There's no better feeling than embarking on the process of choosing a brand new car. Unless you happen to be the New Zealand Government and you need 34 of them, in which case the process is one of stress, arguments and a process called procurement - which basically means a lot of research and paperwork.
As is now well-known, the current Government fleet of BMW 7 Series limousines is due for replacement. The big question is what with? Here are five intriguing options from Driven's Internal Affairs think tank.
BMW 7 SERIES
BMW 7 Series
Do we hear groans? Bear with us please.
The Government is on its second fleet of 7 Series models: the first was purchased by the Labour Government in 2008 and the same contract rolled over into a second fleet of the same in 2011.
At the time - in the height of the financial crisis - the choice of a prestige brand was seen by many as a bit irresponsible. The reality is that the cars bought in 2008 were in runout, they were special fleet models produced by the factory and so they would probably have been the luxury-car deal of the century. The purchase price was and is commercially sensitive, but it would have been substantially less than the retail figure (currently $193,700) for all of the above reasons. Substantially.
The current 730d is also now well into its life cycle so the Government would get the same killer deal, it's still an astonishingly frugal car at 5.6 litres per 100km and it's a known quantity.
Could be kind of like when you swap your car for a newer model in the same specification and colour, and hope that the neighbours won't notice.
Cons? Might still pay to shop around with Audi and Mercedes-Benz, both of whom have models of similar size, efficiency and ability. Both of whom would no doubt love to oust BMW from its premium spot at the Beehive carpark.
TESLA MODEL S
Tesla Model S
The Green Party has made a big noise about the Tesla Model S, which was recently chosen as a fleet car by the British Government. Its maker describes it as the "world's first premium electric sedan" and it is certainly an impressive machine: looks amazing, 0-100km/h in well under four seconds, a range of up to 450km at open-road speeds and the ability to "supercharge" the battery to 50 per cent capacity in just 30 minutes with the right equipment.
New Zealand being the sustainable producer of power that it is, the Tesla Model S could theoretically be run on completely sustainable electricity.
Cons? Well, there's no official distributor for Tesla in New Zealand so they'd have to be private imports. Who would service and maintain such a large fleet? And these cars are not cheap. In Europe they cost about the same as a 7 Series and you'd be hard pressed to get discount on such an in-demand product.
This is surely the sleeper of this group: the Lexus LS600hL is under the auspices of New Zealand's number one car company, Toyota. It's a proper limousine and it also carries a hybrid badge, which would give it the environmental credentials that seem to be such a hot topic of conversation at the moment.
The LS600hL is a wonderful way to travel. It's super-spacious in the back and astonishingly refined - even more so when creeping along on battery power in urban environments.
Cons? This is another expensive option, with LS hybrid prices starting at $262,000 - although Toyota is known to sharpen the pricing pencil a lot for a good fleet deal. What might surprise is that the LS600hL is not as frugal as you might think. It's a "performance hybrid" in Lexus language, with a 5-litre V8 engine up front. Fuel economy of 8.6 litres per 100km is excellent given the performance potential, but not a headline figure for a hybrid.
RANGE ROVER LWB
Range Rover LWB
Land Rover's new long-wheelbase Range Rover is a magnificent thing, with a luxurious cabin and a high seating position that allows a commanding view of the countryside.
Look past the bling and you could even argue it's a green choice. Massive it may be, but the latest Range Rover is made from aluminium and thus lighter than your average luxury limousine.
There's a 4.4-litre turbo-diesel engine option that provides plenty of urge to transport its VIP occupants safely, yet also returns 8.7 litres per 100km.
The Range Rover might be a superb luxury express, but it's also one of the world's best off-road vehicles. Imagine a Crown car that could take ministers on official visits to places where Ford Rangers fear to tread.
Admit it: this is a lot of car for a retail price of $193,000.
Cons? If a BMW offends some people's sensibilities, the sheer bling of the new Range Rover would not go down well at all. Especially if it's rolling on the optional 21-inch wheels.
So we want to economise and be more sustainable? Premium badges have the potential to offend?
Consider the new Honda Jazz, an ideal Government limousine if ever there was one. It's thrifty, inexpensive at under $30,000 even for the flagship model and so very practical. A smooth way to travel as well, thanks to a gearless continuously variable transmission (CVT).
What makes the Jazz a truly suitable Crown car is its amazing interior packaging. Honda claims it has as much rear leg room as a Mercedes-Benz S-class and it's hard to argue with credentials like that. It has satellite navigation to get ministers to those important engagements and 10 cupholders - essential when you're working in the car and need to reach your coffee quickly.
Cons? Perhaps a little something called dignity. But then that's not always a concern for those in the political sphere.