BBC Autos

The Roundabout Blog

Auto eccentricities: The high end

About the author

Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew is a former editor at Automobile Magazine and the creator of the digital-only Roadtrip Magazine. His automotive and travel writing has appeared in such magazines as Wired, Popular Science, The Robb Report and Caribbean Travel + Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wonderful wife and four-year-old daughter.


  • Frivolous and fascinating

    There is very little, if anything, about the purchase of an extraordinary automobile that is sensible. It is an act of passion. Such buyers are not merely satisfying transportation needs – they are acquiring a rolling statement of their taste, good or bad. Spurred by a recent glimpse into the luxury-laden passenger compartment of the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz S-Class flagship sedan, BBC Autos has selected a handful of exceptional options from prestige automakers – not performance- or safety-related features, but add-ons that exist solely to reinforce the specialness of the car, items from which an owner will derive nothing more than pleasure. (Rolls-Royce)

  • Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Active Perfuming System

    The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class has yet to emerge from the shadows, but the company has revealed its interior, and it seems that those fortunate enough to make its acquaintance are in for quite a treat. One of car’s more eccentric features is an Active Perfuming System, part of an air-filtration and ionisation packaged called Air Balance. The system, which recalls the luminous perfume sphere in the departed Maybach Zeppelin, promises to pervade the cabin air with one of several exceptional scents, dispensed via tiny cartridges. Occupants can adjust the intensity of the perfuming, or disable the system entirely – a significant step up from a cardboard pine tree on the rear-view mirror. Price: NA (Mercedes-Benz USA)

  • Porsche Panamera, painted key

    Those who consider Porsche’s car-shaped key to be unbecoming of a serious and venerable maker of sporting cars will never understand the company’s painted-key option, available on any and all models. Admittedly, the visual impact of a body-color key is minimal when said body is painted a “normal” color – black, white, silver, to name three. But for the buyer bold enough to order a Panamera Turbo S in one of Porsche’s more extroverted metallic shades – Crystal Green or Amethyst – a color-matched key is the cherry atop the sundae: essential. Price: $335 (Porsche Cars North America)

  • BMW 7-Series, ceramic controls

    In this rarefied company, BMW wins the award for subtlety with its ceramic package. Available on 5, 6 or 7 Series automobiles, the package beautifies the cabin with a handful of glossy black ceramic pieces – the fine bezel around the crown of the iDrive controller, for instance, or the face of the transmission selector. The glazed pieces are finished and fitted with a precision that would dazzle a Swiss watchmaker. It is enough to make the standard interior look, well, standard. Price: $650 (BMW Group)

  • Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe, Starlight Headlining

    When it debuted in the Phantom back in 2011, Rolls-Royce’s eye-wideningly pricey Starlight Headlining option prompted no small amount of ridicule from the motoring press. But what does the motoring press know? The feature, available on the Phantom sedan and coupe, as well as the new Wraith coupe, delights its charges with a hand-crafted field of as many as 1600 fibre-optic “stars”, putting to good use a hitherto undeveloped plot of interior real estate. Naturally, the driver can control the brightness of this private galaxy with the touch of a rheostat. Price: $14,675 (Rolls-Royce)

  • Bentley Mulsanne, iPad-ready picnic tables

    The first question a prospective Bentley Mulsanne buyer must ask is: drive or be driven? The British automaker’s 505-horsepower flagship sedan plays both parts well, but its spacious and sumptuous rear compartment makes it perhaps a bit more geared to the latter choice. And yet, despite plush seats swathed in yards of supple and aromatic leather (“handpicked from herds in cooler climates where the lack of insects means blemish-free hides,” Bentley informs us) the Mulsanne’s backseat pleasures are hardly restricted to mere lounging.

    A properly optioned Mulsanne can be a centre of connected productivity. The factory-fitted Entertainment Specification features a pair of bespoke fold-down picnic tables with leather-trimmed writing surfaces. A touch of a button opens the lid to reveal a docking station for an Apple iPad and space for a Bluetooth keyboard – internet-linked via the car’s on-board wi-fi router. Price: $33,620, and no, iPads are not included. (Bentley Motors)

    Whither auto eccentricities for the budget buyer? Click here