In Chevrolet’s commercials, the automaker touts the 2016 Malibu as offering the style and quality of a luxury car. One person in the ads even says it’s nicer than his BMW. We certainly think the new Malibu is an excellent car, but we started to wonder: What sort of used luxury cars could you get for the price of a Malibu? We took to Autotrader to find some of our favorites, with a self-imposed budget of around $31,000 — roughly the cost of a midlevel Malibu.
2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet — $27,800
If your kids don’t mind a squeeze — and you can convince your spouse that a 420-horsepower convertible is just what your family needs — then the RS4 might be the car for you. Consider it: You can get the thrill of the wind rushing by, with the top down on a beautiful summer day, rowing through the gears in your stick-shift, V8-powered Audi… all for less than $28,000. Find a 2008 Audi RS 4 for sale
1994 Hummer H1 — $25,000
This H1 is something truly special: the fundamental opposite of a Malibu. Big. Bulky. Brutish. Impractical. Capable of rolling over a Chrysler PT Cruiser. My favorite part about this car is that the pictures on Autotrader are taken in a perfectly normal suburban neighborhood, which truly shows this Hummer H1’s natural habitat. If you went out to buy a Malibu and came back with this … well, at least everyone would be surprised. Find a 1994 Hummer H1 for sale
2000 Bentley Arnage — $24,900
This is a true Bentley. A real Bentley. A full-size, old-school Bentley sedan with the 6.75-liter V8 engine, effortless steering and a waft-on-the-clouds ride. It looks like something an Uber Black driver aspires to; it looks like something children would stare at; it looks like you’re about to embarrass your neighbor and his Jaguar S-Type. This is quintessential British luxury — and for $24,900, it’s worth it. Find a 2000 Bentley Arnage for sale
2006 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG — $32,000
For those who like their color choices to be officially recognized by AC/DC and the Rolling Stones, there’s this black-on-black S65 AMG, a full-size luxury sedan that should do the job of reminding your neighbors and co-workers who’s boss. Nothing will beat the exhaust note of your twin-turbocharged, V12-powered Mercedes — and nothing will match its grunt, as traffic-light drag-race opponents (and your wallet) will certainly agree. Find a 2006 Mercedes-Benz S 65 AMG for sale
2008 BMW M5 — $23,873
Although most enthusiasts would forsake the E60 BMW M5 for the lighter, purer, cheaper-to-own E39, this particular E60 M5 seems to have something special. That something special might be the handsome blue exterior color, the 6-speed manual transmission, the gorgeous gray-leather interior or the absence of pretentious wood grain that usually finds its way into high-end luxury cars. Or maybe it’s the 500-hp V10 engine. Whatever it is, we like it. Especially for less than $24,000. Find a 2008 BMW M5 for sale
2006 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Wagon — $28,900
There’s no way you could make a list of ridiculous Malibu rivals and not include at least one unnecessarily fast wagon, and this 469-hp, supercharged, V8-powered gift from God seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Not only does it have rear-facing third-row seating like old American wagons, it also has a similarly large V8. Fortunately, its supercharger makes it even faster than the tuned Chevelle wagons of old. If your goal is to be understated, this silver E55 AMG is perfect — until, of course, your next-door neighbor leaves a strongly worded note in your mailbox after three mornings in a row of waking up to the sound of your bellowing AMG exhaust. Find a 2006 Mercedes-Benz E 55 AMG for sale
2007 Porsche 911 Carrera — $27,991
It’s impossible to hate the 911 because it just offers up so many benefits, including sleek classic styling, perfect on-road manners, an excellent design and a slick transmission that just goads you into shifting more and more and more. This one has a lot of miles, but it also has a reasonable price — it’s available for less than $28,000. And because this is a 911, you won’t even have to apologize for the headlights. Find a 2007 Porsche 911 for sale
2000 Aston Martin DB7 — $28,000
The Aston Martin DB7 shares its taillights with the Mazda 323. Seriously. But it’s an Aston Martin with a V12 and a manual transmission for under $30,000, so that doesn’t matter. It could share its taillights with a UPS truck, and it would still be cool. This is the British sports car of all British sports cars — and you’ll certainly be seen behind the wheel, because it’s a convertible, too. The interior is a beautiful white leather with black piping, the exterior is a stunning dark gray, it only has 58,000 miles, and it sort of has rear seats in case you sort of have children. Find a 2000 Aston Martin DB7 for sale
1986 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur — $29,900
"Since 1904," says the Rolls-Royce marketing team, "Rolls-Royce has created instantly recognizable motor cars that have made the marque an enduring icon all over the world." That’s certainly true. And while the 1980s may have been the period in Rolls-Royce’s history that proves the adage "they can’t all be great," it’s hard to care when you’re staring at a 21,000-mile Rolls-Royce for under $30,000. If you prefer driving boats to cars and don’t find anything too fundamentally wrong with the number of cows that were killed in the making of this ultra-luxurious interior, this 1986 Silver Spur will make you look and feel like royalty. Find a 1986 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur for sale
OK, so every car on this list might be the exact opposite of practical, which means they probably won’t interest many Malibu shoppers. But as Autotrader has demonstrated, the $31,000 you’ll spend on your Malibu could theoretically buy you something really interesting.
Andrew Murray and Seamus Cassidy are the founders of RedLine, a car blog that administers a daily dose of motoring journalism aimed at the car enthusiast. They can be found at RedLineCarBlog.com.