“Luxury” is a subjective concept. These are the sorts of philosophical musings I find myself contemplating as I observe Chinese automaker BYD’s latest product, unveiled last week at the Guangzhou Auto Show, called the Destroyer 05.
Many would consider a Tesla Model 3 to be a luxury vehicle — even in spite of the company’s well-documented build quality inconsistencies — but might not hold the same opinion of a Ford F-150. Some F-150s are stripped down work trucks, sure, but others have diamond-quilted seats that can massage you, headliners made of suede and dashboards of leather. It walks like a duck; it quacks like a duck. To me, that’s a duck.
From the outside, the BYD Destroyer 05 looks like an amalgamation of the Hyundai Elantra and Ioniq (the boring one, not the slick Ioniq 5), with a bit of Chrysler 200 thrown in from the C-pillar back. It is, by all appearances, completely forgettable.
Under the sheet metal it all seems pretty dreary too, thanks to a hybrid powertrain producing a meager 110 horsepower, according to CarNewsChina. It’ll supposedly cost between just $18,000 for a low-end one, up to the mid-$23,000 mark for a more premium-appointed example. And yet it has a name inspired by a warship: Destroyer 05.
Inside, however, the Destroyer carries many of the trappings of a modern sedan that might cost twice the price. There are partial leather seats and a big honkin’ 15-inch touchscreen front and center console that may as well have been ripped from a current Tesla, flanked by a dashboard half lined in fabric. That display can rotate between landscape and portrait orientations. Hell, even the door handles look neat, in that they’re grab handles that sort of float out of their housings.
Dare I say, these are luxuries. And while I realize press images make everything look shiny and perfect, and that chances are good the Destroyer probably isn’t as well-screwed together as one of the cars it’s imitating, it nevertheless amazes me that such a car exists, that aims as high as this one does, for so little money. And that has the audacity to call itself by such a powerful name.
It’s not rocket science how BYD achieves this: a combination of extraordinarily cheap labor, government subsidies and a lack of regulatory hurdles are the secret sauce. That’s the same reason we don’t get other impossibly cheap yet impressive cars, like the $12,000 Hyundai Casper. BYD also has China’s manufacturing muscle on its side, where it never has to venture far to procure raw materials or parts.
But much like its ill-fittingly belligerent name, there’s still something charmingly audacious about cars like the Destroyer. Adaptive cruise control, a screen that turns and cameras that reveal the view around you in 360 degrees, all for less than $24,000. That’s about what my Fiesta cost new, and it has a tenth of the tech the Destroyer does. I love my car, and I don’t need all those bells and whistles, but I’ll still look on in amazement at what car shoppers elsewhere in the world get to consider that we don’t.