10 most ridiculous optional extras on a luxury car

Luxury car option lists are the ultimate proof that money and taste are often strangers to each other

Gold leaf paint: a ridiculous no-no

Neil Briscoe

We've all splashed out just a bit too much at one time or another. Did your TV really need gesture control, and have you ever actually used it? Why have you got a 750gb hard drive when all you use your computer for is YouTube and Facebook? And did you absolutely have to have the extra large onion rings with that sandwich?

Mind you, these personal excesses pale into insignificance compared to what some people are prepared to shell out for. Buying any luxury car is in and of itself excessive (after all, you could get around just as easily and comfortably in a Ford Mondeo…) but some buyers take it just that stage extra, and the car makers and tuning companies are more than happy to indulge their expensive, profitable whims…

Bentley moves into the furniture business
Rolls Royce Starlight headlining: unfortunately that’s not an open sunroof but rather little star-like lights built into the roof lining

10. Audi Design Selection leather


Ah, Audi. The company that gave us four wheel drive performance cars and utter domination at Le Mans. The company that says you can find advancement through technology. The company that created Audi Ultra - a rigorous programme to shed the weight and fight the flab to make its cars more efficient. The company that offers you leather seats that cost as much as an entire other car.

Seriously. If you buy an Audi A8 (and, as Barry Norman never actually said, why not?) and tick the box for Design Selection package in either Balao Brown or Marble Grey, you're going to add €19,254 to the price of your car. That's enough to buy an entire extra Octavia or Leon. Or two Ups. All that for some leather seats (they are made of nice leather, right enough) and some extra climate control buttons.

Sublime or ridiculous? Both at the same time.

Or you could have bought: A 1.2 TSI Seat Leon S.

9. Gold leaf paint

Carlsson, in spite of the rather Swedish-sounding name, is actually a German tuning company founded in 1989 by brothers Rolf and Andreas Hartge. The firm specialises in tweaking and modifying Mercedes-Benz models and will happily bling up, to your spec, anything from an A-Class all the way to a seven-seat R-Class. They even do kits for the Vito van. For the 2014 Geneva motor show, Carlsson really decided to push the boat out and presented a modified version of the new Mercedes S-Class. Only 25 of the CS50 Versailles model will be made, and all will come with modified 700hp V8 engines. And gold, lots of gold, so much gold that Auric Goldfinger would think it was a bit over the top. This isn't just faux-gold trimming either, this is the real, weighty metal stuff, hand-beaten and applied to the instrument panel, the door cards, the window switches, even the cupholders. There's even gold in the paint, just in case you were worried that you weren't quite pulling off the South American tinpot dictator look. Cost? At least €800,000 to land one in Ireland, and that's before Revenue create a special VRT category for gold leaf…

Sublime or ridiculous? Neither; just unbearably naff.

Or you could have bought: A 5-bed mansion on two-thirds of an acre just a stone’s throw from Adare Manor.

8. The Aston Martin Cygnet

Now, this is, strictly speaking, an entire car and not an option. However the original plan was for Aston Martin to offer its smallest, most efficient car ever only to those buyers who were already signing up for a new Vanquish, DB9 or whatever. At a price of around STG£30,000, it was certainly not cheap but hey, it was an extra car with an Aston Martin badge on the bonnet so bargain, right?

Not so fast. The Cygnet was nothing more than a tiny Toyota iQ tarted up with an Aston-style grille and some nasty-looking quilted leather seats. Aston suggested that it would make the ideal in-town runabout for those Aston customers who didn't want to risk parking dings on their precious V12 Grand Tourers. A fair point, but then a normal Toyota iQ which cost about a third as much to buy would have done the same job. The whole idea was cooked up when Aston boss Ulrich Bez bumped into Toyota boss Akio Toyoda in the back of a garage at the Nurburgring 24hrs race. Both must have been inhaling a few too many tyre fumes that day. Essentially, buyers were being asked to pay way over the odds for a tiny car whose real purpose was simply to drag down Aston's profligate corporate Co2 emissions. It was quietly taken out back for a meeting with the vet late last year.

Sublime or ridiculous? Utterly ridiculous.

Or you could have bought: An actually Toyota iQ (a brilliant little car) and pocketed the change.

7. Ferrari F12 Berlinetta carbon fibre filter box cover

While we often castigate the big German car companies for their skill in separating buyers from their money via the means of an extensive and expensive options list, let’s not forget that the Italians are just as keen on burrowing into your bank account and no more so than when you’ve signed up for a Ferrari. There are many silly and frivolous options you can spec on your Fezzer, but the cake must surely be taken by this, the STG£3,072 carbon-fibre silted box cover. That’s right, a lid for the bit that holds the air filter made from the same space age material that Formula One cars are built from. Surely, you would think, this is excellent. It must reduce the weight of the car, lower the centre of gravity, make it FASTER! Nope. It’s just silly. The standard plastic cover is just as light, and any potential weight saving could just as easily be made by leaving your watch at home. Or hitting the gym for a week.

Sublime or ridiculous? Ridiculous.

Or you could have bought: A Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Titanium watch, which would probably save the same amount of weight.

6. Porsche’s leather air vents

Sorry, having just said that the Italians were close to matching the Germans when it came to fleecing their customers, the Germans have nipped in with a last-minute equaliser - Porsche's leather air vents. More and more car makers have been taking advantage of the fact that allowing customers to personalise and customise their cars means chunkier profit margins. Ford arguably started the trend with the original Mustang but everyone's at it now. No-one more so than Porsche. Clearly, there are Porsche options that are aimed at actually improving the performance of the car. You can spec your 911 with a lighter lithium-ion battery for instance, or increase its grunt with the Power Kit option. Or you can spend STG£1,173 on having the air vent slats of your Panamera covered in leather. Yes, that's right, the air vent slats. The little wiggly bits that direct the airflow either to your perma-tanned face or your diamond-encrusted jeans. In leather. It can even be in a different colour leather to the rest of the interior, if you like.

Sublime or ridiculous? Pointless…

Or you could have bought: Four Dyson Air Multiplyer fans.

5. Bentley furniture

You can buy just about anything branded with your favourite car logo these days. Porsche is the past master at this; everything from kettles to sunglasses to watches to wallets logo’ed up with the Porsche crest. Ferrari makes more money from licensing its Prancing Horse logo out to the makers of various jackets, t-shirts, baseball caps and pens while this very author still has a pair of Land Rover-badged boots gifted to him some years ago and very nice they are too. So how about a king0sized bed? Or a sideboard? Yup, really, you can buy these but only if your disposable income levels are on the disgusting side of plentiful. Bentley has been branching out into branded goods lately (its aftershave is surprisingly nice…) but surely the cake is been thoroughly taken by these outrageously expensive home furnishings. The ‘Canterbury’ bed will cost you STG£15,000 while the metal and veneer sideboard is a staggering STG£22,000. They aren’t strictly, we suppose, vehicular options but doubtless your Bentley dealer will happily include them on the invoice for your Mulsanne.

Sublime or ridiculous? Probably depends on the size and/or location of your house.

Or you could have bought: An Opel Meriva (bed) or a Ford Fiesta ST (sideboard).

4. Ferrari’s passenger-side speedo

You buy a Ferrari for two primary reasons; to look good when going slowly, and to feel good when going quickly. Both are pretty much the core competencies of any Ferrari and as we all know, there’s nothing a member of the opposite sex prefers than to see an attractive version of the other gender driving one. Ferraris are the wheeled version of dopamine, in that sense. However, one of the other points of driving a Ferrari is to demonstrate what a terrific driver you are; taming your Italian stallion as you go. The idea of putting a digital speedo (and rev-counter) in front of your passenger then is a little odd. Surely you don’t actually want anyone sitting in the other seat to know exactly how fast you were just going? They’ll either squeal and shout at you to slow down or shrug insouciantly and point out just how slow and unskilled you really are. The art of being a wannabe Fangio is in not letting people see how hard you are trying. This doesn’t help…

Sublime of ridiculous? Ridiculously unhelpful.

Or you could have bought: It’s a STG£2,400 option on the FF so, a lifetime subscription to The Irish Times for your passenger to look at instead.

3. Bentley’s iPod drawer

Bentley can offer you an entirely kitted-out mobile office in the back of your Mulsanne or Flying Spur. With multiple screens, a 4G internet connection and a Mac Mini stashed in the boot, it turns your sybaritic limo into a full-on den for deals on wheels. Buy. Sell. Buy. Long, Short. Etcetera. Still, that’s not entirely frivolous - after all, if you’re being driven around in the back of your Bentley you’re probably worth a bit and probably want to be worth a bit more, so being able to work and communicate on the move is actually quite a useful thing. However, Bentley can offer you a cutting-edge connectivity option that’s so utterly frivolous it almost defies description. It’s a drawer, inset into the dash of your Mulsanne, made of the same polished walnut veneer and lined with the same Connolly leather as the seats. And it’s for your iPod or iPhone. Most car companies make you stick your Pod into a handy cupholder, Some, Skoda chief amongst them, can offer you a handy custom-made slot to leave it in. Not Bentley though. Bentley reckons your iPhone needs to be pampered.

Sublime or ridiculous? iRidiculous.

Or you could have bought: A 64gb iPod Touch.

2. Hyundai Equus

We think of Hyundais as affordable, well-specified and possessed of a long warranty. They are rivals to the likes of Ford, VW and Opel. They are not luxury cars. Well, that's not what Hyundai really wants you to think, or at least, if you're in the United States, that's not what they really want you to think. They want you to think of Hyundai as capable of mixing it with the likes of BMW and Mercedes as easily as it does with Ford and Opel. That's why, in the US, you can buy cars like the Equus - a big, luxurious, imposing, rear-drive V8 saloon. It's not half bad either; good to drive, refined and very, very comfy. And it's got a champagne cooler in the back. Now, a mini-fridge in a Hyundai we could understand, but a specific champagne cooler? That's the sort of thing you find in Commander Bond's Aston, not a Korean-built exec saloon. Maybe it's just a question of perspective, but even so, don't expect to see this on a Santa Fe any time soon.

Sublime or ridiculous? Ridiculous.

Or you could have bought: Well, an Equus costs USD$62,000 so quite a lot of other things, really…

1. Rolls-Royce Starlight headlining

This is kind of a charming one. A few years back, Rolls-Royce decided to offer as an option a roof liner that replicated the night sky. It was originally offered on the first generation Phantom Coupe and seemed to be of similar provenance to the decision to fit the Phantom Drophead with a cloth roof instead of a folding steel item - because it’s more romantic to hear the patter of soft summer rain on a cloth hood. Similarly, the idea of feeding tiny fibre-optic lights into the headlining to replicate the night sky from within seems rather romantically lovely. A nice touch. It all gets a bit undermined when you dig a little deeper though. You see, for a fee, Rolls-Royce can layout the ‘stars’ to replicate the view of the night sky from a chosen point on the Earth on a chosen date. Your birthday, perhaps. Or the night you bought the winning Lotto ticket that led to you buying a Rolls. It makes the romanticism of the original idea start to seem needlessly narcissistic. Besides, you can now have a similar option on a lowly Opel Adam, which rather spoils the whole effect…

Sublime or ridiculous? Sublimely ridiculous.

Or you could have bought: An actual star, probably.