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.
2018 Acura ILX
Base MSRP: $28,100
The ILX is the lowest-priced entry in the Acura lineup, which can reach as high as $62,000 for the flagship RLX or $156,000 for the exotic NSX. The small sedan received a major update in 2016, highlighted by fresh styling that matches with the rest of the Acura lineup as well as a more powerful engine. The new 2.4-liter direct-injection unit produces 201 horsepower — a considerable increase in power over the outgoing model — while still achieving 35 mpg on the highway. The ILX comes well equipped with power heated front seats, a rearview camera, power moonroof, “Jewel-Eye” LED headlights, Bluetooth connectivity and the latest in high-tech safety features. For 2018 Acura adds a Special Edition ILX featuring 18-inch alloy wheels, side sills and a rear spoiler.
2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia
Base MSRP: $38,195
The Alfa Romeo lineup has now 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 has a 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.
2018 Audi A3 Sedan
Base MSRP: $31,950
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. For the 2017 A3, Audi made available the innovative virtual cockpit, as well as a suite of advance driver-assist systems.
2018 Bentley Continental Flying Spur V8
Base MSRP: $189,000
Yes, it is possible to get behind the wheel of a new Bentley with a starting MSRP of less than $200,000. Bentley’s “entry-level” sedan, the Continental Flying Spur is designed to be the ultimate in luxury, comfort and performance. Featuring a permanent all-wheel-drive system, the Flying Spur V8 has a 4.0-liter V8 engine that produces a plentiful 500 horsepower, moving the big sedan to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. Every Flying Spur takes 130 hours to hand build and features the highest quality leathers and wood trim. Like every other Bentley, the Flying Spur can be completely personalized (or “bespoke,” as Bentley describes it) with custom colors, special leather and a full range of high-end features.
2018 BMW X1
Base MSRP: $33,900
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 Sport 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 and xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive.
2018 Cadillac ATS Sedan
Base MSRP: $35,495
Cadillac’s compact luxury sedan debuted as a 2013 model, and the ATS coupe joined the lineup for the 2015 model year. Still very much part of GM’s flagship brand, the ATS is available with the latest in luxury and high-tech features. The standard powerplant is a new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that offers plenty of performance with 272 horsepower on tap. Standard equipment includes a Bose premium audio system, power front seats with leather trim, wireless phone charging, a power sunroof, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto integration and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.
2018 Genesis G80
Base MSRP: $41,750
Genesis spun off as an entirely new brand for the 2017 model year, launched by parent company Hyundai to move its clientele upscale. Once Genesis became its own brand, the model formerly known as the Hyundai Genesis was renamed the G80, and in its first year on the market it was already one of the top-selling luxury sedans in America. The G80’s 3.8-liter V6 engine produces 311 horsepower, combined with a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional. The G80 is well equipped with heated power front seats, leather trim, an 8-inch touchscreen display, a high-end audio system, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, as well as the latest high-tech safety features including automatic emergency braking. Later this year Genesis will launch a new entry-level vehicle, the G70 sport sedan.
2018 Infiniti QX30
Base MSRP: $29,950
Infiniti entered the premium compact crossover market last year 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 features on the base-level QX30 include Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, multiple USB ports, a rearview camera and 18-inch alloy wheels.
2018 Jaguar XE
Base MSRP: $35,725
Positioned as the entry vehicle of the famed British marque, the XE sport sedan is one of the newest models 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.
2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport
Base MSRP: $37,795
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 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 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.
2018 Lexus NX
Base MSRP: $35,985
Lexus joined the burgeoning compact luxury SUV segment when it introduced the NX for the 2015 model year. The NX has proven quite popular with sales increasing every year since its inception, and the small crossover is now the least-expensive model in the Lexus lineup. The NX is available with the first-ever turbocharged engine in a Lexus — a 2.0-liter four cylinder that produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. For 2018 the turbocharged NX is renamed NX 300 and receives updated shocks and suspension designed for a more comfortable ride and better handling.
2018 Lincoln MKC
Base MSRP: $33,355
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 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. Look for a redesigned 2019 MKC arriving in showrooms soon.
2018 Maserati Ghibli
Base MSRP: $73,780
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.
2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA
Base MSRP: $32,700
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 received several 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. As expected even from an entry-level Mercedes, the CLA comes well equipped with features including power front seats, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, Bluetooth connectivity and the latest in high-tech safety features.
2018 Rolls-Royce Ghost
Base MSRP: $305,800
From the “everything is relative” department, the entry-level model in the Rolls-Royce lineup starts right around $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.
2018 Tesla Model 3
Base MSRP: $35,000
The all-new Model 3 joined the Tesla lineup within the last year, and while production has been slower than planned, deliveries of this “more affordable” electric sedan have begun. With styling similar to the larger Model S, the Model 3 comes with a 220-mile range. For an additional $9,000, 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.
2018 Volvo S60
Base MSRP: $34,100
The stylish S60 sedan is currently the lowest-priced model in the Volvo lineup. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, the S60 can also be had as a Cross Country variant with bolder looks and increased ground clearance, or as the high-performance Polestar. 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 possesses the highest ranking from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, thanks to advanced safety features including Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake as well as Cyclist and Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake. Following the introduction of an all-new V60 wagon, look for a new S60 to be introduced within the next year.