Ethan Jupp is a finalist in the 2014 Sir William Lyons Award

Before I embark on the definition of what is a premium car, especially in this age of automotive ambiguity, bipolarity and confused identity, to the aid of that pursuit, i'll define 'premium' itself. As I read it, if a consumable is 'premium' it is something that stipulates an extra financial outlay above and beyond what is asked for a standard product. Premium unleaded fuel: of a higher quality and subsequently at a higher price to regular unleaded. A premium car(?): of a higher quality and subsequently at a higher price. Job done? I feel, both for the sake of the word count and of thorough investigative prose, probably not.

After all, has the idea of the premium car not been around as long as the car itself? The galactic scale of the motor industry can trace closest resemblance to more recent eras gone by and the precipitation of the reputations of brands we revere today. When I think of a premium car I think German. Something wearing a badge a bit more desirable than what might adorn the typical family box or runaround hatch. Those reserved for the snaking motorways and cavernous city underground car parks of UK suit life since the early 80s. BMW, Mercedes and more recently Audi with their D and E segment cars. These are business fleet vehicles that aren't quite the Hollywood glitterati PCH wafting yachts but that do sport some of the quality and technology typical of their larger siblings nonetheless. C and E Class as opposed to S Class in Merc' language. However, in these past ten to fifteen years we have come to bare witness to aggressive product dilution. The segments, their price brackets and the demographics to which they cater are no longer built for and in exclusive faith by the brands with which they would previously be associated. Put simply, in the name of aggressive profit increases companies such as Mercedes which one might consider quintessentially premium are no longer producing only the types of vehicle that earned them their reputation . The traditional E Class now typically shares showroom space with the hatchback A Class as well as the exotic SLS- soon to be replaced. This is now a brand that caters for all, making money from the promise that no matter what you buy inside those four walls, it will have a three pointed star on its nose.

So the big question is obvious. Has the diversification of these executive powerhouses lineups affected their reputation for impeccable quality or their bulletproof badge kudos? In what sense do the more diverse product avenues which they have chosen to take in recent years adjust the definition of the premium car or brand itself? Is the 'premium car' a purely brand defined entity? I have an inkling but i think i'll save it for the concluding thoughts.

As if the likes of the BMW coat of arms trickling down onto the awkward nose of a front wheel drive MPV wasn't confusing enough for the philosophical identity of the 'premium' car, the bottom rung appears to be climbing as the mighty do "descend". The best value most mundane brands and their products no longer purely serve to remind you that you should've worked harder at school when you peer out the window in the morning. Look at the design of Vauxhalls latest Astra- outside and in- its a desirable object. Not to mention the top line VXR being rapid to boot. Hyundai will sell you a leather clad cockpit Genesis executive jet overseas for the equivalent of around £30,000 (with generous lashings of ink on the options list). Thats a lot for a Hyundai but does that make it premium? The jury withholds its verdict for now.

What of the total mass industrialisation of the automobile and the cross pollination of brands? What effect has it had on the task of the man that tries to define the premium motorcar in 2014. The rise of the automotive giant. Thanks to the likes of the Volkswagen Leviathan, in 2014 you have a strong chance of finding that your Bentley and your Lamborghini share DNA with the average Joe Seat or Skoda. Financial and logistical ease of manufacture for VW stipulates a parts bin from which all its subsidiaries may draw. Does that make your Lamborghini less exotic? More pertinently to the question at hand, does it make your Audi less premium, or your Skoda more premium? Or both?

Nowadays attempting to categorise a great many things in the motoring world is a philosophically gruelling task. In terms of a 'Premium product' brands that we would often defer to when considering the concept are diluting their product line up in the pursuit of sales, understandably. Using the badge appeal and rapport that has been built up so over the years whenever someone like me has told the rabid car buying populous where and why to buy. The truth is that our hunger for what one might call premium is more potent than ever. Yes BMW build a front drive MPV but is it built like a BMW should be? Yes. Is it a premium MPV if such a thing could exist? Maybe..

No, a Hyundai is no longer the soviet grade clatter box it once used to be. Is it premium? I'm not so sure. In spite of ours being an industry that is constantly in the business of concentrating on moving forward: refreshing, updating, reinventing year on year, conceptually we remain loyal. If I pulled up outside my brothers house in a brand new specced up £40,000 Golf R he'd say, 'it's still a Golf'. Show him the new S3 in base £31,000 OTR form and it'd be the cheaper Audi that commanded the attention. Whats in a badge? A lot more than we'd all like to admit, I suspect. For now, in some sense, i'd say brands continue to define our notion of a "premium car".

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