At the entry point of the luxury vehicle range are models such as the Acura Integra, Kia Stinger and Volkswagen Arteon, as well as the smallest models from premium brands such as the Audi A3, BMW 2 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class and CLA. These cars bridge the gap between mainstream cars and true luxury vehicles. Despite premium badges and higher prices, some models may lack features found on a well-appointed, less expensive, mainstream car.
The BMW 3 Series has raised prices and has been one of the top performers in CR tests for decades. There are also Acura TLX, Audi A4, Cadillac CT4 and CT5, Genesis G70, Infiniti Q50, Jaguar XF, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Tesla Model 3 and Volvo S60. Many of these models have two spacious front seats, but rather cramped rear seats.
Their larger counterparts embody the definition of true luxury. . . and constantly rising prices. Some notable models include the Audi A6 and A8, BMW 5 and 7 Series, Genesis G80 and G90, Lexus ES and LS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class, Polestar 2, Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model S and Volvo S90. These exclusive chariots offer greater levels of interior space, ride comfort, smoothness, performance and refinement. Some ultra-luxury models have fairly long wheelbases (the distance between axles) that allow for limo-like rear seat space.
We’ve seen top-of-the-line sedans like these move from being offered almost exclusively with diesel and V8 powertrains to hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric powertrains like the Teslas and Taycans. Mercedes-Benz is entering the electric sedan market with its new EQE and EQS, based on the company’s E- and S-Class respectively.
What you spend: The cheapest entry point in this category is around the mid-$30,000 range. But expect to hit the $40,000 mark before long – especially for popular models like the BMW 3 Series and C-Class. The cheapest long-range Tesla Model 3 costs about $45,000. Dip a toe in the pool of top-of-the-line models here and you’ll find anywhere from around $46,000 for a mid-range Lexus ES 350 to well over $100,000 for the best of Audi, BMW, Lexus, Lucid, Mercedes-Benz , Porsche and more fall behind Tesla.
Even luxury SUVs range from small to jumbo. Compact and small players include Acura RDX, Audi Q3, BMW X1 and X2, Buick Encore and Encore GX, Cadillac XT4, Genesis GV70, Infiniti QX50, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Lexus NX and UX, Lincoln Corsair, Mercedes -Benz GLA and GLB, Porsche Macan, Tesla Model Y and Volvo XC40. These are comfortable for two occupants, cozy for four, and downright cramped when a fifth adult is traveling. Likewise, the transport of cargo is limited by the compact proportions of the vehicles. Many of these smaller models offer agile handling and good fuel economy in the low to mid 20mpg range.
The move up to the mid-size SUV category brings more space, but also higher prices. Some models include the Acura MDX; Audi Q5; BMW X3; Buick Enclave; Cadillac XT5; Genesis GV80; Infiniti QX60; Land Rover Defender, Discovery Sport and Velar; Lexus GX and RX; Lincoln Nautilus; Mercedes Benz GLE; Porsche Cayenne; and Volvo XC60. The Audi E-Tron and the Jaguar I-Pace are equipped with fully electric drives. And more are on the way.
In recent years, some manufacturers have released coupe-style SUVs – that is, they have a sweeping rear roofline that makes them look like coupes, but they retain four doors and are still classified as SUVs. The Audi Q8, the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé and the Porsche Cayenne Coupé are some of these rare examples.
Full-size luxury models are at the top of the money-is-no-object food chain in the SUV world. Some examples are the Audi Q7 and Q8, Cadillac Escalade and XT6, Infiniti QX80, Land Rover Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, Lexus LX, Lincoln Aviator and Navigator, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Tesla Model X and Volvo XC90.
Some of the medium and larger models have three rows of seats for up to eight people. Like many luxury sedans, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric powertrains are gaining traction, but traditional V6 and V8 engines remain the most prevalent.
What you spend: For the ever-popular luxury SUV crowd, prices range from the mid-$30,000s to around $100,000s. For many of the rich and famous, less is not enough.
Sporty luxury cars
Sporty luxury cars also cover a wide spectrum, from coupés like the Infiniti Q60 to large touring convertibles like the Jaguar F-Type. Although this type of car is less popular than it used to be, many high-profile manufacturers still sell them. Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche compete in this segment.
Sporty luxury cars tend to prefer a rear-wheel drive configuration to aid in performance dynamics, but many are available with all-wheel drive. A range of four-cylinder, V6 and V8 powertrains are offered. Some even offer hybrid and all-electric systems.
You can expect sporty luxury cars to have beautifully finished leather and wood interiors, the latest electronic features and engaging driving experiences.
Some may trade ride comfort, interior space and access or visibility for better cornering, increased performance or stylish exteriors.
What you spend: None are cheap. These models can fetch you anywhere from $50,000 to over $100,000.