FOR THE FAM­ILY

You can have fun with the sports car or per­haps the limo. But with a whole fam­ily to move, the rich and fa­mous are turn­ing to the lux­ury van.

The Peak (Hong Kong) - - Special Report - STORY

In 2011, reign­ing pop princess Bey­oncé fa­mously swapped her lux­ury May­bach limou­sine for some­thing a bit roomier – a su­per deluxe lux­ury van. She was, af­ter all, a new par­ent at the time, which may ex­plain the ex­tra US$1 mil­lion (HK$7.76 mil­lion) that was put into cus­tomis­ing the van and mak­ing it fam­ily friendly – Bey­oncé style. The added ac­ces­sories in­cluded a full bath­room, with shower, sink and toi­let, as well as hand-stitched leather and su­per comfy ameni­ties. Her hus­band Jay-z, of hip-hop fame, also had some in­put, with US$150,000 go­ing to an in­built au­dio-visual sys­tem. When it comes down to it, when you want to

cruise in to­tal com­fort, it’s hard to find a limou­sine that will match a van, at least in terms of size. And we all know that when it comes to fam­i­lies, size mat­ters.

There’s been no short­age of in­ter­est in such ve­hi­cles and as a re­sult, spe­cialty firms have even sprung up to help mod­ify large vans and turn them into trav­el­ling car­a­vans of luxe. Among the firms in the mar­ket are Brabus and Klassen, both based in Ger­many and spe­cial­is­ing in Mercedes-benz vans, and newer UK com­pany Sen­zati. Buy­ers tend to hail from ex­tremely wealthy fam­i­lies (pos­si­bly with se­cu­rity con­cerns), royal fam­i­lies and the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. De­signs can al­low for fam­ily and friends to get in and out of the ve­hi­cle with­out hav­ing to “crawl” over each other. Projects can range from a sim­ple lux­ury ver­sion of a stan­dard van model, all the way up to cus­tom floor­ing made to re­sem­ble that of a su­pery­acht. In­deed, Brabus also does in­te­ri­ors for pri­vate jets. For its part, Klassen, which has been in busi­ness for 15 years, of­fers an on­line con­fig­u­ra­tor that lets buy­ers start to think about the look and feel of their cus­tomised van. In­te­ri­ors can be bright and airy, or dark and have the feel­ing of a night­club lounge. Rear and for­ward view cam­eras can be in­stalled, with the feeds go­ing back to the main pas­sen­ger area, ad­ding some ex­tra se­cu­rity. Toy­ota of­fers a spe­cially de­signed cys­tem, which lets a driver push a but­ton, en­gag­ing a mi­cro­phone that lets the driver be eas­ily heard by the kids in the back. So there’s no more need for yelling into the back­seat over the noise. Ex­tra ar­mour can be added as well, in case you worry about safety. Larger lux­ury vans can even have a spe­cial door added, with room for a host or host­ess to pro­vide a kind of “in-drive” ser­vice. Among the more pop­u­lar mod­els is the Mercedes-benz V-class (for­merly Viano), which seems to be a com­mon start­ing point for firms that spe­cialise in con­ver­sions and cus­tomi­sa­tion. En­ter­ing into the mar­ket is the Land Rover Range Rover, which of­fers an ex­tended wheel­base for added seat­ing and legroom. Once new fam­ily mem­bers come into the pic­ture, buy­ers may find them­selves want­ing a cu­ri­ous com­bi­na­tion of lux­ury, amenity and flex­i­bil­ity in one ve­hi­cle. The cus­tomised lux­ury van may be the way to get kids to school and mum and dad to work.

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