The Genesis G70 is the Korean luxury brand’s first real attempt at taking down BMW. It is a sports sedan aimed squarely at the iconic 3-series, and it’s a knockout freshman effort. The G70 is attractive, sits on a proper rear-drive chassis (all-wheel drive is available), and features direct steering and agile handling. Engine choices include a 252-hp turbocharged four-cylinder or a 365-hp twin-turbo V-6. An automatic transmission is used across the board, though the four-cylinder model can be equipped with a manual transmission. And, the Genesis greatly undercuts almost all of its competition’s pricing. We like the G70 so much, in fact, that we’ve named it to one of the spots on our 2019 10Best Cars list.
Italian through and through, the stylish and athletic Alfa Romeo Giulia remains one of our favorite modern sports sedans. With a powerful and smooth turbocharged four-cylinder engine, quick-shifting eight-speed automatic, sharp steering, and excellent handling, the Giulia is a joy to drive. If you can get over Alfa’s past and present reliability issues and overlook of the Giulia’s weak-ish ergonomics and interior quality, the Giulia is one of the best choices out there. For those seeking the ultimate, most satisfying-to-drive sports sedan, the Alfa has no peer.
With a lineup consisting of sedan, coupe, and convertible body styles, the Mercedes-Benz C-class makes a bid for the most well-rounded compact luxury offering. It similarly tries to be all things to all people with a luxurious interior and a comfortable ride in entry-level C300 guise, and the same luxurious innards with edgier handling and performance in rorty Mercedes-AMG C43 form.
Audi’s A5 Sportback takes the best parts from the two-door A5 coupe and the four-door A4 sedan and mashes them together. The longer four-door Sportback looks a lot more elegant to our eyes than the two-door A5, and its rear hatch opens to a bigger cargo hold than you get with either the A5 coupe or A4 sedan. Good looks and greater practicality? That’s the A5 Sport back for you. All the rest of the regular A4 and A5 models’ goodness is present too, like their shared chassis that delivers sharp handling and a comfortable ride; powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine; and tech-forward and modern-styled interior.
Kia’s interpretation of a modern sports sedan, the Stinger, is refreshing: It is a large, rear-wheel-drive hatchback. It’s similar to the Audi A5 Sportback in concept, yet boasts expressive show-car looks, a hugely practical rear liftgate and capacious cargo hold, and impressive performance. The 365-hp twin-turbo V-6 found in the GT model doles out power like a muscle car, but even the four-cylinder Stinger is quick and fun to drive. It helps that the Stinger is priced thousands of dollars less than similarly equipped competitors, too. Close examination of the Stinger’s interior reveals why-it’s definitely not as focused on luxury as some competitors, its Genesis-branded G70 sibling included-but most qualms are tossed out the window when you hit the gas.
Like most Audis, the A4 sedan flies under the radar but is otherwise class-leading. The minimally styled four-door is handsome, has an extremely well-built cabin, is filled with advanced technologies, and is surprisingly enjoyable to drive. A4s with Quattro all-wheel drive have a 252-hp turbocharged four, while basic front-drive models have to make do with just 190 horses. No matter which metric you judge it by, the A4 delivers crushing competency.
At long last, Volvo’s S60 sedan has been redesigned and no longer shares bits with old Ford products. It emerges from this transformation as a compelling alternative to the sports-sedan establishment. Base S60 T5 models use a 250-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine (paired with front-wheel drive), while the T6 adds a supercharger for an extra 66 horsepower and comes with all-wheel drive. Particularly in T6 guise, the S60 is quick and engaging to drive without sacrificing comfort. The top-of-the-line S60 T8 Polestar iteration uses a 415-hp plug-in-hybrid powertrain, but it will be sold in limited numbers.
Keen on the excellence of Audi’s A5 Sportback or A4 sedan, but want it in a less practical two-door package? The A5 coupe and A5 convertible are your choices. The pair’s only engine option is a 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and Quattro all-wheel drive. Compared to its four-door A5 and A5 siblings, the two-door A5s are tuned more for performance and driving fun, and they deliver quick acceleration and a well-sorted chassis. As you might expect, the rear seat is tight on space, and some may find the interior design bland and devoid of the luxury while others see cool modernism.
It isn’t often you come across a new vehicle that’s trying to nose its way from one segment to another. That’s the Volkswagen Arteon, which picks up where its predecessor, the CC, left off in making the leap into the near-luxury space. Based on looks alone, the gorgeous Arteon deserves a spot at the luxe table. That it also drives sweeter and boasts better refinement than the mainstream VW Passat is icing on the cake.
Wait, why is BMW’s 3-series so far back in these rankings? While the BMW has long been this segment’s go-to pick, the current F30 generation has lost some of its previous luster. The interior isn’t as high-quality as some competitors, and it doesn’t ride or steer with the same confidence as the best cars in the class (or older 3-series even). But it remains a well-rounded, sportier-than-most choice when it comes to entry-luxe sedans, and it’s one of the only cars in the segment that still offers a manual transmission. We’ve had only limited experience with the all-new 2019 model; based some of our early impressions, it is poised to again be one of the leaders in the segment-finally-but encounters with certain versions of the car have left us unimpressed.
Adding “Gran Coupe” to the 4-series name, and what do you get? The four-door BMW 4-series Gran Coupe, which combines attributes of the standard 3-series sedan and the two-door 4-series coupe much in the same way Audi’s A5 Sportback combines A5 and A4 elements. The result, as with the A5, is sleek coupe-like styling, four doors, and hatchback practicality. Both of the Gran Coupe’s available engines-a turbocharged inline-four and a turbocharged inline-six-are strong choices, though the slinky BMW’s rear seat is a bit cramped and rearward visibility isn’t great. That’s the price you pay for style.
This is what used to be called the two-door 3-series, but a few years ago BMW switched the nomenclature to the even “4.” The BMW 4-series can be had as a coupe or a convertible with a power-folding hardtop; with four- or six-cylinder gas engines; and with rear- or all-wheel drive. Each combination is a fine choice, although every 4-series is oriented more towards comfort than outright sportiness, and the current model is starting to show its age. An all-new 4-series replacement is expected to arrive in 2020; it will be based on the upcoming all-new 3-series sedan.
It’s hard to think of a new car more attention-grabbing in this segment than the Tesla Model 3. Besides its Tesla glow, the Model 3 offers an enviable combination of extremely quick acceleration and a super-minimalist yet techy interior. Oh, yeah, and it’s fully electric and supported by Tesla’s nationwide network of fast charging stations. The (relatively) affordable Tesla model can use its substantial real-world driving range to bop between those Tesla Supercharger stations-you could drive clear across the country if you wanted to, and rather easily at that. Sadly, the Model 3 is let down by questionable build quality, iffy ergonomics, and its high price for longer-range models; the promised affordable variant, which starts at $36,600, has taken a while to appear.
Jaguar’s XE is the sole Brit in the entry-luxury class, and its distinctly English character is perhaps its strongest selling point. The top-level version’s supercharged V-6 is quick and characterful, while the base four-cylinder is more muted in its moves; the XE also is one of the only compact sports sedans to offer a diesel engine option. Every XE excels in the ride-and-handling department, with great feedback from the steering and excellent body control over bumps and while turning. The Jag’s interior falls short of the package’s smooth moves and good looks, being cramped and suffering from frustrating electronic woes.
Everything said about the four-door Infiniti Q50 applies to the two-door Infiniti Q60 coupe. Also, the Q60 is even better looking-it easily is one of the best-looking cars in the entry-luxe segment, with more rakishness than the Q50 sedan. Its three engine choices are identical to the Q50’s, including the range-topping Red Sport trim’s 400-hp V-6. With a smooth ride and a well-tuned suspension, the Q60 would be near the top of its class if not for its vague steering and dated-looking dashboard with its frustrating two-screen infotainment system.
Steve Siler – Car and Driver
The four-door Infiniti Q50 isn’t overtly sporty, and the available drive-by-wire steering setup (there is no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels, as is typical) feels video-game-like despite recent improvements. Infiniti’s confusing dual-screen infotainment setup is getting old, too, but the Q50 does come with a lot of standard tech. For those seeking zippy performance, a 400-hp Red Sport model is available.
Like its two-door RC sibling, the Lexus IS sedan is offered with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine or one of two V-6s depending on which model you select and whether you opt for rear- or all-wheel drive. The four-door IS also shares many of the RC’s frustrating elements, namely lackluster performance from most trim levels (the IS350 F Sport version is a treat, however) and fuel economy and an awkward-to-use infotainment system. The IS may be outclassed by newer rivals that offer more features and better numbers, but it remains a distinctive choice.
While most two-door coupes in this segment are little more than stubbier, two-door versions of their four-door sedan counterparts, the Lexus RC wears a look that’s completely unique from its IS sedan sibling. The RC comes in three different forms: The rear-drive RC300 has a 241-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the all-wheel-drive RC300-same name, two additional drive wheels-confusingly gets a 260-hp V-6, and the rear-drive-only RC350 has a 311-hp V-6. Got that? The RC rides well, has a spacious cabin for front passengers, and comes with a lot of standard features, but the rear seat is cramped, acceleration is middling, and the infotainment system is maddening to try and use quickly.
Even though it is nearly at the end of its life cycle and is now only available as a two-door coupe (Cadillac dropped the sedan model for 2019), the Cadillac ATS is among the most fun-to-drive entry-luxury cars. The still-stylish coupe is offered with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a V-6, and either engine can be paired with all-wheel drive; you can have any transmission you want so long as it’s an eight-speed automatic. The ATS really only shows its age inside, where its touch-sensitive CUE infotainment controls are at times frustrating to use and the materials and design fall short of those in more luxurious competitors. An all-new replacement for the ATS, the compact CT4 sedan, is right around the corner.
The Acura TLX is pitched as a tech-forward sports sedan alternative, and it mostly makes good on half of that promise. The TLX certainly is techy, with a strong list of standard and available active-safety features, but the odd two-screen infotainment setup can be annoying to use. The base front-drive, four-cylinder TLX has rear-wheel steering, something not found on almost all of its competitors, while the V-6 can be paired with Acura’s signature torque-vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive. We told you: Tech!
We’ve placed the regular Buick Regal Sportback above its more powerful GS sibling in our rankings because it is just as attractive and roomy (and nearly as quick!) and costs less money. The Regals both suffer from interiors that feel built to a price. Still, focus on the Regal’s sleek roofline and large rear liftgate that hides a large cargo bay instead of a traditional trunk. Need even greater versatility? Buick offers the Regal as a real wagon, too.
You might see a Buick badge on the Regal Sportback‘s snout, but this is actually an Opel with some extremely minor styling changes (and, of course, new badges!). The Regal GS, specifically, is billed as the sportier version of the regular Regal Sportback. It comes standard with a 310-hp V-6 engine and a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. More aggressive styling, awesome bucket seats, and extra standard features are also part of the GS package. Too bad that, like its non-GS sibling, the Regal’s interior doesn’t quite live up to its price tag; nor does this so-called performance model drive with much more spice than the standard Regal.
The MKZ, one of Lincoln’s only two passenger car offerings, is available with a 400-hp twin-turbo V-6 that can be paired with an all-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring. That’s pretty much the most exciting thing about it (and, in our experience, it’s not really a positive). Otherwise, the Lincoln is a heavily revised Ford Fusion. The sub-400-hp versions include a turbocharged four-cylinder engine or-at no extra cost-a hybrid powertrain. Every MKZ is getting up there in age now, however, meaning the interior and tech features don’t match up to what is available from the competition.
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