Options advice

* Every engine rated * Every trim reviewed * Option packs and kit explained...

Options advice

A lightly optioned 520d is the shrewdest buy here. We recommend the Variable Damper Control (VDC), metallic paint, the Professional sat-nav, and the service pack, totalling 4040.

Retail buyers are increasingly opting for the eight-speed automatic at 1525.

If you go for one of the six-cylinder models, make sure you opt for the Adaptive Drive.

Spec-sensitive cars
With options, it's as important not to over-order as it is to tick the right boxes.

That's especially true if you're ordering a company car, because you'll pay more tax on everything you choose.

Equally, there are options and packs it's wise to buy for residual value reasons if you're a private buyer.

Most premium cars should be ordered with judicious picks from their option lists, because their makers leave a couple of desirable features off the standard kit list knowing they'll be profitably ordered in the showroom. Sat-nav is essential on anything other than Mini-sized premium models (and increasingly these, too), but be aware that BMW's M Sport and Audi's S Line packages can seriously damage a car's ride.

What to tick/what not to tick
Mini order the Chili pack and a few smaller extras, but don't go mad
Porsche 911 avoid Sport suspension and ultra-low -profile tyres
Nissan Qashqai big engines and four-wheel drive are depreciation-heavy
Vauxhall Insignia avoid too much technology here; residuals won't be great
Skoda Yeti buy the smaller engines, avoid all-wheel drive

Worst-value spec options
As a rule, the more expensive the car the less you'll get back on any options you order. Less essential extras will be worth less at resale time, and many will barely register.

So, more extravagant leather and wood trims are a bad buy if you want to see some of your outlay again, as are special-order paints and ultra-expensive stereos.

On high-end cars rationality doesn't always play a big role in the purchasing process - it's about indulgence. That can certainly benefit subsequent owners, if not the first.

If you're not cost-conscious, here are a couple of the more spectacular option indulgences out there now.

Mercedes S-Class
Designo Selection Package of leathers, woods and 18-carat gold Designo logos 15,200
Folding rear work tables in Designo wood 3335
Bang and Olufsen 15-speaker 1200 watt rear seat entertainment package 8585

Maserati GranTurismo matt paint, white, granite or blue 15,000