If a $30,000 car is what you got, then a $40,000 car would be better and a $50,000 car ideal, right?
The answer to that is the one you all know and love: it depends.
The Good Let’s start with the obvious: you’re moving on up and letting the world know it, whether or not it’s true. That means more respect, better valet treatment, more dates. Luckily, in most cases there’s some truth to back up the image. Despite the increasing availability of features on lower-end cars these days, luxury cars still live up to their name by offering materials that look and feel better (i.e. real wood in the dash, real aluminum instead of painted plastic), soft leather (instead of hard leather, or leather mixed with vinyl), better sound insulation – all standard. Luxury cars are also held to a higher standard of performance with more cylinders, better brakes and suspensions, and best of all, often trade up from plain front-wheel-drive layouts to rear-wheel-drive, making driving more interesting. Who wouldn’t want their commute to be cozier and more fun at the same time? As a bonus, the owning experience will likely be richer all the way through, thanks to more courteous sales/service and a longer warranty.
The Bad That stuff costs money. Stepping up from a compact-sized car (say, a Mazda 3) to a like-sized luxury car (say, a BMW 3-series) takes a cool dozen grand. Worse, the increase grows exponential as you ascend in the range: from a Honda Accord to an Acura RL takes $25,000, and from a Toyota Avalon to a BMW 750i takes an extra $40,000. In other words, the cost of one big Bimmer is enough for two Avalons and change. And don’t forget maintenance costs; ever seen the price of BMW parts?
The Ugly It used to just be a matter of swallowing the price and writing the check, but many luxury makes have felt the need to prove the worth of their cars by confusing the hell out of the drivers. First it was Mercedes’ COMAND. Then it was BMW’s iDrive, by far the worst of the bunch, and finally Audi’s MultiMedia Interface. To a lesser degree, heavy-handed electronics and interfaces have crept into Japanese, American, and British luxury cars as well. What good is that 14-speaker stereo if you have to stop and look up in the manual how to change the station? Some of these electronics have also proven to be quite troublesome, causing the average reliability rankings of their parent companies to nosedive. Nothing luxurious about that.
But if you have the patience and tolerance, the world’s best cars are waiting for you. At a price.