Luxury cars and everyday cars are getting closer and closer in their refinement. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if the vehicle you’re in is a “premium” trim level or a true luxury car. Here are three sure-fire ways to tell which is which.

#1 – Analog Clock

superleggera_1With very few exceptions, analog clocks on the dashboard are the exclusive privy of luxury vehicles. You will not see a factory stock analog clock in a Honda Civic, but you will see one in every Infiniti and every Lincoln ever built. If the car you’re in has an analog clock and either of the next two items, it’s definitely a luxury vehicle.

Beware of used car dealers who try to glue watches to the dashboard to pass off beaters as “luxury” cars. Trust me, a Chrysler 300 with added Bentley badges and a glued-on Casio is not worth any more than a Chrysler 300 stock.

#2 – Wood Trim

This means real wood, not fake pretend wood (ala “faux wood” – a French term used to make it sound better than what it is: palstic). When real wood inlay is used to accent the interior of the car, it’s definitely a luxury vehicle. Why? Because wood is heavy, expensive to work with in today’s industrial world, and it’s been a part of luxury vehicles ever since Henry Ford decided to stop using wood and start building stuff out of metal instead. At the point that cheap cars started being made with metal, wood suddenly switched from being the low-brow, working man’s crap material to becoming the purview of only the wealthy.

Dscn8186In fact, the presence of wood is a good barometer on a car. If a lot of very expensive wood types, such as woods only imported from rare tribal regions in far off places, are used, the car is uber-luxury. A Bentley, for example, will never sport anything like pine or bamboo. That’s cheap wood. No, it’ll have mahogany or iron wood instead. The more types of luxury wood being used together, the more expensive the car likely is. So keep your eye out for those “three tone wood bespoke blah blahs” in the car.

#3 – 101 Seat Adjustment Options

The more ways there are to adjust the seat with buttons and hoo-has, the more luxurious the car is. Up to 8 are allowed in non-luxury vehicles, but once you reach that point, you’re poking into luxury’s territory. Premium and high-end trim levels in everyday cars will not tresspass into the 10+ adjustment realm. I once sat in a Lexus that had eighteen ways to adjust the driver’s seat. No lie.

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Bonus: Bespoke

If anything in the car (anything at all) is described as “bespoke,” it’s overpriced and thus luxurious. The term “bespoke” is only used by fruity uppity types with accents from European locales. The same exact thing, if called “custom” becomes instantly blue-collar and American. For example, a “bespoke” McLaren 12C could cost you around $280,000 or more. A “custom” McLaren 12C will run about $80,000 or so, depending on its odometer reading and how new the tires are.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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