Getting behind the wheel of your own luxury car isn't as expensive as you may think. In order to lure younger drivers or first-time buyers to their brand, many upscale automakers offer entry-level models. In many cases, these slick rides are less pricey than the tricked-out vehicles from less fancy brands.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA four-door coupe starts as low as $32,700 MSRP, and the base model is nothing to sneeze at. It looks great and feels great with a sleek coupe profile, comfortable seating for five and ample cargo room.
A 208 horsepower turbo inline-four engine is standard, and it turns less fuel into more torque. The ECO Start/Stop function automatically pauses the engine at red lights to save fuel while Dynamic Select lets you choose a driving mode. The CLA also features a diamond-block grille and LED tail lamps, as well as a standard 8-inch color dashboard screen, Bluetooth wireless audio streaming and HD radio stations.
The options for personalizing or upgrading your CLA seem almost endless, with both packages and individual features available. Exterior options include different grilles, wheels and accents. Upgrade the interior with leather seats and multicolor ambient lighting. Four entertainment and convenience packages include features like blind spot assist, rearview mirror compass, GPS navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
A la carte extras include a panoramic roof ($1,480), Harman Kardon sound system ($850), Parking Pilot ($970) and an illuminated Mercedes-Benz three-point star for the hood ($450).
BMW 2 Series
The BMW 2 Series comes in coupe and convertible styles, with the slightly less expensive coupe base priced at $34,800 MSRP. Standard features include a sports-inspired eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Dynamic Stability Control provides traction when accelerating — "locking" your car to the road — while Dynamic Cruise Control allows for a relaxed driving experience. Inside, BMW's iDrive system enables voice commands for everything from finding a destination to choosing a radio station. Power adjust seats are standard.
BMW's packages increase the luxury. The eight-part convenience package includes features like ambient lighting, garage-door opener and keyless entry, moonroof and lumbar support. Additional options include heated front seats and steering wheel, navigation system with real-time traffic information and remote services and an extended instrument panel.
For a mere $500 you can add the Driving Assistance package with back-up camera and sensors in front and rear bumper to assist with parallel parking. To conquer winding roads, the $2,300 Track Handling package combines enhanced steering, suspension and brakes with specially designed Michelin Pilot Super Sport performance tires.
Beyond the tier upgrades, you can trick our your 2 Series with features like wireless charging and Wi-Fi hotspot ($500), Harman Kardon surround sound ($875), Apple CarPlay ($300), carbon fiber spoiler ($745) or carbon fiber mirror caps ($770), and adaptive LED headlights ($800).
Cadillac offers one of the more expensive entry-level luxury cars — the $35,495 Cadillac ATS sedan. But you get a lot for your buck.
The 2.0-liter turbo direct-injection engine with Automatic Stop/Start is standard. But drivers have a choice between six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission, as well as a choice of rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. The 17-inch premium painted alloy wheels with all-season run-flat tires are also standard.
Among the many features standard in the ATS passenger cabin include a Bose surround sound system and 8-inch color touchscreen, voice recognition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, teen driver technology, rear vision camera and power front seats.
If all that's not enough, drivers can upgrade their Caddy with progressively more inclusive and expensive versions ranging from the Luxury Trim (MSRP from $39,295) to the Premium Performance packages (MSRP $47,895).
What do you get for that $13,000 premium? How about a 3.6-liter, V-6, direct-injection, 335 horsepower engine with Active Fuel Management and Automatic Stop/Start, all kinds of parking and blind side assistance, lane and collision alerts, auto-dimming mirrors, power tilting and telescoping steering wheel, universal remote, illuminated exterior door handles, sunroof, upgraded suspension, and a full-color heads-up display that projects info on the windshield.
All of the luxury marques offer some sort of entry-level experience. Among them are the Porsche Macan crossover SUV (from $47,800), Jaguar XE four-door sedan (from $35,725), Lexus NX crossover SUV (from $35,985), the Land Rover Discovery Sport compact SUV (from $37,795), or the Lincoln MKC crossover SUV (from $33,355).
Feeling exotic? The "entry-level" Ferrari, the California T, starts at $198,973.