• Simon Cowell owns a beautiful Jaguar Eagle Speedster. Picture: EAGLE/JAMES LIPMAN

  • Hugh Grant has moved on from the days of his Citroen 2CV to a Ferrari California. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

  • Jennifer Lopez often uses her Bentley Continental GTC to take the kids to school. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

  • George Clooney was given a Porsche 911 GT3 RS by his wife last year. Picture: PORSCHE

  • What better car for an extrovert rapper like Jay-Z than the rare and very expensive, Maybach Exelero. Picture: DAIMLER

  • What better car for an extrovert rapper like Jay-Z than the rare and very expensive, Maybach Exelero. Picture: DAIMLER Picture: DAIMLER

  • Leonardo DiCaprio drives on the green side in a Tesla Roadster. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

  • David Beckham has an extensive car collection but his typical daily runner is a Rolls-Royce Ghost. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

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WHEN it comes to cars, Hollywood has played a major role in capturing the public imagination. Sean Connery set the standard for 1960s cool as the tuxedo-clad James Bond at the wheel of a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger.

The legendary Hollywood star Steve McQueen and real-life speed demon loved racing the streets of Los Angeles in his 1963 Jaguar XK SS even though he was best known for driving the iconic 1968 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 Roadster in the classic film, Bullitt.

And when it comes to pure, classic style there has rarely been a more defining image than that of Richard Gere cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway in his black 1980 Mercedes-Benz 450SL convertible in American Gigolo.

Sports and luxury cars remain essential status symbols for the rich and famous. Movie stars, rappers and top sports figures have no compunction when it comes to spending some of their excess cash on the most exotic road machines on the planet. From hip hop mogul Jay Z’s R132m sensational Maybach Excelero to David Beckham’s relatively modest R4.1m Rolls-Royce Ghost to Leonardo DiCaprio’s eco-friendly R1.6m Tesla Roadster, the leading figures in the entertainment industry are all bent on making a personal statement when it comes to their taste in automobiles.

Here are seven stars and their favourite cars. As you will discover, celebrities choose cars that help define their image and send a clear message to the public about how they like to roll.

SIMON COWELL — EAGLE SPEEDSTER (R12.3m)

Simon Cowell has exacting standards. The multimillionaire music entrepreneur and TV producer has made that abundantly clear over the years as the legendary and blunt-spoken judge on TV’s The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and American Idol. Exceedingly intolerant of amateur performers who don’t have what it takes to become stars, Cowell is no slouch when it comes to choosing the finer things in life. And he makes no apologies when it comes to amassing a personal fortune estimated at more than £300m.

"The secret of my success is that I make other people money. And, never ever, ever, ever be ashamed about trying to earn as much as possible for yourself, if the person you’re working with is also making money. That’s life!" says Cowell.

Perhaps the best example of his exquisite taste is his latest dream car — the Eagle Speedster, the ultra-rare reboot of the original Jaguar E-type which is hand-built by the Sussex-based Jaguar specialist, Eagle. Based on the original Jaguar E-Type chassis with power coming from a 228kW 4.7l six-cylinder petrol unit with 460Nm of torque, the Eagle Speedster is arguably the sexiest car on earth.

Cowell, who has long been an avowed Jag fanatic with a private collection that includes an E-type classic, F-type and two XK models, first spotted the Eagle when it was tested on BBC’s Top Gear in June 2011. Then-host Jeremy Clarkson paid the sleek custom Jag the highest tribute: "I think this, by a long way, is the most beautiful car I have ever seen. It might actually be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen."

Cowell was so enamoured of the Eagle that he sold his Bugatti Veyron (a car he drove only a handful of times) and then spent R12.3m on the Jaguar Eagle, which he said was "something you can’t pass up."

HUGH GRANT — FERRARI CALIFORNIA (R2.5m)

British rom-com star Hugh Grant has long had a love-hate relationship with acting. He approaches his film career with a kind of grudging acceptance that comes from not having "anything else in particular" to do with his life.

Despite becoming a Hollywood superstar following his work in Four Weddings and A Funeral and Notting Hill, he might have enjoyed a successful career as an art dealer after completing postgraduate studies in Art History at the Courtauld Institute in London. Grant famously earned a profit of R208m after selling a Warhol painting of Elizabeth Taylor in 2007 and is also known as an astute real estate investor.

On the occasion of his 50th birthday he purchased the stunning Ferrari California convertible which was the Italian luxury car maker’s first front/mid-engined, V8-powered vehicle upon its release.

"I love the bang-bang noise of the engine when (downshifting)," Grant said of his Ferrari. He added: "I find in life that I’m very attracted to beautiful women, beautiful cars and cats. To me those three things all have the same appeal. Luckily, it’s only the women that hold a sexual attraction for me."

Built entirely out of aluminium, the California is powered by a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 3.9l V8 engine that produces 412kW at 7,500r/min. The roadster does 0-100km/h in 3.6 seconds and has a top speed of 315km/h.

The California is a far cry from Grant’s first car, a Citroën Dyane, which he described as follows: "It was a very pathetic car with a power of one child pulling it by harness. It had a roof that kept breaking and would fly off and the bar would come down and hit my (then) girlfriend on the head."

JENNIFER LOPEZ — BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GTC (R3.8m)

For a girl who grew up in working-class Puerto Rican family in New York’s tough Bronx neighbourhood, Jennifer Lopez has enjoyed one of the most successful careers of any female entertainer. The sublimely beautiful singer/actress is currently starring as a tough-minded street cop in Shades of Blue, the NBC crime drama which she developed and also produces.

After completing her stint as a judge on the final season of American Idol, she’s also been performing at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas as part of a two-year, $26m contract. A single mother of two, J-Lo doesn’t worry about her heavy schedule.

"I don’t find it difficult to balance my work and raising my children," says Lopez. "I come from a hard-working family with a lot of strong women and I’m like any other single, working mother who has a job and looks after her children. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of advantages and help that other single moms might not have, so I’m not going to complain about my life."

One advantage of being one of the richest women in Hollywood is owning a white Bentley Continental GTC convertible. She loves the "very smooth ride" that the car offers while she uses it to take her kids to school. Though neither J-Lo nor her on-call chauffeur will likely ever test its limits while shuttling her twins Emme and Max around LA, the Bentley boasts 440kW, accelerates from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 330km/h.

Not bad for a car formerly associated with Britain’s upper class and images of cruising along country roads on the way to fox hunts.

GEORGE CLOONEY — PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS (R2.55m)

Long-time Porsche fanatic George Clooney is not often surprised in life, but a smile might have crossed his face when he was reportedly gifted with a Porsche 911 GT3 RS by his wife Amal on the occasion of his 54th birthday last year. The car is a high-powered improvement on his previous Porsche black 911 Carrera, and satisfies his avowed preference for classic cars.

The Porsche GT3 RS is powered by a 4.0l flat-six engine that generates 368kW and 460Nm of torque, all of which is directed to the rear wheels via Porsche’s seven-speed PDK dual-clutch paddle transmission. Equipped with a rear wing for added stability at high speed, the carbon fibre and magnesium body panels reduce weight to improve handling.

The new Porsche is capable of reaching 100km/h in 3.3 seconds and 193km/h in 10.9 seconds, and tops out at 8,800r/min and a maximum speed of 320km/h. The monster Porsche supplements a garage that also includes a 1959 red and white Chevrolet Corvette which was originally owned by Clooney’s father Nick, who purchased it new. Nick gifted the car, which was considered one of the top sports cars of its day, to his prodigal son more than a decade ago and George subsequently had it lovingly restored to perfection.

Clooney is a long-time human rights activist who has often visited war-torn Sudan and Darfur in a continuing effort to draw attention to the genocidal strife and starvation in the region. However committed he may be to humanitarian as well as environmental causes, that feeling does not extend to the Tesla. He once owned a 2008 Tesla Roadster which he reportedly sold in 2013 after tiring of numerous breakdowns.

"I had a Tesla. I was one of the first cats with a Tesla," Clooney stated in a 2014 interview. "But I’m telling you, I’ve been on the side of the road a while in that thing. And I said to them: ‘Look, guys, why am I always stuck on the side of the road? Make it work, one way or another.’"

JAY Z — MAYBACH EXELERO (R132m estimated)

One of the wealthiest music moguls of all time, it’s only fitting perhaps that the hip hop promoter/executive/star should own one of the most expensive cars on earth — the Maybach Exelero. Though it’s an absurd price for a car that isn’t competing on a Formula One track, the Exelero ranks as arguably the biggest and fastest car ever made. It’s precisely the kind of street-legal vehicle that every record mogul needs to own, and Jay Z pulls it off in style. And the price tag? When your net worth is estimated at nearly R9.4bn, you can be forgiven for shelling out R132m for a ride.

The Maybach Exelero, currently out of production after disappointing results at the Maybach subsidiary, was manufactured at the Sindelfingen factory in Germany owned by parent company Daimler-Benz and is regarded as one of the most unique cars ever produced. Weighing in at a massive 2.6 tonnes, the Exelero attains 100km/h in the relatively slow time of 4.4 seconds, albeit maxing out at a race car worthy 354km/h. Powered by a 5.9l V12 engine, it produces 522kW.

Prior to purchasing it, Jay Z test-drove the car in Germany while it was still in the prototype stage and can be seen driving the Exelero in his video for the song Lost Ones. One of the music industry’s most powerful figures who is also married to Beyoncé, and one of the top-selling artists of all time, Jay Z might be forgiven for feeling a sense of entitlement to flashing some of his wealth. In his book Decoded (2010), he offers insight into what owning a car like the Maybach Exelero means to him: "The burden of poverty isn’t just that you don’t always have the things you need, it’s the feeling of being embarrassed every day of your life, and you’d do anything to lift that burden. As kids we didn’t complain about being poor; we talked about how rich we were going to be and made moves to get the lifestyle we aspired to by any means we could. And as soon as we had a little money, we were eager to show it. The sad thing is that you never really shake it all the way off, no matter how much money you get."

LEONARDO DICAPRIO — TESLA ROADSTER (R1.57m)

Hollywood’s outspoken environmentalist, Leonardo DiCaprio would have a hard time justifying anything more exotic or energy-consuming than a Prius or a custom-made aluminium road racing bicycle. And though he does spend a lot of time on yachts which burn fuel faster than almost any other means of transportation, DiCaprio does do his bit for the planet when it comes to his silver Tesla Roadster. The elite electric car accelerates from 0-100km/h in an astonishingly quick three seconds and will reportedly run for 380km on a single charge.

The curvy Tesla Roadster is one of the sexiest-looking electric cars on the market and is perfect for city driving. Its only drawback is the puny 201km/h top speed which limits its appeal to many markets. But the next-generation roadster, based on the Tesla Model S, when set to "Ludicrous Mode" will be able to do 0 to 100 in 2.8 seconds, faster than the McLaren P1 hypercar. That would make the Tesla S the fastest four-door sedan in the world and surely capture a huge chunk of the luxury/sports car market once it comes onto market in 2019.

DiCaprio, 41, who finally won the Oscar this year for his performance in The Revenant, swears by the promise of green technology and tries to reduce his carbon footprint to the bare minimum (apart from partying on diesel-guzzling yachts in St Tropez). He believes in setting a good environmental example for the rest of us: "I drive an electric car … my roof is covered with solar panels, I separate my garbage, I don’t run the water unnecessarily, and I shut off the lights when I leave a room. All those little things which if we all did can have a huge impact, and I think the younger generation is much more sensitised to environmental issues than I was when I was growing up."

DAVID BECKHAM — ROLLS ROYCE GHOST (R4.1m)

A lover of the Rolls-Royce brand, former football superstar David Beckham has an impressive array of exotic cars in his garage — including an Audi S8, a Porsche Turbo Cabriolet, a Cadillac Escalade, a customised Ferrari 612 Scaglietti and a Jeep Wrangler for days when driving the most expensive cars in the world just doesn’t seem appropriate. He also owned a Lamborghini Gallardo before he sold it in 2012.

These days, his car of choice is the Rolls-Royce Ghost, a successor to his previous Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead. The Ghost, now produced in a Series II version, boasts a 6.6l turbocharged V12 engine that produces a massive 420kW. An eight-speed automatic gearbox allows for the smoothest drive of possibly any car available. For a V12, the engine is so quiet that one only notices a slight hum at normal city driving speeds. However, if you want to have some fun and floor the throttle, the Ghost’s BMW-designed V12 delivers the kind of Germanic thrust that will satisfy the automotive purist in you.

Beckham’s Series 1 version can do 0-100 in 4.2 seconds while the newer model is slightly slower at 4.8 seconds. The car tops out at a puny 248km/h — which is unimportant given that he apparently uses the car for dropping off the children at school or meeting his friends in Beverly Hills.