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June 11, 2009

News & Features

Cost-conscious: Ultraluxury auto brands are rolling out 'more affordable' models

CTW Features

Maserati

Maserati GranTurismo coupe: $117,500.

A new-car sticker price of $50,000 affords nearly all the top technology, safety equipment and performance available on the market. The next step up the rung, but still below $100,000, will bring higher-grade materials, more layers of paint and a bit of added craftsmanship to the pavement.

Beyond the six-figure price barrier, however, buyers are really paying for one feature they simply can't get at lower levels -- exclusivity. And beating out the Joneses is getting a bit easier, at least for those near the top of the economic food chain.

Exotic brands are trying to sell in higher volumes in order to meet the costly demands of developing new technology. To entice buyers away from more mainstream makes, the top-end automakers increasingly are providing more affordable and practical offerings.

High-priced options
  • Of course, there are plenty of choices for the wealthy. If you've got money to burn, here's what you can get at a few different price points:
  • $367,000: Maybach 57S
  • $545,568: Koenigsegg CCX
  • $667,321: Pagani Zonda C12 F
  • $1,192,057: Bugatti Veyron

Their hope is that someone who drives a Mercedes-Benz S-Class might go for a Bentley instead. Or, rather than a BMW 7 Series or Audi A8, a well-heeled buyer might choose an entry-level Aston Martin or a Maserati.

The change began in 2004, when Bentley brought out its Continental GT Coupe to great acclaim. Its $150,000 sticker price was less than half that of the previous Bentley Coupe. Although the GT is now up to around $179,000, a four-door sedan based on the same platform recently arrived.

At $174,100, Bentley's Continental Flying Spur seems quite reasonable for an elegant exotic with a 552-horsepower, 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine. By comparison, a 12-cylinder BMW 760Li sedan costs at least $124,100, and a Mercedes S65 AMG sedan begins at $198,950.

Bugatti

Bugatti Veyron: yours for a cool million.

Aston Martin offers the V8 Vantage coupe, priced at $119,500 for the 2009 version, which includes a 420-horsepower, 4.7-liter V8 engine. At a similar size, power and price point, the Maserati GranTurismo coupe is the automobile sportiva of choice at $117,500. The same 4.2-liter V8 is also available in a four-door sedan, the $119,750 Quattroporte.

Expect the entry-level exotic-sedan field to grow over the coming years. Aston Martin soon will be bringing out a four-door model similar to its V8 Vantage. And Porsche will offer an all-new Panamera sedan for the 2010 model year at a price that reportedly starts below $130,000.

So what about that exclusivity? When it comes to exotics, there are a greater number of choices in terms of color schemes and personal options, which often extend to the type and color of seat stitching. While it's easy to add tens of thousands of dollars' worth of options, at least owners will be comforted knowing they won't run into an identical Bentley or Aston Martin at the next board meeting.

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