In Geneva, Extreme Luxury Takes the Floor


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The jump from the luxury level to ultrapremium is a huge financial and emotional leap, filled with decisions. Think building a house with an architect. In this strata, the old chestnut “what money really buys is choice” could not be truer.

In Geneva, the brands plan some surprises.

Rolls will be unveiling a feature that will allow owners to display art in their dashboard, and on the floor will be three different Phantoms. Bentley will be revealing the plug-in Bentayga Hybrid S.U.V. Also on the floor will be a Bentayga V8, Continental GT and the Flying Spur by Mulliner.

The average Bentley sells for $250,000, a Rolls-Royce $375,000. Rolls, which is owned by BMW, offers about 60 leather options and about 30 variations of wood. Ponder over 64 standard paints choices and several dozen custom hues. In total, a library of 44,000 colors are available. Still on the fence? Shades can be customized.

“Some clients are very decisive when choosing the paint and interior, others can take months,” said Mark Maakestad of Bellevue Bentley-Lamborghini-Rolls-Royce in Washington State. “Many of these cars are rewards for selling off a company or a milestone in life. They want to get it right.”

It is possible to Lyft to a Rolls showroom and drive off in a Wraith that’s in stock, but customization is what uber luxury is about.


Thorsten Franck, a product designer for Rolls-Royce, who has done work on the Gallery.

The sky’s the limit. Literally. Starlight headliners that recreate the night’s sky with pinpoint lights in the ceiling are standard in a Rolls-Royce Phantom and optional in most others. Astrology buffs can even customize it with the exact mapping of the heavens on the day and place where they were born.

The new 2018 Phantom VIII is the first car built on what Rolls-Royce calls its new Architecture of Luxury, a high-strength aluminum chassis. This twin-turbocharged V12 leviathan has a starting price of about $450,000. Phantoms are strictly bespoke, or custom made. No two will be the same, unless a customer orders copies.

Motorists tend to be happy with real wood trim and stitching on the instrument panel. Phantom VIII owners will soon have the pleasure of gazing upon the Gallery, the new dashboard feature being unveiled in Geneva. It’s a glass panel that arcs fully across the dash, behind which owners can have commissioned art placed.

Have a small Picasso you cannot travel without? This is your ride. Imagine the delight of kindergartners to find their artwork immortalized in Mom’s Phantom instead of the refrigerator. Rolls will connect clients to artists working in ceramics or oil paint if they lack classic art, or children.

Gerry Spahn of Rolls-Royce says a few cars wander into the seven figures when a client’s demands turn exotic. It might mean custom sheet metal.

“Each of our cars is unique with 80 percent of them bespoke historically,” he said. “We had an Asian buyer who wanted 464 diamonds lacquered into the wood interior trim. Silver or gold specks can be embedded in the paint. We had a client specify diamond dust in the paint.”


The Continental GT will be on the floor of the Geneva motor show.

Rolls engineers took two months figuring out the process of keeping the finish smooth.

Matching the paint to a husband’s wedding cummerbund or wife’s signature lipstick is possible. In the Britain, Bentley said that a buyer cut off the salesman’s tie for use as a color swatch, saying it was his perfect exterior color. Interior stitching can be specified to color, length and width. If a buyer’s favorite tree is felled by lightning, its veneer can be installed to keep its memory alive.

Chartreuse door panels with mauve leather seats are possible, but the manufacturer may put its foot down. Jeff Kuhlman, chief communications officer of Bentley Americas, said: “We can do anything, but we don’t do everything. There was a gentleman who wanted ostrich leather seating, and we could provide that. Another wanted snakeskin, but we felt it wasn’t durable enough for our standards.”

Safety and government regulations can also hinder customization. Mr. Kuhlman said an Asian customer requested a glass dashboard enclosure to display his finest whisky. This was rejected because the airbag could have launched the spirits into the front passenger.

These two classic brands have evolved to cater to modern clients. When it arrived in 2003, Bentley’s Continental GT attracted more women and reframed the Volkswagen-owned company toward younger millionaires. Its Bentayga recently filled the brand’s need for a sport utility vehicle. Rolls-Royce will soon begin private showings of the Cullinan S.U.V. that rides on the same Architecture of Luxury as the Phantom VIII.

Stuart Robinson, a semiretired real estate investor of Snohomish, Wash., said that he and his wife, Jane, fell for a 2017 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge with its striking rear-hinge doors.

“I’m in the garage a couple times a day and walking toward the Wraith, I get the feeling of, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I own it,” Mr. Robinson said. “It just makes me wish for the next dry day to drive it.”

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