Jaguar XE
Jaguar Land Rover North America

Luxury Cars Under $50K That Are Totally Worth Owning

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Jaguar XE
Jaguar Land Rover North America

Entry-Level Awesome

You know Camrys and Accords are reliable, last forever, have good resale value, offer prudent fuel economy, and, of course, are affordable — and that's why they're everywhere. But not too far off is a class of cars that make America's best-sellers invisible on the road. You won't find a Rolls-Royce or Bentley for inside of 50 grand, but you can get real entry-level luxury, complete with sleek and sculpted lines, posh trimmings, dazzling technology, and blazing power and performance. Here's a look at what experts identify as some top luxury cars under $50,000, and some key things to think about as you shop. 

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2021 TLX Type S
Acura

Acura TLX | $33,000

The inline-4 engine that powers the Acura TLX is good for 206 horsepower — upgrade to the V6 and that output jumps to 290 horses. One of the most affordable entry-level luxury cars on the market, the TLX is the only vehicle on this list that starts under $35,000. A premium sports sedan, the TLX offers several different powertrain options, all of which have been hailed for their superb handling and power distribution.

ALFA Romeo sedan, dark red from the front IMG_2755
FCA US

Alfa Romeo Giulia Sedan | $39,400

Car and Driver hails the 2020 Alfa Romeo’s “hot-blooded styling and fun-loving chassis…” The redesigned interior packs even more luxury, convenience, and tech — think: 8.8-inch touchscreen, wireless charging, and 3D navigation — than the previous model, which was already lauded for all three. Its all-aluminum, 2.0-liter engine is good for a best-in-class 280 horses and 306 pound-feet of torque.

Related: 20 Classic Italian Sports Cars We Wish Were in Our Driveway

Jaguar XE
Jaguar Land Rover North America

Jaguar XE | $39,900

A truly extraordinary sports sedan, the Jaguar XE is a stylish and aerodynamic sedan anchored by signature taillights in the rear and a bold, extra-wide grille up front. Inside, it’s Jaguar luxury all the way, thanks to features like a cockpit-style cabin and a redesigned center console that looks like it belongs in a much pricier Jaguar. Like all new Jags, it’s backed by EliteCare, Jaguar’s exclusive coverage program, which is considered one of the best in the industry.

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Lexus ES 350
Lexus USA

Lexus ES 350 | $39,900

Long, sleek, and wide, the Lexus ES 350 looks like a coupe with four doors, thanks to a silhouette borrowed from the flagship LS. Standard features include paddle shifters, Lexus Multimedia System with 8-inch display, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, drive mode select, SmartAccess pushbutton stop/start, and perforated Nuluxe interior trim.

BMW 330i Sedan
BMW of North America

BMW 330i Sedan | $41,250

A 2.0-liter BMW TwinPower Turbo inline 4-cylinder engine puts 255 horses behind the BMW 330i sedan, which comes with auto stop-start, brake energy regeneration, selectable drive modes, and electronic throttle control. The inside is lined with innovative SensaTec upholstery and fine wood trim with ash-grey brown high gloss. Wireless features, driver-assist tools, and infotainment tech abound, and safety features include knee airbags, seat-occupation recognition, and several advanced collision-warning and mitigation systems.

2019 Lexus RC
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Lexus RC | $41,295

You’ll need a budget starting in the low-$90,000s for a Lexus LC, but that doesn’t mean drivers of more modest means can’t get behind the wheel of an amazing coupe from one of the world’s premier luxury automakers. The Lexus RC is an absolutely beautiful coupe both inside and out. Defined by character lines that are strong and sweeping, it roars with 240 horsepower but is still good on gas — it gets 30 mpg on the highway.

Related: 19 Most Trusted Toyotas of All Time

Infiniti Q60
Infiniti USA

Infiniti Q60 | $41,350

There are six models available in the Infiniti Q60 line, all of which are sporty, sleek, powerful, and luxurious. The interior is elegant, soft, and technologically advanced, and at the flip of a switch, drivers can change from a more comfortable ride to sportier performance. A V-6 twin-turbo engine is standard, good for an impressive 300 horsepower.

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Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
Mercedes-Benz USA

Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC Sedan | $43,400

Just like the aforementioned BMW, the Mercedes-Benz C 300 offers a $2,000 upgrade to the automaker’s all-wheel-drive system, in this case called 4MATIC. It’s an entry-level car packed with tech and driver-assist features usually reserved for much more expensive cars and luxury that’s become synonymous with the Benz name. Also like the BMW, its power is derived from a 2.0-liter inline-4 turbo engine that’s good for 255 horses and 5.7-second 0-60 mph acceleration—all for a sub-$44,000 price tag.

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BMW 430i Gran Coupe
BMW of North America

BMW 430i xDrive Gran Coupe | $46,750

For $44,750, you can drive home in the amazing machine that is the BMW 430i Gran Coupe, which boasts a 2.0-liter BMW TwinPower Turbo inline four-cylinder engine, sleek stylings on the outside and luxury and comfort inside. Those who can spring for $2,000 more, however, get all that but instead of rear-wheel drive, are glued to the road with the legendary German automaker’s famous xDrive all-wheel-drive system.

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2021 Genesis G80
Hyundai Motor America

2021 Genesis G80 | $47,700

The Genesis G80 is the model in Hyundai’s luxury brand line that sits comfortably between the entry-level G70 (which is still an awesome vehicle) and the much more expensive G90. The 2021 line has been fully redesigned — and it’s a big, wide, imposing car for a luxury midsize vehicle. It offers more than generous leg and headroom inside and is powered by a big 2.5T I4 engine that drums up 300 horsepower. Aside from the comfort, quality materials, and luxury feel that’s become synonymous with the Genesis nameplate, the G80 offers super-cool features like smart cruise control with machine learning.

Tesla Model 3
Tesla

Tesla Model 3 Performance | $48,690

Sneaking in just under the $50,000 cutoff is the Tesla Model 3 Performance package, which boasts a range of 299 miles and a top speed of 162 mph. It accelerates almost silently from 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds. The interior is minimalist, sleek and luxurious, with 12-way power-adjustable heated seats in both the front and rear, and a premium immersive-sound audio system with 14 speakers, two amps, and a subwoofer. Self-steering, braking, and accelerating Autopilot is included.

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What to Know Before Dabbling in the Luxury Market
Buick

What to Know Before Dabbling in the Luxury Market

Anyone eager to dip their toes into the luxury car market should remember that luxury cars come with luxury-level secondary costs, says Valerie Coleman, formerly with AutoTrader and the peer-to-peer marketplace 5miles. "A great thing about even entry-level luxury cars is that the latest and greatest features like Bluetooth, navigation, satellite, etc., typically come standard," says Coleman, who insists buyers should also consider the Buick LaCrosse and Mazda CX-5. "However, there still are a few things to pay attention to that otherwise could cost you more on the front or the back end."

Don't Buy More Than You Can Comfortably Afford
martin-dm/istockphoto

Don't Buy More Than You Can Comfortably Afford

Take an honest inventory of whether you can actually afford a luxury car without squeezing out things you need even more. If not, keep saving before taking a test drive. "The generally accepted rule is that you spend no more than 15% of your pretax income on your monthly car note," Coleman says.

Make Sure You Can Handle the Down Payment
Kameleon007/istockphoto

Make Sure You Can Handle the Down Payment

No matter what monthly payments turn out to be, you have to be prepared to walk into the dealership with what may — at least to first-time luxury buyers — be a surprisingly large check. "Be prepared to put upward of $5,000 down on a vehicle that costs $40,000 to $50,000," Coleman says.

Plan For Bigger Bills
deepblue4you/istockphoto
Think About Long-Term Costs
AleksandarNakic/istockphoto

Think About Long-Term Costs

In some ways, shopping for a luxury car is the same as shopping for a regular commuter car. Think beyond the posh trim and smooth curves to consider the features that actually have the biggest impact on day-to-day, year-to-year driving experiences. "Gas mileage, reliability, etc. are not things to be taken lightly," Coleman says. "Yes, no matter how beautiful, or how much you love the car." 

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