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.
2019 Acura ILX
Base MSRP: $25,900
The lowest priced model offered by Acura, the ILX anchors a lineup that reaches as high as $62,000 for the flagship RLX Sport Hybrid, or even a healthy $157,500 for the exotic NSX. The small sedan receives a major redesign for the 2019 model year, and actually has a starting price $2,200 less than the outgoing version. Sporting a new Acura signature Diamond Pentagon grille with 7-element jewel-eye LED headlights, the ILX looks more upscale, aligning it better with the rest of the Acura lineup. The updated ILX also has a new decklid, LED taillights, and updated wheel designs. Inside, a unique dual screen display features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The ILX also comes standard with the AcuraWatch suite of advanced safety tech that includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.
2019 Alfa Romeo Giulia
Base MSRP: $38,295
The Alfa Romeo brand has expanded to three models with the introduction of the Stelvio crossover, but Giulia remains the least expensive route into the Alfa lineup. A proper sport sedan, the Giulia is available with rear- or all-wheel drive and can sprint to 60 mph in around 5 seconds, thanks to its standard 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque, teamed with a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox. Even the base-level Giulia comes well equipped, featuring standard leather seats, a 6-way power front seat, dual-zone climate control and a 6.5-inch color display with an 8-speaker audio system featuring HD Radio and Bluetooth streaming. Also included are 17-inch aluminum wheels, run-flat all-season high-performance tires, Brembo 4-wheel disc brakes, bi-xenon headlights and LED running lights and taillights to give the Giulia a premium look.
2019 Audi A3 Sedan
Base MSRP: $32,500
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 signature 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. Audi also offers the A3 with the brand’s the innovative virtual cockpit, as well as a suite of advance driver-assist technology.
2019 Bentley Bentayga
Base MSRP: $165,000
A few years ago, the thought of a Bentley SUV seemed rather farfetched, but in 2017 the famed British marque introduced the powerful Bentayga — the luxury marque’s first SUV. For 2019, the Bentayga is available with a V8 powertrain that drops the price below all other Bentley offerings — still not inexpensive, but this is a Bentley. And as a Bentley, this luxury SUV comes very well equipped with soft leather-trimmed seats, Eucalyptus veneer trim, a high-resolution touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay / Android Auto as well as a 60 GB hard drive, voice control and navigation. Bentleys are known for performance as much as luxury, and this “base-level” Bentayga certain performs thanks to the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that delivers 542 horsepower. In addition to delivering a throaty exhaust note, the V8 moves this large SUV to 60 mph in a mere 4.4 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 180 mph.
2019 BMW X1
Base MSRP: $34,950
As SUVs continue to gain in popularity, it’s not that surprising that the entry into the BMW lineup would be a crossover. The revised second-generation BMW X1 premiered in 2016 with updated styling and many new features. The smallest of BMW’s three crossovers dubbed Sports Activity Vehicles, the X1 design bears a strong resemblance to the larger models while offering more cargo capacity and interior room than its predecessor. For the U.S. market, X1 is offered exclusively with a 228-horsepower version of BMW’s turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, combined with an 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard — xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the base price.
2019 Cadillac XT4
Base MSRP: $34,795
An all-new model from Cadillac, the XT4 is the luxury carmaker’s first entry into the very popular premium compact crossover segment. The XT4 is easily recognizable as a Cadillac with its signature vertical headlight treatment and familiar grille, as well as tall taillights at the rear. Even the base-level Luxury trim is well equipped with standard features that include leatherette-trim, power front seats, dual-zone climate control, an HD rearview camera, two USB ports (one type A, one type C), an 8-inch display screen and an AM/FM stereo with seven speakers as well Apple CarPlay / Android Auto connectivity. The XT4 comes with front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is available across the board for an additional $2,500.
2019 Genesis G70
Base MSRP: $34,900
Genesis spun off as an entirely new brand for the 2017 model year, launched by parent company Hyundai to move its clientele upscale. The luxury brand now offers three models with the new G70 introduced for 2019. Earlier this year the G70 was named the North American Car of the Year. It may be the entry-level model in the Genesis lineup, but the G70 comes very well equipped with features such as power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton start, an 8-inch color touchscreen display, Android Auto / Apple CarPlay connectivity, an HD radio, 18-inch wheels and a rearview camera. Genesis also offers the G70 with the latest advanced safety tech as standard equipment across the board. This includes forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist and driver attention warning.
2019 Infiniti QX30
Base MSRP: $30,250
Infiniti entered the premium compact crossover market two years ago with the introduction of the all-new QX30. With a low roof and sleek lines, the QX30 features familiar Infiniti styling, fitting in well as the entry point of the Infiniti lineup. The QX30 is available with front-wheel drive or Infiniti’s Intelligent all-wheel-drive system. Powering the QX30 is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 208 horsepower, teamed with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Standard equipment on the base-level QX30 includes Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, multiple USB ports, a rearview camera and 18-inch alloy wheels.
2019 Jaguar E-PACE
Base MSRP: $38,600
Like many of the luxury brands listed here, Jaguar’s least expensive entry is a crossover. Introduced last year, the E-PACE styling mimics the brand’s larger F-PACE albeit in a much smaller package. Available in a number of trim levels, all E-PACEs come with LED headlights, all-wheel drive, JaguarDrive control with selectable drive modes, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 10-inch TouchPro touchscreen and 17-inch alloy wheels. Power comes from a 2.0-liter Ingenium 4-cylinder engine producing 246 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, teamed with a ZF 9-speed automatic transmission. The advanced all-wheel-drive setup features a torque-vectoring system that distributes torque between the front and rear axles based on driving conditions.
2019 Land Rover Discovery Sport
Base MSRP: $37,990
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. A few years ago, the Discovery name came back — this time on a thoroughly modern SUV with styling that aligns with the rest of the Land Rover lineup, and capability deserving of the Discovery name. Discovery Sport has seating for seven occupants and carries many 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.
2019 Lexus UX
Base MSRP: $32,000
Lexus joins the growing compact luxury crossover market with the all-new UX. The UX is the first Lexus vehicle to use the brand’s Global Architecture — Compact platform, providing the new crossover with a rigid structure and low center of gravity designed to deliver both agile handling and improved ride comfort. The exterior styling is similar to the larger NX and RX models but more aggressive, with a large spindle grille that dominates the front view. The UX is offered with a choice of two powertrains: a 169-horsepower 2.0-liter engine sending power to the front wheels, or a fourth-generation hybrid drive system with total system output of 181 horsepower. The hybrid uses the Lexus E-Four all-wheel drive system that adds an additional electric motor at the rear axle.
2019 Lincoln MKC
Base MSRP: $33,995
The MKC is Lincoln’s 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 generates 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. This 2019 model year is the last of the MKC — will be replaced by the all-new Corsair, expected to arrive in showrooms this fall.
2019 Maserati Ghibli
Base MSRP: $74,980
Maserati added a second sedan below the flagship Quattroporte in 2016 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 424-horsepower engine and all-wheel drive.
2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Base MSRP: $32,500
Mercedes has one of the widest-ranges of luxury vehicles on the market. At the upper levels reign the ultra-luxurious and powerful AMG models exceeding $200,000, and now at the other end of the scale resides the all-new A-Class. The diminutive 4-door sedan has a sporty stance with short front and rear overhangs, and is easily recognizable as a Mercedes-Benz with the familiar grille and center-mounted large central star logo. It may be an entry-level sedan, but the A-Class comes well equipped with power front seats, dual-zone climate control, a panorama roof, LED interior lighting, and dual 7-inch displays. The A-Class also features MBUX, the brand’s new natural-language voice control system.
2019 Rolls-Royce Ghost
Base MSRP: $314,400
From the “everything is relative” department, the entry-level model in the Rolls-Royce lineup starts right around $300,000. Compared to the $530,000 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.
2019 Tesla Model 3
Base MSRP: $39,500
The all-new Model 3 joined the Tesla lineup last year, fulfilling the automaker’s promise of the long-awaited “affordable” electric sedan. With styling similar to the larger Model S, the Model 3 comes with a 240-mile range and respectable performance — it can run to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. For an additional $10,000, a longer-range battery is available that increases total range to 310 miles. Standard features include a 15-inch touchscreen display, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, LED exterior lighting, a backup camera and a suite of advanced safety technology with collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking.
2019 Volvo XC40
Base MSRP: $33,700
Volvo also joins the premium compact crossover market with the all-new XC40. The XC40 has many of the same styling cues as the two larger Volvo SUVs — most notably the signature “Thor’s Hammer” headlights. However, the XC40’s grille juts out at the bottom with a more expressive style than the flatter XC60. At the rear, taillights feature the same vertical treatment as the XC60 and XC90, but the smaller model really stands out from the others thanks to its two-tone paint. Even the base-level XC40 Momentum comes well equipped with leather seat trim, an 8-way power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a power tailgate and 18-inch alloy wheels. A 9-inch vertical touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 250-watt AM/FM/HD audio system with 8 speakers and Bluetooth streaming are also standard on all XC40s.