If the words "certified pre-owned” conjure visions of plain-vanilla transportation, it’s time to re-imagine that concept. Start by adding “exciting” and even “exotic” to the mix.
One of the best features of CPO programs is that they can put drivers behind the wheel of their dream car — refurbished luxury sleds that most buyers can’t touch as new models.
In fact, prestige brands Lexus, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz were among the pioneers of the CPO concept back in the ’90s. They were joined soon after by programs from BMW, Audi and (eventually) virtually all of the usual luxury suspects — including relatively recent converts Ferrari, Maserati and, yes, even Bentley.
Let’s say you see yourself in a BMW 3-Series sedan, an iconic entry-level luxury model that’s more accessible than ever as a CPO. A recent search on third-party site Cars.com showed plenty of late-model local rides, like a slick black 2008 328i with a sticker price less than $24,000. Being certified, it’s been polished to nearly new condition and has fewer than 30,000 miles. In fact, no BMW makes the certified cut unless it falls within a five-year, 60,000-mile range. And all certified BMWs are backed by a warranty that spans a full six years and 100,000 miles.
Behold the magic of CPO — making prestige rides appear in budget driveways. For manufacturers and dealers of high-end autos, it’s all about bringing the brand to a wider audience.
“Our CPO vehicle program has helped to broaden BMW’s customer base in the U.S. considerably,” said Peter Miles, executive vice president of BMW of North America. “It is an important tool in attracting a new generation of BMW buyers and we expect many to move up to new vehicles when the market improves.”
Want to get behind the wheel of a 2008 Bentley Continental Flying Spur and harness its mighty 552-horsepower 6-liter W-12? Maybe an Azure drop-top is more your style.
Bentley offers these CPO models and more, none older than seven model years. Each qualified Bentley undergoes a 154-point reconditioning process — even the lambs-wool rugs are inspected — protected by a comprehensive one-year warranty with unlimited mileage.
Ferrari Maserati Beverly Hills recently listed a 2004 Ferrari 360 Spider F1 convertible — with just a smidge over 3,000 miles — for $115,000. (For comparison’s sake, a new 458 Italia Spider — successor to the 360 and 430 convertibles — is expected to start north of $250,000.) The same dealership put up a 2005 Ferrari 430 F1, decked out in a “grigio Silverstone” finish, for $139,900 — still a pup with only 11,289 miles. That’s a relative pittance for this sexy low-slung rocket born of Formula One heritage and bearing a 490-horsepower V-8.
Ferrari’s recently re-tooled program only accepts models up to 8 years old — with no more than 60,000 miles — and the reconditioning process covers 190 points. All certified Ferraris get a 24-month factory-based warranty from date of certified purchase.
Maserati is even more selective, only accepting models that fall within five years and 90,000 miles — and the values are head spinning.
Recent deals (within a 30-mile radius as listed on Cars.com) included a 2007 Quattroporte for less than $49,000 or a flashy 2008 GranTurismo coupe listed for under $68,000. Certified Maseratis are protected by a limited warranty that spans one year from the date of certified purchase or 90,000 total miles, with 24-hour roadside assistance.
Eco-friendly luxury is finally hitting the CPO market in a big way. High-end hybrids have been around for about six years, and have recently been joined trendy clean-diesel models — the latter especially dominated by luxury brands.
Leading the way for Mercedes-Benz is the clean-diesel E320 BlueTEC, which debuted in 2006. R-, ML- and GL-Class 320 BlueTEC models are also available, each of which packs a V-6 engine rated at 211 horsepower and 25 mpg highway. Only models with fewer than 75,000 miles get into the Benz program.
New to certified lots, the Audi A3 TDI offers the same entry-level luxury as its gas-powered A3 brethren and can be found heavily discounted at less than $25,000. This hot hatchback comes with Audi’s comprehensive 300-plus-point inspection and coverage spanning six years and 100,000 miles.
It’s joined in the ranks of newly available CPOs by Audi’s pioneering TDI clean-diesel Q7 SUV, which packs 225 horsepower and offers a range of more than 600 highway miles per tank. Of course, the Q7 TDI has the quiet ride and distinctive options expected of a luxury SUV, including navigation and panorama sunroof.
Lexus offers a handful of luxury hybrid CPO models, including the popular GS 450h, a high-performance sedan with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 292 horsepower and 25 mpg — proving that green does not necessarily preclude muscle.
Also proliferating among certified ranks is the Lexus RX 400h SUV, billed as the first luxury utility vehicle when it debuted in 2005. It’s a spacious and versatile ride with a 3.3-liter V-6 engine rated at up to 33 mpg. Each RX 400h gets a 131-point inspection and coverage spanning three years from certified purchase or 100,000 total miles.
Billed as the most fuel-efficient luxury vehicle in the U.S., the Lexus HS 250h sedan is a flashy mix of glitz and green, sporting a combined EPA rating of 35 mpg from a 2.5-liter 187-horsepower four-cylinder engine — further proof that eco-conscious values can play well with high performance.
—Bob Young, Custom Publishing Writer