Nothing says you’ve arrived like arriving in style. And when you really want to make a statement, nothing quite shouts "I’ve made it!" like a finely engineered automobile that can zoom you from zero to hero while immersing you in rich leather and more technology than the International Space Station.
But when you're about to pay up to six figures for something that spends most of its time in a parking lot or your driveway, you're entitled to make sure you're getting the most cachet for your hard-earned cash. That's why we’ve enlisted some of Canada's top auto writers and consumer experts to come up with a list of five outstanding luxury cars. One of their more affordable picks will definitely surprise you. Our panel based its rankings on performance, driving experience and, of course, prestige; then it factored in cost of ownership and reliability. Safety was a given in this group because every car north of $50,000 always comes jammed with every possible airbag protection and accident mitigation feature.
Jaguar XJ | $89,000 – $128,000
Though still designed and manufactured in England, Jaguar has changed hands a number of times in recent memory and is currently owned by India's Tata Motors. For some, it may be hard to reconcile a partnership with the makers of the Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car. But there's no denying this big cat still commands double takes when it prowls down city streets. "'Grace, Space, Pace' was Jaguar's motto years ago and is certainly evident here," says Iny. "The car draws you to stare at it and can't be confused with anything else." Wood and chrome abound in the elegant interior and the addition of all-wheel drive makes this Jaguar sure-footed in all seasons. But, Gentile says, reliability is a sore spot for owners, making Jaguar a small player in the Canadian luxury segment. 5th place
AUDI A8 | $89,900 – $172,000
Audi has already surpassed Mercedes in global sales and continues to nip at the heels of BMW. The A8 flagship sedan certainly has the muscle to make a run for the top of our list and buyers seem to think it has prestige in abundance. "The owners I talk to are very happy," says Bouchama. "It drives better than the BMW and for my money it's the No. 1 choice." It's packed with technological wonders like a touchscreen that lets you enter information by simply drawing the characters with your index finger. The A8 is also a powerhouse of performance with its racing heritage and choice of six-, eight- or 12-cylinder engine. "The styling is blasé but the A8's 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and the incredible Bang & Olufsen stereo are sweet indeed," says Booth. 4th place
Hyundai Genesis | $39,990 – $53,499
We know what you're thinking: How on earth did Hyundai, maker of the self-destructing Pony and the (less than) Stellar, make it onto our list of premium prestige cars? Well, it's all about bang for your buck. "The Genesis is great value for your money," confirms Gentile. "You'll find a lot of the same features in its German counterparts for a fraction of the price and the interior is refined, upscale, spacious and comfortable." However, the Genesis lacks one thing (besides sticker shock) that its competitors possess: cachet. "The car is good, but Hyundai has failed to generate any excitement about its luxury cars," says Booth. Additionally, Bouchama notes the Genesis is available only in rear-wheel drive, which means plenty of slipping and sliding during our winters. 3rd place
BMW 7 Series | $106,600 – $140,200
Long considered the consummate yuppie car, BMWs are renowned for their performance and handling. "It's not a driving experience, but a driving adventure," says Rolczewski. Booth calls the 7 Series "dynamically the best of the bunch." Still, both experts lament the overly complicated iDrive infotainment system, which Rolczewski calls "WEdrive since you need an engineer in the passenger seat to help explain how it works." The 7 Series also lost a few points on its cabin and overall looks. "The interior is a tad too Spartan for hedonists and the styling a little ugly," notes Booth. For value though, he says driving enthusiasts can save some of their nest egg by opting for the six-cylinder, 740Li xDrive, which he declares the best of the lot despite being lowest in price. 2nd place
Porsche Panamera $89,500 – $184,100
This sedan from Porsche packs a triple threat of prestige, power and performance. It may have four doors, but under the hood, the Panamera has what it takes to rocket you down the road like its sports car siblings. "After driving the GTS version I needed a moment alone to recover," swoons Rolczewski. "The performance and luxury meshed on a level that was cerebral and emotional." Gentile agrees: "Ride and handling are excellent. It's an incredibly fun car to drive with instant acceleration." Iny likes the versatility of the hatchback design and remarked on the ample cabin space and seating for four adults. In terms of styling, the Panamera's Porsche badge is sure to cause a stir when you pull up. For some, like Iny, the look might be a bit too dramatic, but for Rolczewski it grew on her quickly. 1st place
How we came up with the numbers
Vehicle price range reflects the manufacturer's suggested retail price (without options or destination charges), from the least expensive to the highest-priced version. Cost of ownership data comes from Edmunds.com, converted to Canadian dollars. Remaining scores are based out of 10; the higher the number, the better the value. Reliability data comes from J.D. Power and Associates. Cachet and driving experience are the average scores provided by our expert panel. To obtain an overall value out of 100, 20% reflects cost, 20% reliability, 10% cachet and 50% driving experience.