First Lap of Luxury
When car shoppers move upmarket for a new luxury vehicle, often the brand carries as much significance as the car itself. And as buyers seek the amenities and refinements required of a luxurious ride, many subconsciously evaluate and appreciate the status of owning a prestigious marque. With any car purchase, eventually the consideration turns to ultimate value and sticker price. That said, even the most exclusive marques have a least expensive offering for consideration — an easier entry into the brand. Everything is relative, of course — the entry-level Rolls-Royce may be beyond the means of most shoppers, but it is still several hundred thousand dollars less than higher-level models. Here’s a look at the “entry-level” models from luxury brands available in America today.
2017 Acura ILX
Base MSRP: $27,990
The ILX is the lowest-priced entry in the Acura lineup, which can reach as high as $65,000 for the flagship RLX or $156,000 for the exotic NSX. The 2016 model received a new engine as well as updated styling. A new 2.4-liter direct-injection engine produces 201 horsepower and is teamed with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. This is a considerable increase in power over the outgoing model, but still boasts 35 mpg on the highway. The ILX comes well equipped with power heated front seats, a rearview camera, “Jewel-Eye” LED headlights, Bluetooth connectivity and the latest in high-tech safety features.
2016 Audi A3 Sedan
Base MSRP: $30,900
Audi’s entry-level luxury car originally arrived in the U.S. as a 2006 model in 4-door hatchback configuration only, but in 2015 Audi changed the A3 lineup to include a sedan and cabriolet. The A3 carries the styling cues of higher-end Audi models, and is available with the brand’s well-known quattro all-wheel-drive system. Premium standard features on the A3 include a panoramic sunroof, Xenon headlights, a 12-way power driver’s seat, leather trim, dual-zone climate control and a high-end audio system.
2016 Bentley Continental GT V8
Base MSRP: $198,500
Yes, you can get behind the wheel of a new Bentley with a starting MSRP of less than $200,000 — quite the deal! Bentley’s 4-seat coupe and convertible, the Continental GT features a permanent all-wheel-drive system. The first new model from Bentley in many years when it joined the lineup in 2003, the hand-built Continental GT V8 delivers impressive performance with 500 horsepower on tap. Not your typical “entry-level” luxury coupe, the Continental GT comes standard with proper leather and wood trim, a high-tech infotainment system and 20-inch alloy wheels.
2017 BMW 2 Series
Base MSRP: $33,150
BMW’s small entry-luxury model for the U.S. market, the 2 Series joined the lineup as a 2014 model replacing the 1 Series. The 2 Series is a modern example of the type of sporty, agile, fun-to-drive car on which BMW built its reputation in the 1960s. Available as a coupe or convertible, the base-level 230i features a 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo engine sending 248 horsepower to the rear wheels. The 230i is not lavish inside, but is equipped with sport seats, a 205-watt sound system, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers and the latest in safety technology.
2016 Cadillac ATS
Base MSRP: $33,215
Cadillac’s compact luxury sedan debuted as a 2013 model, and the ATS coupe joined the lineup for the 2015 model year. ATS is available with several different levels of performance, ranging from the base 2.5-liter 205-horsepower 4-cylinder engine to the ATS-V boasting a 464-horsepower twin-turbo powerplant. Still part of GM’s most luxurious brand, the ATS features a Bose premium audio system, wireless phone charging, Brembo high-performance brakes, a rearview camera and OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity.
2017 Genesis G80
Base MSRP: $41,400
Genesis began simply as a model in the Hyundai lineup, but at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show Hyundai introduced an entirely new luxury brand — called Genesis. Sold under this new Hyundai brand, the G80 sport sedan replaces the Hyundai Genesis; however, the car itself is basically unchanged. The G80’s 3.8-liter V6 puts out 311 horsepower teamed with a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional. The interior offers everything you’d expect from a luxury car in terms of comfort and technology, and matte-finish wood trim adds a high level of elegance. Power front seats are heated and cooled — the G80 even has a heated steering wheel.
2016 Infiniti Q50
Base MSRP: $33,950
A replacement for the G sedan in the 2014 model year, the performance-oriented Q50 has standard rear-wheel drive as well as available all-wheel drive. For 2016 the Q50 2.0t joins the lineup, powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Drivers seeking higher performance need to look no further than the Q50 Red Sport 400, powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that produces 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. Standard features on all Q50s include LED headlights, a rearview monitor, dual-zone climate control, keyless start, power front seats and a premium audio system.
2017 Jaguar XE
Base MSRP: $34,900
Positioned as the entry vehicle of the famed British marque, the all-new XE sport sedan also happens to be the newest model in the Jaguar lineup. For those who remember the woefully inadequate X-TYPE from the early 2000s, they’ll be happy to hear the XE is nothing like that earlier sedan. Sporting the same stylish grille as the XF and XJ, the XE is available with a variety of engines, including a fuel-efficient diesel option. Rear-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive available. Standard equipment on all XEs includes dual-zone climate control with solar sensing, 10-way power front seats, a power moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth connectivity, an 80-watt sound system and an 8-inch touchscreen display.
2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport
Base MSRP: $37,695
The Land Rover Discovery was sold in America until 2004 when it was rebadged as the LR3. No matter its name, the SUV was boxy and although very capable still felt a bit old school. For 2015 the Discovery name came back — this time on a thoroughly modern SUV with styling that fits with the rest of the Land Rover lineup, and capability deserving of the Discovery name. Discovery Sport has seating for seven occupants and carries a number of premium features such as an 8-inch touchscreen and head-up display. As expected, the Discovery Sport has impressive off-road capabilities — more than 8 inches of ground clearance, class-leading approach and departure angles, the ability to wade through almost 2 feet of water and climb a 45-degree incline.
2017 Lexus CT
Base MSRP: $31,250
The CT is a unique offering from Lexus in that it is only available with a hybrid powertrain. The sporty-looking 4-door hatchback is the least expensive model in the Lexus lineup, but still comes well equipped with features such as dual-zone climate control, a 10-way power driver’s seat, an available Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and a 6-speaker audio system featuring the world’s first automotive speakers constructed with sustainable bamboo and resin. The hybrid system puts out a combined 134 horsepower and rates an impressive 43 mpg in the city.
2017 Lincoln MKC
Base MSRP: $32,720
The MKC is a premium 5-passenger crossover that shares a platform with the Ford Escape but carries its own styling, powertrain and features. In fact, the MKC is wider and longer than the Escape and has a unique clamshell rear hatch. The least expensive model in the Lincoln lineup, the MKC has a choice of two engines: a 2.0-liter EcoBoost unit producing 240 horsepower, and a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost that puts out an impressive 285 horsepower. The standard equipment list is substantial, including such items as power heated front seats, SYNC with MyLincoln Touch on an 8-inch LCD display screen, a premium audio system with nine speakers, active noise control and a rearview camera.
2016 Maserati Ghibli
Base MSRP: $70,600
Maserati added a second sedan below the flagship Quattroporte last year with the introduction of the new Ghibli. Smaller, lighter, and more dynamic than the Quattroporte, the Ghibli’s exterior styling clearly ties in with the rest of the Maserati lineup, while interior appointments include leather sport seats, high-gloss trim, a high-end audio system and — of course — the traditional Maserati clock with blue face. Power options range from a twin-turbo 345-horsepower V6 engine to the Ghibli S Q4 with its 404-horsepower engine and all-wheel drive.
2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA
Base MSRP: $32,400
The CLA-Class sits at the base level of a very full Mercedes-Benz lineup that ranges up to the flagship S-Class luxury sedan. Referred to as a 4-door coupe due to its coupelike styling, the CLA gets a number of updates for the 2017 model year including new front and rear bumpers, new wheel designs, new seat covers and chrome-plated controls. With front-wheel drive or available 4MATIC all-wheel drive, the small model is available as either the CLA250 with its 208-horsepower turbocharged engine or the 375-horsepower high-performance AMG CLA45 4MATIC.
2016 Rolls-Royce Ghost
Base MSRP: $295,850
From the “everything is relative” department, the entry-level model in the Rolls-Royce lineup starts just under $300,000. Compared to the $492,000 long-wheelbase Phantom, the Ghost is quite a bargain. Rolls-Royce has long been the benchmark for luxury automobiles, and this still holds true for the Ghost. The hand-built sedan is swathed in five coats of paint that take seven days to apply, with an additional five hours of hand polishing. Inside, wood veneers match perfectly and the leather seats are hand stitched. The twin-turbo 6.6-liter V12 engine provides more than adequate power and the intelligent air suspension delivers an impressively smooth, quiet ride.
2016 Volvo S60
Base MSRP: $34,150
The stylish S60 sedan (and its V60 wagon sibling) are the entry vehicles into the Volvo lineup. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, the S60 can also be had as Cross Country models with bolder looks and increased ground clearance. The S60 is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 240 horsepower teamed with a new 8-speed automatic transmission. The sedan also earned the highest safety ranking from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety thanks to a number of advanced safety features, including Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake as well as Cyclist and Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake.