Wheels of fortune
Supercars are bumper to bumper in the car parks of Hong Kong's best addresses. But if the Bentleys on The Peak, Lamborghini in Bel-Air, Ferrari in Tregunter Tower and Porsches in IFC2 are the envy of the world on YouTube, the rules of our city's roads are different. It's not how fast you can drive that matters in Hong Kong, it's where you park that counts, particularly when luxury real estate values are still in overdrive.
Cars are a key part of many people's lives, yet parking spaces remain an extra on property advertisements. They are also costly. A home at The Penthouse, Belgravia, on 57 South Bay Road comes with two covered slots for HK$350,000 per month, or a 2,337 sqft house with three car park spaces, at 18 Old Peak Road, is going for HK$65 million. In Tai Mong Tsai, you can land two to three spaces with a 2,100 sqft house and 1,500 sqft garden for HK$14.5 million, or four car parks with a similarly sized house for HK$30 million in Clear Water Bay.
Some spaces are lavish. Some tycoons are said to have underground air conditioned garages with lifts for their cars, while others ramp their family car from a basement under their swimming pool. Yet space is at such a premium here that even wealthy local classic car collectors store their old Ferraris in air conditioned industrial units in Sha Tin.
So no wonder local dealers of luxury cars highlight models' ability to park in addition to their plushness and speed. The re-engineered 63/4-litre V8 engine of Bentley's flagship, the Mulsanne (HK$5.667 million), ensures 'that the driver is immediately rewarded with the car's characteristic deep, muffled, V8 burble and phenomenal acceleration' to 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds, and a top speed of 296 km/h via an electronic eight-speed automatic transmission and paddleshift, says Douglas Chau, Bentley Hong Kong's general manager. Such performance is 'ideal for airport runs', he says, yet also accommodates owners on the chauffeur's day off in Hong Kong.
'Luxury car owners prefer a car that they can also drive for pleasure, especially during weekends and holidays,' Chau says, citing the Mulsanne's dimensions and 'easy handling' for both sexes. Indeed the 5.575-metre by 1.926-metre wide Mulsanne suits the city's most luxurious driveways by being 65mm shorter and 199mm narrower than the marque's Arnage - 259mm shorter and 64mm narrower than the Rolls-Royce Phantom (HK$7.5 million), but 176mm longer and 22mm narrower than the Rolls-Royce Ghost (HK$5.2 million).
Cars' vital statistics are key in a city where space is at a premium, dealers say. 'Rich guys' should check their dream car matches their prospective parking space, says Charles Ip, of Audi Hong Kong, 'especially with side mirrors'. Audi Q7 or Q5 buyers might check whether their cars' rear hatches can fit under their garage ceiling to 'avoid many troubles later on'. The back hatch on the new Audi A7 Sportback (HK$750,000) can be programmed to roof heights, however.
As driving electronics advance, Hong Kong's richest drivers are also increasingly reliant on electronic parking aids. Leading a fleet of intelligent, Hong Kong-friendly cars, the Volkswagen Passat CC (HK$388,000) can sense and then manoeuvre into available parking spaces with the driver 'only applying the accelerator and brake' on the marque's Park Assist, says a Volkswagen Hong Kong representative. The Jaguar XF covers all its bodywork's angles with an optional blind-spot monitor and a new parking camera linked to its console touch screen. Powerfold mirrors also enable an XF to hug a wall or squeeze over the narrow Tai Tam Reservoir bridge. The Parktronic on the new C-Class (from HK$356,000) also locates parking spots and recommends parking manoeuvres to the driver.
The grand touring BMW 6 Series Convertible (HK$1.709 million) scans tight spots via a rear-view camera under the boot's BMW roundel. The parking assistance technology 'takes on the search for a parking space, as well as the parking. You just give the commands', BMW says.
The stylish Audi A1 (HK$273,000) has excellent all-round visibility and flits easily in the Mid-Levels, while the new one-litre Smart ForTwo (HK$137,600) can breeze to The Peak, and is so parkable with bendy, replaceable body panels.
That's just as well because garages are getting smaller in Hong Kong's luxury homes, says Chris Severs, director of specialist builder Wonderlee Company (http://wonderlee.hk/index).
'These days they are built to the minimum,' says the Briton, a 20-year veteran in the trade. 'A common mistake in luxury homes' garages is there's insufficient side room in the design and the door's drop opening height is too tight. Clients need 100mm front and back, and 200mm either side of a car.' Local luxury homeowners go for the quieter, belt-driven, one-piece tilt doors, he says.
For the past five years Wonderlee has fitted automatic gates with two-year warranties and phone-controlled facilities in prime developments such as Belle View Villas. It has extended a garage for a Ferrari owner in Clearwater Bay, with a steel framework, bricks and tilework. 'The customer thought about positive pressurising the place as it is next to the sea,' Severs says of the HK$150,000 job.
Yet space shortages at luxury homes can often force many second, third or fourth cars into the open, says Timothy Cheung, marketing manager of Champ Year (HK), which sells car-care products, Meguiar from the United States, via www.meguiars. com.hk.
'To protect paintwork from the sun, the humidity and the pollution, Meguiar suggests car owners wax their cars once every two to three months, and [also] wash their cars with a pH balanced car soap,' he says. 'This will prevent the paint from being harmed by ultraviolet rays, acid rain and other contaminants.' A proper car wash shampoo, a microfibre wash mitt and a microfibre drying towel should be used, he says.