Top Ten

Five Entry Level Luxury Cars for Your First Big Break 

You can finally afford a “nice car”. But where do you start?

By Chris D'Alessandro Wheels.ca

Feb 18, 2021 6 min. read

Article was updated a year ago

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Millennials have had to put up with a lot.

First, they gave us all trophies and then had the nerve to criticize us for all getting trophies. Then they told us we could be whatever we wanted as long as we wanted it bad enough… and then got mad at us for wanting things.

But despite all that, we navigated two recessions, paid off our student loans, worked our way up the corporate ladder and now we can finally afford nice things.

Namely, you might be thinking about finally getting yourself a “nice” car — something that proclaims to the world that you made something of yourself, despite living in your parents’ basement until you were 26.

Sure, you still don’t have crazy, break-the-bank money. But you don’t need it to get into the growing “entry-level luxury” market.

Here are five of the best options.

Genesis G70

Starting at $43,000

Entry Level Luxury Cars

If you care nothing for the status of a well-established name plate and want to present a modicum of decorum without any pomp or circumstance, you may consider turning to the relatively new Genesis brand — a luxury spin off of Hyundai.

While the entry-level Genesis model, the G70, is often praised for its well-tuned chassis and upscale interior, what’s most notable is how aggressively the G70 undercuts its German competition on price. And let’s face it, a bargain price will always be the first, second and third reason to buy a Genesis. The fourth will be that some people may suspect you know something they don’t (you don’t).

Cadillac CT4

Starting at $35,998

Entry Level Luxury Cars

It’s remarkable that we’ve entered a time where Cadillac is seen not necessarily as a symbol of status or wealth, but as a blue-collared alternative to the blue-blooded aristocracy of the automotive elite.

Of course, “young people” (Millennials are of course no longer the “young generation” but nobody over the age of 40 seems to know that) never really saw Cadillac, outside of the Escalade, as a… well let’s be kind and say, “contemporary” nameplate. However, this has been to our general detriment. Because while we’ve been coveting the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4, which always felt just out of the reach of our budgets, Cadillac has been producing ever more accessible models in a desperate attempt to onboard buyers who aren’t actively dying.

Case in point, the CT4 that, after freight and fees, still comes in under a $40,000 starting price. Add on some goodies, like AWD and the 2.7-litre turbocharged engine available on the CT4-V with 310 horsepower, and you’ll have yourself a proper sports sedan for under $50,000. Oh, and your grandparents will think you’re rich — despite still not understanding exactly what it is you do for a living (“something with computers,” they tell their friends).

Mercedes CLA

Starting at $43,600

Entry Level Luxury Cars

There’s a good chance that you might be absolutely dead set on having a German luxury car because… well, let’s face it, it’s a flex. But if that’s the case, then you have to ask yourself which one to get — a question that used to be really hard to answer.

A decade ago, the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class were ferociously deadlocked in terms of price, performance, options and unreliability. But now, the 3-series is absolutely hideous, the A4 has all the personality of a wet sponge and the C-Class will make you look like a stock trader who makes Soundcloud beats in their spare time. It’s also too expensive.

The solution is in the Mercedes CLA. While almost identical to the entry-level A-Class in terms of equipment, the CLA’s swooping bodywork helps give it the presence of Mercedes’ more expensive offerings. The CLA also has about 30 horsepower more than the A-Class and receives some sportier suspension, steering and stability control tuning.

Also you can point out to people that you didn’t buy the “cheapest Mercedes” and that’s important.

Lexus IS

Starting at $42,950

2021 Lexus IS F


Yes, the IS’ powertrains are dated. Yes, you have to spend another $10,000 to get the really good one with AWD, 311 horsepower and all the infotainment bells and whistles.

Despite all that, without hesitation, this is the one I would personally go with. For a few reasons, I think the build quality is top-tier. I like the piece of mind of Toyota engineering. And I think the 2021 redesign makes the IS the best-looking entry-level luxury sedan (certainly the most striking) on the market.

Oh, and they finally got rid of that god-awful touchless screen that made you navigate with an actual mouse — which I can only imagine Lexus outsourced to the writers of The Onion to engineer. It was so frustrating to use, it would make you question whether Lexus was playing some kind of Andy Kaufman-inspired prank on you. It’s gone now and the world is better for it.

But what I like most is that a Lexus is neither a flex, nor does it come off as some kind of bargain-hunter special. If it were a watch, it would be a TAG Heuer, not a Rolex. It’s dignified, it’s luxurious, it’s well made, but it doesn’t make you a show off to own one.

Acura TLX

Starting at $44,105

Entry Level Luxury Cars

The TLX’s little brother, the ILX, is a really great car that I like a lot. But the ILX is, for all intents and purposes, a really upscale version of the last generation Honda Civic. So if you’re really looking for the “you’ve made it” model, you’ve got to go for the TLX.

The last generation TLX was, in my opinion, an uninspired barge of a vehicle that served only to remind you of the crushing sameness of everyday life. This new generation, however, is a much, much different story.

With 272 horsepower from a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine being sent through a 10-speed automatic, the TLX is no longer a sleepy giant unable to get out of its own way. The updates to the exterior styling also help make the TLX a more exciting proposition. It looks sleek and sharp and like it wants to scythe through corners. While not as striking as the Lexus IS, the Acura TLX maintains that same “dignified, but without the bling” presence.

The interior, however, is the stand out upgrade. No longer inspired by what I assume was the back of a Dell laptop, the TLX’s new interior feels focused and purposeful — like a fighter jet.

Sure, the TLX may start at a higher price than its rivals — it can hardly be called the bargain of the group. But it brings to the table something really important. Something that the last TLX had none of; and something its competitors could use more of. And something which is slowly fading from so many models and brands.

It has a sense of joy.

And after all the struggle, after navigating through two recessions, paying off your student debt, working late, dealing with unruly clients and even more unruly bosses… isn’t what you want most to have just a little more joy in your life?




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