Yes, we realize the word affordable is a relative term. What is infinitely affordable to one might well be out of reach for another. With that said, for this guide to the most affordable luxury cars of 2012, we set the price cutoff point at $35,000—typically the upper pricing threshold for entry-level luxury cars.
The beauty of the best affordable luxury cars for 2012 is they all carry the nameplate and pedigree of some of the most prestigious manufacturers. As such, they are infused with the DNA inherent to those brands as well. This enables buyers on the relatively lower end of the spectrum to enjoy the benefits of owning, say a Mercedes-Benz or an Acura without incurring the pricing premium that goes along with buying one of the top models from those brands.
As we alluded to earlier, that also means buyers can take advantage of the driving dynamics, advanced equipment and cachet that goes with holding a key with a BMW, or Lexus logo on it. What follows are our picks for the most affordable luxury cars of 2012.
Acura’s TSX offers a sporty driving experience, a nice selection of luxury features and handsome styling, all in a sensible package. And while it is true the TSX is a Honda Accord in Europe, here in the U.S. the TSX occupies the entry-level affordable luxury car space. With features like heated leather upholstery, road noise cancelling, dual-zone climate control and a seven-speaker audio system, the TSX combines an entertaining drive with a host of comfort and convenience features—in addition to the prestige that goes along with riding behind an Acura badge.
Audi’s A3, while many will decry it as a VW Golf in disguise (yes, the two cars do share a platform) offers all of the attributes of the Audi brand in a smaller package. The legendary fit and finish of Audi’s interior treatment is solidly reflected in the A3, along with the availability of Audi’s renowned Quattro all-wheel drive system. Further, an A3 can be had with a diesel engine for superior fuel economy, making the affordable luxury car highly fuel-efficient as well. Comfortable, sleek, nicely equipped, and highly efficient, the 2012 Audi A3 is a solid pick for our most affordable luxury cars list for
Audi’s A4 enjoys a rather rabid fan base, and well it should. As one of the most affordable luxury cars of 2012, the A4 has tons of style, an outstanding personality and highly engaging driving dynamics. Audi’s product planners have even made Quattro all-wheel drive available for the car under the $35,000 cutoff point. Thus it’s easy to see why we consider the Audi A4 one of the most affordable luxury cars for 2012. In addition to all of the qualities we listed for the A4’s A3 stable mate, the A4 has the advantage of more interior space, a higher level of refinement, and an even more engaging set of driving dynamics.
A throwback to the legendary BMW 2002, the car that arguably put BMW on the map in the United States; as one of the most affordable luxury cars, the BMW 1 Series offers superior driving dynamics in addition to the distinction of owning a BMW. Granted, if the turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine tempts you, you’ll be looking at a price point on the other side of the $35,000 cutoff we’ve established for the most affordable luxury cars of 2012. However, the silken smoothness of BMW’s normally aspirated inline six, and the relatively light weight of the 1 Series mean the standard engine still offers a rewarding driving experience in addition to the opportunity to own a genuine BMW for under $35,000.
One of Hyundai’s first forays into the affordable luxury cars space, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis Sedan is a remarkably well-equipped automobile for the price. Yes, if you’re looking to stay around our $35,000 cutoff point, you’re looking at the V6 engine, rather than one of the two V8s Hyundai offers with the car. However you’ll also get an interior finished in high quality leather, along with features like keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated power adjustable front seats, Bluetooth, and a seven-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio input jack for portable devices and an iPod/USB interface.
The desirability of Infiniti’s most affordable luxury car is well established. For 2012, the brand introduced a 2.5-liter V6 with all the legendary smoothness associated with its V6 engine, as well as better fuel economy and a lower entry price. This latter move solidly placed the Infiniti G within the ranks of the most affordable luxury cars for 2012. However, while the price dropped, the sharp handling for with the Infiniti G models is well known remained intact. Further, standard luxury features like xenon headlights, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstered power front seats, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio input jack make even the entry-level G an engaging proposition.
The second all-hybrid model from Lexus, the CT200h offers one of the best handling packages of any hybrid on the market. Yes, its 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is a bit taxed moving around all of the standard equipment of the Lexus CT 200h. However, the other side of that coin is you get Lexus-levels of luxury in a youthful, sport-oriented package—along with fuel economy in the 40-mpg range. These attributes solidly place the Lexus CT 200h within the ranks of the best affordable luxury cars for 2012. Oh, and did we mention the Lexus CT 200h handles really, really well too?
One of the first models wearing the Lexus badge to place more emphasis on sporty driving than a quiet and smooth ride, the Lexus IS makes our list of the best affordable luxury cars of 2012 by dint of its outstanding fit and finish, fun to drive nature, and the fact it’s a Lexus—OK? Seriously though, with its handsome styling and Toyota-bred reliability, the Lexus IS 250 is one of our favorite affordable luxury cars. Yes, the 2.5-liter engine housed within the IS 250 gives up quite a bit of grunt compared to its IS 350 sibling, however the 250 gets better gas mileage and looks just as good. If outright performance isn’t an issue for you, the Lexus IS 250 pushes all the other affordable luxury car buttons quite well.
The only other hybrid model on our list of the most affordable luxury cars for 2012, the Lincoln MKZ delivers 40 mpg on the highway, along with rear parking sensors, keyless entry with an outside keypad, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated eight-way power front seats with driver seat memory, and full power accessories. Ford's Sync voice-operated telematics and a nine-speaker audio system are standard equipment too. Further, Lincoln is known for offering the nicest interior treatments of any American manufacturer. With all of this, and a base price under $35,000, it’s easy to see how the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid landed on the list of affordable luxury cars for 2012.
Granted, only one version of the Mercedes-Benz C Class qualifies for the list, however it is an interesting one. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C 250 Sport, with its base price of $34,800, just barely inches under the $35,000 line of demarcation for our list of the best affordable luxury cars for 2012. Standard features include LED running lights, automatic wipers, a sunroof, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming interior and driver-side mirrors, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, plus a sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio input jack for portable devices, a USB audio input jack, and HD radio.