What’s the most expensive car you can buy right now?
I thought it was probably the 1,001-horsepower Bugatti Veyron 16.4, which I seemed to recall cost a million dollars. It turns out the price is actually way more than that — the bottom line is well over $2 million if you opt for the Grand Sport version. Which, of course, you’re going to do because who’d want to pay that much for a car knowing there was a more exclusive version out there? A lot of exclusive cars get sold to the Middle East on that premise.
It’s kind of ironic that one of the most expensive cars in the world is ... a plug-in hybrid. Porsche just announced that it is taking orders for the 918 Spyder, a fire-breathing supercar capable of 199 mph and zero to 60 in just over three seconds. The Spyder, to hit the ground running in 2013, has over 700 horsepower, with more than 200 of that courtesy of a matched pair of electric motors (one on each axle). It’s a plug-in hybrid, though, so it can cover 16 miles on just the batteries, at which point it’s zero emission. But that’s without the 500-horsepower V8 doing its thing.
The Porsche’s price: a mere $845,000. This is not your uncle’s Prius, but an ultra-exotic restricted to a lifetime production of, well, 918.
And it turns out there are really, really expensive cars on the market that are so exclusive I’ve never even heard of them. Having a weird name helps. Here are a few:
The Pagani Zonda Cinque Coupe: This Italian supercar is a mere $1.738 million, and built in an edition of only five. Exclusiveness outweighs the fact that it’s kind of ugly. The prettier Zonda F Roadster is a mere $1.44 million. But you’ll want the Cinque, because its 678-horsepower V12 takes it to 217 mph, and because you’re not going to see another one in the local Wal-Mart parking lot. They made only one of the Absolute variant, and shipped it to Hong Kong. I couldn’t find a fuel economy rating, but it isn’t going to compete with a Prius.
Maybach Laundaulet: This is one of the few cars here built for parades, not the race track — though it’s fast, too. A proud descendant of the Mercedes 600 Pullman, which was mostly bought by African dictators, the Maybach Laundaulet allows its potentate owner to enjoy al fresco waving to his subjects, and for just $1.38 million. The Maybach is a Daimler product, with that company’s 604-horsepower biturbo V12 for quick getaways if necessary. It gets 10 mpg in town, and an amazingly good 16 on the highway. If you don’t need the parade roof (or if the population is restive), go for the enclosed Maybach 62 Zeppelin, which is less than half the price and still plenty exclusive. It comes with champagne flutes.
Spyker C8 Aerilon Spyder: This is the company that bought Saab. I interviewed CEO Victor Muller and found him refreshingly candid, very in touch with American slang although he’s Dutch. The mid-engined C8, with a 40-valve V8, tops out at 187 mph. Since that’s well short of 200 mph, the price is a mere $219,190. Muller is making Saabs now, but Spyker survives to bedazzle other kazillionaires. Expect just 13 mpg.
Koenigsegg CCXR: This oddly named entity offers a stunning 806 horsepower from a twin-supercharged V8. You pay for engines like that, in this case $1.2 million. The car delivers just 11 mpg, but it can run on E85 ethanol!
The millionaire playboy market can’t be huge, but there’s a lot of competition. In addition to the above, there are such cars as the Leblanc Mirabeau ($861,798), the Lamborghini Reventon ($1.45 million) and the SSC Ultimate Aero ($740,000). A garden variety Ferrari isn't enough anymore. If you have an open shirt, medallions and millions of dollars burning a hole in your pocket, there are plenty of people willing to take your unearned dollars.
But I'm sure that even though many of these cars end up as garage queens, you want to know what it's like to actually drive one. I did drive a Ferrari California, once. But here's Britain's beloved "Top Gear"behind the wheel of the Pagani and the Bugatti: