Hey, big spender

A lux­ury badge won’t break the bank if you’re pre­pared to down­size

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - BILL McKINNON bill.mckinnon@news.com.au

THE def­i­ni­tion of lux­ury car has changed dra­mat­i­cally in the past decade.

The Gov­ern­ment treats a car as a lux­ury item — and slugs the buyer 33 cents in the dol­lar — if it costs more than $64,132. The irony is that just about any­body who buys a Toy­ota Prado, for ex­am­ple, is also pay­ing LCT.

But the good news is that there are plenty of cars with lux­ury badges that limbo well un­der­neath that fig­ure.

If you’re happy for your lux­ury fix to come in a small pack­age, you can get an Audi A1 for $28,600. A lit­tle more gets you an Alfa Romeo Gi­uli­etta, while a BMW or MercedesBenz badge can be had from less than $40,000.

It doesn’t stop there. You can get fam­ily sedans and SUVs that are the right side of the lux­ury car tax. And if your choice is a fuel miser, a higher LCT thresh­old of $75,526 ap­plies to cars claim­ing fuel con­sump­tion of 7.0L/100km or less.

Can you af­ford a lux­ury badge and avoid LCT? Sure. As the late, great Kerry Packer said, “Any­body in the coun­try who does not min­imise his tax wants his head read.” Here are some of the best ways to do so.

HATCHBACKS AUDI A3 SPORTBACK

The range starts at $35,900 for the 1.0 TFSI. Its mod­est 1.0-litre three-cylin­der turbo, in com­bi­na­tion with a quick­shift­ing seven-speed du­al­clutch auto, pro­vides sur­pris­ingly good per­for­mance.

In­side, there’s cloth trim and most of the lux­ury good­ies are op­tional.

If you want to splurge, you can spend up to $62,900 for the S3 hatch, which runs a 2.0-litre turbo and all-wheel drive. It smokes the 0-100km/h sprint in just 4.8 sec­onds.

Top shelf Nappa leather up­hol­stery, 18-inch al­loys and Audi’s bril­liant “vir­tual cock­pit” dig­i­tal dis­play are stan­dard in a cabin with the best ma­te­ri­als, fit and fin­ish qual­ity in the busi­ness.

BMW 125i

BMW’s 1 Series starts at $37,990 but the sweet spot in the range is the 125i M Sport., which is good value at $49,000.

It’s the last hatch­back still with rear-wheel drive and, with M Sport sus­pen­sion, brakes and 18-inch al­loy pack­age as stan­dard, it han­dles beau­ti­fully. Its 2.0-litre turbo has plenty of go — 0-100km/h in 6.1 sec­onds — and comes with six-speed man­ual or eight-speed au­to­matic.

SEDANS MERCEDES C-CLASS

The “lux­ury car” is de­fined by big Ger­man sedans such as the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes EClass. They’re out of reach if you want to avoid the LCT.

The Benz C-Class, which these days re­ally is a shrunken ver­sion of the E-Class, is a great car with pow­er­ful, fuel-ef­fi­cient four-cylin­der en­gines, plus a hy­brid, that al­low it to limbo un­der the LCT fuel-miser thresh­old.

The C250 is $69,400 with 2.0-litre turbo; the C250d with su­perb 2.1-litre turbo diesel is $70,900; and the C350e hy­brid is $75,300.

JAGUAR XE

Once a brand re­served for the landed gen­try, Jaguar has be­come more ac­ces­si­ble in re­cent years with a range of smaller and cheaper sedans, as well as its first SUV.

The XE is a wor­thy al­ter­na­tive to the Ger­mans and the 20t Pres­tige sneaks un­der the LCT with a price of $60,400 be­fore on-roads.

It’s not as spa­cious as the Mercedes and the in­te­rior can’t quite match the C-Class’s am­bi­ence. How­ever, it’s a great drive, with a com­fort­able ride and sharp re­flexes through the cor­ners.

The 2.0-litre four-cylin­der

turbo punches above its weight with the help of a slick-shift­ing eight-speed auto.

SUVS AUDI Q2

If you must have an SUV and a pres­tige badge, the lit­tle Audi (main pic­ture) is the cheap­est ticket. More high-rid­ing hatch than off-roader, the Q2 starts with a front-drive 1.4-litre turbo for $41,100 plus on-roads.

Audi claims it has five mil­lion colour and trim op­tions, so the Q2 can suit any taste. Prob­lem is, all the ex­tras add up and the price can climb steeply, es­pe­cially if you want the lat­est driver as­sis­tance tech­nol­ogy.

BMW X1

The most spa­cious of the com­pact lux­ury SUVs, the X1 kicks off at $50,600 for the front-wheel drive (sDrive in BMW-speak) 20i, with 2.0-litre turbo.

The 18d, with 2.0-litre turbo diesel, is $53,600. An eight­speed auto is stan­dard.

The pick of the range is the all-wheel drive (known as xDrive) 25i, with a pretty se­ri­ous 2.0-litre turbo and a 0-100km/h time of 6.5 sec­onds, in part due to its rel­a­tively lithe 1548kg. Claimed thirst is 6.6L/100km.

The xDrive 25i costs $60,700. Add $2990 for the M Sport pack­age, with 19-inch al­loys, ad­justable sus­pen­sion, sports seats and leather up­hol­stery and you have one quick, sporty, LCT-free SUV.

LAND ROVER DIS­COV­ERY SPORT

All Dis­cov­ery Sport vari­ants are pow­ered by the com­pany’s su­per-re­fined 2.0-litre turbo diesel that com­fort­ably slides un­der the 7.0L/100km rate.

Prices start at $56,355 for the TD4 150 SE.

The top spec TD4 180 HSE Lux­ury gets leather, heated and cooled front seats, power ev­ery­thing (in­clud­ing the tail­gate) and killer au­dio for $70,690, still vir­tu­ally $5000 un­der the thresh­old.

Add a cou­ple of ex­tra rear seats for $2050 and you have a loaded, lux­ury seven-seater SUV on which you have paid no LCT. You also get a full-size spare and more off-road abil­ity than any Ger­man brand ri­val.

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