Drive around the coastal regions of Los Angeles, and it won’t take long to figure out that denizens of the City of Angeles choose cars as accessories, not as mere methods of transportation, and that the badge on the back establishes pecking order. The up-and-comers start out with the entry-level luxury car, a lease special in some non-metallic shade of paint, and rocking a set of stock 17s. Often, the model series designation will be removed from the back of the car, in an effort to hide the fact that it’s a 320i, or a C250, or an IS250.
The heavy-hitters pay cash and roll in the most expensive version of whatever they’ve chosen to reflect their stature, frequently equipped with after-sale modifications lest their black ultra-luxury sedan with deep-tinted glass be confused with all of the other black ultra-luxury sedans with deep-tinted glass cruising the streets of the wealthier L.A. enclaves. You never see the badges removed from these cars, encrusted as they are with “M” or “AMG” lettering combined with big numbers like “760” or “S65.”
Among the machines favored by the heavy-hitters, my favorite has long been the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Distinctive from the C-Class and E-Class, the S-Class achieves something the Audi A8, which looks just like an A4 or an A6, does not. The S-Class exhibits zero compromise, unlike the Jaguar XJ. And the S-Class doesn’t overtly share components with mainstream models, like the Lexus LS. The only car that comes close to the S-Class in terms of appeal, in my opinion, is the BMW 7 Series, and this is a relatively recent development.
Because the 7 Series is updated for 2013, and because a redesigned S-Class is due in showrooms soon, I figured I’d better get reacquainted with the big BMW, so I borrowed a couple of look-alikes in the form of the 750Li and 760Li, and then spent a week driving around L.A. pretending to be something I most certainly am not.