Luxury cars can be so comfortable and enjoyable that it feels like a major downgrade when you go back to driving a mainstream model. By design, the exclusive driving experience comes at a price, both in the form of the initial purchase and ownership costs, which typically far exceed those of more humble vehicles. Before committing to a luxury model, realize that today's mainstream models are better equipped than similar cars from just a few years ago, providing more comfort, better fuel economy, and improved safety. Plus, they can offer many uplevel features that may put niceties within the reach of average car shoppers at thousands less than a luxury-branded model, but often without the thoroughness of design, special atmosphere, or prestige. Ultimately, it's an individual choice as to how your money is best spent.
One must note though that some features on high-end luxury cars tend to add more complication than real functionality. And some new safety systems found on most luxury cars, such as lane departure warnings, adaptive cruise control, and cross traffic alert, are nice to have but not foolproof. Plus, they are often included in packages that add considerably to the price.
Midsized luxury cars and luxury car-based SUV models, priced from $40,000 to $50,000 are generally a sweet spot in the market, offering driving enjoyment and coddling, without the fussiness or large footprint of a large luxury sedan or SUV.
Large and heavy V8-powered luxury cars tend to also cost you at the pump. Hybrid, turbocharged, and diesel powertrains are offered in a growing number of luxury sedans and SUVs to improve fuel economy, although the hybrids and diesels often come at a significant price premium.
Many luxury cars offer all-wheel drive for improved winter and inclement-weather traction. Traditionally, most luxury sedans have been rear-wheel drive. It is the preferred set up for ideal weight distribution, handling agility, ride comfort, and noise isolation. But all-wheel drive is a growing part of the market, and a majority of models offer it on at least one trim level.
Luxury cars tend to do very well in our tests due to their performance and comfort. But so do some well-appointed models from non-luxury brands.
If you want a luxury car, deciding whether to choose a sedan, SUV, or sporty model depends on your needs and wants. You can turn to our buying advice for those types of cars to help you narrow it down. Each type has several good vehicles to choose from. And most types also have several models that don't deliver on their luxury promise. Our Ratings will help you see the difference.