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Best high-end luxury and performance cars of 2012

Rolls-Royce Phantom 2013

There are times when “best in class” just isn’t good enough, and you need something that will simply leave everything else in its wake. The cars here are built with no compromises and to the exacting standards of the wealthy elite who buy them. They set the bar for luxury and/or performance, and with small production numbers, virtually guarantee exclusivity. Some are so rare, you’ll likely never be lucky enough to see one on the road.

Rolls-Royce Phantom

When money is no object and you’ve hired someone to do your driving for you, there is really only one way to go. The Rolls-Royce Phantom is the reigning king of luxury cars. Built with an English attitude towards luxury and a German attention to detail, there is nothing that competes with the Phantom. The Mercedes Maybach certainly tried, but they ultimately failed, and the car has been discontinued. The Maybach was just never as regal as the Rolls, and when Bentley recently came out with a new big sedan, they wisely built it as more of a driver’s car than a chauffer’s. Rolls-Royce also has one of the most prestigious names in the luxury auto industry, one that not even Bentley can quite compete with. For those who need that extra bit of status,which comes only with exclusivity, Rolls has built a number of special editions over years, usually with production runs between 20 and 100, but sometimes as low as two units. There is plenty of space in the back, but those that demand an extra bit of legroom can always opt for the extended wheelbase model. There is simply no more comfortable or refined car in the world. Prices start at $401,000 but can obviously go much higher.

Bugatti Veyron Bernar Venet

Actually, you can’t have this one. The Bernar Venet Veyron is a special edition of just one vehicle. It was commissioned from Bugatti, who in turn had the artwork done by artist Bernar Venet. It is a literal rolling work of art and is as exclusive as it gets. So why am I bothering to tell you about a car you can’t have? Well, this is not the only one-off that Bugatti has built. Bugatti began building one-off special editions for clients with astronomical amounts of money back in 2007 with the Pegaso; a car built for a wealthy Ukrainian living in Dubai and named after a now-defunct Spanish luxury coachbuilder. There have since been several more of these, such as the exquisitely beautiful 2011 L’Or Blanc, which is decorated with a blue and white exterior made of porcelain. Since these cars are all based on the Veyron, they are all powered by a 1,001-horsepower quad-turbo W16 engine, an engine type built only by Bugatti. There is always plenty of customization available to wealthy customers of expensive cars, but to commission your own special edition right from the manufacturer is the absolute last word in exclusivity and automotive status. Prices are not disclosed, but it’s safe to assume that if you need to ask… Expect it to be well over $2 million.

Bentley Mulsanne

To the untrained eye, there isn’t much difference between the Mulsanne and the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Both are big, British sedans developed with money from their German parent companies. But there is a key difference between the two sedans located right in the name of the Bentley. The Mulsanne is named for a section of the La Sarthe racetrack at Le Mans, where Bentley has won six overall victories in the annual 24-hour endurance race. Rolls-Royce does not name their cars after racetracks. Bentley makes cars, even great big cars, which are meant to be driven. The Mulsanne handles in ways you never would have thought possible, and the back seat, though pleasant, just isn’t the same as that of the Phantom. Under the hood, which seemingly goes on for days, is a 6¾-liter twin-turbo V8 which produces 505 horsepower and a staggering 752lb-ft of torque. It is a surprisingly quick car, for being roughly the same size as a small house, and absolutely everything in the interior is crafted with maniacal attention to detail. The Bentley is also cheaper than the Rolls, although it still isn’t exactly a car for bargain hunters, coming it at just under $300,000.

Pagani Huayra

Sure, you can buy a Lamborghini if you want. But the price, exclusivity and sheer exoticism of the Pagani Huayra so far exceed that of the Aventador that they’re not even really in the same league. The irony of this is that Horacio Pagani got his start at Lamborghini. Coming from Argentina to Italy at the age of 20 with a letter of recommendation from the legendary F1 World Champion Juan Miguel Fangio, Pagani did amazing work with Lamborghini before leaving to create his own company and build cars with absolutely no compromises. And the Huayra is certainly a car without compromise. Much of the styling is inspired by jet fighters, but it doesn’t end there. The car is covered in flaps and ducts, and the active aerodynamics not only look cool, but also help with handling. The engine is a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 built especially for this car by AMG, the performance division of Mercedes-Benz. It produces 720 horsepower and sounds something like what Joshua’s trumpets must have sounded like at Jericho. The $1.2 million price tag is about triple that of an Aventador. So enjoy that Lamborghini, peasant.

Ferrari F12berlinetta

For the last car on the list, I thought it would be good to go for a mix of performance and luxury. There are plenty of great gran turismos out there, but Ferrari is a company built on V12 touring cars, and the F12berlinetta is their latest and greatest. The 6.3-liter engine produces 730 horsepower, and that makes this the most powerful street-legal car Ferrari as ever produced. But the F12berlinetta was also designed to have more luggage space than the 599 which it replaces. This is something we often forget when talking about Ferrari’s touring cars, that their real purpose isn’t to rack up quick lap times on a track, but rather to take road trips in comfort and luxury. Of course, the ability to get to your destination quickly is also a luxury, so the F12berlinetta offers one of the best touring experiences money can buy. It’s true that Bentley has an excellent GT car in the Continental, but this has nothing of the Ferrari’s exclusivity about it, and has a bit of a new money image associated with it. Prices begin at about $330,000. Floor mats will cost you extra…seriously.