“Moon & Tunes” is typical of optional features on a mainstream car: a moonroof and upgraded audio, usually around $1,500. But step up, up, up to the rarified automotive world of premium and uber-premium motorcars, and the possibilities grow more interesting: melton wool carpets, burnished walnut tray tables for passengers, and umbrellas integrated into the side doors are just a few possibilities. Some features can cost more than a mainstream car itself.
Here are five of our favorite features. We present this as a reader service, in case you’re thinking about where to spend your tax-cut check, rather than sending it to your bank in the Caymans. Beyond these options, the truly high-end cars have custom-order departments for the very-particular and the very-newly-rich who want offbeat colors or animal hides. But that’s a different story.
Bentley Bentayga Breitling Clock
The Bentley Bentayga (top photo) exists for those who find the Mercedes G-Wagen (the one that looks like World War II is still going on) too inexpensive. This $195,000 to $298,000, nearly three-ton SUV is without peer until the six-foot-tall Rolls-Royce Cullinan appears. The Bentayga offers several amazing optional features, such as a pull-out storage drawer for field sports (read: shooting), a leather-trimmed seating bench that also slides out from back, a falconry kit for the Middle East market, and a biometric secure storage box in the center console for, say, your Breitling wristwatch. Bentley and Breitling have a longstanding relationship. For the pending Bentayga Hybrid, there is a Philippe Starck-designed charging module.
The most amazing feature is the optional Breitling Clock, with a dark or (above) light Mother of Pearl Face. It features a Mulliner Tourbillon movement inside a Breitling timepiece inset into the dash between a pair of air conditioning vents. Mulliner is a famed British coachbuilder for horse and then horseless carriages; the company dates to the 1760s and Bentley now holds the name. Tourbillon means whirlwind in French, and refers to a 1790s invention by French-Swiss watchmaker maker Abraham-Louis Breguet, whereby the mechanical escapement and balance wheel are in a rotating cage that counteracts the effects of gravity.
In the car, the unit moves on its axes occasionally to keep the timepiece wound if the car is not driven. There’s a demo mode to show off the self-winding capability. The case is made of gold, and diamond facets mark all but the quarter-hour points. Other precious metals are available. The price is $160,000 and it’s limited to a lucky few. Bentley says just four a year are being produced.
Rolls-Royce Starlight Headliners
A panoramic moonroof only shows the stars when there’s no rain or clouds. Rolls-Royce makes it an every-night occurrence. The Celestial Phantom edition of 2013 celebrated the 10th anniversary of the new-era Rolls-Royce Phantom. This “most-exclusive Bespoke Rolls-Royce ever created” mapped more than 1,000 stars into the headliner, in the place in the heavens of 1/1/2003. In addition, 446 diamonds were set into the “door-cappings, center console lid, and partition wall.” There’s also a Starlight Headliner dating to 2007.
Rolls-Royce followed up this year with a Wraith (coupe) Luminary Collection. Fifty-five of the coupes will have 1,340 fiber optic lights embedded in the headliner. Another 176 LEDs are hand-set into the interior’s Tudor Oak, making the wood glow. It can be made to emulate shooting stars. But it will only be made available to 55 customers — that against 3,362 motorcars delivered in 50 countries in 2017, led by the Americas and China.
Pricing of the Luminary Collection wasn’t immediately announced. But if past LED configurations are an example, it will be on the high side of $10,000. (Plus $1.29 for a download of Don McLean’s “Starry, Starry Night (Vincent).”) And as part of the Bespoke Collection, modifications can be made to suit the customer, with a suitable adjustment in cost.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Burmeister Audio
Nobody sits in an Eames chair and listens to a CD from start to finish anymore. But it happens in the car. That’s where you best audio should be. You can judge car audio by the number of speakers (as many as 33 that we’re now aware of), the wattage of amplifiers, cost, or sound quality.
One of the very best is the Burmeister 3D system in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It envelopes you in sound. It’s tuned for both rear- and front-seat passengers; you can play the front loud without deafening the people in back. There are 24 speakers placed about the cabin, including ceiling-mount speakers and a pair of rotating, illuminated tweeters, driven by a 1,540-watt amplifier combining digital and audio signals. The trunk-mount subwoofer has its own 400-watt amplifier. On an S-Class (base price $90,000 to $103,000 for the non-AMG models), Burmeister audio carries a $6,400 upcharge. Plus $2,650 for integrated rear-seat entertainment.
Overfinch Range Rover Automated Boot Floor
Tired of reaching deep into the recesses of the boot (cargo bay) of your Range Rover? Not a problem. Overfinch, a tuner, or third-party supplier of comfort, convenience, and performance parts, can finish off a Range Rover to your tastes, including the Automated Boot Floor that slides your luggage and other goods onto the tailgate for easier unloading. The moving floor swaps the Range Rover’s cargo bay carpet for Bridge of Weir leather and aluminum sliders.
The motorized load floor is typically part of a significant upscale remake that might include new leather (Bridge of Weir), custom veneers, mother-of-pearl-inserts, hand-laid carbon fiber applied to the front and rear bumpers, a carbon fiber roof spoiler, a carbon fiber grille, 22-inch forged alloy wheels, a stainless steel exhaust, and custom paint. In such a package, a $110,000 Land Rover Long Wheel Base would double in price.
NLA: Porsche 918 Speed Charging Station
Porsche’s supercar of this decade has been the Porsche 918 Spyder gasoline-electric hybrid. Buyers initially had qualms about applying Prius-like technologies (electric drive atop gasoline power) to something costing US $850,000 before options. A 4.6-liter V8 is mated to a front (127 hp) and rear (154 hp) electric motors, somewhat more than a Prius makes. And when you get to 60 mph in 2.2 seconds, buyers are more welcoming of new technology, especially when it puts the Bugatti Veyron in its place. As Car and Driver said of the 918, “Every time you floor it, you get a preview of your first (or next) facelift. The pull is relentless.”
As for charging the 918, and Porsches yet to come, Porsche designed a floor-mount fast charging stand that doubles as a piece of sculpture. Sculpture is art, and fine art isn’t cheap: A Porsche high-voltage charger cost $22,000. (For that, you could pick up a Nissan Leaf after federal and state tax credits.) Alas, the Porsche 918’s production run ended three years ago and as a new product, it’s NLA: no longer available (new). If you’re interested, used examples are being offered for as much as $2 million: art, electricity, and (for the seller) ROI.
What is Speculative Execution?
Speculative execution has been in the news of late, typically when discussing the Meltdown and Spectre bugs. We explain the topic.
CES 2018 in Photos: What We Remember Most
CES is always an overwhelming cacophony of sights and sounds, but a few images always stand out. Here are a few of our favorites from this year's show.
Bitcoin, Blockchain, and ICOs: What You Need to Know
While Bitcoin has grabbed most of the attention, permanent advances in computing due to the invention of blockchain technology are likely to come from other innovative solutions. We'll take you through the differences.
How to Become Less Addicted to Your Phone, Which Is Now Smarter Than You
We have entered the era of programs that can program us, and they're getting better at it by the day. Learn how to protect yourself from "dopamine-driven feedback-loops."