Before we get to this list of “best luxury cars”, I feel like you might be wondering about that headline. Why $90,060? I chose that number because the ceiling for my “best cheap cars” post was based on half the average selling price of a new car (more or less), and arbitrarily decided to keep going with that theme and set the floor for this list at approximately twice the current average.
As for the list, itself, I’ll try to answer it the same way you’d probably answer your rich friends if they asked you for help picking a new car: With a question of my own.
No, it’s not anything as pedestrian as, “What do you plan on using it for?” That kind of stuff is for the poors. For the rich people, the real question is: Who are you trying to impress with it?
THE OTHER PRIVATE SCHOOL PARENTS
If you’ve ever dropped off your kid at a private school, you know what a head trip that is. There’s a very distinct sort of class anxiety on display there, in that long line of parents in SUVs and luxury sedans waiting in queue to deposit their little Asher, Eli, or Harper. They’re all looking at each other, trying to figure out where each one sits in the social rankings. That bleach blonde Mean Mom in the 2022 GMC Hummer EV? She’s on top.
With a base price of $108,700, you definitely didn’t pick the Hummer because of its subtlety. No, you picked it because it puts you some 14” above the Model Y – quite literally head and shoulders above the Tesla moms! And they are just everywhere these days, aren’t they?
Not so the Hummer. With a base price nearly double the Tesla’s working with the brand-spanking newness of the thing to keep sightings relatively rare in 2022, the big GMC is sure to stand out. The crab mode and extra-tight U-turn radius, too, will generate smug stares while the other moms struggle to make three-point-turns, while the 1,000 hp Hummer’s rocket-like, 3.0-second 0-60 sprints will fill late Gen-X/elder Millennial Karens with the confidence they need to brake-check a semi on the highway.
In this, its natural habitat, the Hummer’s supremacy is unquestioned.
Despite my best efforts, my teenager barely cares about cars. Maybe he was too spoiled by blasts in tightly wound mongrel GT-Rs, early access to the Great Jack Baruth’s air-cooled Porsche, and exposure to a long string of rowdy, turbocharged Volvos to learn any kind of appreciation great cars. It’s hard to know. What isn’t hard to know, however, is that I harbor little love for Elon Musk, and dude’s Teslas are absolutely everywhere on YouTube, routinely making mincemeat of said GT-Rs and Porsches. My kid misses zero opportunities to share the most particularly embarrassing videos he can find with me, too, so if my next car’s main purpose is to impress him? Nothing but a Tesla Model S Plaid will do.
With a base price of $124,490 for the tri-motor Model S Plaid ($146,490 with Full Self-driving, 21” Arachnid wheels, and white “vegan leather”), the Tesla is well above our “luxury car” floor. And, let’s face it – even if the claimed 1.9 second 0-60 mph time is bunk, there are precious few street-legal cars that would stand a chance against the Plaid in a stoplight grand prix.
Add $2,500 more for the red multi-coat paint to make sure they notice it, and your kid will definitely might even say something nice about your new Plaid!
THE NEIGHBORS (OAK PARK EDITION)
This past summer, someone parked a Rolls Royce Ghost on my block, more or less in front of my buddy Jeff’s house. Within minutes of its arrival, the dad “s” on our block started messaging each other, “Did Jeff buy a Rolls-Royce?”
There was no reason to believe that one of our neighbors had – or even could afford to have ponied up the $311,900 starting price for a (MY2021) Rolls, other than the fact that it was there. It was there, and that was enough to get the suburban gossip train rolling. It was only days later, after the Rolls had left, that anyone even asked Jeff about it. So stunned and awed were we all.
There’s a Karma Revero on my block. One guy has a Magnum P.I. style Ferrari 308GTS. For a while, I had a red-on-red Ford Bronco that was so red you could see it from the International Space Station and a laughably outfitted first-gen Honda CR-V “overlander” finished in a coat of matte, robin’s-egg blue Plasti-dip. No one cared, about any of them.
It wasn’t even a new-for-2022 Black Badge (shown, above). It was just a “base” Ghost and we’re still trying to figure out who it belonged to, and why it was there, months later. It’s a legend, at this point. Like Bigfoot or the coyote that the moms group insists had been terrorizing the local pets, we’ll just have to wait and see if it ever comes back.
SIGOURNEY WEAVER *
I admit, I stole this from Top Gear – but it’s absolutely perfect. Jeremy Clarkson’s “Sigourney Weaver” test goes like this: Imagine you’re a single guy and you’ve somehow managed to score a date with the impossibly cool and collected Sigourney Weaver (or, if you’re a bit younger, let’s say, “Winona Ryder” or “Scarlett Johansson”). You want the lady in question to think you’re cool when you pick them up, so you want to pick the right car – and the right car has to be cool, too. But, and here’s the kicker, any car that you have to explain is, almost by definition, uncool.
Show up in a barking Nissan GT-R or ludicrous mid-engine C8 Corvette and you might get a bit of disinterested side-eye.
“Now I don’t know, but I’d imagine she isn’t terribly interested in cars,” writes Clarkson. “And, as a result, she’d find the Skyline (GT-R) daft. No, really. What would you say if she asked why it had a meter to show how much ‘g’ you were generating in the bends? Answer that and try to sound cool. See? It can’t be done.”
He’s not wrong. When I tried to explain the GT-R’s launch control to my wife, she laughed like a hyena and accused me of not knowing how to drive (which, fair).
Show up in a $173,100 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, though? There’s no explanation needed. The big S Class is still the standard against which all other high-powered luxo-barges are measured (whether their brand marketers admit it or not) and requires no explanation. In coupe form, it even feels a bit intimate, despite its nautical dimensions. It’s no jellybean, either, like the new EQS – it’s just a classic long-hood, short-deck coupe that embodies the sort of “personal luxury” the product designers at Lincoln and Cadillac tried (and failed) to emulate for years.
The big Benz manages to have a powerful presence without being flashy or giving off the impression that the driver is trying too hard, and – with a few phone calls to the right tuners – it can even run with that Model S up there. You know, after the date.
NO ONE AT ALL
I like watches, and the smartest thing I ever said to another person involved a wristwatch. One of my sales guys at the time, Doug, was needling me while I waffled on what was (to me) an expensive watch purchase.
“Why do you want to spend so much money on a watch?” he asked me. “I got this watch,” he said, wrist-rolling a massive, 52 mm Invicta dive watch, “for less than $300, and people ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over it all the time.”
“I don’t care if people ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over it,” I blurted out, thoughtlessly. “I want to be the one who ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ over it.”
Doug had no response. I bought the watch (Just six “easy” payments!), and I continue to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over it every time I pull it out of its box – and I do the same thing every time I step into my wife’s Volvo XC90 (same payments, just more of ‘em).
We recently reviewed the smaller sibling of this XC90, the XC60, and almost every positive thing you can say about that car can be said about this one – with the addition of a few extra seats. Optioned up to the gills with tech and climate packages, fitted with the R-Design wheels, hopped up with Volvo’s factory Polestar ECU tune, and ordered with your own aerodynamic top box (which my Volvo dealer is nice enough to store for me when I’m not using it), the 2022 XC90 T8 Recharge R-Design’s asking price creeps up to $91,140 – just above our arbitrary luxury car floor.
For that $90K, you get a car with a sub-6-second 0-60 time, the eco-fueled smugness of the plug-in hybrid driver, heated massaging seats, built-in booster for the little people, all-weather excellence, and the unquestioned safety of a premium SUV that has seen zero fatalities over nearly two decades of continuous production. All in a package that could easily be mistaken for a similar XC90 at about half the price. Get yours in Thunder Gray – or a CPO model in the similarly stealthy Osmium Grey – and no one outside the prancing moose community will give you a second look.
If you want all the style, comfort, and peace of mind you can afford, but don’t really care about impressing anyone, the Volvo is your ride.
At least, that’s my opinion – what’s yours? You’re the Best and Brightest, and I know I’m not the only one who puts a lot of thought into a “cost no object” fantasy garage. What luxury rides would you put in there, and who are you trying to impress?
[Images: GMC, Tesla, Rolls-Royce, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo]
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