Luxury cars have long been associated with exclusivity, prestige and hefty price tags. However, in recent years we have seen more and more automakers bringing luxurious features and styling to more affordable model lines. This trend is expected to continue strongly in 2023, making luxury cars more accessible than ever before. Here’s why luxury cars are set to become the new standard of affordability and accessibility.
Lower Barriers to Entry
One of the main reasons luxury cars have remained out of reach for many buyers is their high cost of entry. Premium brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi have traditionally carried high starting prices, often $50,000 and above for their base models. However, many are now extending their lineups downward to capture more of the middle market. New model lines like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, BMW 2 Series and Audi A3 now start below $35,000, bringing the core styling, craftsmanship and technology of these brands to a wider audience. With competitive financing offers as well, they’re more attainable than ever before.
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More Value for Money
Affordable luxury cars are offering buyers more features and performance for the dollar than similarly priced non-luxury models. At the $30,000 to $50,000 mark, mainstream brands like Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen field competent but unexceptional vehicles content-wise.
In contrast, entry-level luxury cars at this price bring amenities like leather seats, advanced infotainment systems, and powerful turbocharged engines even on base trims. The gap in refinement and technology continues up the range, where well-equipped compact luxury SUVs can be had for the same price as sparsely outfitted non-premium counterparts. Dollar for dollar, affordable luxury models deliver exceptional value.
Focus on Efficiency
Luxury doesn’t have to mean poor fuel economy and emissions any longer. Premium brands have invested heavily in efficient powertrains in recent years, with downsized turbocharged engines, hybrid systems and electric vehicles spreading across lineups. The Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3 each deliver over 30 mpg combined. BMW’s efficient “i” sub-brand of plug-in hybrids and EVs has gone mainstream. With options like these, drivers can enjoy both luxury and efficiency. Even high-end performance models from Mercedes-AMG and BMW M are adopting hybrid powertrains for a major boost in mpg without sacrificing acceleration. Efficiency will only increase as more models electrify.
One area where luxury brands justify their premium pricing is by integrating the latest automotive technology into their vehicles sooner than the mainstream competition. This rings true even for their most affordable models.
For example, all Mercedes entry-level models now come standard with advanced driver assists like autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assist.
BMW’s budget 2 Series coupe sports a huge digital dashboard. And Audi’s A3 introduces consumers to the joys of augmented reality with its futuristic head-up display. Luxury brands serve as the advance guard for new tech that eventually filters down to mass-market cars. Accessible luxury cars let buyers experience the future today.
The Growth of Small Luxury SUVs
Luxury SUVs make up an increasing percentage of premium auto sales, but they tend to carry higher prices. Entry-level luxury sedan models from Mercedes, BMW and Audi are an affordable route for consumers who crave that brand cachet.
However, SUVs remain popular, which is why those same brands have expanded their lineups to include small, affordable crossover SUVs like the Mercedes GLA, BMW X1 and Audi Q3. Starting at around $35,000, these integrate the comfort, features and status of their larger siblings at accessible price points.
With light off-road ability and hatchback practicality, they appeal to young professionals and small families seeking both style and SUV versatility.
More Options in the Used Market
For those buyers not quite ready to stretch to a new affordable luxury vehicle, there are expanding options on the used market. The rising popularity of leasing has fed a steady influx of well-equipped off-lease luxury vehicles after three years. This presents an opportunity to pick up cars like the BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 for under $25,000. Owners have absorbed the big depreciation hit, allowing used luxury buyers to get an almost-new premium car on a serious budget.
With certified pre-owned programs offering warranties and peace of mind, used is an especially smart route into affordable luxury.
Why Affordable Luxury Will Be the New Normal
Several factors suggest that the affordable luxury trend has true staying power, and isn’t just an automotive fad:
- Luxury brands enjoy strong brand recognition and loyalty that should continue even as they court more mainstream buyers. Moving down-market expands their customer base.
- Developing efficient new platforms and technologies enables more affordability without sacrificing quality or performance.
- Small cars and SUVs are a hot segment globally, and ideal for high-tech, entry-level luxury models to flourish.
- Consistent demand for affordable used luxury cars proves these brands retain their appeal at lower price points.
- Exclusive brands like Ferrari will always exist for the wealthy, but affordable luxury lets brands democratize luxury without diluting their core prestige.
For today’s consumers, luxury is no longer about unreachable aspiration. The notion of luxury being only for the privileged and wealthy has given way to luxury being sophisticated, high-quality and technologically advanced. These are values we all can appreciate, and affordable luxury cars deliver just that, without the shocking price tag. Given the compelling value, technology and efficiency being introduced at mainstream prices, top affordable luxury cars are poised to become the new norm for discerning drivers in 2023 and beyond.
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