Best in class
Sales of luxury brands just won’t stop, as buyers pay for plush ride, premium materials and performance. This is the pick of the 2016 crop
THE appeal of prestige cars, as in mobile phones, is part brand, part styling and part reputation.
For some, luxury cars aren’t worth twice the price of a comparable mainstream brand, while others are happy to pay a premium for the materials used in construction, attention to detail and user-friendly interfaces.
Car buyers are adopting the latter approach, as evidenced by the continued growth of luxury brands. They are also spoiled for choice, which helps explain why BMW and Mercedes-Benz are enjoying double-digit growth this year, Jaguar sales have more than doubled, we’re buying more McLarens, Ferrari and Lamborghinis than ever and Porsche is outselling Mini.
These are some of the better models released in Australia this year.
BEST HATCH Audi RS7 Performance
The rear window opens with the boot, so technically Audi’s insanely fast Sportback is a hatch. It is a smoking hot one, using a 4.0-litre V8 twin turbo and all-wheel drive to slingshot to 100km/h in 3.7 seconds. The price is equally eye-watering at $258,000 but there’s a lot of technology under the stylish skin. It misses out on Audi’s digital cockpit display and the latest connectivity apps for Apple and Android. Capable of city cruising or back roads blasting, the RS7 is hard to beat.
BEST SEDAN UNDER LCT Audi A4
The looks aren’t outstanding but the value is. Audi comes closest to matching the features in the segmentleading Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the A4 is a realistic rival if your taste runs to classy minimalism rather than the Benz’s interior flair. All A4s are fitted with automatic emergency braking, rear crosstraffic alert, reversing camera, 8.3-inch infotainment screen and Apple Car Play/Android Auto. Prices start at $55,500 for the 1.4-litre engine in frontwheel drive guise and run out to $70K for the AWD version with a 2.0-litre engine.
BEST SEDAN OVER LCT Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Until the new BMW 5 Series arrives, the luxurious EClass virtually has the midsized segment to itself. The range starts at $89,900 for the E200 and winds out to $159,900 for the E43 AMG. There’s a refinement in the E that you have to sit in to appreciate. The pair of 12.3-inch screens is a visual highlight but the semiautomated driving — the car steers itself on highways for up to a minute — is another standout feature.
BEST SUV UNDER LCT BMW X1
Sold in front and allwheel drive versions, the X1 is essentially a Mini morphed into a mini SUV. That’s not a bad thing in this context and has powered the X1 ahead of Audi’s Q3 and the Benz GLA in sales (even if the prospect of a front-drive Beemer is anathema to purists). The 1.8litre diesel starts at $49,500; a 2.0-litre petrol version is $51,600. Standard gear includes dual-zone climate control, eight-speed automatic, 6.5-inch infotainment screen with satnav and powered tailgate.
BEST SUV OVER LCT Mercedes-Benz GLS
The SUV flagship of the Mercedes range is an imposing beast, both in the metal and in sales — GLS variants account for two in five large luxury SUVs sold. That’s a dominant performance in a hotly contested segment that includes Range Rovers. The GLS line-up starts at $116,615 and runs to $217,615 for the AMG variant. Standard gear includes air suspension, powered third-row seats, multiple drive modes via the “dynamic select” switch and a full suite of active driver aids.
BEST SPORTS CAR UNDER $100K BMW M2
Pay two-thirds of the cost of an M4 to get 95 per cent of the pace and poise. That’s the proposition that has made the M2 one of the year’s most desirable new cars. At a starting price of $89,615 the BMW delivers in every aspect, from styling to sprint times. Standard fare includes an 8.8-inch screen with satnav, cruise control, lane-departure alert and cityspeed light braking. The reardrive M2 has no direct rivals but in performance and price, the all-wheel drive Audi RS3 and
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG are closest.
BEST SPORTS CAR OVER $100K Porsche 911 Carrera
You no longer need to buy the 911 Turbo to get a turbocharged 911. The switch to forced induction was made to meet emissions regulations. The exhaust note may not be as crisp but the combination of 3.0-litre engine and nowstandard adaptive dampers endows a more relaxed daily drive without detracting from the Porsche’s ability to contort around corners at ridiculous speeds. The cost of entry to the 911 club is now $217,500 with a seven-speed manual gearbox. That gives you the engineering and mechanical basics … the fancy finishing touches are in the options catalogue.