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Genesis G90
Genesis G90 Photo: James Lipman

Best Luxury Cars Overall For 2021

The Top Ten Best Luxury Cars You Can Buy!

Different people get different styles of luxury cars for different reasons. For some, it’s a status symbol. For others, it’s a realistic, comfortable family car with a touch of luxury about it.

No matter the reason, luxury cars exist for the express reason of moving you about in more comfort and elegance than a “standard” car would. Make no mistake, a lot of budget-friendly cars are quite comfortable for their price range, but for luxury cars, that comfort is the primary concern.

This is a segment where the German auto manufacturers have heavily invested into, with decades of opulence and specialty luxury behind their claim. However, new challengers are edging in from Asia and the UK, so this list could swing wildly year to year as others recognized the importance of this sector.

However, for 2021, these are the ten best luxury cars, of any size, you can buy!

2021 BMW 3-Series

1. 2021 BMW 3-Series

Important Info

  • Base Price:$41,250+
  • Updates: Minor
  • 0-60 mph: 4.8-6.0 sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 20-24- mpg / Hwy 27-31 mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 4 years / 50,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 9.1/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: The benchmark of the small luxury car segment, the 3-Series is an engaging, thrilling ride that can also be calm and quiet

Pros: Retains the small kidney grille look, refined and top-class engines, large cabin for the car size, brilliant handling, available AWD

Cons: No more manual transmission options, even the most minor options quickly ramp up the price

The BMW 3-Series has, for decades, been the standard-bearer for a pricey but obtainable sports sedan that could both tear up a racetrack and cruise down the quietest highway. The 2021 3-Series continues this tradition.

Powered by either a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four that produces 255 HP or a turbocharged 3.0L inline-six producing 385 HP, the 3 gets going in a hurry. New for 2021 is the option to couple the 2.0L engine with a mild-hybrid-assist feature that, unlike most hybrids, is there to boost power and take up the slack during shifts, instead of being there to assist with mileage, despite what the marketing materials say.

What really sells the 3-Series, and almost always has, is the driving dynamic. The BMW has a very mature, positive feel in its steering, and the poise of the car itself is second-to-none. It is happy to cruise a highway or freeway with little effort, but show it a corner with a little vigor, and it seems to hunker down, wag its tail, and beg for the next corner.

The interior is also refreshingly modern. A nice large infotainment screen with a very nice sat-nav feature, fully TFT instrument cluster, well-appointed with leather and wooden finishes, and a chunky steering wheel to wrap your hands around to know it’s a special car.

Thankfully, the massive and controversial grille of the new 2021 BMW M3 has not translated down to the main model range, keeping the 3-Series looking smart, sporty, and elegant. Top marks for that.

It is really difficult to argue against BMW’s 3-Series. While the M3, of course, is a controversial car with controversial looks, the rest of the 3’s retain just enough of that restrained aggression in their looks and engines. The 3-Series would have scored a 9.5 if a manual 6-speed was still offered, but the sport shift transmission is slick as it is. As well, sitting in that driver’s seat that looks unassuming, but seems to somehow warp itself to fit you just right… the German’s definitely know what they are doing!

2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

2. 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Model Range

Important Info

  • Base Price: $94,250+
  • Updates: Minor
  • 0-60 mph: 3.5-6.8 sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 17-?? mpg / Hwy 26-?? mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 4 years / 50,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 9/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: The original super-luxury car. The Mercedes S-Class is the car that defined the term “executive sedan,” and it keeps it up in 2021

Pros: So many options and features that allow you to personalize it to your hearts content, extremely reliable engines, small hybrid coming in 2021

Cons: For such a big car it has a tiny trunk, sometimes too many options, not the most fuel-efficient beast on this list

Back in 1972, Mercedes-Benz made the decision to build a special class of vehicles that were to be exclusive, sought after, and above all define luxury. They called these cars Sonderklasse, or “special class”, which was abbreviated S-Klasse. The rest, as they say, is history.

For 2021, the S-Class is the very definition of luxury. If you include the tuned up AMG versions of the S-Class, these cars can easily cost as much as a small house, so they had damned well better be comfortable! This is achieved with heated, cooled, massaging, and fully powered leather seats, so much technology working to keep you comfortable and safe that the car literally has four computers to process it all, and engines that are the abject definition of “just about enough” for the executive or luxury customer to not worry about it.

For those of us that like numbers, however, the S-Class can be fitted with either a 3.0L V6 producing 362 HP or a 4.0L V8 producing 463 HP. Both engines are twin-turbocharged, which Mercedes refers to as “bit-turbo.” Also new for 2021, all of the base S-Class cars will have a mild-hybrid-assist system that will help the car get off the line quicker, and make cruising more fuel-efficient. However, these efficiency numbers have not been shared yet.

For the truly unhinged, there is the Mercedes-AMG S 63 sedan. It has all the luxury items and comfortable interior of the regular S-Class, but its engine is turned up to 11, named with 603 HP, 664 lbs-ft of torque, and a 3.5 second 0-60 time.

For a car with such a storied history, the S-Class came extremely close to topping our list. However, despite the amazingly plush and comfortable interior, with just the right touch of refinement, we did have to dock marks for the trunk being tiny, and when we brought up the options list for seeing what pricing you could do with the car, it was almost a novella in and of itself! Our advice to Mercedes would be to streamline more options into packages, which they have started to do, but it definitely can be confusing.

2021 Mercedes E-Class

3. 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Important Info

  • Base Price:$54,250-64,350
  • Updates: Moderate
  • 0-60 mph: 4.7-6.5 sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 23-25 mpg / Hwy 27-30 mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 4 years / 50,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 8.9/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: German perfection through and through, a capable and comfortable car that remains the standard all others try to emulate

Pros: Many high tech features are standard, unbelievably smooth power delivery, quiet and relaxed interior, AWD standard

Cons: Base engine lacks a little power, the convertible option can take up half the available trunk space, infotainment can be a little confusing

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has a storied history, from the awesome racing car derived E190 Evo cars of the early 1990s, to the early 2000’s AMG E sedans that were the ultimate in sleeper cars. Today, however, the focus is on the E-Class itself, as the AMG branch of things has certainly moved those specialized cars into performance car territory.

The E-Class is powered by one of two powertrains, a 2.0L turbocharged inline-four with 255 HP, or a 3.0L twin-turbocharged inline-six with hybrid assist that combine to give 362 HP. Both mate to the wheels through an 8-speed automatic.

What Mercedes has done with the E-Class, however, is balance performance and comfort on a dangerously thin razor’s edge, and pulled it off. The ride is plush and comfortable, especially if you opt in the air-ride system, but the steering response is progressive and confidence-inspiring, with the engines both providing creamy smooth power the moment your right foot demands it.

The interior has paired TFT screens, one as the dash and instrument cluster area, the other as a fully touchscreen infotainment system. The new iteration of the MBUX infotainment software is a little confusing at times, with some items under categories that make no sense, but after about an hour of fiddling about with it, you should be familiar with where things are.

Otherwise, plush leather, swathes of brushed aluminum, and even a couple of areas of soft-touch plastics all feel right in line with the premium price tag the E-Series commands.

Having driven an older E190 (not an Evo, unfortunately), we were surprised by how well the motorsports history still features in the E-Class. The steering still has that initial hesitation in the first degree of turn, then progressively bites more and more with the front wheels the more you turn it. The power devliery from the 3.0L with the instant and torquey response. And the fact that it’s as comfortable as your grandmothers’ living room couch while holding you in its bolstered seats is just astonishing.

2021 Genesis G80

4. 2021 Genesis G80

Important Info

  • Base Price: $47,700+
  • Updates: Major
  • 0-60 mph: Unknown sec
  • Fuel Economy: City unknown mpg / Hwy unknown mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 3 years / 36,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 8.7/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: A redesigned middle car for the Genesis range, the new G80 brings a a premium luxury sedan under $50,000 and is worth every penny.

Pros: Powerful engine, base spec has a huge amount of standard features and high tech safety built-in, clean and future-looking design

Cons: Badge is not recognized yet as a premium brand, front grille is a bit big for what hides behind it.

Genesis decided to do away with the last car and build an entirely new car from scratch for the 2021 G80.

Borrowing the engine from the last generation Kia Stinger, Genesis reworked it to provide 300 HP from a 2.5L turbocharged inline-four and produce a lot of its torque low down in the rev range. This gives the G80 tons of muscle to get its generally lightweight (at least for the segment) body going.

The interior is also where Genesis has dialed up the luxury car amenities. A prominent infotainment screen is central on the dash, with large swathes of wood grain finish and leather covering the rest of the dash. The climate control and seat heating/cooling controls are central and operated via an easy to read and easy to use dial interface. Seats are extremely plush and bolstered not for sport, but support.

Not much information has been fully released yet about the G80, as it is expected to hit showrooms before the year is out and start deliveries in 2021. Still, if the G70 and G90 are anything to go off of, this is going to be the best value in luxury mid-sized cars bar none.

While we haven’t driven the new G80, if the old G80 from 2019 and the first half of 2020 is anything to go off of, this is going to be one hell of a car. This is the assault on the German stranglehold on the luxury segment that is needed. And Genesis has been smart in bringing in the superb engine from the Stinger, which itself was a suprisingly powerful engine in that four door performance sedan. Tuned up and with 300+ HP, it’s going to take on the E-Class and even the 3-Series face to face, and we can’t wait to see who wins!

2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

TIE 5. 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Important Info

  • Base Price: $41,400-$45,950+
  • Updates: Minor
  • 0-60 mph: 5.7+ sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 22-26 mpg / Hwy 28-35 mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 4 years / 50,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 8.6/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: A consummate professional, the C-Class is a refined, comfortable, and low-key luxury car with a few neat tricks

Pros: Even base models have a plethora of standard features, modern design and materials throughout, spacious cabin with gigantic rear seats for the car size

Cons: Engine can be noisy if pushed hard, middle of the road in performance, not as much trunk space as some rivals

While Mercedes-Benz loves to shove all the latest and greatest tech into their S-Class flagship luxury sedan, the honest and humble C-Class gets 80% of all the neat stuff and has a few little tricks it likes to call its own.

Powered by a 2.0L turbocharged inline-four, the C-Class sedan and coupe both make a respectable 255 HP with 273 lbs-ft of torque. Compared to some on this list, this might sound a bit low, but for the mini-Merc, it is just right. Helping that is the fact that Mercedes has recently embraced using more high-quality composites as well as durable aluminum in their manufacturing, reducing overall vehicle weight.

The interior, however, is where the party tricks come into play. Due to the high vaulted roofline and the sudden dive to the trunk, the rear seats in the C are enormous. Even a 6’1″ tall person will fit with headroom to spare, and the seats are premium leather with lovely plushness to them. The center stack is also lovingly finished in wood grain, and all the buttons and interfaces feel tactile, with good positive “clicks!” to them. It is just genuinely a nice place to be.

However, that massive interior space does cause one of the few drawbacks, that being the trunk being smaller than almost any other rival in the small luxury sedan segment. However, it is still easily large enough to hold a full grocery trip’s worth of food, or a couple of golf bags if you want to head out to the links.

What impressed us the most about the C-Class is just how much equipment they can shove into such a small body at $41,000. It truly is a tiny S-Class and a lot of last generation’s S-Class technology is standard in this car. Also, and this is a bit of an opinionated discussion between us at GCBC, this author believes this is the best looking of the Mercedes-Benz Class-styled cars. It’s got the long hood, the punchy nose, and the right lines to make it a really impressive looking Merc.

2021 Audi A8

TIE 5. 2021 Audi A8

Important Info

  • Base Price: $85,200+
  • Updates: Minor
  • 0-60 mph: 5.3+ sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 22-?? mpg / Hwy 27-?? mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 4 years / 50,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 8.6/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: An understated and luxurious sedan that makes one look as refined in the same way a tailored suit does.

Pros: Luxurious and open-feeling interior, a lot of features are standard, Audi’s sports history shows with confident cornering, AWD standard

Cons: A bit ambiguous in looks, warranty is only on-par with other German manufacturers, the lowest model only comes with V6

Audi has a long and storied history, being born out of the Auto Union company that built mostly race cars in the 1930s. It is with this history in mind that it should come as no surprise that Audi touts all of their luxury cars as capable performers.

The A8 is no different, being touted not so much as an executive sedan and more as a sporty limousine. At the base level, one gets a turbocharged 3.0L V6 producing 335 HP, and at levels above, one gets the twin-turbocharged 4.0L V8 producing 453 HP. Both engines are equipped with mild-hybrid-assist systems to boost performance and efficiency, with no official results from the EPA available at the time of writing.

One of the hallmarks of the Audi limousine-style sedans is the exceptional legroom, and it is no different in the 2021 A8. It is so generous that the rear seats get nearly 18 inches from the front of the seat to the back of the driver’s or passenger’s seat, with those seats set at their most rearward position.

Happily, even on the lowest-priced model, all driver aids, infotainment, driver performance settings, et al, are all standard. In fact, it is touted in the marketing material that the A8 can store up to 400 different settings, for 7 different profiles, in the car’s computer.

The only thing about the Audi A8 that is even a slight let down, and we’re nitpicking really hard here, is that it is a bit too subtle in its looks and can be quite easily missed. However, if a low profile in extreme comfort is what you want, this is your car.

Audi always impresses with both their engines and handling. Audi itself started as a racing car builder before making road cars, and if you watch any GT-class racing these days, you’ll always see an Audi of some type racing. That DNA translates well to their road cars. However, there is a bit of a lull in the looks department, and despite being enormously comfortable with the vaunted Quattro AWD system giving you all the grip you’d ever need, it does feel a bit too much of the same as previous cars.
2021 Genesis G90

7. 2021 Genesis G90

Important Info

  • Base Price: $72,950+
  • Updates: Minor
  • 0-60 mph: 5.0+ sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 16-20 mpg / Hwy 24-27 mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 5 years / 60,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 8.5/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: A truly capable luxury sedan from South Korea that is wedging itself into a competitive sector

Pros: Insane value for the features included, quiet and comfortable interior, silky smooth power delivery, AWD available at all trim levels

Cons: Widely unknown name, rear seats do not fold down, somewhat disconnected driving feel

The race for second and third on our list was very, very tight. The Genesis G90, from Hyundai’s luxury brand, missed out by 0.1 points. That’s how good this car is, despite not many people knowing about it.

The value of the G90, coming in at $10,000 or more under many of its rivals, is unprecedented. Especially as Hyundai, and its sub-brands of Kia and Genesis, loves to shove as many features into the base price car as possible. This is shown by the lowest priced spec having a 3.3L twin-turbo V6, but for only a couple grand more, having the top-spec 5.0L V8 put in without changing any of the standard features.

These standard features include adaptive suspension, intelligent radar and lidar-based cruise control, dynamically adaptive 8-speed automatic transmission with a sport-shift option, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot assist, driver attention warning system, rear-cross traffic automatic braking, and the list goes on. On the base model.

We sincerely hope that this unbelievably comfortable (it serious is like sitting in a plush leather armchair with wheels) and capable luxury beast gets recognized for what it really is: the best value full-sized luxury sedan on the market today. Oh, and just as an aside, it also has the best warranty of all cars on this list at 5 years basic, 10 years powertrain.

We don’t think we need to reiterate why the G90 impressed us so much. It is simply the best value, and that twin-turbo V6 feels like it’s not running on something as volatile as gasoline. It feels like it’s running on silk and olive oil, it is so smooth.
2021 Genesis G70

8. 2021 Genesis G70

Important Info

  • Base Price: $36.000+
  • Updates: Moderate
  • 0-60 mph: 4.7-5.7 sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 17-19 mpg / Hwy 26-28 mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 5 years / 60,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 8.4/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: The plucky upstart punching well above its weight class, and landing a lot of knockouts

Pros: Sporty and agile feel, pleasantly upscale cabin, unbeatable value in terms of price-to-features

Cons: Tight rear seats, infotainment system a bit sluggish, manual shifter not as engaging as hoped, badge recognition not as high as many other luxury brands

Genesis is a brand that is still relatively new to American shores. The luxury arm of Hyundai, the South Korea luxury cars are built well, have many standard features that would cost you an arm and a leg with other brands, and have a surprisingly fun-to-drive feel to them.

Powered by either a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four that puts out 255 HP or a twin-turbocharged 3.3L V6 with 365 HP, the car has plenty of grunt to get it moving in either the RWD or AWD versions. There are two transmissions available, a surprisingly excellent 8-speed sport-shift automatic, or a lackluster 6-speed manual.

The manual is the key disappointment. The clutch has no real feel for the bite point, and the shifter sort of sludges its way into its gates instead of snapping in. The G70 is redeemed, however, with an extremely well set up chassis and suspension that gives it a driving feel that rivals a BMW 3-Series in terms of sportiness.

Set up much more as a sports sedan than a 4 person luxury car, it still has leather everywhere, is immensely comfortable, and has nice materials everywhere inside. The back seats will fit someone that’s 5’5″ comfortably but are otherwise quite the tight squeeze for large passengers.

We love the Genesis G70, we really do… but we have to emphasize that it could have been up in the 9’s in terms of points if they fixed up the manual transmission. What really confuses us is that the 6-speed manual in the Hyundai Genesis sports car is superbly snappy and loves to slip into the gates, but they couldn’t translate that expertise over to the G70? Truly a shame, as the G70 with the feel of the Hyundai’s 6-speed would be stepping on BMW’s toes and making little beads of sweat form on the brows in some German boardrooms.

2021 Audi A4 Sedan

9. 2021 Audi A4 Sedan

Important Info

  • Base Price: $39,100+
  • Updates: Minor
  • 0-60 mph: 5.2+ sec
  • Fuel Economy: City ?? mpg / Hwy ?? mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 4 years / 60,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 8.1/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: Very German in its approach, it’s elegant, well engineered, and a little reserved in its power

Pros: Exceptional handling, comfortable ride, smooth new hybrid-enhanced engines

Cons: Options can skyrocket the price, some items that should be standard at this price point are not

Audi likes to stylize itself as the better alternative to the other two big German luxury manufacturers, but with the A4 Sedan, it falls just shy of that goal. This is not, however, to say it’s a horrible car.

For 2021, Audi has taken its already well-loved 2.0L turbocharged inline-four and added a 12-volt hybrid system to it, at every trim level. This has boosted baseline power to 202 HP, and in the higher trims, to a meaty 261 HP. The hybrid operates much like BMW’s system, helping get the car off the line as well as picking up the slack between shifts with the 7-speed sports automatic.

Where the Audi loses points, however, is in moving some features that should be standard at $40,000 into packages. We find it almost appalling that one of the options on the list is that you have to spend $350 on top of the car’s price to get rear seat thoracic airbags… safety and safety systems should always be in the base price!

More agreeable is the convenience package, which for $1,800 or more, depending on sub-model, gives you remote start, blind spot sensors, rear cross-traffic emergency braking sensors, heated mirrors, at al. That’s more in line with what other manufacturers will put into such packages.

Redeeming the Audi a little more is that, like almost every Audi, it drives exceptionally well. The DNA that is passed down from Audi’s multiple racing teams is definitely showing, and not many cars will carve a corner as nicely.

If only Audi could translate the driving feel of the A4 into the A8. Granted, the A4 is a tiny little roadbump to a car as big as the A8, but somehow the A4 just feels up on its toes, really eager to corner. And the fact that Audi moved an airbag into an option, albeit an inexpensive one, made many of us go “Wait… what?” in response. It feels like a money grab, and when you’re already at $40,000, throw the damned airbag in as standard!

Note: Regarding fuel economy, due to the addition of the hybrid system, the EPA nor Audi have yet released official MPG figures yet

2021 Lexus IS

5. 2021 Lexus IS

Important Info

  • Base Price: $39,000-$44,900
  • Updates: Minor interior
  • 0-60 mph: 5.5+ sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 18-23 mpg / Hwy 28-32 mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 4 years / 50,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 7.9/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: Toyota’s luxury brand comes out swinging for the small luxury segment, and produces a great car as a result

Pros: Possibly the best iteration of the controversial front grille, the redone interior is still leaps and bounds above other cars, sharp and engaging driving dynamics

Cons: Interior space can be generously called “cozy,” base engine starts to lose steam 1,500 RPM from redline, small trunk

Much like its big brother the Lexus LS, the Lexus IS almost entirely about the interior. Whereas the LS is about bombarding you with every comfort and luxury option under the sun, the IS is all about focusing you on one thing: driving.

Inside the sharply styled and angular exterior, you will find a driver’s seat that is wrapped in leather and is comfortable but is also bolstered like a sports car seat. A wide center rest and stack provide you with all the information and setup options you need to personalize your drive. Rear seats are tight and small, but Lexus isn’t expecting you to have rear passengers. The instrument cluster is digital and based entirely on the LFA supercar cluster.

In the base IS300 or IS300 AWD, you get a grunty little turbo 2.0L inline-four that barks out 241 HP. If you go up to the IS350 F Sport, however, you get a howling 311 HP V6. Both are controlled via an 8-speed semi-automatic, and the IS350 F Sport also throws a Torsen limited-slip differential into the mix.

No matter what style you get, although the F Sport is what we recommend, the supercar DNA in the handling of the car immediately talks to your hands. You can place the nose precisely where you want to, you can turn the driving mode to sport plus and get the tail out a little if you want to… it’s just a fun car to drive. It’s just a shame that it’s flagged as a luxury car, because if it had been styled as a performance car, it would have fared much better.

Alas, as a luxury car, the cramped rear seats, small trunk, and dismissal of seemingly anything but the drive does drag it down.

One of us at GCBC has had the pleasure of owning a Lexus IS for a year or two, and all he could gush on about was the way that the car handled and the perfection of its interior. Lexus really did turn a page in design and quality when they released the LFA supercar, and it has truly benefitted many a common man in their search for a well-honed Japanese luxury car that drives like a race car… if you can only get over that fish-mouth-like front grille.