The best – and worst – stretched cars
Extending a car’s length can have mixed results. Here's the proof. - by Graham Hope
A version of this article was first published on YesAuto UK.
There’s a time-honoured saying which suggests that bigger is generally better. And in many instances, this is indeed the case. But not always, and certainly not in the world of cars, where stretched versions of familiar models are an acquired taste. Extending the length of a vehicle can be done for a variety of reasons – to create a true VIP bespoke experience for the super-rich, to produce a novelty party car for one-off hire or, sadly, for no other reason than because it can, which often leads to crimes against vehicle design. Here, then, is our selection of the best and worst examples of cars that went in for a stretch…
One of the recurring criticisms of MINI is that its cars just aren’t ‘mini’ enough. So, goodness knows what the sceptics thought of this stretched six-metre version, unveiled in 2004 for the Athens Olympics. The six-wheel six-seater was created by a coachbuilder in the US and came with frivolities including a retractable flat-screen TV, a phone (to allow passengers to speak to the driver) and even a jacuzzi with a detachable roof at the rear. Why? Who knows? Probably not the MINI to go for if the brand’s supposed ‘go-kart handling’ is a priority for you…
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Part of the appeal of Jeep’s iconic off-roader is its unbreakable reputation in the toughest of terrains. And while we don’t doubt the quality of this stretched version, it doesn’t quite convey the same invincibility. What it does come with, though, is the guarantee you’ll be the centre of attention wherever you venture. The one-off 2006 Wrangler has a wheelbase that is 4.5-feet longer than normal, a pair of extra doors and seating capacity for six (rather than the conventional four) arranged over three rows, while power comes from a 190bhp 4.0-litre straight-six engine. Proof, perhaps, that not every conversion requires the taste police to be on red alert?
Mercedes G63 6x6
There’s no denying some stretched cars can have a bit of an image problem, but go on, admit it… you’d love one of these. And why not? The 6x6 was originally created for the Australian military before going into production, and what a monster it is. More than 5.8 metres long, it comes with a 536bhp 5.5-litre AMG engine, 37-inch (!) wheels and five differential locks. The price tag was pretty sizeable, too, at £370,000. Mercedes modestly hailed it as the “most extravagant off-roader ever” and for once it’s hard to disagree with the hype.
Mercedes-Maybach S650 Pullman
Attention potential despots! While leaders of banana republics have a choice of limos to go for, the one that affords most credibility is probably the Pullman, which has cemented its reputation as the go-to transport for dictators over different generations. The latest version – all 6.5 metres of it – features what is called a club lounge in the rear, which is essentially an electrically partitioned compartment that allows four occupants to sit facing each other, enjoying the luxurious ambience. There’s a 621bhp V12 biturbo engine under the bonnet, and as you might expect such opulence doesn’t come cheap, with prices starting at half a million euros.
If you want the proof that less is quite often more, and more can be an abomination, this Lamborghini Countach provides it in spades and encapsulates everything that is wrong with the idea of some stretched cars. The ‘brainchild’ of a company based in California called Ultra Limousines, this Countach was essentially a fibreglass replica that measured 5710 mm long, an extension of 1500mm over the standard Countach. Less of a stretched Lambo and more of a stretch in credibility, it used no official parts and featured an underpowered 2.8-litre Ford V6 engine. Still, there were at least four seats. What Lamborghini made of it all is unrecorded, but if you wanted to travel in a poorly made pastiche of a classic supercar with three of your mates, this was the solution.
Bentley Mulsanne Grand Limousine
Another ‘proper’ limousine that according to Bentley “offers a passenger experience like no other”. Created by in-house coachbuilder Mulliner, at 6,575mm in length it adds 1,000mm to the standard Mulsanne, making it the longest manufacturer built limo in the world – for those world leaders or captains of industry obsessed with one-upmanship, this fact may have a certain appeal. As with the Pullman, there are four seats in the passenger compartment with two rear-facing, allowing face to face conversations, which is undeniably helpful if you’re trying to do deals on the move. There’s no official word on price on this one, but assuredly not cheap.
Audi A8 L extended
For maximum space and maximum exclusivity, this spacious one-off fitted the bill for a wealthy Audi customer back in 2016. While the A8 is generally one of the more anonymous executives on the road, there was absolutely no chance of this extended version not making an impact. It clocked in at 6.36 metres, came with six doors and could accommodate six, although unlike the Mulsanne and the Pullman, all the occupants’ seats were forward facing. Power came from a 306bhp 3.0-litre TFSI petrol engine, but a more eyebrow-raising number was the price paid for this unique commission – rumoured to be in the region of 350,000 Euros.
Hummer H1 stretch limo
If ever a car had the right image for an ostentatious conversion to a stretch limo, it was the big, brash American SUV that made quite the impression in the mid-noughties. For a while, extended Hummers became the automatic choice for out of towners heading into city centres for a big night out, and the occupants – often lairy stag or hen parties – were as loud and offensive as their transport. They might have been party central on the inside, but the arrival of one of these in your neighbourhood usually spelled trouble.
Check more Graham Hope's articles on YesAuto UK.