Audi A3 - Affordable Luxury
 Audi A3 - Affordable Luxury
 Lexus IS 250 - Affordable Luxury
 Acura TSX - Affordable Luxury
 Volvo C30 - Affordable Luxury
 Hyundai Genesis - Affordable Luxury
 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class - Affordable Luxury

The average price for a new car in 2010 is just below $30,000 so it's easy to assume a car with plenty of luxury features could cost $40,000 or even $50,000. But that's not always the case, many premium brand cars offer lots of luxury for about the same price as a loaded Toyota Camry, you just have to know what to look for.

Here are a few new cars that offer plenty of luxury and a reasonable price.

 

Small No Longer Means Econobox

Audi's A3 is essentially a compact wagon but with a distinctly premium feel and entertaining performance. $29,000 gets you the A3 2.0T Premium which includes a turbocharged engine, six-speed manual transmission, leather seats, dual zone climate control plus a 10-speaker audio system with a subwoofer and satellite radio. Or, for about the same money you could get the intentionally less sporty Toyota Camry XLE V6. We'll take the Audi.

The Lexus IS 250 pulls off a trick similar to that of the Audi A3. The $32,000 base price for the IS 250 includes the expected leather, keyless entry, Bluetooth, sunroof, power front seats and the like; however the real coup here is that Lexus really delivers on the luxury side of things. Luxury is more than just expensive stuff, it's also marked by quality and comfort and the IS has that in spades. The IS 250 may not shine on slalom or a racetrack like the BMW 3-Series or Infiniti G37, then again how many people actually live near slalom or a racetrack? The Lexus IS 250 is great everyday car, the premium feel combined with a not too harsh ride make it a good compromise between the firmer BMW 3-Series and the larger, softer Lexus ES. Because Lexus chose to keep luxury front and center, the IS 250 ends up feeling like a more expensive car that it really is.

 

Premium Brand No Longer Means Overpriced

The Acura TSX is priced just under $30,000, although some see it as a less than a true sport sedan because it's front wheel drive. Competitors like the Mercedes-Benz C300 and BMW 3-Series are rear wheel drive, a set up that arguably delivers better performance when it comes to acceleration and cornering.

But focusing on front or rear wheel drive really misses the point of the Acura – it's an entry-level luxury sedan that manages to deliver both sophistication and value. The cabin is filled with well placed controls, high quality knobs and switches and an amazing sound system. Plus, the Acura TSX offers similar performance to European sport sedans – for thousands of dollars less. Opt for a 2010 Acura TSX with the Technology package and the car is still a grand less than a BMW 328i. The BMW does have 29 more horsepower but here's a short list of features you'll have to pay extra for on the BMW: Sunroof, leather seating, power seats, Xenon headlights, multi CD changer, name brand stereo, satellite radio and in-car satellite communications (like OnStar).

 

Look for Less Popular Names

Everyone knows Volvo but the Volvo C30 three-door hatchback still isn't a household name. The 2011 Volvo C30 is also a relative bargain when compared to more popular European brands. It's powered by a 227 horsepower, turbocharged five-cylinder engine. Even the $24,600 base model includes many expected luxury features like power accessories, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, stability control and Bluetooth. Add the sporty looking R Design package with tighter suspension, leather, unique gauges, fog lights, and bigger wheels and the price is still well under $30,000. Again, the car is front wheel drive, but the C30 is plenty quick and its ability to combine sport, luxury and value in one tidy package is compelling.

The same is true for Hyundai's new Genesis. It's a large, luxurious, rear wheel drive sedan that's available with either a V6 or a V8, has a richly finished interior and is offered with tons of cool options. The Genesis 4.6 comes with a V8 engine, leather everything, heated seats, Lexicon stereo, navigation with real time traffic and on and on the list goes. Add a few options and the Genesis 4.6 can hit $44,000. We're not saying $44,000 is affordable and it is a bit more than our loaded Camry example but if you compare the Hyundai Genesis 4.6 to any other similarly sized, V8 powered, rear wheel drive luxury sedan you'll find the Hyundai is about half the price yet there's no evidence of cheap materials or cost cutting with the big Hyundai. Road manners are excellent and the interior is rich, warm and unique with luxurious touches like stitched leather on the dashboard.

 

Forget Assumptions

If someone were to ask which is more expensive a Toyota or a Mercedes-Benz most people would say Mercedes. But that assumption isn't always right. Toyota's well-respected Land Cruiser has a base price of $65,000, the similar Mercedes Benz GL450 is $5,000 less expensive even though the Benz is more distinct looking outside and has a cabin filled with higher quality materials and greater attention to detail overall. The Land Cruiser might be better off-road but if you use your SUV primarily for trips to work, school, church and the mall, the extra off-road hardware won't matter.

Of course looking for a well-kept used luxury car could really save money. Look for a luxury car that's two or three years old, if you can find a clean example of the previous style, even better. Since luxury items are frequently purchased as a sort of lifestyle accessory and not just transportation, the previous model of a Mercedes-Benz or Jaguar may be perceived as outdated no matter how little it's been used and accordingly, those high dollar cars depreciate more quickly.

 

Everyone likes to have something that's a little nicer or a little more exclusive than the norm. That can mean spending more money since nice things usually cost more. But that rule doesn't always apply; value and luxury can coexist. Look for cars that are off the well-worn path and forget assumptions about certain brands – even if you think it's out of your price range, go to a Mercedes-Benz dealer anyway just to see if there's a C300 or E350 that's in your price range. Of course you can always stick with the mainstream makes and models, but we bet you'll kick yourself when you realize you could have had a luxury car for about the same price as a loaded Toyota Camry.

author photo

Brian Moody has been an automotive writer and presenter for more than 10 years. He has contributed to such media outlets as CNBC, Fox Business, the Today show, Speed TV, Edmunds.com and KTLA in Los Angeles. He currently covers the automotive industry and reviews new cars for the nationally syndicated Car Concerns radio show.

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