Bob Lutz presents one of the most beautifully sculpted cars in the history of the automobile.
By Susan Kehoe, PH.D.
Photography by Jerry Zolynsky
Bob Lutz strolled the grounds of his farm in Ann Arbor, a manicured estate with swans, ducks and friendly dogs. In this spectacular setting, he was relating the stories and history of his new VLF car company and giving us a ride in his Destino, “the newest and most expensive high performance sedan in the world.” Two of these cars have been produced to date. The first Destino produced was parked in his driveway. The second, custom ordered with hand-carved saddle leather in the door panels, is rumored to have been shipped to Carlos Santana. VLF only makes about 100 vehicles a year so Destino owners will be in a very exclusive club.
The Destino is the newest exotic car in the world; and Lutz, who worked in the automotive industry since the 1960s, is introducing it. He has held executive positions with the Detroit Three, as well as BMW where he upgraded a utility car to the luxury, technologically superior ultimate driving machine. During his expansive automotive career, he left his DNA on the Dodge Viper, Corvette, Ford Explorer, Cadillac products, the BMW 3-series, the Chevy Volt and classic collectors’ items like the Chevy Camaro.
The 84-year-old Lutz walked around his farm with the agility of a much younger man. When asked why he started a new car company now, when he could rest on his legacy, he replied, “It’s fun.” And it’s clear from his laugh and enthusiasm that he’s having the time of his life.
Lutz founded VLF in partnership with two design and manufacturing experts. The company derives its name from the surname initials of the founding partners: Gilbert Villarreal, CEO, Robert Lutz, chairman. and Henrik Fisker, head of design and product strategy.
Villarrel, a new Michigan-based automotive manufacturer, is a master of efficiency in production. The son of Mexican fruit pickers, he joined the Marines at 16 to work for his American citizenship. After that he rose from the assembly line through the ranks at Boeing because of his remarkable skills. At one point when he was comfortable, he decided to buy a yacht from a Seattle company but was told he had to wait years because there was a huge backlog. He observed the owner’s factory, turned it around using his manufacturing methods, then bought the company from the retiring owner. That’s one way to jump the line to get your boat.
Fisker, former designer of the Aston Martin, created the extreme sculpture of this sleek, powerful vehicle. It’s evident in the wheel arches that render a strong performance look as well as under the hood where the engine is sculpted out under the bonnet. Lutz said, “Once you look at the car you’ll see it’s bespoke like a fine Savile Row tailor.”
This beautifully proportioned design is integrated with a supercharged Corvette drivetrain with 638 hp and mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Its top speed is 200 mph and it skyrockets from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds. But even with this performance, the sleek four-door sedan doesn’t limit you from taking the kids for a ride in the back seat on Sunday or throwing your golf clubs in the trunk. The Destino is long and low but has as much legroom in the back seat as a Cadillac SRX when the driver and passenger seats are adjusted in comfortable positions.
When asked why he designed a sedan instead of a coupe, Lutz said, “Luxury coupes are so common, you see them everywhere. This luxury sedan is a first, a totally new category of vehicle. Destino has all the performance, luxury and comfort without the hassle of a coupe — you no longer have to choose performance over comfort and convenience.”
Assembled in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the Destino is hand-built from aluminum and carbon fiber with the precision of a Swiss timepiece. The relatively low weight yields nearly 20 miles a gallon, remarkable for a car in this category.
“Another great thing about the car is that you can maintain it Up North, or anywhere, without hauling it to a special dealer,” Lutz said. “First, it isn’t going to need maintenance like fussy luxury cars; and if it does, you can take it to a Chevy dealership.” In fact, Bob Sellers has already signed on as a VLF dealer.
“The base price is $229,000, before customization. That’s the price of entry, someone who can write a check for that amount and not miss the money,” Lutz said.
He expects to export the Destino to the Arab Emirates where there is great interest. “It’s the one place on Earth where buyers think the price tag is too low. Dealers are concernedcustomers might buy it as a first car for their kids,” he said. They will also be exported to Japan, Europe and worldwide wherever auto enthusiasts want an exclusive car that is perched at the summit of capability and price.
Lutz concluded, “You won’t see this exotic car with a lease sticker price of $325 per month like some other luxury cars. What this car says about its owners is that they have a sense of achievement; they are self-confident enough that they don’t need to drive a well-known label. They are distinguished from the crowd by their own success.” NS