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Luxury Car Shopper Consensus: The Best Luxury Sedan in the Entry Luxury Category

January 14th, 2012

What do real luxury car owners have to say after a hands-on, back-to-back comparison of nine top-selling entry luxury sedans like the BMW 328i, Mercedes C250, Audi A4, and Lexus ES350?  To find out, we invited over 100 entry luxury sedan owners to a test facility to conduct a detailed evaluation of each of the cars.  We had each segment owner rate the cars on 87 different attributes.  In effect, we paid them do the shopping for you, sparing you driving all over town to visit the different dealerships and grapple with eager salesmen.  Then, we tabbed up the results to present you with their clear consensus findings.  So, which car is the winner?  The answer may depend on what you’re looking for.

Here in a nutshell is what we learned from entry luxury sedan owners.

Lexus ES

Now in the 5th year of its life, the 5th generation ES350 ties the Mercedes C250 for the top overall vehicle rating among 9 sedans tested.  Entry luxury sedan owners rate ES best-in-class for 9 of 10 category summaries and 57 of 87 total ratings.   One of three sedans we tested that was based off a mid-size and not a compact architecture, ES scores particularly well in interior roominess.  ES’ few weaknesses are in exterior styling, where it rates average and was considered too generic by some, and fuel economy, where it ties G37 for the lowest city and highway figures.  Despite the highest price among 9 sedans tested, ES is seen as a value, rating best-in-class for price and value for the money.  ES is the clear winner among owners seeking a roomy, comfortable, conservatively styled entry luxury sedan.

Mercedes C250

The 2012 C250 ties the ES350 for best overall vehicle, with best-in-class exterior appearance, interior appearance, interior controls, and visibility.  Front seat comfort, trunk, and interior storage are also judged as strengths.  C250’s face lifted exterior is seen as fresh and aggressive, while still retaining the classic Mercedes look.  C250’s few weaknesses include rear seat comfort, warranty, and engine specifications, where its new base engine, a 201 horsepower turbo-charged 1.8L 4 cylinder, is not seen as competitive.  Despite being priced in the top 3 vehicles in our study, segment owners rate C250 above average in value for the money.  Based off a compact architecture, C250 is the clear winner among owners seeking a more personal, sporty entry luxury sedan.

BMW 328i

Now in the final year of its life cycle, the 5th generation 328i tied the Audi A4 and Lexus IS250 for the 4th highest overall vehicle rating.  Despite its age, the 328i finished in the top 4 models for exterior appearance, with best-in-class scores for its front and side views.  Warranty, price, and value for the money were also strengths.  Weaknesses included front and rear seat comfort and roominess, interior storage, interior controls, quality of interior materials, and trunk area.  However, we include the 328i in the list of top performers based on driving performance, generally regarded as the best in this segment.  The BMW 328i is the clear choice for consumers who place the highest priority on driving dynamics.  The 6th generation 3-series is expected to be launched early this year.

To get all of the insights entry luxury owners had after testing these nine vehicles, including which car placed third for overall vehicle, click here.