Ascaya, the hillside development in Henderson, turned into a closed course to demonstrate the latest luxury sports utility vehicles that will be showcased in an upcoming issue of a national luxury lifestyle magazine.
Thirty-two couples from across the country descended upon Las Vegas on Sept. 5-6 to participate in the Robb Report’s Dream Machines driving experience. They each drove eight luxury SUVs to provide feedback for a story reviewing the driving experience of a Bentley Bentayga Speed ($235,700 base price), Lamborghini Urus ($200,000), Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio ($80,245), Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic ($178,500), BMW X7 xDrive 40i ($73,900), Maserati Levante Trofeo ($169,980) and Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk ($86,650) and Rezvani Tank that resembles a tactical urban vehicle ($155,000 and surpasses $300,000).
This is the third year of the Dream Machines. All three have taken place in Las Vegas, but this is the first time it’s been held in Ascaya.
In the first year, Robb Report VIP subscribers drove luxury vehicles in Red Rock Canyon and last year they drove to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
David Arnold, the managing director of the Robb Report, said they were looking for a different driving experience that was less arduous and tapped Ascaya when asked. After a tour of the clubhouse and community, it was an easy decision, he said.
“It’s an amazing development, and the scenery is fabulous with the mountains and the proximity of the Strip,” Arnold said. “The majesty here was an interesting experience we thought our readers would enjoy.”
Arnold said they chose SUVs for this issue because they are more than 50 percent of the U.S. car market, as people less interested in buying sedans. Vehicles are “part of the DNA of the Robb Report” and it’s vital to get a perspective of luxury customers, he said.
“It’s better research than anything we can do,” Arnold said. “We have our automotive editor pick the cars and bring them to an interesting location, and Ascaya fits the bill. It gives us an opinion of the finish, form and performance. It’s not how fast they go but more the comfort and experience and coupled with other interesting experiences such as the setting of Ascaya.”
The Robb Report chose Las Vegas for the annual review because they thought it would appeal to their readers to visit and experience the city in a different way, Arnold said.
“We have a relationship with MGM and Aria, specifically, and Vegas is more attractive than just gaming with the shows and culinary scene,” Arnold said. “There’s something for everyone beyond what it’s historically known for as the gaming capital of the world.”
The Robb Report has a VIP club in which people apply and there’s a screening process, Arnold said. The magazine creates activities for members crafted around subjects it covers from cars, watches, culinary, wine and travel and provide experiences that wouldn’t be available such as the driving of luxury SUVs at Ascaya, he added.
“For a lot of our readers, it’s rolling art and kinetic sculptures,” said Vic Matthew, senior editor of automotive for the Robb Report, who called it the golden age of the SUV. “That’s their appreciation for it and it’s a perfect marriage of form and function.”
The club members’ Las Vegas trip also included a visit to the Henderson Executive Airport to look at aircraft and use luxury gadgets such as a car simulator, massage chairs and virtual reality. They even took a helicopter tour to the Hoover Dam and over the Strip. They had lunches and dinners together.
“Everyone is here because they share their passion,” Arnold said. “They are not doing it alone but with a group of like-minded people, and that social element is fun for people.”
The VIP members are people in finance and medicine or entrepreneurs who range from their mid-40s to late 60s and early 70s and have $10 million in assets and above. They own multiple homes and ability to acquire anything they want, and Arnold said he wouldn’t be surprised if some bought lots in Ascaya or talked to others who might do so.
“The term influencer is one that is used in so many different ways, but these are influential people,” Arnold said. “They have groups they influence and social circles where they have a certain amount of sway. You have 64 people going back to each of their spheres of influence and talking about their experience in Vegas and Ascaya.”
Ascaya director Kelly Foster said he’s worked with the Robb Report in the past in sponsoring a car of the year event in Napa Valley. When he became part of the Ascaya team earlier this year, Foster said he thought the hillside community would fit perfectly with Robb Report with “a twisting and winding private roadway with stunning views. It was a perfect setting for an automotive event,” he said. “We believe that a lot of our existing owners at Ascaya are subscribers of the magazine and followers of the Robb Report on social media. There is an audience (in their readers) that is a good demographic for Ascaya to partner with.”
Foster said it’s been great exposure for the development with the Robb Report highlighting the event on social media and posting videos as it happened. Ascaya will be the backdrop in the feature article as well, Foster said he expects the event to return for what has become great publicity.
“Eventually, whether through direct experience or social media or print advertising, for people who didn’t know about Ascaya to learn about it,” Foster said.
Owner and broker of LVREAL, Maureen Robison, is the managing broker for Ascaya. She said some of the VIP participants made appointments to view homes in the community for the potential of buying. Ascaya has four spec-built, furnished custom homes, called inspirational homes, for sale ranging from $5 million to $7 million.
Robison said there’s competition for the valley’s luxury lots; but Ascaya buyers aren’t looking for a golf course, and prefer one with one access and privacy.
The hillside community has sold 36 of its 313 lots with prices ranging from $500,000 to $10 million. There are nine households living in Ascaya and 38 homes are under construction or in the permitting process.
Ascaya launched three new custom homes with Blue Heron, Sun West Custom Homes and studio g ARCHITECTURE that are either done with permitting or going through the permitting process, Foster said. Those homes will be in the mid-$4 million range, which he said is the “sweet spot” of the market. Those are homes that will take a year to build measure about 6,000 square feet with five bedrooms and Strip views and are part of Ascaya’s new accelerated custom home program.
“The goal of this program is to give the buyer who doesn’t want to go through the two-to-three-year full custom journey and a certainty in schedule and price and the design is already done,” Foster said. “If they wanted to change paint colors and finishes there is still time to do that. We have done most of the heavy lifting. We think the majority of the market really covets known costs and schedule and a high-quality project with great views.”
Foster said more initiatives planned by Ascaya will further accelerate their success with new community amenities in design that will be announced by the end of 2019. There are plans to start another six speculative homes in early 2020, Foster said
“People are valuing closing, completion and move in,” Foster said. “Our sales pipeline has never been stronger. We’re excited where things are at right now. Several of these spec homes have multiple buyers circling them with counter offers. … We’re not going to aggressively start a dozen spec homes as the world appears to be decelerating. If we are indeed heading into recession and uncertainty about how the next president will be and tariff wars continuing to accelerate, we are ready to tap the breaks if that’s necessary for Ascaya.”
Arnold said there’s a symbiotic relationship between luxury homes and cars and many club members have several garages to hold them. Their review for other readers is valuable for those who want to purchase the luxury SUVs, he said.
“Someone getting a $300,000 car is looking for more than all the specs and statistics than you can get online,” Arnold said. “It’s not that the information isn’t valuable, but there’s a whole different set of judgments for someone buying their fourth or fifth car and spending a quarter million to a half million on a car.”
The chance to drive the luxury SUVs was an experience James Fowler couldn’t pass up. The 48-year-old Fowler, an Irvine resident who previously had a home in Las Vegas and doesn’t rule out buying again in the city, owns a commercial real estate construction company based in California. He also is a partner in a car dealership and has access to Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and Mercedes that he’s driven.
“You get to drive everything you don’t normally get to drive and don’t have to go to several dealerships,” Fowler said. “You can get it all in one shot.”