The words affordable and luxury rarely go hand in hand, but you may not have to pay a lot more for a luxury car than for a mainstream model. The average transaction price for a new car is about $33,000, and as luxury automakers fight for market share they are introducing new models that chase that price point. For the 2015 model year, the trend spreads to crossovers, with the introduction of compact models such as the Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Porsche Macan.
Kiplinger's looked for luxury vehicles that won’t break the bank in a range of categories. Using a sticker-price cap of $45,000, we ranked all the luxury offerings for performance, safety and value (including fuel economy and resale value) and then compared the front-runners' Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price with their sticker price to find vehicles with the biggest discounts. The Fair Purchase Price is KBB's best estimate of what you should pay for a new car based actual transaction prices, supply and demand, and regional and seasonal price variations.
Take a look at eight luxurious 2014 vehicles -- compact and midsize sedans, crossovers, a sports car, and a wagon -- that all have a Fair Purchase Price of less than $40,000.
BMW 3 series sedan
- Sticker price: $39,550 (328d RWD)
- Invoice price: $36,640
- KBB Fair Purchase Price: $35,420
- Resale value: 3-year: 47%; 5-year: 30%
- MPG: City: 32; Hwy: 45
The archetype of sports sedans and a Kiplinger’s Best in Class winner for 2014, the BMW 3 series maintains its reputation generation after generation for power on demand, a suspension tight enough to keep its composure in hairpin turns, and handling so agile it makes you want to take them. We picked the diesel model because it gives you 37% better overall fuel economy than its conventional-powertrain twin.
- Sticker price: $33,990 (2.5L Standard)
- Invoice price: $32,171
- KBB Fair Purchase Price: $32,102
- Resale value: 3-year: 44%; 5-year: 31%
- MPG: City: 22; Hwy: 33
Call it a 3 series fighter, because that was precisely Cadillac's goal when it introduced the ATS for the 2013 model year. Its exterior proportions mimic the 3's, but it has unmistakable Caddy styling, from its planted stance to its taut lines throughout. You'll find more horsepower (202 hp) in the base model than in BMW's entry-level 320i, as well as knee airbags and available rear-seat side airbags (which BMW doesn’t offer).
- Sticker price: $37,530 (base model)
- Invoice price: $35,210
- KBB Fair Purchase Price: $35,522
- Resale value: 3-year: 56%; 5-year: 41%
- MPG: City: 21; Hwy: 31
When Lexus redesigned the ES for the 2013 model year it not only updated the car's looks and increased its interior space but also enhanced its driving dynamics with a firmer ride and better road feel. Lexus upgraded the ES's features, too. You'll now find Siri Eyes Free Mode (which lets you seamlessly integrate contacts and music and get turn-by-turn navigation through your iPhone), a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert (to warn you if other cars are approaching as you back out of a parking spot), and ten airbags. The ES has the highest resale values in its class, and it's available in a hybrid model (sticker price: $40,410).
- Sticker price: $35,415 (base model)
- Invoice price: $33,325
- KBB Fair Purchase Price: $33,071
- Resale value: 3-year: 52%; 5-year: 35%
- MPG: City: 20; Hwy: 28
Redesigned for 2013, Acura's compact crossover now has more interior space, more-comfortable seating for passengers and added cargo room. It benefits from parent company Honda's reputation for reliability and has luxury touches such as Active Noise Control, as well as independent front and rear suspension and motion adaptive power steering for better handling. A navigation system with a 3,500-song hard disk drive is available. All-wheel drive is available at extra cost.
- Sticker price: $40,750 (xDrive28i)
- Invoice price: $37,745
- KBB Fair Purchase Price: $36,959
- Resale value: 3-year: 48%; 5-year: 32%
- MPG: City: 21; Hwy: 28
Though the X3 is a compact crossover, it drives like the brand's best sport sedan. Every model comes standard with all-wheel drive to enhance performance, no matter the road surface. The base 28i features an all-new 2.0-liter, 240-horsepower engine with twin turbocharging and an automatic stop-start system to improve fuel economy.
- Sticker price: $43,095 (base model)
- Invoice price: $40,148
- KBB Fair Purchase Price: $39,943
- Resale value: 3-year: 55%; 5-year: 42%
- MPG: City: 20; Hwy: 26
Infiniti's large crossover offers lap-of-luxury seating for seven. It has more rear-seat legroom than Caddy's Escalade, standard tri-zone temperature control and optional heated rear seats. The innovative sliding second row adjusts more than five inches and allows access to the third row without removing a second-row child seat. A hybrid powertrain that boosts overall fuel economy to 26 mpg is available for just $3,000 more -- just the thing if you've got a brood to haul but want to stay (kinda) green.
- Sticker price: $40,795 (base model)
- Invoice price: $38,003
- KBB Fair Purchase Price: $37,723
- Resale value: 3-year: 53%; 5-year: 37%
- MPG: City: 22; Hwy: 31
Audi's TT is as compelling seen from the curb as it is from behind the wheel. The monster grille, wide-set wheels and fastback rear end hint at the power under the hood: a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that can launch the car to 60 miles per hour in five seconds with the help of standard all-wheel drive. The TT is also available as a roadster. Its German-engineered handling mimics a Porsche’s, but the TT has better resale values and a lower price.
- Sticker price: $41,595 (Premium)
- Invoice price: $38,747
- KBB Fair Purchase Price: $39,198
- Resale value: 3-year: 45%; 5-year: 31%
- MPG: City: 20; Hwy: 27
Reintroduced last year after a seven-year hiatus, the Audi Allroad wagon combines the cargo space of a crossover with the driving dynamics of a sport sedan. Standard equipment includes all-wheel drive and a panoramic sunroof. Available options include side assist, which monitors your blind spots and can warn you of fast-approaching vehicles from as far as 150 feet back, as well as side airbags for the rear seats.
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