With new-car prices ever on the rise, the average new-car buyer might find it nigh on impossible to enter the luxury market. Hold on to that dream, dear readers, because here are five vehicles you can buy right now that allow you to have that premium feel without too much of a hit to your bank accounts.
While some examples in this list are from mainstream brands, their ambiance and driving experiences are decidedly more upscale. As such, we at Consumer Guide place them into our “Premium” categories. The only other “rule” is that these vehicles must carry a sticker price of less than $40,000, including destination fee. The figures listed here do not include options, but several of these vehicles can be equipped with extra-cost items and still come in under the above-mentioned threshold.
Acura TL Base
Its look remains polarizing, but under its skin is a premium-midsize sedan that’s powerful, has a solid ride/handling balance, and comes with a lot of features for the money. While I would have loved to use the sportier TL SH-AWD model, its price creeps just past our self-imposed $40,000 barrier. Still, the Base model is no slouch, thanks to its 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and slick 6-speed automatic transmission. As a final bonus, TL benefits from parent company Honda’s reputation for reliability and strong resale value.
BMW X1 xDrive28i
This small wagon might be the least-expensive BMW, but that doesn’t mean it scrimps on the things that are hallmarks for the brand. For its size, X1 is quite roomy, fun to drive, and fuel efficient. The model referenced here includes BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive, but if you live in an area where snow is not a concern, you can opt for the rear-drive sDrive28i and save $1,700. Despite getting a good chunk of change back from your $40,000 bill, you still get all the perks of BMW ownership, including no-cost scheduled service for 4 years/50,000 miles.
Buick Verano Premium
Verano might share some of its DNA with the less expensive Chevrolet Cruze, but the two cars couldn’t feel more different. The Premium trim level of this Buick stands out for its 250-horsepower turbocharged engine. It pairs with a 6-speed automatic transmission as standard, but you can get a 6-speed manual at no cost. On top of its great performance, the Premium includes such luxuries as leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, a Bose-brand audio system, rear-obstacle detection, and Buick’s excellent IntelliLink infotainment system. You can add a navigation system, sunroof, and premium paint color and still come in well under $35,000.
Volkswagen CC Sport
VW’s genre-bending “4-door coupe” strikes us as something like 80 percent of a Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class at about half the price. The entry-level Sport model includes heated 12-way power front seats, an HD Radio receiver, a cooled glovebox, and bi-xenon headlights, among other high-end features. You can even move up to the Lux model, which adds a navigation system and sunroof and still be a few grand less than our $40,000 ceiling. The cool thing about the Sport version, though, is that you can order it with a manual transmission. The Lux only comes with a 6-speed “DSG” automated-manual gearbox. Few other cars in this price range can match the fun yet easy-to-drive character of a Volkswagen with a manual transmission.
Volvo S60 T5
Arguably the best-looking and best-driving Volvo since the P1800 of the 1960s, the 2013 S60 is also a relative bargain. The 5-cylinder T5 has plenty of power and avoids suffering from the dreaded lag that can plague a turbocharged engine. You might want to spring for the $2,200 Premier Package, which nets leather seating, a power passenger seat, keyless entry/pushbutton engine start, and a sunroof. Those in colder climates can also add the Climate Package (heated front seats, heated windshield washers, upgraded cabin air filter) and all-wheel drive, and still be out the door for less than $40,000.