5 Bentley Mulsanne
How can such a sumptuously equipped and amazingly well-built status symbol be so strangely soulless to drive? The Bentley goes really well, handles OK, and is not even excessively thirsty. But, somehow, it lost the charm of the otherwise-outclassed Arnage that it replaced. The ride is too firm, the steering too heavy, and the substantial curb weight can be felt in every move it makes -- even though the magical 6.8-liter V-8 has been improved almost beyond recognition. The Mulsanne is a luxury car at a crossroads: not sufficiently advanced to change the rules, too Germanic to woo the traditionalists, a fine automobile in need of a more focused mission.
4 Ferrari FF
The same money will nearly buy a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, although that car lacks four-wheel drive and rear seats. The question is: do those two items make the FF more desirable? In this context, the answer is both yes and no. Yes, because you can actually carry two extra heads, and there are weather conditions and terrain where rear-wheel drive won't do. But let's face it, when rear seats do matter, a Ferrari is unlikely to rank high on the shopping list. Conversely, when it's a hard-core car you're after, four seats are rarely a requirement. The FF is a wonderful driving machine and a highly emotional choice, but it is a poor four-seater, and it isn't a compelling luxury car, either.
3 Rolls-Royce Phantom
The extended-wheelbase Ghost would have had a better chance of winning this test. It is more conveniently sized, more up-to-date, and more involving to drive than the Phantom. The big Rolls needs a more convincing rear-seat compartment, and it needs engineering updates that only the next-generation model can provide. Meanwhile, the priciest car in this group spoils us with the most charismatic personality, the best ride by a long shot, and a presence that is second to none. The Phantom is silent, splendid isolation at its best. In addition, the precise, responsive, and swift Roller is surprisingly rewarding to drive.
2 Aston Martin Rapide
Design. Sound. Performance. Driving pleasure. Like the FF, the Rapide is only a half-hearted four-seater. But at least it has four doors, which makes it a lot easier to put stuff on the back chair, transport the dog, or pack up the twins for their short ride to school. This is the most practical Aston by a long shot. It also is one of the prettiest four-door cars on the planet, and the noises it makes aim right at your heart. More to the point, the Rapide is fun to drive in a basic, almost old-fashioned manner. It has telepathic steering, a raw and raucous V-12, a chassis designed for optimum weight distribution, and sensational brakes. This 100-proof sport coupe is free of filters, artificial flavoring, softeners, and diluting agents.
1 Range Rover Supercharged
Even the most expensive, fully loaded Range Rover ($152,000) costs significantly less than any of these rivals, and it's the only one in this group that can venture off-road. It also offers the most complete assortment of state-of-the-art driver-assistance systems. The other cars may be faster, more stylish, sharper at the limit, and later on the brakes, but the Range Rover is not far behind. It is dynamically pretty much on par with the best, and it is easy to operate, quick, and slick. The final decider is the back seats. In Executive Class trim, you get a five-mode massage function, heating and ventilation, reclining backrests, four-zone A/C, eight-inch video monitors -- you name it. So the Range Rover wins. Still not quite enough rear legroom? Then wait for the long-wheelbase model coming soon.