BMW 7-series is switching on to the fast lane of recovery
One of the best ways I've had to gauge how well things are going in this country was to drop in to the Irish unveiling of the new BMW 7-series (spread over a week at an exclusive, private residence in Killiney, Co Dublin).
Business leaders, CEOs, wealthy people, diplomats, dealers (not all at the same time) were all invited to sample the latest large saloon from the Bavarian car maker.
It was unseasonably sunny on my day there; the views were spectacular and, even when the place was left to us motoring writers for a few hours, the sense of well-being pervaded.
That was in stark contrast, it must be said, to my previous evening's journey into a far more sombre vibe in the midlands. There are, as many are wont to remark, two Irelands.
Sadly, I feel the gap is widening.
The 7-series is about the Ireland that is forging ahead. I've written on these pages before about the car - after a memorable few drives in Portugal - so I am not going over old ground. A quick drive to Coyne's Cross merely served to confirm how much of a driver's car this remains.
I'd rather relay what I was told about the expectation levels permeating the strata of society that buys the likes of the new Beemer. This sixth generation starts at €86,880 on the road - for the 730d.
The line up includes a 740d, a 740i and 750i, the latter being the only engine size without xDrive (all-wheel-drive).
BMW expects a good percentage of its 7-series motors to be bought with xDrive next year.
It does add a lot to handling; as well as about €5,000 to the price.
As you'd expect at this level, the car is packed with technology; there is more to come too with the sinful Luxury Seats which massage your back, let you recline and offer a foot rest. It is a car not just to drive, but to be driven in.
After my own drive I sat down and chatted awhile with BMW Ireland's Michael Nugent who says the "confidence of old is back" though he is quick to add he feels the madness isn't.
"People are talking about employing more; they are complaining about a shortage of office space in the greater Dublin area. There is a lot more confidence," he said.
Technology, especially connectivity, is key for such buyers. BMW's Connected Drive was a big attraction over the week. And it is going to expand exponentially.
There will be an eDrive plug-in hybrid version of the 7-series by the spring which, with emissions of 49g/km, will qualify for €7,500 grants and VRT rebate. It could well come in at the low €90,000s.
Such was the interest in it that BMW expect it could account for 40pc of 7-series' sales.
The large luxury saloon sector was almost an extinct species here a few years ago. But as many as 500 people are expected to buy one next year. At an average of €120,000 a pop that's a lot of money. Rivals to the Beemer include the Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, Range Rover etc.
I suppose the exception can sometimes prove the rule and in the case of the '7-series week' the reality of people buying cars there and then - as happened - shows how confidence has returned. At least for those in the fast lane of recovery.
For the rest of us?
We hope the benefits of that confidence trickle down as quickly as possible.