Hey, big spender
A luxury badge won’t break the bank if you’re prepared to downsize
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’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.
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.
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.