Image: Rolls-Royce
Rolls-royce
When it comes to personalizing your ride with expensive options, brands like Rolls-Royce certainly make it easy enough.
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updated 4/24/2008 4:42:58 PM ET 2008-04-24T20:42:58

Imagine paying the price of a new Mercedes-Benz C-Class just to get a little privacy in the back seat of your Maybach 62. Most buyers of this $386,500 limo add $29,900 to the base price for a glass partition wall.

That option is the most expensive one we found when researching our list of the top 10 priciest car options.

All of the features on our ranking cost as much as a new car. The least expensive one is a $16,500 carbon-ceramic brake package for the Bentley Continental GT. Go to the “slide show” link below to see the full list in ascending order.

Six- and seven-figure cars are within reach of more people than ever before. To say nothing of mere "high-net-worth" individuals, the number of "ultra-high-net-worth" people worldwide, those who have $30 million or more in assets, excluding their residence and collectibles, has grown 11.3 percent to 94,970 and their combined total assets have risen by 16.8 percent to $13.1 trillion, according to the most recent Capgemini-Merill Lynch World Wealth Report.

As the number of wealthy people grows, some ultra-luxury and exotic car manufacturers have responded by boosting production, which incrementally drives down their exclusivity. Global Insight projects that the number of ultra-luxury vehicles sold in the United States will reach 11,755 in 2008, nearly a tenfold increase since 1990 when 1,762 were sold.

One way the super-rich might regain a measure of exclusivity is by personalizing their rides with expensive options. Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maybach, and Rolls-Royce certainly make it easy enough.

Those automakers collectively offer the priciest options on the planet. Many of the add-ons in our ranking are purely aesthetic.

“In the exotic car market, almost none of the options, other than, say, the carbon-ceramic brakes, are particularly functional. What they want are the distinctive features that make their vehicle even more unique to them,” says Scott Rothermel, general sales manager of Lamborghini Chicago in Westmont, Ill.

Many high-end automakers offer carbon-ceramic brakes designed to better dissipate heat and prolong braking performance during extreme driving, such as on a racetrack. Ferrari's are the priciest, at $18,500 for the 599 GTB Fiorano (the seventh ranked option) and $16,808 for the F430 (ninth on the list). Bentley's previously mentioned carbon-ceramic brake system for the Continental GT is $308 less than the F430's.

Only those who test the outer limits of their cars on a racetrack will fully appreciate carbon-ceramic brakes. But they do add a measure of cachet and exclusivity.

Many well heeled buyers are more likely to spring for non-functional add-ons that dress up their cars. Take the eighth most expensive option on our list: For $17,000, a Rolls-Royce Drophead Coupe owner can add even more visual punch with a brushed stainless steel hood and teak trim that mimic the deck of a yacht.

Or maybe the standard interior colors available for the Maybach 57 and 62 all seem mundane. In that case, order the Emerald Green Interior for $19,900. It's the fifth priciest option on our list, which doesn't include the virtually endless customization possibilities that each of the ultra-high-end automakers offers.

Some exclusive extras are functional, designed to increase comfort. Fitting a Bentley Arnage R with a $19,000 Level 2 Entertainment Package adds a cocktail cabinet, wine fridge, and foldaway work tables. That option is sixth on our top 10 list.

The rear television and DVD package available on the Bentley Arnage RL, a stretched version of this full-size sedan, adds two 15-inch flat screens each with their own DVD player for $20,690, or more than the price of a base Honda Civic.

It's the third most expensive option on our list of 10.

Some exotic cars, such as the $1.7 million Bugatti Veyron the $640,000 Spyker C12 Zagato, only offer what are called “no-cost” options, and thus did not make it onto our top-ten list. “Our base price of $1.7 million is for the complete package. We give buyers the ability to individualize their vehicles at no additional cost,” says John Hill, market manager for Bugatti Automobiles USA.

Bugatti brings customers to its Dorlisheim, France, factory where they can customize everything from exterior paint colors to interior dashboard trim and even add a monogram to their vehicles.

“Even coachbuilders like Fisker offer few cost options, but almost unlimited choices,” says Steve Ferguson, an exotic car analyst at the National Automobile Dealer Association. “The price for these coachbuilt vehicles includes an almost endless array of options for people to choose from.”

Bentley, Ferrari, and others have their own division that can spec out a vehicle to virtually any whim. But they charge for it, unlike Bugatti and Fisker.

Some exotic car buyers are actually willing to pay more for fewer features. Super exotics such as the Ferrari F430 Scuderia or the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren 722 Edition offer improved performance by stripping away some of the amenities of the “regular” versions.

“Many buyers of exotic cars are just adding another vehicle to their stable and are therefore willing to pay a premium for a vehicle with fewer luxury options, say one with added performance, which makes the car even more impractical, but therefore even more rare,” Ferguson says.

These buyers prefer vehicles tailored to a singular purpose: “They drive their Maybach or Rolls-Royce when they want a luxury sedan, their Land Rover when they want an SUV. They want a Lamborghini for the track and a Bentley Continental GT when they desire a grand sports tourer,” Ferguson says.

To find the most indulgent options, we studied the order sheets of exotic and ultra-luxury car manufacturers and picked out those that cost the most. Keep in mind that manufacturers don’t list every possible option or amenity and that our list doesn’t take into account the extensive customization each company offers.

The nameplates considered for our ranking sell fewer than 10,000 each year in the United States. Four companies dominate the list: Bentley, Ferrari, Maybach, and Rolls-Royce. Check out the “slide show” link above to see what options command the highest prices.

© 2007 ForbesAutos.com

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