Fast, fancy, and full of the latest automotive tech, luxury doesn’t have to be out of reach. Here’s our top 10 affordable luxury vehicles of 2021.
Affordable luxury might sound like a contradiction in terms. And if the amount you pay influences your enjoyment of a product (which science tells us it does), the lack of a high price tag might sap the pleasure from your purchase. But getting a great deal can be its own source of happiness, and if it comes along with a snazzy-looking new luxury car, all the better. We searched across multiple segments for the very best balance of value, driving enjoyment, and the highest of high-tech features in the luxury automotive market. Below is a list of our favorite top 10 affordable luxury vehicles of the 2021 model year.
The “Ultimate Driving Machine” comes in many forms. From the M3 to the X7 their common thread is always an excellent driver engagement. The same holds true for this most economical of Bimmers, the 2 Series. The 2 Series comes in either 2-door coupe or a 4-door “Grand Coupe” (which is technically a sedan with a rearward sloping roofline). A lively driving experience is enhanced with the optional manual transmission and standard rear-wheel drive (an all-wheel drive option is also available). The refined cabin and, by BMW’s current standards, a conservative yet attractive exterior, round out the package.
The elegantly styled Lexus ES pairs its good looks with a comfortable ride and serene interior space. The ES offers a luxury experience worthy the name without having to forgo your retirement savings in exchange. New for 2021 is the ES 250 with a 4-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive to supplement the V6 and hybrid powertrain options. Lexus built its brand on making luxury affordable, and the ES continues that tradition ably.
The Genesis G70 would already impress with its great handling, high-quality interior, and plentiful standard features, but that it also starts well under $40,000 makes it arguably the most attractive sedan buy on the market. Engine options include a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder (252hp) and a 3.3L twin-turbo V6 making 365hp. Bonus points for Genesis offering the 2.0L with a six-speed manual option. For a luxury sedan that ticks all the boxes, sporty, smooth, and well-wrought, the G70 is a great option.
Zer Germans have a knack for sporty luxury cars and Audi A5 is a prime example. Available as either a two-door coupe or cabriolet, the A5 leans on all that Teutonic engineering for a car only truly happy when you’re tossing it into corners a little harder than good sense would suggest. The power and drivetrains up the ante with smooth power delivery and responsive shifts all the way up. The A5 Sportback adds two extra doors and a rear hatch. If you’ve always fawned over the Porsche’s Panamera, consider the A5 Sportback as a reasonably priced alternative.
Another Lexus, another great deal in affordable luxury. The Lexus RX350 competes with other mid-size crossovers that start at $10,000 or more over its base price. That the RX350 can boast being one of the (if not the) most reliable vehicles you can buy only sweetens the deal. A sharply-styled and calm cabin compliment the spacious rear hatch and optional all-wheel drive to produce a luxury crossover that’s at once attractive, practical, and affordable. That’s a luxury crossover trifecta. For a vehicle that makes you look as smart as you are, buy the RX350.
The Audi Q5 leans heavily on its good looks and generous modern convivences to woo buyers. While not as sporty as the likes of the Porsche Macan or BMW X3, the Q5’s main attraction is being fancier than either of those crossovers. Standard tech features include smart phone wireless charging, voice commands, and a tollbooth payment transmitter. Additional tech options include a digital gauge cluster and a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen. The plug-in hybrid option grants both the highest power output, at 362hp, and 20 miles of electric-only range. With loads of tech and panache to spare, the Audi Q5 is a strong option for an affordable luxury vehicle.
While we are sad that Ford continues to cut sedans from their lineups, the loss of the Lincoln Continental this year comes with a consolation prize, great luxury SUVs in its place. The Lincoln Corsair is one of these. Options include 19- or 20-inch wheels, a panoramic moonroof, a 14-speaker Reveal stereo system, and an available plug-in hybrid powertrain that grants up to 26 miles of electric range. The Corsair isn’t as nimble or quick as its more expensive European competitors, but it easily rivals them with copious modern features and a stunning interior. Ford has made major strides in sound deadening compared to other domestic OEMs, and it shows in the quiet cabins of their Lincoln products, including the serene Corsair.
Subcompact crossovers have been gaining popularity in recent years thanks to a combination of ride height, utility (both real and imagined), and affordability. That last factor is key in the luxury space where these diminutive SUVs pack an oversized amount of value into their tiny frames. The BMW X1 ranks as one of the best in the segment. With a spritely and engaging driving experience, this is one crossover that doesn’t sacrifice fun in the name of utility. The turbo four-cylinder and eight-speed automatic transmission are a joy to put through their paces. While some feel the X1 isn’t the most inspiring visually (the Mercedes offerings of the GLC and GLA are prettier), we liked the measured approach from BMW. The X1 demonstrates the big value in small packages ethos that defines luxury subcompacts.
Scandinavian design can be thought of as the European equivalent of the classic Japanese aesthetic of power through simplicity. Only today, modern Japanese automakers have been keen on pushing into bolder looks, both inside and on the outside of their vehicles. Volvo has kept true to being quietly bold with their XC40 subcompact crossover. The XC40 is the total package. The two 2.0L turbo four-cylinders come in 187hp and 248hp varieties. Both are paired with a smooth and eager eight-speed automatic. Volvo, known for its emphasis on safety, packs a whole host of standard safety options into the XC40, including blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, rear parking sensors, automatic emergency braking, and much more. Refinement, bountiful technology, and a cossetted ride make the XC40 a great entry point into the luxury auto market.
We’ve already sung the praises of Mercedes’s smallest vehicle the GLA here. And so, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include it in our list of the best affordable luxury vehicles around. The updated styling looks very sharp indeed, the handling also saw vast improvements, and of course, the quality of the interior is a clear notch about the competition. Even without an AMG version, the GLA’s turbo four-cylinder has plenty of pop and the suspension channels that power to the pavement for both agile handling and a smooth-as-glass highway ride. Between the loads of tech and the next-level interior, the Mercedes-Benz GLA feels like a much more expensive vehicle than it is.