NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Years after the recession, there's still a fair amount of scorn directed at the luxury car market and its conspicuously spending customers.
The U.S. auto industry reached 15.6 million vehicle sales in 2013 after bottoming out at 10.4 million in 2009. While the industry is on pace for 15.9 million sales this year, it's still well below the 17.4 million it rung up back in 2001.
Yet sales of luxury vehicles in the U.S. remain strong and just keep growing. Luxury car sales rose by roughly 13% in 2013, according to MotorIntelligence. This year, they're up 2.9% year-to-date and are outpacing sales of midsize cars (down 1.6% through October) and similarly plush, but cheaper large sedans (down 4.2%). Luxury SUVs, meanwhile, have seen sales soar 12.4% through October and surge ahead of pickups (4.4% growth) and the overall SUV sector excluding crossovers (7.6%).
Among the luxury automakers seeing the biggest bumps are Mercedes-Benz (9%), Audi (14.5%), Porsche (12.1%), Land Rover (8.7%) and BMW (11.3%). All have dabbled in vehicles with starting prices flirting with $30,000, and just about all have been rewarded for it. With help from the folks at TrueCar we found five luxury cars that are selling at a deep discount. They aren't exactly cheap, but they're considerably less expensive than their full-price counterparts:
5. Porsche Panamera S Turbo Executive
Market average: $183,912
Savings: $17,583 (8.7%)
Yes, you get a small sedan's worth of wiggle room in that price, but you're still paying the price of a small house for your vehicle.
But you already knew that. If you're even sniffing this vehicle, it's because you've progressed far enough in life to attain this car's 570-horsepower/4.8-liter V-8 engine and top out at 192 mph on the nearest abandoned stretch of road. Oh, and when the jealous folks a lane over start revving their sad little lawnmower engine while waiting for the light to turn green, feel free to blow them off the line by going from zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds.
Even that power and technical perks such as dynamic chassis control and red multi-piston brake calipers don't quite add up to the asking price. That's where the the leather interior, ParkAssist (front and rear sensors, electric slide/tilt glass sunroof, four-zone automatic climate control, soft close doors , eight-way rear power seats with seat heating and seat ventilation, a large center console with fold-out tables and electric roll-up sunblinds on the rear side windows and behind the seats come into play. Throw in the 16-speaker Burmester sound system, rear video screens with wireless headphones, touchscreen communication management system and standalone phone module and you'll want to think about making the Panamera your vacation home.
4. 2014 BMW 740Li
Market average: $71,617
Savings: $7,333 (9.3%)
This car is supposed to stand toe-to-toe with the Panamera, Mercedes-Benz's S-Class and the Audi A8, but it's lagged behind for a while now and is in desperate need of an upgrade.
Even in the “base” 740, however, you'll find 18-inch wheels, adaptive dampers, a self-leveling rear air suspension, adjustable drive settings, xenon headlights (automatic, adaptive and self-leveling), LED foglamps, automatic wipers, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, a sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and keyless ignition/entry.
Inside, there's you'll find four-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery and heated power front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment and memory functions. Tech features include the iDrive interface with a touchpad that recognizes a driver's signature, a central widescreen display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a navigation system, voice controls, BMW Assist emergency communications, BMW Apps smartphone integration and a 12-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface, HD radio, satellite radio and 20 GB of digital music storage.
It may not lead the pack, but it's comfortable just about anywhere on the road.
3. 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C250 coupe
Market average: $35,381
Savings: $3,744 (9.6%)
There was a time when this was the starter Benz.
The C-Class was the entry-level model that was supposed to yield to an E-Class executive future and sporty S-Class retirement. But the economy makes fools of us all, and Mercedes brought in the downmarket CLA-Class just to get a lower-priced option into U.S. drivers' hands.
That puts the C-Class firmly in the middle class and the C-250 in the most-affordable tier, but it also makes it a bit of a bargain a year before it's supposed to get a complete revamp. In the interim, the C250's 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, automatic headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, sunroof, climate control, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-way power front seats and split-folding rear seats will have to do. Toss in electronic features including the Mercedes Comand interface, a 5.8-inch display screen, Mbrace2 emergency communications and smartphone integration, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an audio system with a CD player, USB and auxiliary audio jacks and HD radio and you're getting as close to a bargain as you'll find in the luxury market.
2. 2014 Acura TL
Market average: $32,903
Savings: $4,022 (10.9%)
Honda's midsize luxury offering isn't as glamorous or sexy as some of its competitors, but it's what's on the inside that counts.
As luxury vehicles go, the TL is fairly staid and utilitarian on the surface. Nobody's gawking at it in commuter traffic. Nobody raises an eyebrow when it pulls into the parking lot. Nobody's intimidated by the sound of its standard V6 engine. Overall, nobody's awed.
That's a shame, as the base TL is absolutely loaded. Automatic xenon headlights, fog lights, a sunroof, heated side mirrors, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, real leather upholstery, heated eight-way power front seats (with driver-seat power lumbar adjustment), driver memory settings, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and an auto-dimming rearview mirror all come standard. So do tech features including a Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio input jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
If a buyer decides to blow some of that savings on the TL's tech package, he or she will get keyless entry/ignition, a navigation system, voice commands, a rearview camera, GPS-linked adaptive climate control and an Acura/ELS 10-speaker premium surround-sound audio system for the trouble.
1. 2014 Cadillac XTS
Market average: $38,879
Savings: $6,646 (14.6%)
They just don't put these kind of boats out to sea anymore.
The XTS is one of the last of the giant luxury vehicles that were once the foundation of U.S. luxury car buying. There are still cars this big, but the Chrysler 300 and Hyundai Genesis are more luxury-lite conventional cars. Even the old Toyota Avalon has been downsized to look more like a midsize Lexus.
This, and perhaps the Lincoln MKS, are the last of the luxury dinosaurs. Cadillac has been actively shunning that grandpa-car image, but it just can't help itself. It bulked up a 300-horsepower V6 engine by giving drivers an optional turbocharged 410-horsepower V6 to play with.
As for the car itself, it's a 17-foot-long beast — more than four yards' worth of vehicle. The trunk alone has an SUV-like 18 cubic feet of capacity. Standard equipment includes xenon headlights, heated mirrors, rear parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats (with power lumbar control), a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and leather/faux-suede upholstery.
Standard tech includes Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an 8-inch center touchscreen with Cadillac's CUE interface (for audio, phone and navigation), OnStar, voice controls and an eight-speaker Bose sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and HD radio. Upgrades include LED lighting accents, visible dual-exhaust outlets, illuminated door handles, rain-sensing wipers, adjustable thigh support for front passengers, extended wood interior trim, a heated steering wheel, driver and front-passenger memory functions, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, interior ambient lighting, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, an automated parallel-parking system, rain-sensing wipers, a 14-speaker Bose surround-sound system and a panoramic sunroof.
That's a whole lot of features packed into a whole lot of car, but XTS sales that doubled last year from 2012 suggest that there's still room for a hulking Caddy in U.S. driveways.
— By Jason Notte for MainStreet
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