Max without tax
There’s no need to spend big — or take a hit from the government — to get a premium badge
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.
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.
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