2002 ASTON MARTIN V12 VANQUISH
Ford Motor Company via AP
Aston Martin's handcrafted V-12 Vanquish coupe.
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updated 8/24/2004 3:39:36 PM ET 2004-08-24T19:39:36

In "Trump: The Art of the Deal," Donald Trump writes, "Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score."

In an age in which one has to look hard to find poorly made cars -- and, in order to stay competitive, automakers have to load even entry-level cars with extensive amounts of features and value -- price is a way to keep score of who is building the best, most sought-after cars. Fiat's Ferrari brand thinks its Enzo Ferrari flagship coupe is so good that it priced the car at $675,000--and has sold every one.

The goal of this list of the best of the best cars was to find the most extravagant, opulent and expensive cars. Sticker price was a mitigating factor in categories such as "Best Luxury Coupe"; how else could we decide between Ford Motor's $230,000 Aston Martin V-12 Vanquish and Volkswagen's new, $150,000 Bentley Continental GT, two cars which feature beautiful handcraftsmanship, 12-cylinder engines and loads of British character? The Bentley is superb, but we chose the Aston because it is even more expensive and rare. Aston sold only 519 cars in the United States last year; Bentley plans on making ten times that amount of Continental GTs each year.

While that category was particularly difficult to settle, the cars on the list were a delight to study because they remind us of how unnecessarily over-the-top the lives of the very rich can be.

DaimlerChrysler's $367,000 Maybach 62 sedan features 21 speakers and such an extensive capacity for personalization that "with the factory-offered options, colors and interior materials alone," Maybach writes in a statement, "there are...more than two million vehicle combinations possible." Maybach dealerships have trained personnel, called Maybach Relationship Managers (MRMs), to help customers design their own Maybachs.

Take a look at this and similar cars in the slide show that follows. The Maybach is so attentive to its owner's every desire, whatever the cost, that it reminds one of what social observer Lucius Beebe wrote in his 1966 book "The Big Spenders" of the yacht that belonged to the wealthy publisher of New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett (1841-1918): "[It] carried a cow housed on its foredeck, against the unlikely contingency of its owner's wanting milk." The yacht analogy is not far-fetched; Maybach writes that "as with luxury yachts, the badging [the names of its two vehicles, the 57 and 62] denotes vehicle length in meters (5.73 and 6.17)."

© 2012 Forbes.com

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