Go car shopping, and the chances are that the top-of-the-range model on display in your local showroom will not be the same car that you drive out with later in the day. That’s because those display models are the top-of-the-range model. Essentially, it's the same car as the basic models, but with all the extras, inside and out, which can make the price tag on these display vehicles tens of thousands of dollars more expensive than the version most motorists end up taking home.
So what are these extra features that can increase the cost of a vehicle so significantly? Some are related to the way the vehicle looks. Even something as straightforward as the color of the car can contribute to a variation in the price.
Most of the extra features that motorists can choose to pay for when buying a car, however, can increase their safety or improve the driving experience. Parking sensors and rear-view cameras are becoming increasingly popular with modem drivers, and many new models come with such features as standard these days. Bluetooth connectivity is another useful extra which allows motorists to connect their cell phones and other devices to their car’s own infotainment systems.
Some foreign cars boast some much more unusual and remarkable features, however, including some of the baffling options on the list below.
25 Volvo Pedestrian Airbags
Internal airbags are one of those extra innovations which have now become part and parcel of nearly every car made in Europe, Asia, and the US. There are only a few specialist manufacturers who don’t install airbags in their vehicles as standard, and it is illegal to drive them in the US. Safety-conscious Swedish car makers Volvo have moved on to the 21st century of vehicle airbags by developing external models which are designed to prevent pedestrians from serious injury if they are knocked down. Range Rover has also adopted this technology, which could soon become as routine as internal airbags.
24 Subaru Brat Bolt-In Seats
In 1963, then President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced a higher tax on light trucks, in response to a foreign tax on cheap chickens. This “Chicken Tax” prevented many foreign car manufacturers from importing their trucks into the US, as the move simply wouldn’t have been financially viable. Subaru took a different approach with their Subaru Brat, launched in 1978, bolting rear-facing seats onto the truck’s cargo area. This allowed Subaru to classify the Brat as a passenger vehicle, not a light truck, thereby avoiding paying the Chicken Tax. The seats were ditched in 1985, and Subaru simply paid the extra duty due on their imported vehicle.
23 Rolls-Royce Umbrellas In Doors
Not many drivers could ever dream of owning a Rolls-Royce. These really are some of the most opulent cars on the market, popular with royal families, presidents, and dictators around the world. Their cars are fitted with all the most luxurious mod-cons. Everything, in fact, that any driver or passenger could ever need, including doors fitted with umbrellas. These umbrellas could be pulled out when the front doors are opened—ideal for unexpected rain showers—but they could also cause damage to the paintwork if the umbrella wasn’t properly and securely returned to its place before the door was closed.
22 Honda City Built-In Scooter
Why buy one car and then a scooter when you buy a car with its own scooter in the trunk? It’s a mystery how the Honda City wasn’t a huge success, given the fact that it had its own folding mini-scooter, called the Honda Motocompo, tucked away in the truck for those occasions when even a subcompact car is simply too big. The Honda Motocompo was built between 1981 and 1983 and could be found not only in the trunks of Honda City cars but also in some Honda Today models which were sold from 1985 onwards. Less than 55,000 Motocompo models were sold, either as individual vehicles or as part of a Honda City or Honda Today car.
21 Jaguar Levitating Gear Knob
Jaguar Land Rover created a futuristic shift stick that would look more at home in a sci-fi movie than in one of their stylish Jaguar luxury cars. Unlike regular manual transmission cars which have shift sticks, some of the most high-end Jaguar XF vehicles had circular gear knobs. And not just circular gear knobs, but ones which would lift up out of the central console when the driver simply held their hand over it. It may seem like magic, but this is all about the electronics, meaning that a flat battery or electronics problems would prevent owners from getting their car into gear at all.
20 Nissan S-Cargo Speed Alert
Speed limiters are pretty common on big rigs and commercial vehicles, preventing drivers from going too fast while they’re traveling cross-country. There are even some high-end sports cars which have had their top speeds limited, except in Germany where there are no speed limits on the Autobahn, of course! Why Nissan thought that their quirky-looking S-Cargo, a retro-styled van in production between 1989 and 1991, was likely to encourage high-speed driving is a mystery, but the Japanese manufacturers nevertheless decided to fit the vehicle with an alarm that would go off when the driver reached the very sedate speed of 60 mph.
19 Three-Wheeled Robin Reliant
The Robin Reliant is something of a pop culture icon in the UK, where it was first created in 1973, thanks to the three-wheeled Reliant Regal van owned and driven by the Trotter family in the popular sitcom Only Fools and Horses. In real life, the decision to create a three-wheeled vehicle, with the two wheels at the back and one at the front, seems inexplicable to anyone with even a basic understanding of how balance (and gravity) works, as these vehicles seem to end up toppled over onto their side more than is useful or safe for drivers and passengers.
18 Mini Cooper Openometer
The Mini is another icon of British motoring, albeit one that is much more popular than its three-wheeled compatriot! The first Mini rolled off the production line in 1959 and has been constantly updated ever since, including the launch of a convertible Mini Cooper. The 2009 model included an intriguing new feature which Mini called the openometer. Like the speedometer, it sat on the instrument panel on the dashboard, which gave the openometer an importance which it really didn’t deserve, considering that the only information it gave was how long the car had been in motion with the convertible roof open.
17 Honda CR-V Shower Attachment
There are lots of off-road vehicles that have extra functions and attachments to make it easier and more comfortable for drivers to enjoy heading into the great unknown. However, while the Honda CR-V is described as an SUV, it is more towards the crossover end of the market than the kind of vehicle you would actually take driving through muddy puddles and across rocky terrain. Nevertheless, Honda took it upon themselves to ensure that anyone who did take the CR-V off-road could wake up refreshed and clean, thanks to the vehicle’s shower attachment, which is powered by an electric socket in the trunk.
16 Mercedes-Benz Perfume Dispenser
Drivers are familiar with air conditioning systems, which control the temperature of the car’s cabin, and even more basic ventilation systems which ensure that drivers and passengers can enjoy fresh air while driving. This is nowhere near enough for the motorists who drive the luxury Mercedes Benz S-Class vehicles, however. In 2013, the car manufacturer developed a perfume dispenser for the interior of their full-size sedan and coupe models, as well as a range of scents designed to encapsulate the style of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The atomizer sits in the glove compartment, and drivers can even help to develop their own scent, should they choose to do so.
15 BMW's Gentleman Function
While BMW’s “gentleman function” may sound like the name for a James Bond-style gadget, in reality, this particular extra is one of the more boring extra options on this list. Far from shaking (not stirring) a martini or shooting up the cars of pursuing villains, the gentleman function, which is available on some models of the BMW 7-Series, simply allows the driver to take control of the passenger seat, moving it forward or backward to give people in the front or back of the car more leg room. Of course, most people would just use the manual handles at the side of the seat, but that is far too much work for BMW drivers…
14 Kia Soul Glowing Speakers
From the classy and sophisticated BMW 7-Series to the much cooler and funkier Kia Soul, a car that is designed for much younger drivers than stuffy old superspies like James Bond. The South Korean vehicle boasts a number of design features which help to make it stand out in the rather crowded subcompact-crossover marketplace, everything from bright and eye-catching color schemes to the glowing speaker system in the cabin. These speaker lights even change the color of their glow, depending on whether the music being played is chilled and relaxing (blues and purples) or a more high-tempo tune (oranges and reds).
13 Honda Element's Dog-Friendly Package
Dog lovers are now well catered for when it comes to car extras, with doggy seatbelts, doggy car baskets, and doggy backseat blankets all on sale at auto parts stores throughout the country. However, the Honda Element, a compact crossover SUV in production between 2002 and 2011, went one step further by offering motorists a dog-friendly package when they bought a new vehicle from their local Honda dealership, which includes a soft-sided fitted crate, complete with a spill-resistant water bowl, a portable ramp to help smaller or older dogs get into their comfy crate safely, and even doggy-themed seat covers and floor mats.
12 Nissan Dual Fuel Gauges
Mini isn’t the only foreign car manufacturer which has messed around with the traditional layout of the instrument panel on their dashboard, like when they include the made-up “openometer” in convertible models. Nissan also added an extra gauge to some of their vehicles in the mid-1980s: a second fuel gauge. While this may seem designed to confuse drivers, the aim of this second fuel gauge was actually to help motorists figure out just how close they were to running out of fuel, as the second dial was a more accurate reading of how much gas was in the tank once it fell below a quarter full.
11 Vauxhall Adam LED Ceiling Lights
Vauxhall is a British car manufacturer, now owned by Opel of Germany, which is virtually unheard of in the US, and yet their vehicles continue to sell in the thousands on the domestic market. The Vauxhall Adam city car is one of their recent successes, launched in 2012, and sold as the Opel Adam throughout Europe. The Opel/Vauxhall Adam is the ideal city car for those urban dwellers who dream of escaping to the country, as the LED lights in the car’s ceiling allow you to imagine that you are driving underneath the stars. Until the honking horns and traffic jams shatter the illusion, of course.
10 Range Rover Event Seating
From a vehicle which is marketed to city dwellers to one which is unashamedly aimed at country dwellers, the Range Rover. This British vehicle is a favorite of Queen Elizabeth, which tells you all you need to know about the kind of people who drive Range Rovers and the kind of extra features they might be interested in getting for their cars. The Range Rover “event seating”, for example, is basically, comfy leather seats which fit into the trunk of the vehicle to allow drivers to tailgate at events with some style. The event seating lets Range Rovers owners watch the local polo match or horse race without having to get anywhere near the ground.
9 Mercedes E And S-Class Heated Armrests
The kings of opulent interior features are undoubtedly the trio of German luxury car manufacturers, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. While heated seats have become a pretty common feature in a lot of vehicles—even dealerships selling pretty basic cars and trucks in the States will offer heated seats as an option, especially if they are located in the colder, northern states—Mercedes-Benz has taken this optional extra a step further by installing heated armrests in both the front and rear seats of their E-Class and S-Class vehicles, just to make sure that their customers' forearms don’t get too chilly while driving.
8 Fiat 500 Coffee Machine
Fiat may operate in the shadows of its Italian supercar compatriots, like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati, but the Turin-based car manufacturer is still the original (and to many, the best) Italian car maker. Italy isn’t just famous for cars, however. It is famous for its great food, its fine wines, and its excellent coffee. So what else would the quintessentially Italian Fiat 500 vehicle offer as an optional extra but a top-of-the-range coffee maker? The specially designed Lavazza coffee machine is shaped to fit into the central console of the vehicle, allowing drivers and passengers to enjoy fresh coffee on the go.
7 Mitsubishi Twin-Stick Transmission
Most motorists in the US are much more familiar with automatic transmission cars than with vehicles fitted with a manual transmission, but even those who are used to driving stick would find themselves bemused by the Mitsubishi Super Shift gearbox, which was developed in the late-1970s. Also known as the twin-stick transmission, vehicles fitted with this system had two gear sticks instead of just one. The first operated a regular manual transmission, while the second was a two-speed selector, which split the four gears in the vehicle’s manual transmission into two, creating eight forward gears. Try getting your head around that if you’re not familiar with driving stick…
6 Nissan Leaf Solar Panel Spoiler
The Nissan Leaf is just one of several all-electric vehicles on the market that are becoming increasingly popular, especially for urban motorists who don’t need to worry about driving vast distances. Electric vehicles are better for the environment, cutting down the carbon footprint of their owners, but the Nissan Leaf is perhaps one of the greenest of these green cars thanks to a solar panel on its rear spoiler, which can be used to power the car’s stereo system or air conditioning system. Buy a Nissan Leaf and the company will even give you a good deal on solar panels for your home.
5 Mini Convertible Bad Weather Tracker
The openometer is far from the only extra feature available with convertible models of the classic Mini. However, unlike the rather redundant openometer, the built-in Rain Warner App on the dashboard could actually prove to be pretty useful when driving with the top down. Rather than motorists getting caught out by an unexpected rain shower while the convertible roof is down, this bad weather tracker can let drivers know when precipitation is on the horizon, allowing them to pull over in good time and put the roof back up without getting themselves or their car’s upholstery wet in the process.
4 Renault Modus "Boot Chute"
The Renault Modus is an MPV which was designed for city living. Not only is this compact but sturdy vehicle easy to park, even in cities where parking places are at a premium, like the French capital Paris, but it even has an extraordinary feature which allows drivers to access the trunk even when their Modus is parked within inches of the car behind. Normally, this would mean that it would be impossible to open the trunk without damaging the hood of the other vehicle, but the so-called “boot chute” on the Modus allows drivers to put shopping and parcels into the trunk through a smaller door in the back of the car.
3 Honda Automatic Seatbelts
Safety has always been a key driver of innovation and new technologies in the automotive industry, but while some of these safety features which started out as optional extras have now become standard on most vehicles—such as airbags and ABS brakes—others have disappeared into the mists of time. The automatic seatbelt, which was first developed by Honda in the late 1980s and soon picked up by other manufacturers, was designed to ensure that drivers and passengers wore safety belts when they became a legal requirement. However, these automatic systems often failed, and could often cause more serious injuries in the event of a collision.
2 Toyota Van Ice Maker
From the ultra-stylish Mercedes-Benz S-Class to a vehicle that has something of a more kitschy charm: the 1984 Toyota Van. This family-sized vehicle was never going to win any beauty contests, but it did it have some unusual and creative features, including a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine located underneath the passenger compartment. The interior cab was also home to an ice-maker, powered by the vehicle’s air conditioning system, which made sure that drivers and passengers could enjoy cool drinks throughout their journey. An ice-maker was unlikely to be a deciding factor in whether or not to buy a Toyota Van, but it was certainly a unique option.
1 Volvo S80 Heartbeat Sensor
Ice makers may be an unusual vehicle extra, but at least their purpose is self-explanatory. Why the Volvo S80 had heartbeat sensors in the rear of their vehicles is a little more difficult to understand. Should your Volvo S80 detect the presence of a heartbeat as a driver approaches their vehicle, they will be notified via their car key—or Personal Car Communicator, as it was rather grandly named by Volvo. Perhaps Volvo drivers were more likely to be attacked by weirdos lurking in their back seat, but unsurprisingly, this is one extra which didn’t get picked up by other manufacturers.
Sources: Consumer Reports, Cars Guide, and Autotrader.