The Tesla Model S is one of the greatest electric cars so far and one of the first ones to make electric vehicles viable. It changed how electric cars were perceived and keeps challenging the laws of physics with its relentless acceleration.
Unfortunately, the problem with electric vehicles is that they are essentially ‘one-trick-ponies.’ Their acceleration is something to experience, but they are a massive letdown in terms of handling and overall driving enjoyment. This is mainly due to the added weight of the batteries. Most electric vehicles try to hide this weight by installing the batteries as low as possible to keep the car’s center of gravity low – improving grip and handling, but they still have nowhere near the cornering capability of internal combustion engine cars.
So, while the Tesla Model S is an amazing car in its own right – and it will no doubt improve as battery and other technologies advance – it still has a long way to go. For now, here are 10 cheap luxury sedans we’d buy over the Tesla Model S any day of the week – for now.
10 BMW 540i E39 ($15,000)
The BMW E39 5-Series is considered to be one of the best handling and performance combinations of any sports sedan ever. It had the perfect blend of luxury and sportiness that allowed it access to a wide variety of buyers.
While the M5 was undoubtedly the best of the model range, the 540i was not that far off. It still had a big V8 engine, could be fitted with a manual transmission, and was based on the same chassis – all for a much lower price. Today, a 540i can be bought for less than $10,000 – however, some good ones in great condition go for around $15,000.
9 2003 Mercedes-Benz E500 ($8,000)
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class takes the opposite approach than that of the BMW 5-Series. Where the 5er makes the car fun to drive and then adds luxurious components to it, the E-Class is luxurious first. The E500 – or E550 depending on the model year in the US – was the mid-range offering before getting into S-Class territory.
The E500 had a big 300-hp 5.0-liter V8 up front, a comfortably smooth transmission in the middle, and all the power going to the rear. It was a calm and composed car for most of the time but could shred its tires at the drop of a hat. The car even handled quite well. Apart from being down on power, the E500 was more fun than a Tesla Model S in almost every way.
8 2008 Audi A6 4.2 ($6,000)
The Audi A6 – like the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class – is the mid-range choice when the A4 was too small and the A8 was too expensive. It has a range of great VW engines, including some frugal diesel options, but it could also be fitted with Audi’s brilliant 4.2-liter V8.
With the combination of V8, smooth automatic transmission, and inconspicuous styling, the 2008 A6 4.2 was a true sleeper car. The car was fitted with all of Audi’s newest technology, resulting in a wonderfully luxurious place to spend time in. While the fuel economy might not have been as good as other cars in its class, it was definitely a worthy choice.
7 2008 Jaguar XF 4.2 ($9,000)
With the German brands dominating the luxury car market, Jaguar wanted to get in on the action and launched their new XF to replace the S-Type. It was a magnificent car with luxury, handling, and performance to truly compete with the Germans.
The most luxurious model was the ‘Premium Luxury’, which was fitted with a 300-hp 4.2-liter V8. It was the non-supercharged version fitted for the 2008 and 2009 model years, before the 5.0-liter V8 was introduced. It was a great car when it was new and is currently a great used option.
6 BMW 740i E38 ($15,000)
The BMW E38 7-Series has been heralded by many to be one of the best luxury cars ever. Much like the E39 5-Series, it had an unmatched blend of both sportiness and luxury, even in its lower trims. While the 750Li is the preferred trim level with its smooth 5.4-liter V12, the 740i fitted with a 4.4-liter V8 accomplishes the same task with a little less power.
The E38 is one of the best-proportioned sedans ever designed and still looks great today – especially when viewed next to its current generation model. The E38 is understated, yet it grabs attention and elegantly holds it. Motoring enthusiasts like the E38 7-Series because it is just a great car – awesome from any angle. Certainly, much cooler than a Tesla Model S.
5 1998 Mercedes-Benz S-Class ($7,000)
The S-Class is the pinnacle of Mercedes-Benz’s automotive line-up and hands-down the best of the big three German marque’s large executive sedan models. The S-Class is designed to showcase new technologies and forge the path for all new Mercedes-Benz products.
Fortunately for us motoring enthusiasts, the S-Class is a luxury car susceptible to depreciation and older models’ prices have dropped to well within the reach of the average car buyer. The S-Class – regardless of model – is a fantastic luxury car, designed and developed especially for the purpose of being the best.
4 2007 Audi A8 ($11,000)
The Audi A8 is the third option when looking for large executive German sedans – just behind Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class and BMW’s 7-Series. It accomplishes all the same tasks as the other two, just not with quite the same elegance or precision.
Still, the A8 is supremely comfortable in top-specification W12 trim, and properly fast in S8 trim, leaving many sports cars to drive away in shame at the sheer performance. Regardless of the model, the A8 is a great choice of luxurious sedan and older ones still look great.
3 2011 Lexus LS ($16,000)
The Lexus LS was the brand’s first car launched all the way back in 1989. It was built as a way of entering the US luxury car market and thanks to a low MSRP, it dominated the luxury market. The LS sold so well that BMW even accused Toyota of selling their cars below cost.
The LS has since morphed into a brilliant alternative to the German and British full-size luxury sedans, with the fourth generation even offering a 5.0-liter V8 hybrid setup. Today, the LS has the legacy of being the first in a long line of brilliant and reliable Toyota products, a line which will hopefully continue for the foreseeable future.
2 2003 Cadillac CTS ($12,000)
The Cadillac CTS was the US’ attempt to create a rival for the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Audi A6. While the CTS was a great American car, it lacked the refinement and build quality that other luxury sedans had. Regardless, the CTS was big and luxurious and had a smooth automatic transmission and a punchy V6 engine.
The highlight of the CTS range was the CTS-V, which had a supercharged Corvette V8 and a manual transmission fitted inside it. The CTS-V was a complete turn-around for the luxury brand which led to the eventual development of the absolutely brilliant CT5-V Blackwing. Overall, the CTS was a great model in the American motoring world. Unfortunate then that GM discontinued it.
1 2007 Maserati Quattroporte V ($17,000)
The fifth-generation Maserati Quattroporte has something which the Tesla Model S will never have in its entire production run – flair. The Quattroporte is a brilliant example of Italian design with its beautiful styling, incomprehensible controls, and magnificent V8 engine.
As shown on an old Top Gear episode, the Maserati Quattroporte has many issues – both ergonomic and mechanical – but none of it matters because it is a car with soul and a car that was built with passion. There is no better soundtrack than a Quattroporte S’ 4.7-liter V8 bellowing through the exhaust system and reverberating off unsuspecting objects. For that reason and that reason alone, the Tesla Model S will never come close to bettering it.
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