Many car shoppers think you have to get a high-end BMW or Mercedes-Benz for a luxury experience. But most drivers don't realize many luxury cars are available for $35,000 or less. We've listed a few of our favorite budget-priced upscale models. And while they may not have the presence of cars and SUVs from the top luxury brands, you may be surprised just how many amenities are available for $35,000 or less.

Acura ILX

Acura's latest model is an entry-level luxury sedan called the ILX. Based on the Honda Civic, the ILX delivers premium features without a premium price tag. In fact, the front-wheel-drive sedan starts at less than $27,000 for a base model, or $32,000 when equipped with the Technology Package. We recommend that model, since it offers useful technology, such as a text message reader and Acura's navigation system with restaurant reviews, traffic updates and weather alerts. It also boasts leather, heated front seats and a power sunroof. Best of all, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the ILX's gas mileage at a thrifty 24 miles per gallon city and 35 mpg highway. Drivers who want more power than the base model's 150 horsepower can even step up to the ILX 2.4, which uses the 201-hp 4-cylinder from the sporty Civic Si.

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Buick Verano Premium

Our $35,000 budget is enough for the top-level Premium trim of Buick's new compact Verano luxury sedan. In fact, the Verano Premium starts at $30,000 with shipping, leaving much room for options. Then again, most drivers won't need to spend the extra money, since the Verano Premium comes loaded. Standard equipment includes Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system, dual-zone automatic climate control and a proximity key with push-button starting. Options include navigation for $895 and a power sunroof for $900. The Verano Premium is also a good buy thanks to its new 250-hp turbocharged engine, which launches the sedan to 60 miles per hour in 6.3 seconds. Despite the power, fuel economy remains a respectable 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

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Chevrolet Equinox LTZ

Chevrolet's popular Equinox crossover offers luxury-car features in its high-end LTZ trim level. Starting around $32,000, the Equinox LTZ easily fits into our budget. But we recommend adding GM's optional 301-hp 3.6-liter V6, which provides smooth power in all situations. Drivers won't need many other options, since the Equinox LTZ is so well equipped. Examples include such aesthetic features as 17-inch alloy wheels and bright chrome trim. But the Equinox LTZ also uses a reversing camera, a remote starter, automatic climate control and Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system with a full color touchscreen.

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Ford Fusion Titanium

The Titanium trim is Ford's top-level version of the newly redesigned Fusion midsize sedan. Titanium models start around $31,000, which is a good deal considering their long list of luxury features. Such items include handsome 18-in alloy wheels, a proximity key, a remote starter, leather and heated front seats. Also included is Ford's SYNC infotainment system with a center-mounted MyFord Touch screen. And since there's still money left over for options, drivers can add navigation for $795, a hands-free parallel parking system for $895 and a $1,200 driver assist package, which boasts Ford's rear cross-traffic alert system and blind spot detection.

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Honda Accord EX-L

Although you may know the Honda Accord as a traditional family sedan, today's model is a far cry from the sparsely equipped Accords of the 1980s and 1990s. For around $31,000, the Accord EX-L offers a long list of features. It includes typical high-end goodies such as leather upholstery and heated front seats. But it also has a navigation system, an 8-in touchscreen and a rearview camera. Safety technology includes lane departure and forward collision warning systems. And all EX-L models come with Honda's new LaneWatch system, which uses a helpful camera on the passenger side to help drivers monitor the sedan's blind spot. For around $34,000, drivers can even step up to the Accord Touring and get adaptive cruise control and a powerful 3.5-liter V6.

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Hyundai Santa Fe Limited

The Hyundai Santa Fe Limited feels like a luxury SUV at a budget price. It starts around $34,000 with shipping. And while that's on the edge of our budget, drivers won't need to add any options, since the Santa Fe Limited comes loaded. Standard features include a power lift gate, a proximity key and a push-button starter. The Santa Fe Limited also features 19-in alloy wheels, rear climate control and Bluetooth. It also boasts leather upholstery on all seats, including the standard third-row. Best of all, it even satisfies drivers looking for passing muscle, since its 290-hp V6 helps it reach 60 mph in under seven seconds.

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Lexus CT 200h

Most shoppers will be surprised they can get a brand-new Lexus for under $35,000. Indeed, the hybrid CT 200h hatchback starts around $33,000 including shipping. While many models exceed our budget when equipped with options, negotiating at a dealership can often bring the CT 200h within our bounds. Even if pricing is a little too high, the CT 200h will make up the difference at the gas pump: The small hybrid returns 43 mpg city and 40 mpg highway, making it one of the most fuel-efficient luxury models. It also includes a lot of equipment, such as Lexus's SmartAccess keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth and 17-in alloy wheels.

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What it means to you: As our latest list shows, many luxury cars are available to drivers who don't have a 6-figure budget.

author photo

Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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