMW led the charge with its monthly sales down just 5 per cent. Ferrari was off the monthly pace by 18 per cent but was the only fancy carmaker ahead on its year-to-date trajectory (up 4 per cent), while Maserati recorded a 27 per cent slump in its April sales performance.

It seems some corona virus side-effects have been behind the uptick in luxury car sales.The general manager of a large Melbourne prestige car dealership, who asked not to be named due to “sensitivity issues”, says “closing ratios” have naturally been higher as there have been fewer inquiries, but those who have visited his dealership have been solid buyers.

One such buyer, who worked in alcohol importation, had pivoted to create an in-demand line of hand sanitizers after which he bought two high-end SUV models directly off the showroom floor.

The Federal Government’s COVID-induced $150,000 instant asset write-off tax incentive for small business may have assisted in that situation.However, the new restrictions around international travel may also have left families unexpectedly cashed up.

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One man who would have a pretty good fix on that is Bobby Zagame (pictured above), managing director of the Zagame Automotive Group, which owns and runs more than a dozen dealerships in Melbourne and Adelaide, including most of the high-end marques like FerrariAston Martin and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

Many in his customer base would have been adversely affected by the corona virus fallout, but he’s been surprised by how many have also done well.”There’s always someone doing well in disadvantaged times and there’s more of those now than we would have thought,” Zagame says.But any propensity to spend would be limited to what they are able to spend that money on now, he says, and a car is becoming an increasingly useful thing to have in these times, even if it’s just to park it in the garage so you can look at it and enjoy it.

“At the top end, some people would usually blow pretty big numbers on an overseas holiday, which they won’t now be able to enjoy for a good 18 months,” he says.Ongoing restrictions across various transport options makes it probable that cars will become a more important discretionary spend in people’s lives.

“I don’t know about you, but a lot of people are probably thinking it might be nice to pack the car and go off to a beach or country destination for a break or just for a change of scenery,” he says.The Melbourne general manager agrees that “the greatest rival to people buying a European car is a European holiday”.”And the data we’re seeing from head office [in Europe] is showing that, as people are putting those holidays off, they’re more prepared to buy a car,” he says.

Stronger finance campaigns from car dealerships, including loyalty bonuses, have also seen existing customers, perhaps a few years into a car lease, prepared to refinance into a new vehicle without extra cost or risk exposure.

Zagame says he’s also seen a rise in “opportunistic buying” among those “thinking they can do a better deal now than they could do in better times, which they can”.In the overall new-car market, passenger vehicles were hardest hit, according to VFACTS – off 61.6 per cent on April last year – while sports utility vehicle sales were down 45.7 per cent for the period.

Across the country, Victoria saw the largest fall in sales for the month (down 53.3 per cent), followed by NSW and South Australia (both -50.5 per cent) and Tasmania (-50.2 per cent).The year-to-date sales figures for April of 272,287 represented a 20.9 per cent decline from the 344,088 vehicles sold in 2019.

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber says COVID-19 had clearly been a major influence on the April sales result, reflecting a downturn in the broader Australian economy.“Figures recently released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 31 per cent of Australian citizens have experienced a decrease in income due to the pandemic,” Weber says.

“In addition, 72 per cent of Australian businesses reported that reduced cash flow is expected to have an adverse impact on business over the next two months.“These conditions inevitably impact consumer confidence and purchase decisions.”

This comes at a time when the Australian new-vehicle market has already been under stress for some time on the back of ongoing environmental, economic and political factors, along with tight credit lending restrictions.April’s was the 25th consecutive month of declining sales on a year-on-year basis (April 2020 compared to April 2019).

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It’s Wheels Down For Aston Martin’s SUV, The DBX

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Shut the front door! It has arrived. Luxury British auto maker Aston Martin has finally unveiled the DBX, a first and mighty fine SUV addition to its luxury stable. Real Bond Girls of Australia prepare to be amazed as the DBX heralds a new era in Aston Martin’s journey to define style and a riveting user experience.

For now, it’s only a preview, however Australian customer deliveries are expected mid-2020 at the very Aston Martin-style price of $357,000, plus on-road costs.

The company claims the new DBX brings “both the versatility and indulgence expected of a luxury SUV with sports-car levels of dynamic performance”. Frankly, we’d expect nothing less from one of the great British stalwarts of luxury sports vehicles, and the DBX appears to be a diamond in the field.

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luxury car
It’s certainly easy on the eye with its sleek exterior lines, but we’ll let the photos and super-contemporary Daisy Zhou movie do the talking.The DBX is being produced in Aston Martin’s custom-built factory in Wales, where the focus is on hand-finished, bespoke details.Its luxurious handcrafted interior is kitted out in leather, metal and wool incorporating seamless design elements such as discreet speakers, separate central armrests and Uber comfortable seats.

‘The DBX’s delivery of sports-car performance and off-road capability make it a competitive sprinter in the SUV race.’

Inside, Aston Martin’s R&D department has toiled to deliver top tech with a large central console screen, 360-degree camera, Apple Car Play and ambient lighting offering 64 colors in two zones. True to SUV spec, the DBX offers all available active safety systems and maximum space in the cabin for both front and rear passengers, generous boot space plus split-folding rear seats for those moments when all the luggage simply must fit.
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LUXURY CAR
LUXURY CAR

The DBX’s delivery of sports-car performance and off-road capability make it a competitive sprinter in the SUV race. Under the bonnet there’s a tailored new iteration of the turbo-charged V8 engine found in the DB11 and Vantage, so it quite literally still produces that unique Aston Martin purr.

It’s no surprise, of course, that Aston Martin has joined the charge to introduce an SUV to the market as customers walk away from passenger cars. The paying public is clearly hungry for the versatility and adventurous spirit of an SUV at the luxury end of town. VFACTS figures from Australia’s peak vehicle industry body, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, show that while the new car sales market has slowed, the appeal of SUVs is moving to double that of passenger vehicles.While we appreciate that our love of luxury can’t be defined by mass markets, it’s clear that when it comes to an everyday (uncompromising) commute, the luxury SUV market is now stronger and more thrilling than ever.

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Lamborghini Huracán EVO a luxury sports car with brains

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Madam Wheels has been accused of being unfairly critical of Lamborghini in the past, with ride comfort in the stiff-suspension vehicles a top-line issue. But that all changed with the introduction of the Raging-Bull brand’s first high-riding off-roader, the spectacular Urus.

The “super” SUV seamlessly combines safety features, luxury, comfort and performance to a level which is unparalleled in the top-selling segment.

Now the former Italian tractor maker has gone one better in its legendary super sports car line, with the latest iteration of its popular Huracán, the EVO. In it, Lamborghini has finally delivered a car which we’d happily take as a daily drive because it’s not only comfortable and laden with useful tech, it’s also pretty on the eye and is thrillingly easy to drive – very, very quickly.

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Luxury Car

Madam Wheels joined VIP Lamborghini clients and a smattering of media at the fourth annual “Esperienza Dinamica Corsa” at the renowned Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, where the Huracán EVO was making its Australian track debut.

The new car, presented in a flaming orange hue, was showcased with eight other Lamborghinis collectively valued at $4.6 million.Among them was the Aventador S and a highly-specced Urus, the latter of which we also tested off-road.

I drove those models first, giving them a good thrashing around the 4.5km of meandering track, which includes some super high-speed sections, elevation variations, and a couple of corners that would see a car come off second-best if didn’t nail weight transfer.

None of that was a problem in the Evo which dispensed with the track in short shrift, proving itself to be as accessible as it was thrilling.

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Luxury Car
Luxury Car

The thrill quotient got a further boost thanks to a unique and particularly enjoyable aspect of the Lamborghini “Dynamic Race Experience” – we were left to pilot the cars alone which, strangely, takes the pressure off. Other car marques generally insist on having an instructor ride shotgun in the passenger seat, taking control of the rear view mirror and delivering instructions on when to brake, how to hit the axes and when to turn up the gas again.

This can get stressful – not only because it feels like you’re being tested – because one always gets the sense that those working race drivers are seriously fearing for their lives. I get that, but it adds to the pressure on the job, making it hard to breathe and relax – two crucial factors for anyone pushing such a powerful car so far and so fast.

Instead, Lamborghini puts an instructor in the front car to lead by example and give guidance via two-way radio on how to fly through apexes marked with orange cones and pull back at brake points indicated with blue cones.

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Track days like these provide a rare opportunity to legally test a car’s stated speed capabilities, which in the Evo’s case, was 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds and 0-200 km/h in 9.0 seconds. I had a good crack at it but, not having a stop watch handy, can’t faithfully report on the result. I also failed to hit the Evo’s claimed top speed of more than 325 km/h, though was pleased enough with the 265 km/h I did manage on the main straight.

I can also attest to the Evo’s stopping power, and that steering under heavy braking into the sharp right-hander coming off the straight was a snap. The car felt in complete control even in this rank amateur’s hands, and it floated through the rest of the course with understeer non-existent and incredibly exact turn-in in fast, sweeping corners.

This precision and ease of drive can perhaps be explained by the big point of difference in the Evo compared to the outgoing Huracán Performante on which it’s based – the car’s ability to anticipate what a driver is going to do almost before they’ve thought of doing it.Now, personally, I find that hard to get my head around, frankly, as it sounds more like alluring “marketing speak” than a possible measure of autonomous driving.

But the Evo has been gifted with a “brain” in the new Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata (LDVI) – basically a central “super computer” which apparently adds that predictive element by pulling in everything the Evo’s chassis and powertrain has to offer.

Lamborghini says the predictive feature is made possible by the real-time monitoring of lateral, longitudinal and vertical loads, as well as body roll and pitch, all of which matters when you’re pushing a car to its limit. Lamborghini calls this “feed forward” depending on which of the three drive modes you’re in, from daily Strada, or Sport to race mode, Corsa.

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Luxury Car

Track side at Phillip Island, chief executive officer at Auto mobile Lamborghini Asia Pacific Matteo Ortenzi described this latest evolution of the popular Huracán as “a piece of art” devised on what customers – many of whom are increasingly women – had been asking for.

“We were able to bring the Performante power on to the normal car … then (to improve the drivability) we put a new brain in the car that’s anticipating the needs of the driver,” Ortenzi says.

The Evo’s broader appeal is expected to help boost future Lamborghini sales which, in the first half of this year, had already surpassed the company’s full-year sales of 2017.With growth driven by the new Lamborghini Urus, 4553 cars were delivered to global customers to June 30, which is a 96 per cent increase on the same six months of last year.

Ortenzi says the introduction of the Evo – which Madam Wheel can rate as a point-and-shoot weapon with sex appeal and attitude to boot – will put Lamborghini on track to selling close to 7500 cars globally this calendar year. That’s not a bad result compared to the 1300 cars it shifted in 2010.

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Luxury Cars and Fancy Champagne-Welcome to the Madam Wheels masterclass

jacquie Hayes

MADAM Wheels has taken hedonic pleasure to a whole new level with the launch of its Cars and Champagne Masterclasses, designed to enable guests to savour some of the world’s finest champagnes while checking out the latest and greatest cars available.

Ferrari, Aston Martin, McLaren, Lamborghini and Maserati vehicles from Melbourne’s Zagame Automotive Group were in the mix alongside five cuvées from top French champagne house Taittinger.

This inaugural masterclass was organised as a networking event for female members of Melbourne’s Club of United Business, a private club set up to help Australian entrepreneurs meet and form valuable relationships to assist them on the path to business success.

The “Queens of CUB”, as they’re known, were invited to sample the individual wines while hearing about their unique characteristics as explained by global champagne force Kyla Kirkpatick, otherwise known as The Champagne Dame. Madam Wheels founder Jacquie Hayes then outlined the features of their matching cars. Guests were welcomed on arrival to the intimate evening with Taittinger’s entry-level Brut Réserve, which was paired with a Maserati GranTurismo. These were followed by Taittinger’s Prestige Rosé (Lamborghini Urus), the Prélude Grands Crus Cuvée (a firm favourite among participants, and served with a DB11 Volante Aston Martin), Taittinger’s 2012 Brut Millesime (McLaren 570S Spider) through to the famed 2007 Comtes de Champagne Grands Crus Blanc De Blancs (Ferrari 488 Spider).

‘The masterclasses take the stress out of the vehicle-discovery session and lighten the mood with samples of the finest cuvées across the Taittinger range.’

Hayes says she curated the event to give guests a unique space in which to network while gaining a deeper appreciation for the very best cars on the market in a zero-pressure environment. “Too often, women – and men, too, for that matter – feel out of their depth when they’re on the car-showroom floor, so may not have the opportunity to fully appreciate what a car has to offer,” Hayes says. “The Cars and Champagne Masterclass takes the stress out of the vehicle-discovery session and lightens the mood with samples of the finest cuvées across the Taittinger range.”
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The Langham brings Paris to Melbourne with The Residence by Kerrie Hess

 

PLANS for a large-scale renovations at luxe stayca venue the Langham Melbourne have been put on hold for a year or two. So, in the spirit of offering a fresh look and feel to regular suite dwellers and VIPs, the conveniently-located five-star digs have been given a facelift, compliments of talented Aussie fashion illustrator Kerrie Hess.

It’s a clever collaboration which perfectly pairs Hess’s pink, whimsical and feminine aesthetic with the Langham’s unfailing penchant for all things luxurious, elegant and fun.

“Fun” would include The Residence by Kerrie Hess “Designer Package” – the more exxy of two exclusive offerings – that gifts one guest with personalised dusty-pink silk PJs by smart Melbourne lingerie outfit KISSKILL. At $2200 per night, up to four guests can enjoy the two-bedroom suite which comes complete with spa treatments and a Season’s Harvest picnic hamper to be enjoyed in-house or in the nearby Botanic Gardens.

Further gifts include a bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne – rosé, of course – and couture-wrapped chocolates by Koko Black, also of Melbourne and further demonstration of the Langham Melbourne’s efforts to partner with and promote proven local talent.

Hess has peppered the self-contained suite with 14 of her images, including a specially commissioned piece fashioned in Dior style and set in the elegant confines of the hotel’s lobby. The work, featuring a couture model dressed in a pink ball gown, is reminiscent of other works Hess has produced with Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Net-a-Porter.

The Residence by Kerrie Hess includes a spacious living area complete with cocktail cart, and a well-equipped kitchen and dining room that seats four guests. Connecting doors offer access to additional sleeping arrangements.

Situated on the 10th floor deliberating offering views over the Yarra River to Melbourne’s CBD, one could easily picture oneself looking over the Seine to the Right Bank. Or not. You get the picture, though.

In fact, it’s such a good look that we think the luxury global chain should consider adding a Residence by Kerrie Hess to each of its properties across four continents.

The Melbourne suite will be available until Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

Of course, the Kerrie Hess images – and even the specially selected Residence Sealy bed – can be enjoyed at home from Flavours of Langham (langhamgifts.com.au). If you want to try before you buy, bookings can be made by calling 1800 858 663 or visiting https://bit.ly/2YfQek8.

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Are you off your trolley?

VISITING Sydney last month, I noted that the light-rail project that has rent the CBD asunder and created traffic havoc along virtually its entire length still is nowhere near finished. It’s just possible that by the time the first light-rail vehicle runs from Circular Quay, we’ll all be in automated cars already and the public transport system will be redundant – especially one that can only go from point A to point B on one predetermined route with no detours possible.

Sydney is facing what one might describe as a “trolley problem”, trolley being an old-fashioned term for “tram” – like those commonly seen in Melbourne – which seems to be fast becoming an old-fashioned term for “light rail”. You might be familiar with the philosophical “trolley problem” thought experiment. There is no right or wrong answer to this, but how you respond says a lot about your view of the world, and your moral and ethical outlook, so here we go.

There’s a trolley hurtling down a track, quite out of control, with 10 passengers onboard. If the trolley keeps going, it’s going to run over the edge of a cliff and kill every passenger. As an aside I’ve never understood why anyone would build a trolley track that runs over a cliff, but that’s beside the point. And speaking of points, there’s a set that you can operate by pulling a lever that will send the trolley on to another track and to safety, but on that track there’s a child playing with toys, and the trolley will run them over and kill them. Do you pull the lever?

‘None of this stuff is simple, and it has to be thought about before we turn automated vehicles loose on our roads.’

As I said, there’s no single answer to this problem and I don’t want to get sidetracked here by explaining why your response suggests you are a psychopath. The point is, everyone’s morals or ethics are different, which is why The Companion can be so entertaining because his essential world view swings wildly and unpredictably between an attitude that can be summed up by the word “meh” and the more extremely animated aspects of a combination of “OMG/WTF/you’ve got to be kidding me”. Something happens, flip a coin: he could go either way.

But anyway, the trolley problems – Sydney’s, and the thought experiment – have collided, though not literally, with the issue of automated vehicles as the designers of said vehicles grapple with the question of what “behaviour” they should build in. Say an automated car is chuntering down a road at a good clip when it suddenly and unexpectedly encounters a group of people on the road. If the vehicle ploughs into the people it will kill all of them. The only way to avoid the people is to steer off the road, but then it will hit a brick wall and kill the passenger. What should it do?

Unless you’re as erratic as The Companion, the way you answer this question should be close to how you responded to the original trolley problem. But the deliciousness of addressing this problem in real life is that you can get very different responses depending on how you frame the scenario.

What if the sole passenger in the automated vehicle is a pregnant woman on the way to hospital to deliver her baby? Are you more or less likely now to want to save her, and her unborn child? What if the passenger is a known paedophile out and about for no good – more or less likely to want to save him? What if the group of people are school children – more or less likely to want to save them? What if they’re cyclists? Less likely to want to save them, I bet. But you see what I mean. None of this stuff is simple, and it has to be thought about before we turn automated vehicles loose on our roads.

At least when a tram vehicle is skreeling along (a word which here I intend to mean that metal-on-metal sound tram wheels make on tram tracks), one of the elements of the trolley problem is removed: if there’s something in the way driver can’t decide whether to steer around it or not.

The more I think about this, though, the harder an issue it seems to be to solve. It might be such a tough one to crack that by the time philosophers and makers of automated vehicles solve their trolley problem, the NSW Government will have long solved its own.