What is the most luxury car? It can be difficult for road testers to get their bearings in an automotive market segment in which value is qualified unlike in almost any other, where status, exclusivity and uniqueness are key – even if that doubles the asking price.
Here, passenger luxury is all – and the driving experience may matter but quite possibly not to the owner. Where a car is something to be seen in, travel in, possess and inhabit but not always to operate first-hand. This is the rarefied world of the super-luxury car, and these are Hugnung’s top-ranked examples.
What is the most luxury car?
If you want the last word in opulence, sophistication, sense of occasion and conferred status from your choice of car, then, this is the niche you will be shopping in.
There isn’t a car here that you can buy for less than a six-figure outlay, and one or two might even cost you seven figures. For regular super-luxury class clientele, after all, to be denied the opportunity to double the cost of your car in making it absolutely your own would be the ultimate turn-off.
1. Rolls-Royce Phantom
The grandest and greatest luxury conveyance in motordom was replaced by Rolls-Royce in 2017 and given a glittering five-star road test welcome by our road testers shortly thereafter. The Phantom was subsequently updated in 2022, given subtle design and equipment tweaks, and we expect to test the updated version very soon.
Owners will love the car at least as much for the extravagant statement of wealth and status it endows and for the unmatched sense of occasion you enjoy when travelling in one. But while many won’t ever know as much, the latest Phantom is also an utter joy and a rare pleasure to drive.
Its superbly comfortable and singularly isolating ride comfort can be sampled from the back seats, of course, and is like nothing else you will encounter in a car: gently loping and deliciously indulgent-feeling but also supremely quiet and smooth, despite Rolls-Royce’s fitment of the latest run-flat tyre technology.
The car is available in standard- and extended-wheelbase forms, and there can be no greater expression of wealth than the sheer size of the latter, which is within a whisker of measuring fully six metres in length.
Yet the precision feel and perfect weight of the car’s large-rimmed steering wheel (made even thicker as part of the latest facelift) is remarkable. Likewise the ease with which you can place such a huge car on the road; the tolerance it has for whichever rate of progress suits your trip; the supreme refinement and flexibility of its V12 engine; and the progressiveness of its throttle pedal on step-off.
Even though it’s a near-three-tonne love song to splendid isolation, this car will accelerate from 0-100mph and from 30-70mph through the gears quicker than the last Ford Focus RS. The integrity of its engineering is simply breathtaking.
New headlights, new wheel designs, an illuminated pantheon radiator grille and some optional dark chrome body trim are what distinguish the latest version.
2. Rolls-Royce Ghost
The Ghost was a line in the sand for Rolls-Royce when it appeared in 2009: the beginning of a shift that transformed the company’s annual production volumes.
Now in its second generation, the Phantom’s understudy has evolved substantially. Where the Ghost’s mechanical underpinnings were once adapted from those of the BMW 7 Series, it now shares the same Architecture of Luxury platform as the Phantom and the Cullinan SUV.
There are also innovations, such as Rolls-Royce’s mass dampers for the front suspension and an active anti-roll bar for the rear axle, both of which help bring ride quality closer than ever to that of the Phantom.
However, while the Phantom is very much a car in which to be driven, the Ghost was intended as a car for the well-heeled driver, and its dynamic character reflects that. Slighter tauter-riding and more agile than the Phantom (partly by virtue of its more compact proportions), it lends itself more readily to the cut and thrust of daily motoring on traffic-clogged UK roads than its bigger sibling.
And yet in terms of interior space, luxury ambience and sheer material quality, the car sits only the smallest of rungs below its bigger sibling, adopting as it does Rolls-Royce’s new ‘post-opulence’ design approach both inside and out. It’s a neoclassical fortress on wheels but a usable one.
3. Bentley Flying Spur
Bentley’s four-door limousine started off its modern life as the Continental Flying Spur in 2006, only dropping the nomenclative prefix that links it with the Continenal GT as part of its biggest model overhaul to date in 2014.
But the Flying Spur, now in its third generation, isn’t so difficult to distinguish from the related two-door coupé, thanks to its prouder, more muscular design. Crewe’s luxury saloon also benefits dramatically from a new platform, which was co-developed with Porsche and uses four-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars.
It also better insulates the fantastically opulent cabin from the road and provides the basis for genuinely good driving dynamics. Grip, balance and steering are all noticeably improved.
Of course, there’s the same calling-card 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12, which makes 626bhp plus bottomless torque and fires the car to 62mph in comfortably less than 4.0sec and on to a top speed of more than 200mph – if you want it.
Versions of the Spur equipped with Bentley’s lighter, more freely revving V8 and a six-cylinder plug-in hybrid powertrain are also offered, though.
The hybrid system suits the big Bentley rather well, its near-silent progress in EV mode offering a sepulchral sense of calm when you’re mooching. Yet when its V6 engine chimes in, it’s almost as quick as the V8, even if it doesn’t have that engine’s character.
Never before has the Flying Spur felt so complete, then, and so able to execute the role of supersonic, luxury driver’s car. And much of that is still down to the cabin.
Even though it’s Bentley’s entry-level limousine, the Flying Spur offers an interior of genuinely luxurious ambience and feel, kitted out with soft, beautifully stitched leathers, authentic, natural veneers and eye-catching and tactile metal brightwork.
4. BMW i7
The BMW limousine has just taken a huge stride into the future with the introduction of the first electric 7 Series, called the BMW i7. While its street-tough styling doesn’t quite level with the refined elegance of some the cars elsewhere on this list, there can be no denying its claims as a luxury operator.
Lavish and refined to travel in, with on-board technology options that even Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Tesla don’t offer, the i7 is probably the greatest luxury EV of the moment.
The car launched in early 2023 in dual-motor, four-wheel-drive, xDrive60 form – giving it a little over 500bhp and a battery of just over 100kWh of usable capacity for a real-world cruising range, as verified in our road test, of a little under 300 miles. DC rapid-charging capability is impressive, however, with the car capable of averaging close to 150kW during a typical rapid charge.
Like all versions of the G70-generation 7 Series, the i7 comes in de facto long-wheelbase form only, so it offers plenty of lounging space for rear passengers. BMW’s Executive Seating option makes for sleeping-seat-style reclining in row two.
A 31in Theatre Screen touchscreen can also be fitted. It folds down from the car’s roof and allows passengers in the back to enjoy streaming media at a scale unlike in any other limousine.
An air-suspended chassis with four-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars delivers a quiet, isolated ride that feels especially stable at motorway speeds – but that combination can also make this car handle with a degree of poise and balance unknown to most cars of its size, but typical of a BMW.
Even allowing for its slightly underwhelming electric range and those controversial looks, this car is undoubtedly one of the best luxury EVs the market has yet seen.
5. Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
The richest and most special car in what might be the most universally respected and admired limousine range in the world, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is the modern standard-bearer for Daimler’s Maybach super-luxury brand.
To judge by appearances, you would say it was at least as much S-Class as Maybach, and that’s the result of Daimler’s strategic decision, taken a few years ago, to broaden the reach of the Maybach marque by creating ‘halo’ Maybach models across some of its more normal Mercedes car ranges. The ultra-rare, Simon Cowell-spec, Maybach-only 57 and 62 limousines were at the same time consigned to history.
So the fact that this car is ‘only’ an S-Class may be at once its biggest strength and its key vulnerability. Compared with a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley, an S-Class might not cut a lot of mustard for drool-worthy kerbside appeal, but being an S-Class also makes this car the recipient of all those advanced active suspension and driver assistance technologies and helps to make it so brilliantly refined, rich and cosseting.
The flagship S650 model’s 603bhp twin-turbocharged petrol V12 (although the UK will also get the 496bhp 4.0-litre V8 S580) is barely audible, and its dedication to comfort and good manners is outstanding. At 18cm longer than even the long-wheelbase version of the standard S-Class, you can guarantee that even the longest-legged passengers will have space aplenty.
6. Rolls-Royce Cullinan
Goodwood’s Marmite addition to the super-luxury segment arrived in 2018, in response to a significant amount of Rolls-Royce customer feedback that a more daily-usable, all-surface-capable, family-practical model would be a very welcome way to augment the firm’s showroom range.
The Cullinan has been met by enough criticism of its design to have set in aspic a sense that its maker has taken a significant risk in introducing a car that some have described as awkward and unlovely and others have slammed in even less sympathetic terms.
But if Rolls-Royce’s market research holds true (and a year’s worth of confirmed orders is a good sign that it will), the collective revulsion of those who wouldn’t have bought a Cullinan anyway will do little to prevent it from becoming a commercial success.
There is certainly as much to like about life on board this car as there might be to dislike about either the idea or the appearance of it. This is a true Rolls-Royce, and among its dynamic strengths are outstanding mechanical refinement, unimpeachable ride comfort and excellent drivability.
Height-adjustable air suspension and BMW-derived four-wheel drive give the Cullinan all the off-road capability that many owners are likely to require, and while towing capacity is currently capped at 2.6 tonnes, that’s due to increase to a more fulsome 3.5 tonnes before long. Which is probably enough for a speedboat considerably more expensive than the car.
7. Bentley Bentayga
The Bentayga has had an eventful passage through the Autocar road test evaluation process. It was the first in a barrage of £100,000-plus super-SUVs to come to market in 2016, and we first rated it highly, with a caveat or two, in W12-engined form, and then rated it higher still when Bentley introduced an Audi-sourced 429bhp 4.0-litre turbocharged diesel V8 in 2017, which made exactly as much torque as the 12-cylinder petrol motor but at more accessible crank speeds.
Then, in 2018, amid the spreading toxicity surrounding diesel engines, Bentley removed the Bentayga Diesel from sale in Europe, with it removing from view what we considered the definitive version of the car.
A V8 petrol model augmented the range in the same year, while a plug-in hybrid arrived in 2019. There’s now also the Speed – a 626bhp, £188,030 W12 paean to excess – and the entire range was given an update for 2020.
The Bentayga’s wonderfully plush interior, its swell of torque-laden performance and its sense of imperious, singularly enveloping luxury make it stand out even in this class, and these qualities might even be potent enough to win over a cynic who started out opposed to the idea of life in a blue-blooded SUV.
It isn’t quite as comfortable-riding or isolating as the Cullinan, offering instead a slightly more sporting driving experience that comes at the expense of that final shade of ride comfort, but a shade is all the Bentayga gives up – an occasional suggestion of head toss and the merest fidget of fussiness over certain lumps and bumps at speed. Even as a luxury car regular, there’s every chance that you simply wouldn’t know what you were missing.
8. Range Rover
The original luxury SUV is now in its fifth generation, and this all-new version is undoubtedly the best. While the Range Rover’s looks are an evolution of its predecessor’s, this is still an imposing piece of metal, while neat touches such as the slim tail-lights create real visual interest.
Under the skin, it features the brand’s aluminium MLA-Flex architecture, while there’s a range of mild-hybrid petrols and diesels, a plug-in hybrid and, for the ultimate in performance and luxury, a BMW-sourced 523bhp 4.4-litre V8 petrol.
Regardless of engine, the Rangie’s interior is now more spacious and lavishly finished than ever, the blend of modern design and tech with the traditionally brilliant use of wood and leather creating a club-class atmosphere that fully justifies an asking price that now starts within striking distance of a six-figure number.
Refinement and comfort are top-notch too, with a supple and wafty ride matched to excellent isolation from wind, road and engine noise.
While your passengers will appreciate the cosseting qualities of the Range Rover, you will arguably be having an even better time behind the wheel.
Despite its vast dimensions, the Range Rover is easy to place on the road, thanks to excellent visibility and its precise steering, while the optional steered rear axle delivers surprising agility in tight spots.
Active anti-roll bars mean the car handles with impressive poise and tautness when in a hurry, and of course no other rival is as adept when getting their wheels muddy. Nearly half a century on from the pioneering original, the iconic Range Rover still delivers.
9. BMW iX
Electric super-luxury cars with the performance, refinement and versatility to really command the road have been slow to emerge, but the BMW iX shows how they can be done. The exterior design of this full-sized SUV is divisive, and to some it may not count as desirable at all.
But to those who really think about the EV they want to own, who care about how sustainable its various ingredients and production processes are and who look a little deeper to find the desirability of a high-end car, the iX should stand out for all sorts of reasons.
This car has environmentally friendly olive-tanned leather, its lightweight electrically excited motors have no need of heavy magnets and the metals for its drive battery are sourced responsibly from North Africa and Australia.
It’s available in several versions, the middle-sitting iX xDrive50 version of which has more than 500bhp, four-wheel drive and an advertised range in excess of 300 miles. And then there’s the headline M60 version, with its 600bhp to call on.
Where the iX really impresses on the road is with its first-class ride isolation and drivability, which put it into this class on equal terms with the other cars here, despite being considerably cheaper than many. If you’re ready to electrify the status symbol on your gravel drive, this is a very fine way to do it.
10. Mercedes-Benz EQS
Mercedes’ first crack at a luxury EV saloon certainly isn’t short on ambition, with its swoopy coupé-style looks and the option of a heady 751bhp dual-motor powertrain helping grab the attention. With a 107.8kWh battery, it has the stamina you expect for a long-distance limousine, too, with a claimed range just north of 350 miles.
The interior is also very spacious, and while perhaps not up to the standard of the S-Class in terms of a high-grade fixtures and fittings, its vast Hyperscreen digital dashboard option certainly creates an impression, even if it isn’t the easiest to navigate.
As you would expect, performance is astonishing, with even the ‘lesser’ 649bhp version we tested managing to crack 0-60mph in 3.6sec and, more impressively, smash 30-70mph in 2.8sec. At speed, it’s refined and comfortable, with low noise levels and a supple, air-suspended ride.
Curiously, its luxury credentials are undermined by a low-speed ride that’s inconsistent and suspension that can be heard working over scarred urban topography. And while it’s staggeringly fast in a straight line and composed through the corners, there’s very little in the way of adjustability of driver feedback; you essentially just point and squirt.
As luxury EVs go, the EQS is a fine first effort, but it’s not yet able to deliver the hushed opulence that the firm’s S-Class has made its calling card. Moreover, given it’s not really a satisfying steer in the traditional manner, it makes more sense in entry-level 450+ guise than pseudo-sporty AMG trim.
The Goodwood marque’s first EV is set to be the replacement for the Phantom coupé. Using a dual-motor system with 577bhp and 664lb ft of torque, it draws power from a 106kWh battery, with range expected to beat 300 miles.
It will weigh within a whisker of three tonnes but still be capable of 0-62mph in less than 5.0sec. The acid test of its desirability, according to Rolls boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös, is that it has to be a Rolls-Royce first and an EV second. Expect it to be with customers by the end of 2023.
Audi ‘Project Artemis’ Landjet
This all-electric replacement for the current Audi A8 is expected to go way beyond its predecessor in terms of desirability, design appeal and technology, with mould-breaking semi-autonomous technology built in. Using an all-new model architecture being developed in tandem with Bentley, it’s set to be unveiled in 2024.
This American electric limousine is expected to go into right-hand-drive production soon and could be a game-changer for zero-emissions luxury transport, promising 500-mile-range usability – albeit for a near-£200,000 price. We will see if it really delivers in due course.
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