Entry-level luxury cars (sometimes called near-luxury) used to be the awkward middle management of the manufacturer’s portfolio. Like Oldsmobile or Mercury, they weren’t affordable enough to sell well, but also weren’t luxurious enough to compete with true high-end luxury vehicles. Fortunately, times change. Olds and Merc are long gone, leaving success stories like Acura, Infiniti, and Lincoln to make attractive, comfortable, tech-filled vehicles worth a closer look. Here’s the six best entry-level luxury vehicles you can buy right now.
This mean looking sedan challenges the idea that luxury isn’t practical. This full-size Acura is a legendary value leader due to the reliability imparted with the Honda/Acura name, but it also gets loaded with cool technology. First though, the engine is a 3.5L V6 with over 300 horsepower driving your choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. FWD gets an automatic transmission, while AWD gets a trick dual clutch for precise control and greater efficiency. The rear shocks are computer controlled to adapt to any road surface, and there’s even the option of rear wheel steering. The RLX is for the buyer that wants high-tech, in a supple, confident ride. The exterior is chiseled like a stealth fighter, and that’s basically what this luxury ride is: stealth luxury that gets the job done.
From the ’80s Cimarron to 2000’s European market BLS, small Cadillacs were repeatedly beat down by the BMW 3 Series. Until now. Too small and sporty for real luxury, the most affordable Cadillac is the hard edged MMA fighter of the entry luxury segment. It’s a great car, and multiple award winner for its performance, steering response and handling, and interior. Sitting on the appropriately named Alpha chassis, the ATS offers a buyer’s choice of four engines and two transmissions that can drive either the rear wheels or all four. You can get an economical four cylinder (with or without a turbocharger), a base V6, or a potent twin turbo V6 making an impressive 464 horsepower. This makes the ATS-V faster around a racetrack than the BMW M3. If you want a professional sedan that thinks it’s a muscle car, Cadillac has your ride.
The Bentley-from-another-mother Chrysler 300 has been around for two distinct generations now. The first was 2005 to 2010 and offered impressive looks and performance. The second generation 2011+ car is the one to get however, especially the 2015+ mid-cycle upgrade. This car still has the imposing stature and distinctive looks of the original, but also a slick interior and Chrysler’s actually competent infotainment system, uConnect, plus sweet technology like adaptive cruise control. The 3.6L V6 is capable, but the 5.7L V8 has the punch to back up the looks. While the SRT-8 is no longer made, a few rare examples still show up sometimes. A supercharged 6.4L V8 has more power than the Bentley Arnage, and more gas mileage too. Want two tons of car for your money? If acres of quiet space is your style, the 300 is your modern, old-school luxury ride.
This car just looks more expensive than it is. Purposeful and powerful lines recall British GT cars of decades long past, with a heavy influence of sharp-edged modern art gallery. The mix of old and new works very well here, but the beauty is more than skin deep. Despite the sporting looks, the Q60 is a proper luxury car and won’t beat you up for traversing less than perfect pavement. It’s quiet, with comfy seats good enough for a coast-to-coast road trip. The 3.7L V6 is torquey, makes 330 horsepower, delivers decent gas mileage, and a surprisingly pleasant exhaust note reminiscent of Porsche. It’s no track car though, as Car & Driver stated it’s noticeably more luxury than sport. Oh, you can also get it in a convertible too, the only one on this list. This Infiniti is for the avant-garde driver that thinks BMWs and Mercedes are too common. Have some fresh style with your class, with the Q60.
Lincoln has been doing understated and sedate luxury for nearly longer than anyone. Far more than a Ford Taurus with leather, the MKS is competitive on its own. Lincoln designers expertly crafted a unique body for the MKS, making this large car (larger than the old Crown Vic) look svelte and stylish. The sleek waterfall grill and unique tail lamps are especially noteworthy. While the Ford stops the interior quality around the $30,000 area, Lincoln keeps the MKS going upmarket with leather and real wood, creating a luxurious feeling cabin topped by the excellent SYNC system. The 3.5L EcoBoost V6 makes tons of torque, making on ramps a breeze. Ergonomics are excellent, sightlines are great, and the sound system rocks (unless jazz is your thing), making this an excellent daily driver. It’s a calming Yoga With Adriene class after a hard day at work. The world needs this kind of quiet luxury.
Lexus manages to mix sportiness, luxury features, and practicality, and come up with a winner. The original IS300 is a minor cult hit in the US, a true sports car with a practical sedan body dropped on top. The current third generation IS offers a lot of variety for the driver that wants more than just a commuter car. The IS250 was the base model until 2015, with a four cylinder driving the rear wheels. You can also get the IS200t, IS300, and IS350. As you’ve probably guessed, the bigger number means more exclusive features and a bigger engine. The IS is way more than its engine though, offering bulletproof reliability, an entertaining driving experience, surprising gas mileage, and impeccable resale value. The IS simultaneously combines teenage driving fun and quiet mature confidence. That’s a heck of an accomplishment, and you owe it to yourself to test drive this car.