What Are Luxury Cars Selling These Days?

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There’s not much special – or even especially luxurious – about modern luxury cars. This is not to say they aren’t luxurious; of course they are. The problem – for luxury car sellers – is that everything is luxurious.

Just not as expensive, the main distinguishing feature of a modern luxury car.

Visit a new car showroom and see – and judge – for yourself. On the one hand, it is almost impossible to find any new car that does not have or offer electronic climate control air conditioning, power everything – including usually cruise control (often, adaptive – which means it automatically adjusts speed in relation to traffic) as well as intermittent wipers (rain-sensing, increasingly) heaters for the seats (becoming common as optional equipment even in “entry level” cars), LED headlights, interior ambient lighting and even fully LCD/digital dash displays.

Practically everything that’s new – regardless of price – comes with or is available with – the very latest “advanced” driver “assistance” technology, such as Lane Keep Assist, Automated Emergency Braking, Automated Self-Parking and so on. Assuming you want such “assistance.”

On the other hand, luxury cars – which also have these things – no longer have the things that formerly set them far apart from their lower-priced relations:

Exclusive engines. That is to say, different engines. The kinds of engines you could not get, period, in a lesser car. This being of the same principle that prevents a townhouse from being built adjacent to a proper home, in the better neighborhoods.

It was once expected that the very least you’d get for your money if you bought a luxury car was a six cylinder engine. So as to have more engine than a Chevy or a Toyota.

Well, what now? Unless you’re ready to spend really big money – as in six figures and up money – most of the current crop of luxury-priced cars come with the same – literally, in terms of their displacement and layout – turbocharged four cylinder engines.

An astounding number of these are 2.0 liters in size, the same size as the 2.0 liter fours that abound in everything these days.

A $36,995 (to start) 2021 Cadillac CT5 comes standard with a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine – and so does a 2021 Chevy Malibu Premium, which stickers for $33,370. The Malibu’s 2.0 liter turbo four actually makes more power (250 hp) than the Cadillac’s (237 hp).

But you pay less to get it.

An Audi A4, which stickers for $39,100 to start, comes standard with a 2.0 liter turbo’d four – and so does a $23,995 VW Passat, which is also a larger car with more backseat legroom. It also comes standard with leather trim, LED headlights, adaptive cruise control and an LCD touchscreen.

Granted, the Audi’s LCD touchscreen is bigger. But $15,105 (the difference in price between the Audi and the VW) seems like a lot to pay for it.

$50k-plus luxury sedans like the 2021 Mercedes E-Class and the BMW 5-Series both come standard with . . . 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engines. So does the $31k Honda Accord sedan. Its 2.0 liter turbocharged four makes 252 horsepower; the $54,200 BMW 530i’s 2.0 liter turbocharged four makes 248. The $54,250 Benz E350’s turbocharged four musters 255.

It’s more than slightly depressing – especially if you can remember when paying ten or twenty thousand dollars more for a car usually got you a lot more engine – and not just in terms of horsepower or even physical size.

There was real exclusivity in having the keys to a car with a V12 under its hood in your pocket. Jaguars used to offer these. Current Jags ,like $49,995 to start F-Pace (which is a crossover SUV) comes standard with – can you guess? – a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine. It makes 246 horsepower – slightly less power than the 252 hp 2.0 liter turbo’d four that’s available – for $30k – in the Chevy Equinox, another crossover SUV.

A Jaguar without a V12 – or at least a V8 – is like a cat without the purr. The purr was once expected when you paid Jaguar money for a car. Of course, you also generally got the climate control AC, the leather seats, the upgraded stereo, the nicer trim and a better-quality paint job.

Now, everyone – just about – can get those things. Because just about every new car either comes standard with them or can be ordered with them. Build quality – and paint quality – are generally excellent now.

This really closes the meaningful gap between the luxury-priced car and just cars, especially when you have a look under what’s under their respective hoods. 

It leaves not much reason to spend luxury car money, since you can get the luxury without spending the money. It also suggests something, which luxury cars might want to consider, before too many buyers figure out that what they’re paying for isn’t getting them more – or even much different. 

It is probably impossible for luxury car-makers to bring back V8s and forget V12 – not because luxury car buyers don’t esteem them but rather because the government doesn’t want anyone to have them, even those who can afford them. It is not because of cost that cars like the BMW 5, the Benz E and other such that cost $50k-plus come standard with 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engines. Rather, it is because of government decrees – especially as regards that deadly inert gas, carbon dioxide – that are making it de facto illegal to build larger engines no matter how willing and able people are to pay for them and (as in Europe) to drive anything with an engine at all, in some areas – with more areas to follow.

This is why engines have been getting smaller – and the same. It serves the dual-fold purpose of getting rid of engines and homogenizing cars, so as to make the electric car – the most homogenous car imaginable – a kind of fait accompli.

But that still leaves the problem of the luxury car. Or rather, of its price – and how to convince people to continue paying it.

Well,if we can’t have V12s, V8s – or even sixes and maybe not even fours, soon – how about some chrome, again? Billet and hand formed metal trim bits? Real cowhides, stitched by hand – as opposed to politically correct ersatz “leather,” stitched by a machine on an assembly line? Fine jeweled works in the dash rather than a cheesy – and cheap electronic displays?

Why not let luxury car buyers order their car – and select their color, not from a roster of colors but painted any color they wish? Bring in a sample – the factory will make it so. Such exclusivity – and individuality – might make it worth spending luxury car money on a new car again.

. . .

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36 COMMENTS

  1. Probably a big reason why Tesla is kicking BMW’s and Mercedes’ butts in the luxury car market is that traditional luxury cars are nothing special. Tesla for better or worse has the “look at me aren’t I cool” factor.

  2. For the price of a stripper german, I can get a V8 powered Muscle with options, charger included if you need 4drs for more whores

    What does a bmw or benz offer that a Mopar or Mustang doesn’t offer?

  3. I think one of the biggest issues is today’s consumers buy badges and not products. The Jag, Lexus, BMW, etc are just to flaunt how much money you have to waste (or credit as that seems to be more the case). They don’t care if the car is basically a rebadged Toyota just as long as it ‘looks’ exclusive.

    Over the last 35+ years they convinced kids, mostly via clothing, that quality doesn’t matter so long as you have the right label… the result is all those people grew up (my generation) and carried that over into other asset types.

  4. What you’re saying in effect, Eric, is that modern “luxury” lines are akin to that 80s abomination, the J-car Cadillac Cimmaron.

  5. The styling of modern luxury cars has also become quite vulgar and plebeian. What ever happened to elegance?

    The only modern luxury car I’d be interested in purchasing is a Weismann roadster. Those are supremely elegant and very reminiscent of the stunning Jaguar C-Type.

  6. Just update the definition of a luxury car to require a starting price of at least $165,000. At that level, you will find your nice big engines, quality materials, ultra-quiet interiors and (hopefully,) more aesthetically designed exteriors.

    To refer to something like a $60,000 Audi as an “affordable luxury car” is oxymoronic.

    • Just have it be spoken of favorably by Jeremy Clarkson, that should distinguish it. I do like the big Brit lout, but he is a bit of a “posh” SNOB.

  7. Even back in the days, they were never special.

    I grew up in Colts Neck (To the non jersey folks, upper middle class/lower upper town in Monmouth County) and saw NOTHING but germans, all leases that were driven from A to B without care or passion, essentially just glorified econo cars with rwd and slush boxes.

    Never saw the appeal then, and still don’t, only car that does it for me is the e36/46 M3 and E39 M5, and that’s only because they’re iconic tuners with balls and potential.

    Sent this to my sister actually, so when she looks, doesn’t have the rest of my family trying to influence her to get an overpriced hooptie

    • Zane,

      Wow we really were close to each other, considering i grew up in Middletown. Dad had 1 german car which was my first solo drive ever. He had an 85 BMW 318i. Even for bmw standards it was tiny, slow, 4 door and no leather. He kept that car till 1999 when it finally died and then began driving fords. My mother on the other hand had to have status, status, status. From a Mercedes suv to mulitple Lexus suvs. She wouldn’t even ride in my dad’s ford. After she passed last year the first thing my dad did was hand back the lexus and get a basic mazda to replace it.

      • Wow, we really are close, Hola Neighbor!

        Sorry about your mom btw first of all. I think it really came to a head when I had an ’16 Mustang Convertible (EB sadly, long story on why) and realized that everything “Luxury Cars” offer I can get in Good ol’ Muscle and Pony cars for a lot less, classic more bang for the buck.

        Besides that, had an ’07 A4 since at the time I believed in the Cult of AWD and while it was fun and heavily modded (Fbo), didn’t feel luxurious to me, just a nice sedan that offset being gray with a stick, and seeing my one friend in “Luxury Cars” (C300/G37x/XTS) also makes me wonder why pay for the badge, other than rwd vs fwd equivalent when pushing it.

        Which Mazda did he get btw?

        • He ended up with the cx5. That way he has space for the grand kids when i need his help. Its funny i started down my mother’s path getting an 00 pathfinder LE then came to my senses and got a ford. Now my idea of luxury is a pickup with a bed liner 4WD and a big enough ground clearance to get down the access roads at some of the camp sites we frequent without bottoming out.

          • Exactly! Love my (Ram) Rebel, does everything I need it too and then some. V8, tons of room, rugged and durable, and just handsome and mean sounding enough to make dinky little sauerkraut’s with their weed whackers feel generic and conformist. Got my own Ford on the way, but everyone here will kinda hate to find out what it is.

            CX5 is solid as well, if my sister weren’t lazy, she’d of test drove one already, but think she’s gonna just keep her 3rd Gen RDX, which is solid, but need stickier rubber and pads/rotors for the spongy braking

      • And if they dont, theyll get a Jewcedes instead (Lexus)

        Between the town next door and the Bennys invading the shore, 9.5 out of every 10 RX’s, NX’s or ES are driven by a jew, other 0.5 are asians

  8. Funny- but they haven’t made vehicles that would appeal to me for decades now. All of this emphasis on luxury….. I have no interest in luxury, nor the desire to pay for it. I want utility- and even in vehicles they now call “Sport Utility Vehicles” there is little utility but lots of luxury; and any non-luxury vehicles- which they euphemistically label “economy vehicles” do not fit the bill, as they are always cheaply-made non-durable SMALL shitboxes.

    What I would want would be large sturdy well-made but simple vehicles, with vinyl bench seats; vinyl/rubber floor covering, manual transmission, large powerful engine, durable paint- i.e. no fancy see-your-reflection-in-it base coat/clear coat…just acrylic enamel, which still looks nice, but lasts long and cheap and easy to touch-up or recoat if needed. Only luxuries I need are A/C, P/S, and P/B.

    Surely I can not be the only person desiring such a vehicle! But no one has made such a vehicle in DECADES- although they used to be the norm- and when they were, the average person could afford to buy them, because they were made in large numbers, which kept the prices low- and they weren’t festooned with a veritable dictionary of bullshit gizmos and cosmetic flourishes, which add virtually no value, but which do add much cost.

    I don’t want a pick-up truck with a panoramic sunroof and fold-out steps and full carpeting….I just want a simple truck that will not break if you drive it through a small mud puddle, and that will not still be worth $20K when it is 20 years old and require that the cab be taken off the frame to perform a repair.

    • Theres plenty of clean Chevy C/K pickups in the south selling for economy car prices. They may not be new but they’re damn simple and available with the options you crave and tons of parts availability. I’d say the only bad part to work on these old GM trucks is that sadistic saginaw steering column. Search autotempest anywhere in the sunbelt for these trucks, you’ll get tons of hits and they’re a bargain compared to the new rolling mortgage payments on the dealer lots.

    • I wish we could buy those Toyota pickups that the ragheads use in Shitganistan and elsewhere; rugged and reliable is all I want.

      • Mike,
        I’m a “Cargo Cultist” just like you! After blowing all that money in (insert country name here)..they should allow good ol’ murkins to get first dibs on all the good S— Uncle Sam leaves behind!

        It would make the proles happy, but piss off car dealerships, so you know where that option will go.

  9. I can think of a couple of things luxury cars still sell. The first is much higher materials quality inside. Compare a Ford Focus interior with, oh, a Mercedes A class, which is a similar category car. The second is bragging rights to your neighbors, which seems to be worth a lot of money to a lot of people.

  10. My wife had leased a Lincoln MKX at one point and then right after a Ford Edge which is essentially the exact same car. In fact short of the fake wood trim, softer leather seats and the air conditioned seats in the mkx the suv’s themselves drove and rode almost identically. Oh and the mkx had heated rear seats which were useless to us since the back seat at the time had 2 car seats in them. I think the only other difference was the edge had navigation and the mkx it was only an option at the time that i wasn’t paying for. The only reason that we got the mkx was the dealer was trying to unload their stock of Lincoln’s at the time because they were becoming Ford only dealership and the lease numbers were identical.

  11. “the same principle that prevents a townhouse from being built adjacent to a proper home, in the better neighborhoods”
    And yet not so long ago, I have no idea if it’s still the case, Houston had no planning and zoning laws at all. If you wanted the neighbor restricted to what you desired, the only way to accomplish it was to buy their property. As it should be. Having worked in construction most of my working life, I once witnessed a neighbor to the property I was working on literally weeping because the former wooded lot next door was now being built upon, with the expected clearing of said lot. She literally screamed “what can I to do to stop this?” I told her that the lot was for sale before it was bought by the current owner. Which resulted in even louder screaming.

  12. The end game of socialism. Force all to assume the lowest common denominator. Don’t bring the lowest up, the cost is too high, tear the highest down. Not that many of today’s highest don’t NEED tearing down (A. Fauci for example, who won’t be torn down), but there are those who don’t deserve such.

  13. I had a couple of occasions to drive the current model (2021) Audi Q5 recently, as a loaner while the older model was in the shop.

    I was appalled at how chintzy all of the interior appointments were. Most of all, of course, the disposable-looking iPad jutting out of the dash, but everything from the seat material to the craptastic push-button parking brake control to the just-awful LCD fuel gauge (which only had like six “blocks,” so no granularity at all) just reeked of flimsy ephemerality. Driving it, I felt encased in the rapidly diminishing material standards that we ‘Murkins are being accustomed to. The dive in production quality as compared to the 2015 model was stark, to say the very least.

    We ‘Murkins used to be like pampered pets, still enjoying the pats on the head accorded the “Greatest Generation,” and a place to sleep at the Master’s feet on the bearskin rug next to the fireplace.
    Now, we’re getting the off-brand kibble and we are being forced, for the first time, to sleep in the outdoor kennel, with the work-dogs, as the pitter-patter of rain is turning into a right squall…

  14. Some time ago, I got in to it with a Tesla Model 3 owner on Twitter over EVs vs ICEVs. I told him that, until EVs offered the same value ICEVs do, they wouldn’t gain traction. I used my car as an example. I told ’em that my Ford Focus cost 1/3 of their M3, while offering 70%-80% of the capability of his M3. I said that, while I’d looked at a Model 3 (true), I simply couldn’t justify paying 3x more for a Model 3. This person shot back and said that my car wasn’t a LUXURY car, while his was! I pointed out that my Focus has A/C, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, and so on; I pointed out that, when I was growing up, only luxury cars had these things; so, as far as I was concerned my Focus is a luxury car. He didn’t say much after that… 🙂

    • The first car I drove was a 62 Chevy. In the glove box was the original window sticker. Which listed the HEATER as an option. Luxury is relative. You cannot now buy a truly base model unit. Even by current company base line standards. Go to any car makers website, and “build your own” without any options, and then search for that car. None found.

  15. ‘the same principle that prevents a townhouse from being built adjacent to a proper home, in the better neighborhoods’ — eric

    Ask the folks on Monument Avenue — said to be a good address in Richmond, Virginia — as Robert E Lee’s statue is ripped from its pedestal this morning by marauding Governor Coonman.

    Inadvertently, backhandedly, unintentionally, the jubilant New York Slimes blurts out the truth:

    ‘the South came up with its own version of the war — that it was a noble fight for states’ rights, not slavery.’

    Funny how some of them soldiers and generals in gray held that view before the unpleasantness even commenced. And some of us still do today.

    It wasn’t enough for nine fedgov hacks in black to obliterate Amendment X, reserving powers (including secession) to the states and the people. Now Demonrat panderers like Governor Coonman feel obliged to erase even the memories and symbols of long-ago noncompliance.

    Here’s the bleak Ceausescu-style capital you get when historical cleansing is complete, again according to the Slimes:

    ‘What is left is a city littered with empty pedestals, a kind of symbol of America’s unfinished business of race that is particularly characteristic of Richmond.’

    So gloated the yankee conquerors: Richmond delenda est! The text would make a perfect plaque to grace that empty plinth, in a backwater city now denuded of its history and its heroes, and probably of any future as well.

    Farewell, General Lee.

    • American Taliban is right. Godless empty souls serving their new religion of a satanic communist government God. Theres no accomodation with these lunatics. Its when not if the blood will start flowing.

    • Same throughout Dixie. The death of a drug addled violent criminal meant that memorials to honorable men had to be ripped down. Makes perfect sense. BTW, the new Mississippi flag sucks.

  16. What’s the opposite of luxury –austere, frugal, something like that? That’s what I’d prefer in exchange for a lower price tag and less stuff to break.

    • Indeed. Long ago, the running joke about Jaguars was, why hasn’t Jaguar ever made a successful sports car? Because there is no back seat for the mechanic to ride in. The more complex a machine, the more likely it is to fail.

      • Automakers could easily adopt Python (programming language) constructs such as:

        Beautiful is better than ugly.
        Explicit is better than implicit.
        Simple is better than complex.
        Complex is better than complicated.
        Sparse is better than dense.
        In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
        If the implementation is hard to explain, it’s a bad idea.
        If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.

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