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Entry-level Luxury: 10 Premium Cars on the First Rung of the Luxury Ladder

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
May 24, 2011
5 min. Reading Time

As the years have gone by, making that first step into the luxury car universe has grown more and more appealing thanks to the powerful engines, driver-oriented chassis tuning and loads of technology features and options that have become part and parcel of purchasing an entry-level luxury car. At the same time, a broader range of affordable models have also become part of the first time premium car buying experience as a larger number of automakers add compact or small mid-size luxury car choices to their lineups.

Let’s take a quick look at 10 premium cars that can be found on the first rung of the luxury ladder.

01. 2011 Buick Regal CXL

The 2011 Buick Regal compact premium sedan provides buyers of the base CXL trim with features such as 18-inch wheels, heated leather seats, dual automatic climate control, power everything, the OnStar telematics system and Bluetooth connectivity. A sunroof and a navigation system are available as options on the Buick Regal.

The surprisingly well-equipped 2011 Buick Regal CXL also comes with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that sends 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel mileage for the Regal CXL is rated at 19-mpg city and 30-mpg highway, which places the sedan in good company in the luxury car segment.


02. 2011 Acura TSX

The 2011 Acura TSX offers small four-door passenger car shoppers with a tight, athletic chassis and a long list of standard equipment. The entry-level Acura TSX provides a sunroof, HID headlights, power leather seats for the driver and front passenger (heaters included), Bluetooth integration and a premium audio system.

The 2011 Acura TSX also comes with a peppy four-cylinder engine that squeezes out 201 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque from its 2.4-liters. Drivers who would like to row their own gears can do so via the four-cylinder TSX’s optional six-speed manual transmission, while a five-speed automatic gearbox comes free of charge. The TSX offers a fuel economy rating of 22-mpg around town and 31-mpg on the highway.


03. 2011 BMW 128i

The 2011 BMW 128i is most definitely a driver’s car, packing exceptional handling and good acceleration and passing power into its compact coupe design. The high performance nature of the BMW 128i blends well with the luxury features that come standard on the vehicle, including dual automatic climate control, HD radio and BMW’s leatherette upholstery. Options for the 128i include a Sport package (stiffer suspension, grippier seats, sleeker exterior trim) a Convenience package (rear parking sensors, HID headlights) and a Premium package (sunroof, Bluetooth and genuine leather seats).

Under the hood, the 2011 BMW 128i offers a 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine that is tuned to provide 230 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. Managed by either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, this engine returns fuel mileage numbers of 18-mpg in city driving and 28-mpg during highway cruising.


04. 2011 Mercedes-Benz C300

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport represents the starting point for the German brand’s sedan portfolio. The compact Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport mixes the elegant luxury that the automaker is known for with the kind of nimble driving experience that is more common in the smaller premium car class. A sunroof, dual automatic climate control, Bluetooth integration and LED running lights all come free of charge, and satellite radio and HID headlights can also be had as options with the compact four-door car.

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport is motivated by a 3.0-liter V-6 that puts out 22 horses and 221 lb-ft of twist, and transmission choices include a six-speed manual and a seven-speed automatic. The Mercedes-Benz comes with an EPA fuel mileage rating of 18-mpg in stop and go driving and 26-mpg on the highway.


05. 2011 Lincoln MKZ

Somewhat larger than several of its entry-level luxury rivals, the 2011 Lincoln MKZ offers mid-size passenger room and comfort at a very competitive price. The Lincoln MKZ comes in one well-appointed trim level that offers items such as heated and ventilated leather seats, the Sync vehicle interface, power front buckets with a memory feature for the driver and keyless entry. Also available are an optional navigation system, a THX audio system and a sport suspension.

The 2011 Lincoln MKZ is paired with a 3.5-liter V-6 as its standard engine, which offers the base front-wheel drive model 263 horsepower and 249 lb-ft of torque. Fuel mileage of 17-mpg city and 24-mpg highway is made possible in part by the inclusion of a six-speed automatic transmission.


06. 2011 Lexus IS 250

The 2011 Lexus IS 250 is a luxury sedan that pairs its affordability with the Lexus reputation for quality and reliability. A sunroof, dual automatic climate control, Bluetooth, an iPod interface and power front seats are all included with the Lexus IS 250, while a number of packages are available to add equipment like a navigation system, a rearview camera, HID headlights, ventilated front seats and 18-inch wheels.

A 2.5-liter V-6 is included with the 2011 Lexus IS 250, and it is capable of producing 204 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. Sportier acceleration is available to drivers who choose the vehicle’s six-speed manual transmission, but a six-speed automatic is also available. Fuel mileage for the IS 250 shows as 21-mpg city and 29-mpg highway.


07. 2011 Saab 9-3 2.0T

The 2011 Saab 9-3 2.0T sedan offers Scandinavian flair in the entry-level luxury segment. Like all versions of the Saab 9-3, the base 2.0T trim level comes with leather seats, a CD player and heated mirrors. Options for the four-door automobile include seat heaters, a sunroof, OnStar telematics system and satellite radio.

The 2011 Saab 9-3 2.0T benefits from a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that offers 210 horsepower. The 2.0-liter unit also generates 221 lb-ft of torque, and this output is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission (standard) or a five-speed automatic (optional). The 9-3 returns fuel economy figures of 21-mpg around town and 31-mpg during highway driving.


08. 2011 Audi A3 Premium

The 2011 Audi A3 Premium shrinks down the luxury car company’s premium formula and applies it to a compact hatchback whose interior design lifts it above most other five-door models in its class. The Audi A3 Premium provides driver and passengers with dual automatic climate control, a CD player, leather seats, and 17-inch wheels, while available equipment such as a sunroof, heated seats, a sport suspension system and 18-inch wheels can also be had with the hatchback.

The 2011 Audi A3 Premium comes with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that knocks out 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive, the A3 can be shifted through either a traditional six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual. Fuel mileage for the Audi is rated at 21-mpg city and 30-mpg highway.


09. 2011 Volvo C30 T5

The 2011 Volvo C30 T5 proves that the Swedish car company can combine cutting edge styling with its penchant for automotive safety. The Volvo C30 T5 trim is the most attractively priced edition of the compact premium hatchback, and it offers power everything, cruise control, Bluetooth wireless integration and 17-inch wheels. Available through a number of different packages are options such as HID headlights, heated seats, and automatic climate control.

All editions of the 2011 Volvo C30, including the T5, are matched with the same 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine. Thanks to the use of a turbocharger, this motor puts out 227 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque while returning fuel mileage of 21-mpg in city driving and 30-mpg during highway cruising. Transmission choices for the C30 include a six-speed manual and a five-speed automatic.


10. 2011 Infiniti G25

The 2011 Infiniti G25 provides luxury buyers with the least expensive entry point into the brand’s sedan lineup. Despite its more affordable price, the Infiniti G25 still comes with desirable features like HID headlights, keyless entry, power leather seats and automatic climate control as standard equipment.

Powering the 2011 Infiniti G25 is a 2.5-liter edition of the automaker’s famed VQ V-6 engine, which is good for 218 ponies and 187 lb-ft of torque. The rear-wheel drive G25 offers well-balanced driving dynamics, and unlike other entry-level premium cars it comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission free of charge. The sedan’s fuel economy is rated at 20-mpg city and 29-mpg highway.



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