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 Autocar's top-ranked examples.
Traditionally, limousines with whispering V8 and V12 engines would dominate this class, but even super-luxury cars aren't in Kansas any more in that respect. So while you will still find mostly petrol-engined options selling to the world's super-rich, hybrid and electric offerings are creeping onto this page. Money may once have bought you the permission to ignore entirely what the world may think of you, but in 2023, even the world's top 1% can't afford to look totally out of touch.
Aside from electrification, while most of the contenders here are limousine saloons large enough to make the average semi-detached house look small, one or two of the most demure and desirable SUVs in the world also make the cut. Because high-end SUVs can take you places where two-wheel-drive limousines can't and facilitate 'lifestyle' activities of new and exciting kinds.
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.
Best super-luxury cars currently on sale
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.