Luxury cars are about more than comfort and features. What they really offer—and buyers are willing to pay for—is a level of rolling refinement that makes travel a pleasure. If you're looking for that special feel, only a certain type of vehicle will do. Size and shapes may vary, but all luxury rides are designed to please the senses. Here are our top picks in this field for the 2017 model year.
Arguably the most likable member of the compact BMW 3 Series, the 330 delivers an impressive balance of performance, efficiency, and value. It replaces the outgoing 328 for 2017. Available as a sedan or wagon, the 330 is a well-rounded but accessible luxury car.
Last year the 3 Series received an effective makeover with revised front-end styling, sportier suspension tuning, and richer interior detailing. Under the hood is a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine that lays down 248 horsepower— a small bump up from the outgoing 328's 240 hp.
An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, although a six-speed manual remains available as a no-cost option. The 330 sedan starts out in rear-drive form, but BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system is a popular option. Wagons get xDrive as standard equipment.
The base model provides sharp handling and a stable, confident ride. If you're looking for real excitement, the M Sport version offers a host of track-inspired upgrades and racy aerodynamics.
The first Cadillac to compete head-to-head with top-shelf sedans like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series, the CT6 combines dynamic performance with uncompromising room and comfort. In terms of product offering, the debut of the CT6 last year put Cadillac on equal footing with Europe's luxury brands.
The standard 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder delivers 265 horsepower to the rear wheels. You can upgrade to a 3.6-liter V6 with 335 horsepower, or a 3-liter twin-turbo V6 that's good for 404 horsepower. The V6s are paired with all-wheel drive, and an eight-speed automatic transmission is used with all three engines.
Thanks to a relatively firm suspension, the CT6 is remarkably responsive for a car of its size. We expected the CT6 to be spacious, but the rear of the cabin is downright cavernous and can be loaded with high-class amenities. The quality of materials (wood, carbon fiber, leather) is unquestionably the highest in Cadillac history.
Audi's flagship sedan, the A8 continues to impress us with its museum-quality interior and array of powerful engines. You also get indulgent passenger room and standard all-wheel drive, which makes the A8 something of bargain among top-tier luxury sedans.
The engine roster starts with a supercharged 3-liter V6 engine that produces 333 horsepower. Also on tap is a turbocharged 4-liter V8 that lays down 450 horsepower. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
The A8 rides on 122.9-inch wheelbase for outstanding rear-seat comfort. While all Audi products boast highly refined interiors, none is as opulent or serene as the A8's. Once you settle behind the wheel, there's no doubt you're driving the flagship of a luxury brand.
Volvo's all-new flagship sedan, the S90 represents a leap forward in the brand's passenger car philosophy. While the safety and quality you expect are here, it's the athletic styling and inner elegance that mark the S90 as a new kind of Volvo.
While the S90 competes in the midsize luxury segment, it's still the largest Volvo sedan you can buy and is incrementally longer, wider, and lower than its predecessor, the S80. Much of the S90's mechanical setup and interior design is borrowed from the XC90 crossover.
The S90 starts out with front-wheel drive and a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder that produces 240 horsepower. The available turbocharged and supercharged version of the 2-liter achieves 316 horsepower and comes exclusively with all-wheel drive. A 400-horsepower hybrid setup will arrive later in the year as the top engine choice. All models use an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Standard equipment includes Volvo's sophisticated Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous driving system that can brake, accelerate, and steer where lane markings are clearly visible to the car's cameras. The system works at speeds up to 81 mph.
The flagship of the Mercedes-Benz family, the S-Class offers a level of sheer prestige that few other cars can challenge. With its vault-like build quality and obsessive detailing, the S550 sets a world standard for full-size luxury. The S550 sedan and coupe receive freshened styling for 2017, but the real news is return of the convertible after a 44-year absence.
As the "entry level" S-Class, the S550 is powered by a twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 with 449 horsepower (other models carry a larger V8 or a V12). A nine-speed automatic transmission does the shifting. All-wheel drive comes standard on the coupe and is a popular option for the sedan. The new cabriolet features a power soft top with remote control. It's the largest convertible top currently installed on any car.
The standard adjustable air suspension assures a luxurious ride. For even greater comfort, you can add Magic Body Control, which uses a front-mounted camera to evaluate upcoming road surfaces and then adjusts the suspension accordingly.
The S550 comes standard with indulgences like a cabin fragrance system, heated wiper blades, automatic soft-close doors, and a 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound system that may impress audiophiles.