2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250. Click image to enlarge
Article by Justin Pritchard
Used to be that six-digit pricing territory defined the battlefield where automakers would sling their fanciest technologies, powertrains and styling efforts into single rolling showcases of poshness. But today, with shoppers constantly demanding more for less, the ‘affordable’ luxury car marketplace is offering up more fantastic products than ever before.
Now, war is being waged around the $50,000 price point – and more contenders than ever are fighting for the hard-earned dollars of Canadians that needn’t spend $100,000 or more to get into a world-class machine.
Some luxury cars are big on confidence, while others are big on interior design and high-tech goodies. Some luxury cars prioritize tranquility and relaxation, others value, and others still aim to deliver the delightful split-personality of a luxury sports car. Some machines strike a unique balance between all of the above.
Readers and enthusiasts may choose to define the luxury segment however they like, and debate the worthiness of certain brands and products on our list.
We chose the following on a fairly simple basis: these machines have an underlying, standout characteristic that makes them a laudable choice for a wide range of value-minded luxury shoppers. Put simply, these machines have something special. Here’s a look.
Mercedes-Benz CLA 250: This hot new one from Benz isn’t even on sale yet, but will start with pricing under $35,000 and pack 208 standard horsepower, 258 standard lb-ft of torque and a compact and lightweight seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
The big draw here? This isn’t a wannabe Mercedes, nor an up-badged version of a cheaper commuter car. The CLA 250 looks like a very big deal rolling down the road, and feels like a Mercedes at the fingertips: dense, solid, substantial and responsive. Friends and neighbours will guess the price thousands too high. High-value ‘baller’ status? Very yes.
This front-drive, four-door coupe has a sneaky, sporty flare, too, thanks to quick steering, stable handling and available all-wheel drive (AWD). There’s a tuned-up CLA 45 AMG variant coming, too.
Cadillac ATS: From the first twist of the ATS’s steering wheel, you can ‘feel’ that engineers were serious about making this one a performance weapon with instantly accessible dynamic capability. The ATS turns, squirms, accelerates, slides and brakes with an engaging level of precision, agility and immediacy uncommon in the segment. Magnetic Ride Control suspension lets it all happen without abuse of occupant spinal columns. Brembo brakes let ATS ditch forward momentum meters sooner than a comparable BMW 3 Series, too.
2013 Cadillac ATS. Click image to enlarge
The shrill, full-throttle wail from the 3.6L engine is not to be missed, though the 2.0L Turbo engine should prove adequate for most thrill seekers, and the only engine option for manual-transmission enthusiasts. With the ATS, it’s a highly tuned, highly engaging feel that serves up a fantastic sports luxury driving experience.