MSRP: $33,990 - $58,200
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class remains the most accessible of the brand's models sold in the United States. Completely redesigned in 2008, the fourth-generation C-Class continues to deliver the expected levels of advanced engineering, design and safety features that keep it highly competitive within the entry luxury segment.
Why It's Luxury: Anything with the tri-star ornament on the hood is going to be seen as luxury. An E Class owner who hits on hard times isn't going to feel like a loser trading down to the current C Class.
Why It's Not: A soppy performing V6 and austere interior shows where they cut the costs to make this sedan start at $33,000. Even at that, though, certain Acuras and even a Buick LaCrosse feels like a much better ride and deal.
MSRP: $33,000 - $43,000
The Hyundai Genesis sedan is designed to offer the luxury appointments of much more expensive cars, for less.
Why It's Luxury: Quiet and luxurious cabin, and silky, peppy engine. This is one of the cars we recommend before signing on for a Mercedes C Class. The brand over-achieved on materials, features, and design to make it's point that it belongs in the club.
Why It's Not: For a lot of people, that Hyundai logo will just never be seen as a legit luxury product worthy of bragging on. We think it's worth noting that the Hyundai logo is meant to reflect two people shaking hands. It's a nice back story, and a very nice car.
MSRP: $44,450 - $57,500
The second-generation Volkswagen Touareg sport utility vehicle is larger and more spacious, yet lighter and more economical than the model it replaces.
Why It's Luxury: Priced above $40K, and above $60K for the hybrid, the Touareg shared development and shares an engineering platform with the Porsche Cayenne SUV.
Why It's Not: Volkswagen does not equal luxury. Someone buying a VW today priced above $40K is not looking for a luxury statement, because it's just not there.
MSRP: $30,975 - $37,700
The Volvo S60 is a sporty, dynamic sedan combining excellent performance and a great design with outstanding safety features. New for 2012 is a front-wheel drive T5 model.
Why It's Luxury: Well put together, and good materials. The Swedes are good on fit and finish. Priced around $30L, but you can get up closer to $40K after adding features with no problem. Nobody over 45 needs an explanation of why you'd buy a Volvo if you could afford a Bimmer.
Why It's Not: Out of date controls in the car. Old power-plant under the hood. Volvo has always been more of a car Subaru owners graduated to than a brand that really rivaled BMW or Benz.
MSRP: $29,610 - $35,150
The Acura TSX is a sport sedan that offers a satisfying blend of performance, style and efficiency. The TSX boasts a muscular appearance and great handling, complemented by enhanced comfort, convenience and safety features. New for 2011, the TSX will be available as a Sport Wagon.
Why It's Luxury: The top of the line Acura , the RL, is priced above $50K. Honda calls Acura its luxury brand.
Why It's Not: Starts under $30K, and is built off a Honda Accord. Not a great four-cylinder engine. Acura doesn't have the marketing imagery right yet. But it's only been 25 years working on it. Give them a chance.
MSRP: $34,605 - $36,495
Lincoln's entry-level MKZ has dynamic American luxury styling with features only found on cars costing thousands more.
Why It's Luxury: Sweet job on the interior to differentiate it from the Ford Fusion on which it is based. Lincoln brand has more claim to luxury status than Acura. Tradition.
Why It's Not: It was badged engineered. That means it starts out life as a Ford Fusion, and then they start bolting different stuff on. That's no way to run a luxury brand. Happily, the replacement will be distinguished from the Fusion replacement.
MSRP: $26,995 - $33,765
The Buick LaCrosse is a sophisticated mid-size sedan, available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations. It seats five passengers in comfort while providing confident handling and a smooth ride.
Why It's Luxury: Quieter than a Lexus ES350, better performing and cooler styling than the Lexus or the Acura TSX. What's not to like? Sweet ride.
Why It's Not: Starting price below $30K. Luxury of your name is Homer Simpson in terms of the brand cachet of Buick after so many years of many misfires. Premium? Yes. Luxury? Stay tuned. Show us more.
MSRP: $19,245 - $31,740
Replacing the Sebring, the 200 forges its own identity with modern styling and a refined cabin, underpinned by responsive handling and innovative technologies.
Why It's Luxury: It just isn't. Maybe the replacement will get closer to the mark. But we just don't think a car whose starting price is under $20K can claim "luxury" status. The Chrysler brand can get to Volvo-like status. And that is true luxury for someone who has been driving Toyota Yarises for most of their life.
Why It's Not: Because anyone with sanity and a pulse will tell you so.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee retains Jeep's legendary off-road prowess while providing many luxurious and technical amenities. For 2011, the Grand Cherokee has been completely redesigned and offers a new stiffer body structure, a new V6 engine and more advanced technology features.
Why It's Luxury: Jeep is a transcendent brand. Nobody we have ever known who had a luxe brand like BMW or Benz on one side of the garage and a Jeep on the other side ever had to explain it. Jeep has always been a member of the club.
Why It's Not: From time to time, Jeep turns out a real dog, like the Jeep Commander or the original Compass. Those misfires hurt the brand with Niemen Marcus crowd. Also, with Lexus, Mercedes, BMW and Acura all full-on in the SUV game, some old Jeep buyers have left the brand.
MSRP: $48,950 - $109,800
The Chevrolet Corvette is the best high-performance value in America. The Corvette delivers supercar performance for the price of a midsize luxury sedan.
Why It's Luxury: The ZR1 version of the Vette costs North of $100K. Though it carries a Chevy badge, the Corvette has long been its own brand under the GM tent.
Why It's Not: The Chevy badge will make it a non-starter with many well-heeled car collectors and sports car enthusiasts. That goes especially for import buyers. Sometimes we see parts in the Corvette from much cheaper GM cars. C'mon fellas.
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