The Porsche 911 Carrera GTS carries 430 hp of brute strength and can go 0-60 mph (97 km) in 3.8 seconds on its race-track style suspension. The interior, with its Alcantara red or silver stitching and red tachometer, belongs in a fashion show.

Buyers mainly want the power kit when they pay for the GTS package, says Calvin Kim, a product-experience manager for Porsche Cars North America. But, he adds: “They want to be able to enjoy themselves every day. That involves a certain level of comfort and convenience.”

From performing like a race car to having a lounge-like interior, makers of luxury models are straining to differentiate themselves. Technology is important, too, and earning the luxury label in that area is even more difficult.

At a time when mass-market cars offer LED lighting, Bluetooth connectivity and sometimes even Alcantara fabrics, luxury brands are having to reach ever higher to meet customer expectations.

“There used to be a bigger gap between a luxury car and a mainstream car in terms of functionality,” says Jesse Toprak, chief analyst at consumer website “Now there is more pressure on true luxury brands to push the envelope.”

Performance is where many luxury brands try to stand out.

Audi of America President Scott Keogh said while visiting the Los Angeles auto show his brand is “still playing catch-up” in the luxury segment.  It is counting on the Audi Super R8 sports car, with the option of a 550-hp V-10 engine, to help Audi cement its place in the luxury lexicon.

Even Cadillac, a luxury brand not exactly known for performance, is touting its V-Series as 100% track-capable “right off the showroom floor” as a mark of its luxury status. Says new Cadillac chief Johan de Nysschen, “You can never have too much horsepower.”

You can’t have luxury without a nice interior, however. The ultra-luxury brands are focused on the passenger experience as much as the driving experience.

Bentley emphasizes the “purity” of its interiors – real leather, real wood and real metal.  “We are luxury,” says Corey Proffitt, Bentley communications manager for the Americas.  “We are still producing purity in its simplest form.”

Sitting in the leather interior of the Bentley Mulsanne sedan does suggest what being inside a Coach purse might be like. The optional iPad integrated into the backseat tray table, which one can use while enjoying a glass of champagne, is decadent. Even at that level, however, performance counts. “We are staying true to our heritage while improving performance and efficiency,” Proffitt says.

Mercedes-Benz has re-introduced its Maybach nameplate with the S-Class-based Mercedes-Maybach S600. The interior resembles a luxury lounge with reclining rear seats, a between-seat minibar and an air-filtration system scented with Maybach perfume. At the L.A. auto show, Stephen Cannon, President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz U.S.A., touted the very long sedan as the ultimate in exclusivity. The S600 is “handcrafting in its highest expression,” he said.