Rental cars are so pass?. Why not buy your wheels while on the Continent? Carmakers will welcome you with open arms, free meals and hotels, even sticker-price discounts. And voil?, you've got a unique European vacation. And voil?, you've got a unique Euro
Your hands encircle a soft, leather-covered steering wheel. Your hair blows as you whiz along the winding roads of Europe, past castles crowning snowy peaks, past quaint ch?teaux overlooking crystal lakes, past waterfalls spilling into mountain streams. "These are the roads that inspired my car's engineering finesse," you find yourself musing. "This is where it was meant to be driven."

Think you just woke up inside a car commercial? Nope. You're only taking advantage of your carmaker's European delivery program - and you could be saving money to boot.

When you buy certain European cars and pick them up where they're built, carmakers will roll out the red carpet. Not only do they slash prices on the car itself, they pick up the tab for your driving expenses. They'll guide you through the factory so you can see where your "baby" was born. Even better, once you've wrapped up your vacation, you return your car to an agreed-upon drop-off point and it's shipped to the United States for you. No extra paperwork - and, often, no extra charge.

A few European carmakers have offered delivery for years, but the idea has gathered steam and spread to the point where almost any model of the most popular lines - including BMW, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, and Porsche - can be had via European delivery. Some will even let you custom-order your car online. And as the popularity of European delivery has grown, the various manufacturers have added perks, like luxury hotel rooms, special driving vacations, and gourmet meals, to their packages. "It ends up being a great way to take a vacation in Europe, especially when you con-sider the cost of rental cars, which are quite a bit higher in Europe than in the U.S.," says Fred Heiler, public relations manager for Mercedes-Benz USA in Montvale, New Jersey.