The idea of a 4-cylinder luxury car is something of a new initiative here in the United States. For most of us, luxury cars and V8 power have been synonymous. However, facing ever-higher corporate average fuel economy requirements, manufacturers have had to innovate their way out of that corner. Thus we’ve seen tremendous advances in turbocharging, direct fuel injection, and variable valve timing. The result is more power from less displacement, along with better gas mileage. If you still think a luxury car has to have a V8, it’s time to recalibrate your perceptions. Take a look at these, the best 4-cylinder luxury cars.
The Best 4-Cylinder Luxury Sedans
Photo Credit: Lyndon Bell
Another factor contributing to the rise of 4-cylinder luxury cars is the introduction of the compact entry-level luxury car. In this area, the benchmark is the Audi A3. Offered in sedan, convertible, and five-door hatchback configurations, all A3 models feature four-cylinder power. The base engine is a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbo with 200 ft-lbs of torque. The 220-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline fired engine is paired with all-wheel drive and makes 258 ft-lbs of torque. The turbodiesel 2.0-liter is good for 150 horsepower and 236 ft-lbs of torque. All three get six-speed automated manual transmissions as standard equipment. Pricing starts at $29,900.
Audi A4 2.0T
Among the best 4-cylinder luxury cars, Audi’s A4 compact luxury sedan offers tasteful styling, a quiet and comfortable ride, entertaining handling, all-wheel drive, and an exceptionally nice interior treatment. Long considered one of the most desirable models in its category, the A4 2.0T’s power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine with 220 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque. Front drive and a continuously variable transmission are standard; all-wheel drive is offered with a choice of a six-speed manual, or an eight-speed automatic. Pricing starts at $35,500.
Audi A5 2.0T
Volkswagen, Audi’s parent company, is well known for deriving strong performance from small displacement engines. If this list seems a bit Audi heavy, it’s because the luxury marque is big on 4-cylinder engines. The very epitome of class, style, and elegance, the 4-cylinder version of the Audi A5 also delivers one of the nicest interior treatments on the road, along with good performance, and lest you forget, there is in fact a convertible version as well. Audi A5 2.0T propulsion comes courtesy of a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 220 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual is standard for the coupe, while an eight-speed automatic is optional; but standard for the convertible. Pricing starts at $40,000.
The Acura ILX has been reworked for 2016 and now ranks as one of the best 4-cylinder luxury cars. The redesign imbued the ILX with more sportiness and a more premium nature. The changes include new exterior styling, an upgraded interior treatment, a new engine, and revised suspension tuning. Agility, good power, and a wealth of contemporary tech make the revised ILX a strong competitor among compact luxury sedans. Power comes from a 201-horsepower 2.4-liter inline four with 180 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed dual-clutch automated transmission routes power to the front wheels. Pricing starts at $27,990.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Hunting
While BMW is famed for its silken sixes, the marque’s 4-cylinder engines are quite formidable as well. As a result, the 4-cylinder powered BMW 228i blends a creamy-smooth driving experience with tenacious roadholding, a refined interior treatment, and outstanding build quality. Offered in both coupe and convertible configurations, power for this rear drive entry on the best 4-cylinder luxury cars registry comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged powerplant with 240 horsepower and 255 ft-lbs of torque. An eight speed automatic transmission is standard; a six-speed manual is a no cost option. Pricing starts at $32,100.
This might be news to some of you, but Buick has a performance-oriented reputation going back for decades. Verano, the marque’s current compact luxury car entry, offers excellent handling with more than adequate power. Sealing the Buick’s status as one of the finest 4-cylinder luxury cars is handsome styling, a comfortable ride, and a sumptuous interior treatment. Power for the front-drive Buick comes from either a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic transmission, or a 250-horsepower turbocharged version of the same engine with the six-speed automatic, or a six-speed manual. Pricing starts at $23,380.
In the grand tradition of comfortable American sedans, Buick’s LaCrosse flagship is a full-size luxury automobile. As the top model in Buick’s contemporary lineup, the LaCrosse is bristling with comfort and convenience features. Meanwhile Buick’s “Quiet Tuning” keeps the interior serene. So, how does LaCrosse make it onto a list of the best 4-cylinder luxury sedans? Most people are surprised to learn the Buick’s base powerplant is a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor to produce a total of 182 horsepower. This is fed to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing starts at $31,065.
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Cadillac’s entry-level ATS model flaunts sharp styling, an impressive interior treatment, and an engaging driving experience—along with cutting edge comfort, convenience, and safety technologies. Offered in four-door sedan and two-door coupe body styles, the 2015 styling update brought a new grille and Cadillac logo. Meanwhile, 4G LTE WiFi capability and wireless charging for portable electronic devices are also newly available. The base powerplant is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 202 horsepower and 190 ft-lbs of torque. There’s also a 2.0-liter turbocharged four with 272 horsepower and 295 ft-lbs of torque. Rear-drive and a six-speed automatic are standard. Pricing starts at $33,215.
Lexus CT 200h
One of but two 4-cylinder cars produced by the highly regarded luxury brand, the Lexus CT 200h 4-cylinder luxury car combines impressive fuel economy with a luxurious feature set, distinctive styling, and delightful handling. Lexus teams a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with a pair of electric motors and a continuously variable transmission for a total system output of 134 horsepower. While the CT comes up somewhat lacking in the horsepower department, it more than makes up for it in terms of build quality, fuel economy, and standard features. Pricing starts at $32,200.
Lexus ES 300h
Lexus offers two mid-sized sedans. One is biased more toward a plush ride and a serene cabin environment, while the other is more performance focused. This is the quiet one. Propulsion for this plush mid-size 4-cylinder luxury car comes from a 2.5-liter inline four combined with an electric motor to produce a total system output of 200 horsepower. This is fed to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. Further, the ES 300h is one of but two four-cylinder cars offered by the luxury arm of Toyota. Pricing starts at $40,580.
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Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
Lincoln’s MKZ Hybrid is exceptionally handsome with a beautiful interior treatment, nice tech details, a comfortable ride, and a distinctive appearance. It’s also one of the most anonymous models on the market. Odd, since it is easily one of the best 4-cylinder luxury cars. Go figure. A 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder is mated to an electric motor to produce 188 horsepower. This is fed to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. Interestingly Lincoln asks the same starting price for both the hybrid version of the MKZ and the standard version. Pricing starts at $35,190.
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Fully redesigned for the 2015 model year, the Mercedes-Benz C300 was immediately heralded as one of the best 4-cylinder luxury cars. Longer and slightly wider, the new model offers a more spacious interior than its predecessor, along with more luxury and prestige. The 241-horsepower 4-cylinder displaces 2.0-liters and generates 273 ft-lbs of torque. The rear-drive four-cylinder powertrain uses a seven-speed automatic and offers all-wheel drive as an option. Pricing starts at $38,400.
Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz CLA Class
The Mercedes-Benz CLA 4-cylinder compact luxury car was the first front-wheel drive Mercedes sedan ever offered in the United States. Qualifying it as one of the best 4-cylinder luxury cars, a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is the sole offering—albeit delivered in two states of tune. For the CLA250 it makes 208 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque. For the CLA45 AMG, it produces 355 horsepower and 332 ft-lbs of torque, making it the most powerful 4-cylinder engine on the market. All-wheel drive is standard for the CLA45 and optional for the CLA250. Both use seven-speed automated manual transmissions. Pricing starts at $31,500.
The most innovative powerplant offering on this list of the best 4-cylinder luxury cars is fitted to the Volvo S60. Aspirated with both turbocharging and supercharging, the Volvo's 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine is also one of the two most powerful on this list. The highly pressurized Volvo propulsion unit makes a robust 302 horsepower and 295 ft-lbs of torque. For the 2015 model year, Volvo has also updated its mid-size luxury sedan offering with a new eight-speed automatic transmission and engine start/stop technology—while maintaining its leadership as one of the safest models in its class. Even with its safety badge of honor worn so proudly, the S60 is a solid performer with satisfying handling. Pricing starts at $33,950.