These are the cars that are the immortal benchmarks of their genre. The ones that are compared, studied and idolized in the development of any new rival. These are the cars that headlines will scream that some left-field competitor has beaten, to no effect in the real world. These are the go-to for all consumers, and every single iteration improves to greater heights than the one before it.
The simple way to explain it is that these are the golden children of the automotive industry.
Ever since the creation of the car, manufacturers have attempted to make their new product better than the best. But time after time, these cars remain on their golden throne of heritage, quality and reputation. They are The Eternals.
BMW M3/3-Series: Medium Exec Saloon.
Since its introduction in 1975, the 3 series has been the darling of the BMW fanbase and large amounts of automotive critics. It seems to be every other month that Autocar declares some newcomer to the market as a "3 Series KILLER!!!" and yet the 3 seems to be eternally upon the throne of this lucrative market.
Despite some moments of questionable thinking (looking at you, 3 Series Compact), the 3 Series has always managed to fend off it's rivals, whether it be in the form of a C-Class, an A4, an XE or a Giulia, the 3 series is the constant benchmark of this segment, and therefore is worthy of the title of an Automotive Eternal.
Range Rover: Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle.
The benchmark, the genesis, and the inspiration for every single luxury SUV to follow since the original Mk.1's introduction in 1970. Although the original Range Rover was a relatively back-to-basics installment in the line-up, the model line, now in its fourth generation since 2012, is very much directed at the more luxury inclined market. Although rare in my native Australia, the Range Rover (and its RR Sport sibling) is extremely common in the U.K.
The first generation lasted from 1970 to 1996, and has had three iterations since then. It is due for a replacement expected in 2020-21 That is long enough for the now iconic Range Rover to earn its place on this list as one of The Eternals.
Porsche 911: Sports Coupe.
It's no mistake that the Porsche 911 hasn't changed much visually or dynamically since the original '63 car, codenamed 901. It is the ever-present joke that the 911 designers don't even change the design of the crown jewel of the Porsche line up, merely press 'copy and increase by 10%' on the photocopier at Stuttgart.
But that's the trick of the 911; They got it so right the first time, they just adjust the recipe ever so slightly every time to modernize it and make it that teeny bit closer to perfection. Although they slip up from time to time, (replacing the manual with a PDK for the 991 GT3) it fends off whatever is thrown at it every single time.
Volkswagen Golf/Golf GTI: Medium Hatch
The benchmark for most cars, in fact, could be stated as being the Golf. For the past 60 years or so, the Golf has been a common sight around urban areas, and for good reason; The german hatchback has established itself as the class leader, with handsome looks, revolutionary technology and sharp dynamics all coming at a reasonable cost.
Whilst the Mk. III and IV were low points in the Golf saga, the more recent iterations have shown that the Golf really is going to be something of a benchmark for years to come.
Rolls-Royce Phantom: Ultra Luxury statement car.
How does one define luxury? Quite like art, it is quite impossible to put a definite description of it down. But one thing that we know fits the vague idea of luxury is the grand luxo-barge we have come to know and love as the Rolls Royce Phantom.
It doesn't really fit in to any specific genre, but by god does it make a statement; Rich, powerful, someone to be seen and respected by the peasantry we really know ourselves to be. The Rolls Royce Phantom is the immediate benchmark for any luxury car, and every single car that sells itself on the promise of luxury has this in it's sights, including but not limited to...
Mercedes-Benz S-Class: Large luxury saloon.
If the Phantom is old-school luxury, like the stately homes of nobles, then the S-Class is pure new-age prowess, with technology and new thinking creating an experience that the 7 Series or the A8 never quite manage to surpass.
The peak of the range is the AMG version, where you, or more likely, your chauffeur can perform donuts as you wave at the agasp peasantry watching in envy.
Can you think of any cars that are always the 'car to beat' in their genre? If so, suggest below!