One of the hallmarks of luxury cars is their exclusivity, with high price tags separating them from the more commonplace brands and nameplates. This is most easily seen on flagship models like the S-Class executive sedan from Mercedes-Benz or sportier roadsters like the BMW M8 Convertible. However, you don’t need to take out a second mortgage in order to finance your next ride, even if you have your heart set on one of the best-looking vehicles on the market right now. The Mazda Miata MX-5 is a great choice if you want speed, while the Lincoln Aviator is a great mix of luxury and practicality, and the Audi A5 Sportback is one of the best-looking executive coupes out there.
Quite often, you can simply save a few bucks by looking at the lower end of a premium automaker’s range, but you don’t have to settle for second best. Teslas, for example, are a little pricey, but the money they save you, in the long run, is well worth it, and the high-tech, high-performance vehicles you get to enjoy in the interim leave little room for regret. Mazda, on the other, is starting to become a more premium brand, and its 3 Sedan and CX-5 crossover are easily among the more popular models for sale in the USA, even with their sub-$30 price tags.
Here are just a few of the top-rated, premium-level cars you can find in the US when shopping on a strict budget.
Many of the economy brands like Toyota and Honda have been introducing their own luxury division, and one of their key selling points is that they deliver similar levels of comfort and refinement to European brands at a fraction of the price. Genesis is the latest in the line and may have mastered the art completely. The luxury wing of Hyundai first released its flagship G80 only five years ago, but it was the follow-up G70 that really made a splash.
At less than $40,000, the compact exec is really bringing it to the big names, like Mercedes and BMW. The standard inline-four engine won’t wow, but it is smooth and efficient. On top of that, the driving dynamics are nothing to sniff at. They really have the power to shine when paired with the optional twin-turbo V6, though. The fuel economy is not amazing, regardless of specs, but that is hardly unusual in the gas-powered luxury segment.
The interior is very upscale, and the build quality is excellent. The best materials are used, and comfort is always a primary concern. Heated seats with massage functions are available, and the best driver-assistance systems are included as standard. It only takes a hit when it comes to the infotainment suite. However, the biggest thing holding it back is a lack of brand awareness. It will take some time before Genesis has the same following of its competitors, despite the fact that its products are already on the same level.
The smallest SUV in the Swedish brand’s garage is also one of the most desirable. Available as a standard gas-powered crossover or an all-electric Recharge variant, it’s one of the most stylish compacts on the road. Naturally, the electric version is a bit more outlandish in its appearance, thanks to a solid grille and high-powered LED Thor’s Hammer headlights. But, as we move into a more electric age, this is becoming the new norm, so Volvo is getting ahead of the competition.
Inside, the SUV is gorgeously styled, and the materials used leave little to complain about. And, of course, the standard infotainment and safety suites are fully loaded, right from the get-go. In conjunction with comfortable seats and an array of comfort features, this makes the cabin a very pleasant place to spend your daily commute.
Two spacious rows and commodious cargo capacity help round out the luxury family hauler. Even in the gas-fed configuration, it boasts compelling fuel economy figures, but the Recharge is the way to go if you want class-leading mpg and extremely low monthly bills. Add this to its reasonable starting price, and it’s easy to see why this luxury crossover is turning heads.
BMW Z4 Roadster
Sports cars have always been seen as irresponsible purchases. This is even more true when it comes to convertibles. Deleting the rear seats and leaving almost no room for a usable trunk, they still ask for more money than a much larger and more practical vehicle. But is this just because of their nigh-peerless style and high levels of performance, or is there something more to these drop-top roadsters?
The BMW Z4 is a great example of what makes these particular vehicles so desirable. What you’re really paying for is the spirit of driving excellence. Perfectly refined for on-road handling and powered by an astounding selection of engines, the Roadster dispatches with the 0 to 60 mph benchmark in a mere 3.9 seconds when fully loaded. But it’s the eager playfulness of this drop-top that really entices buyers. Windy roads and corners are just a playground to this bimmer, and highways are a dare to let all caution fly to the wind.
Nevertheless, the most surprising aspect of this BMW is probably its price tag. In base form, you are looking at around $50k. That’s still a lot more than a Miata, which is another of the most beloved convertibles in the world, but it lacks the same gravitas as the German speedster. It also can’t compete in terms of cabin luxury and curb appeal.
True style is smart spending
As the automotive industry evolves, it is becoming easier to get behind the wheel of premium vehicles, though many manufacturers are still doing their best to raise the bar and keep things exclusive. However, there is plenty of room to shop smart and still hold your head high. Luxury and driving pleasure no longer have to be seen as irreconcilable with practicality and affordability.