The hottest luxury cars of 2012

The focus on fuel efficiency that has swept across the automotive world has touched the luxury segment, a bastion of high-powered engines. That’s beginning to change, as a number of redesigned luxury models are available with four-cylinder power for 2012. There are also a few new hybrids. A selection of new luxury cars is listed below. All cars are listed in alphabetical order and from the 2012 model year.

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Airlines step up luxury to keep rich flyers

Flying has never been so good for those who can splurge.

While most holiday travelers will fight for overhead lockers and go hours without a snack or room to stretch their legs, life in first class is stress-free. It has always been a special place on the other side of the curtain. Now, it is getting even cushier.

US airlines, profitable again after a disastrous decade, are spending almost US$2 billion (NZ$2.6 billion) to upgrade amenities for their highest-paying customers.

On the most profitable international routes, high flyers are being treated with pre-flight champagne, flat-screen TVs and seats that turn into beds. Staff greet them by name, hang up jackets and serve meals on china.

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Asian Yachts Get Million-Dollar Makeovers

A 45-year-old owner of an investment firm in Hong Kong recently bought a $4 million-plus super yacht from Spanish yacht builder Astondoa, and then spent nearly 15 percent of the cost on jazzing it up.

The owner outfitted his new 76-feet four-bedroom boat with a jacuzzi, a Ferrari driving seat and interiors designed by celebrity Italian architect Cristanto Gatto, according to brokerage Asia Boating, which conducted the deal.

“Asian clients are moving towards custom designing their boats, rather than buying designs from factories that make huge quantities of yachts every year,” says Baggy Sartape, general manager of the Hong Kong-based Asia Boating. “And they don’t like to hold back on spending.”

Asia’s yacht market, dominated by Chinese buyers, has been growing at a double-digit pace over the past few years; in 2010, sales of super yachts — boats 70 feet or longer — totaled more than $100 million, according to Hong Kong-based yacht dealer Simpson Marine.

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Audi A7 is AUTOMOBILE Magazine’s “Automobile of the Year” for 2012

AUTOMOBILE Magazine picks the Audi A7 as its 2012 Automobile of the Year. Editors from the magazine selected the A7 for its “embodiment of everything a luxury buyer would want in a car – design, performance, and technology”. The award will be presented by AUTOMOBILE Magazine President and Editor-In-Chief Jean Jennings during the Los Angeles International Auto Show next week.

Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen was delighted to hear the news.  “The Audi A7 boasts bold styling and dramatic features, making it an icon of design and technology.  We’re thrilled that AUTOMOBILE Magazine has selected A7 as the Automobile of the Year,” he said.

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Customized iPad is world’s most expensive gadget at £5m

British luxury goods specialist Stuart Hughes creates a one of a kind customized iPad embellished with gold, diamonds and shavings of Tyrannosaurus Rex bone, reportedly costing £5m.

The device’s iconic Apple logo alone is encrusted with 53 separate gems of 12.5-carat diamonds. The back section has been covered with 24-carat gold and weighs two kilograms.

But the most expensive part of the iPad is actually the main front frame which is made from Ammolite sourced from Canada. Ammolites are said to be the oldest rock in the world. The particular stone used for this gadget is said to be more than 75 million years old.

Another unique design element is a Tyrannosaurus rex thigh bone, which dates back to 65 million years. The fossilized bone was embedded into the stone. As a final touch, a single-cut 8.5-carat flawless diamond inlaid in platinum surrounded by 12 satellite gems serves as the iPad button.

The limited edition just has two pieces for sale.  Surprisingly, one was already sold to an undisclosed buyer.

The “pricey” iPad is not the first from Stuart Hughes.  The man is known for for creating “ultra-luxury” goods, including a £219,995 Macbook Air and a diamond and platinum iPhone costing £20,995.