No matter how amazing the manufacturer’s offering is, sometimes you want something a little more special. Like handing that off-the-peg suit over to an expert, with the right tweaks, something that’s already amazing can become sublime.
In the automotive world, that’s courtesy of a whole range of tuners, coachbuilders and other specialists, just waiting to offer you something the manufacturers themselves won’t. So now you can satisfy that urge for a limo that masquerades as a rocket. Or a supercar that doubles as a submarine.
If a Range Rover is Armani, an Overfinch Range Rover is like Giorgio measuring you up himself. The company takes automotive bespoke to a whole new level. Piano wood veneers? Check. Diamond-turned alloys? You got it. A tweak to the already punchy engine to squeeze out even more power? Not a problem.
The difficulty lies in knowing where to stop – you could easily spend over £200k on one of Overfinch’s creations, if you opt for things like the automatic, sliding boot floor (so you don’t grubby up your suit reaching in to grab your polo gear).
Luckily, that’s not a problem most people will face, since production is limited to just 100 Range Rovers per year.
Mercedes has its own tuning arm, Mercedes-AMG, which specialises in taking the comparative kittens that roll off its production line, then adding teeth and claws – well, more horsepower and road-hugging bodies – to turn them into leopards. But German company Brabus offers tweaks that are turn kitty into the offspring of a lion and a cheetah: fast as hell and just as aggressive.
The firm offers tuning packages for pretty much any Mercedes model going, from the dinky Smart Fortwo to the somewhat bigger G-Wagen, adding everything from new engines to bespoke brake and exhaust kits, along with the kind of interior kit-outs that make your car more comfortable than your house.
Our favourite of its current crop is the appropriately named Rocket 900, a super-tuned S-Class limo (its all-new engine even features gold heat reflectors) that sits on 22-inch rims and will fly to over 217mph. At least the paparazzi won’t get near you.
We can’t imagine wanting more than a Rolls Royce. Indeed, we’re not sure there is more than a Rolls Royce. However, Rolls has recognised that some of its customers might want their Phantom or Ghost with a bit more ‘spirit’. Ahem. So it’s launched its own tuning series.
The Black Badge cars aren’t punched up by a third party – the double-R’s engineers handle that job – but they are truly bespoke. For your extra cash you get a murdered-out exterior, called Spirit of Ecstasy, and a boatload more power poured under the bonnet.
The interior also enjoys an overhaul, thanks to technical fabrics and even a bespoke dashboard clock. It’s the most tasteful way to be incredibly tasteless. Consider the Black Badge models to be the dark angels of the Rolls Royce range.
A little different to the other tuners mentioned here, Alpina actually produces its cars in BMW’s factories, and the German government considers it a car maker, rather than a tuner.
We don’t care about that. What we care about is Alpina’s mantra, which is something along the lines of ‘very fast, very luxurious’.
On the surface, Alpina’s tweaks seem less ostentatious than those of most tuners. But what you miss in drug dealer colourways and bodykits is more than made up for in performance; the B5 Bi-Turbo Edition 50, for example, is the fastest 5 Series you can buy. And with a top speed of 205mph, it will leave a Ferrari at the lights. Which makes the unassuming exterior even more impressive.
Though all tuners are different, most have a similar MO: make it prettier, make it faster. Swiss brand Rinspeed is a little different. Every year it turns up at the Geneva Motor Show with a concept car that does something insane. Take, for example, 2008’s sQuba; it’s all-electric, has zero emissions, and can hit 75mph. Oh, and it converts into a submarine. Naturally.
In fact, Rinspeed has a bit of a thing for amphibious vehicles: the Splash, which debuted four years earlier, comes with a hydrofoil, should you fancy outflanking the traffic with a commute down the river.
It’s also designed cars that steer themselves, which can change shape depending on how many passengers are inside, and even a vehicle that measures your biometric data then provides calming or stimulating music and scents to keep you in peak driving condition. Beats a pine-scented air freshener, any day.