The Good Life

The Year Of The Luxury Car

From souped up sedans to intrepid SUVs and eco-conscious plug-ins, the high end of the market is leading the 2019 model year
By Paul A. Eisenstein | From Top 25 Annual Cigar Of The Year, January/February 2019
The Year Of The Luxury Car
Aston Martin DBS Superleggera

While auto dealers don’t soap up their windows anymore to build  excitement for the new model year, you still have plenty of reasons to be excited about the 2019 cars, trucks and crossovers now in showrooms or set to get there in the months to come.

That’s especially true for luxury buyers. For one thing, there are more choices than ever from a wide range of foreign and domestic brands. They come in all manner of body styles and offer a dizzying array of premium features suitable for every budget. If performance is your top priority, you can choose from more than a dozen different models delivering over 700 horsepower. If you’re determined to save the environment, 2019 brings the launch of a wave of new battery cars, some delivering more than 300 miles of range as well as tire-spinning power.

It’s been said that today’s cars are rolling computers, and the typical luxury model now has as many as 100 microprocessors on board to operate their powertrains, touchscreen infotainment technology and advanced driver assistance systems, with a number of the new 2019 models pushing close to fully hands-free driving.

The new model year also offers more ways to purchase your new car, truck or crossover. Sure, you can still pay cash, arrange for a standard loan or opt for a lease, but manufacturers are exploring creative alternatives such as the subscription programs now offered by Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volvo. Subscriptions typically feature flat monthly fees that cover everything from insurance to service and repairs. Just pay for gas. Some programs can be canceled on short notice and others allow you to swap vehicles on a whim—maybe a sleek sports car for the daily commute and a big SUV to take the family traveling over the weekend.

Here’s a look at some of the hottest new 2019 models by brand:

Acura Honda’s spin-off was the first Japanese luxury brand, and it’s got some intriguing new offerings for 2019, including an all-new version of its ILX sedan. But the big news comes with the complete makeover of the Acura RDX. The crossover grows bigger, roomier and more stylish, adding more tech toys—including one of the best audio systems on the road—as well as improved performance. RDX has been an instant hit, dominating its segment since its launch.

Aston Martin Few brands have had more ups and downs over the years, but this is definitely a good moment for the brand best known for its long partnership with cinematic superspy 007. The big adventure for 2019 is the debut of the Aston DBS Superleggera, the first of seven major new models planned to launch through early in the coming decade. It’s a low, wide and imposing grand-touring car backed up by a 715-horsepower V-12. For those with an unlimited bank account and the desire for something truly unique, Aston is producing 25 reproductions of the classic DB5 featured in Goldfinger. For $3.5 million there’ll be plenty of “gadgets,” though Aston won’t confirm whether that includes Bond’s ejection seat.

Audi The German brand has been flooding showrooms with an assortment of all-new products in recent years, and 2019 is no exception. The big news is the debut of the Audi e-tron, the brand’s first long-range, all-electric model. It’s about the size of the more conventional Q5 sport-utility vehicle and will deliver more than 200 miles a charge. The e-tron is the first of more than a dozen plug-based models coming from Audi by 2025. The Volks- wagen Group’s biggest luxury brand also has an all-new version of its flagship sedan, the 2019 Audi A8, offering plenty of traditional luxury features, as well as technology that can drive virtually hands-free on limited-access roadways.

Bentley This ultra-premium British marque has gone through some big changes in recent years, starting with the roll-out of its big Bentayga. While that SUV is now its best-selling model, Bentley hasn’t abandoned its more traditional model lines, and for those who want a mix of lavish features and lots of power, the Continental GT goes through a thorough makeover for 2019. This coupe is the heart and soul of the Bentley brand and the new version is even more stylish, with truly breathtaking power.

BMW You need a scorecard to keep up with everything in the Bavarian maker’s lineup, starting with a complete makeover of the 3-Series, the brand’s heart and soul—and the best-selling luxury nameplate ever. Two versions will be available at launch, with more, including a new M3, to follow. Also undergoing a complete update, the X5 gets three new versions, including the high-performance M Sport model, with a plug-in hybrid to follow. Add to the list the completely new X7, the most lavish SUV BMW has ever offered and a counterpoint to the flagship 7-Series. In fact, there will soon be three “halo” models with the return of the 8-Series coupe. If performance is your passion, check out the M850i xDrive—or you might prefer the next-generation Z4 roadster, which is the product of an unusual collaboration with Toyota and will use its underlying platform for the returning Supra coupe.

Cadillac General Motors’ luxury brand is in the midst of a major makeover as it shifts from traditional sedans and coupes to SUVs and CUVs. The big news for 2019 is the debut of the marque’s third utility vehicle, the XT4. The compact model picks up on the Art & Science cues that have been a theme for Cadillac for more than a decade, with its distinctive vertical head and taillights. But the rough edges have been sanded down a bit, giving the new crossover-utility vehicle a more polished and refined appearance. Though it will be dropping some product lines, Caddy isn’t abandoning the passenger car market entirely. The debut of the most powerful version of its flagship CT6 proves that point. The V-Sport model makes about 550 horsepower with its twin-turbo, 4.2-liter V-8. Caddy has also launched its new SuperCruise system, hailed as one of the most advanced semi-autonomous technologies on the road.

Chevrolet Yes, Chevy. Hard as it might be to think of the bow-tie brand this way, Chevy is one of the best-selling luxury marques based on price, thanks to its popular pickup line. Rival Ford has already nudged the $100,000 mark with a version of its F-Series truck, and Chevy is pushing closer with the complete makeover of its full-size Silverado, the High Country 
edition loaded up with the sort of lavish features you’d normally expect from a 
German luxury sedan. And don’t dismiss the latest version of the Chevrolet Corvette. The new, 755-horsepower ZR1 can give chase to the best import sports cars from the likes of Lamborghini and Ferrari.

Ferrari Speaking of the Prancing Pony, it has confirmed there’s a high-performance SUV in the works, a concept that would have seemed ludicrous until Aston Martin and Lamborghini also weighed in. It could debut as early as next year. For those who want one of the Italian automaker’s more traditional sports cars, 2019 brings the debut of the Portofino, replacing the old California T convertible. It will give you breathtaking performance and plenty of wind in your hair. If you’ve got the cash, however, check out the limited-edition $350,000 Ferrari 488 Pista. Pista means track in Italian, and that’s precisely the sort of performance you’ll get from this mid-engine monster.

Genesis In the beginning…Genesis started out as the first luxury model from Hyundai, but the Korean carmaker decided to spin it off as a separate luxury brand a few years ago, debuting with the big G90 and midsize G80. Now comes the G70, the Koreans throwing down the gauntlet with this BMW 3-Series–sized performance sedan. Visually, it’s the most sporty model in the lineup and offers reasonably good handling and performance as well. Potential buyers will likely also be drawn to the G70s budget-friendly pricing and the fact that the brand has been topping the latest quality and customer-satisfaction surveys.

Infiniti The Japan brand was long something of an afterthought for luxury buyers, but Infiniti is gaining traction thanks to a mix of stylish and sporty new models along with innovative technologies such as the VCT engine. Short for “variable-compression turbo,” it pulls off what had long been considered technologically all but impossible, adjusting its compression ratio on the fly to constantly optimize emissions, fuel economy and performance. The breakthrough engine is making its debut under the hood of the all-new Infiniti QX50 crossover-utility vehicle, which also gets the new, semiautonomous ProPilot Assist system. Meanwhile, going forward, expect to see an array of new, electrified Infiniti offerings.

Jaguar The British automaker is plugging into battery power, and its first all-electric model, the 2019 I-Pace, is winning rave reviews and redefining customer expectations. The battery-electric SUV not only offers more than 200 miles of range between charges, but breathtaking performance, as well. About the size of the brand’s gas-powered, compact E-Pace, with its batteries and motors tucked under the load floor, the electric ute boasts the interior of a midsize F-Pace thanks to a distinctive cabin design that captures much of the space traditionally devoted to the engine compartment.

Karma Things can get confusing when you’re talking about this California carmaker. It originally debuted under the name Fisker and built a stunning plug-in hybrid sports sedan called the Karma. After its collapse, it was purchased and brought back to life by Chinese investors, the company rechristened Karma and the car, itself, the Revero. The four-seater is as beautiful as ever, undergoing some modest interior tweaks and a more extensive interior update. It continues to use the original powertrain, though range and performance have been improved and word has it a major update is in the works, possibly for 2020.

Lamborghini Not that many years ago, it would’ve seemed like a contradiction in terms to use the words “luxury” and “SUV” in the same sentence. Not any more. These days, utes have become best-sellers and are a must in every model lineup. Lamborghini’s take on the concept is the new Urus and, despite its size and interior space, it’s still a classic Lambo at heart, its 4.0-liter V-8 punching out 650 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque—enough to hit 60 in a mere 3.4 seconds, with a top speed of 189 mph.

Lexus It wasn’t the first Japanese luxury brand, but Lexus has routinely been the best-selling, frequently topping European giants Mercedes-Benz and BMW. For 2019, it’s put the spotlight on an all-new version of the mid-range ES sedan. For those who dismiss Lexus products as staid and, well, boring, the new ES could come as a surprise. It adopts a more stylish exterior, with a distinctive version of the now de rigueur Lexus spindle grille, while adding more features and improved performance.

Lincoln Ford Motor is determined to bring its own luxury brand back to life after years of neglect. It scored a hit with last year’s debut of the all-new Navigator, chosen North American Truck of the Year by a jury of 60 journalists. Now Lincoln is updating two smaller crossovers—and giving up on its unloved lettered naming strategy. For 2019, the midsize Lincoln MKX gets new sheet metal, a redesigned interior and a new name: Nautilus. The bigger MKT undergoes an even more dramatic, ground-up remake, and will be rebadged the Lincoln Aviator. The three-row model will also become the first Lincoln to be offered with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.

Maserati There were plenty of skeptics when Maserati announced plans to offer an SUV. But the Levante won over most of those naysayers when it made its debut two years ago, initially offering two versions powered by a twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6. The GTS turns things up a notch, with its 3.8-liter, twin-turbo V-6 pumping out 550 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque—enough to launch it from 0 to 60 in just 4 seconds—and to take a broadside at the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, destined to be its most direct competitor.

McLaren Long known for its track prowess, Britain’s McLaren has transformed itself into a formidable competitor on the street, and the brand building continues in 2019 with the debut of the 600LT—short for Long Tail. The LT delivers a welcome update to McLaren’s “base” model, the outgoing 570S. Why Long Tail? Because new aerodynamic bodywork adds nearly three inches of overall length while reducing drag to enhance performance. Moving up the price and performance ladder, there’s the McLaren Senna, a tribute to legendary McLaren Formula 1 champ Ayrton Senna. It is a track-focused hypercar delivering 789 hp and 590 pound-feet of torque from its twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8. The bad news? Unless McLaren decides to boost the production run, Senna is already sold out.

Mercedes-Benz The Schwabian automaker is determined to retain its crown as king of the luxury car hill, rolling out a broad array of new products. That includes its first all-electric crossover-utility vehicle the EQC, which will anchor an all-new family of EVs. Set to reach U.S. showrooms early in the new year, it’s about the size of the more familiar Mercedes GLC crossover but uses an 80 kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery pack to deliver more than 200 miles per charge. Separate motors on each axle create the equivalent of all-wheel-drive, and with a combined output of 402 horsepower, they can punch the EQC from 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds. Among its more traditional line-up, Mercedes’ big, bruising G-Wagen gets the most complete makeover in decades, while the smaller GLE is all-new, as well. Then there’s the Mercedes-AMG GT Four-Door Coupe. As its name suggests, it adds two more doors and a bit more power to the marque’s grand tourer.

Porsche If you’re waiting for the long-anticipated update of the classic Porsche 911, you’re going to have to sit back just a little bit longer, but Porsche fans have other reasons to rejoice this year. To start with, the carmaker has an all-new version of its Cayenne SUV on tap for 2019. It features a completely new design, better performance, and lots more cool technology. But the really big news for 2019 is the arrival of what was originally known as the Mission E concept. The production version, dubbed Taycan, is Porsche’s first all-electric sports car. The name is a Turkish term for “lively young horse,” which suggests this is no staid enviro-box, but a more green-minded counterpart to the 911 that can hit 60 in a mere 3.5 seconds. Porsche says it’s seriously committed to battery power and expects half its sales to come from plug-in and all-electric models by 2025.

Range Rover The folks at Britain’s Jaguar Land Rover have also made a big commitment to plug power, as we noted, with the debut of the new Jaguar I-Pace. On the other side of the company, its traditional SUV brand is also plugging in with what is being billed as the world’s first off-road plug-in hybrid, the Range Rover HSE P400e. You’ll get about 31 miles per charge, according to the EPA, but even when the battery is drained, you can keep going using the 296-horsepower, turbo-four gas engine. For those who want something more exclusive, Range Rover is also offering the limited-edition SV Coupe. The two-door model gets its own sheet metal and a 557 hp version of the supercharged Range Rover V-8, with a lavishly customized interior—and a price tag of $295,000.

Tesla It’s taken more than a year, but the battery-carmaker finally appears to be getting its production problems under control. Better yet, variants now include a dual-motor, high-performance edition making 450 horsepower and capable of hitting 60 in about 3.3 seconds, drawing comparisons to the vaunted BMW M3. Better yet, it adds a Track Mode for those who want more than just a fast launch off the stoplight. It doesn’t come cheap, however, at more than $70,000, including the optional Performance Package.

Volvo Few brands had a more complete makeover in recent years. Volvo replaced its lineup, garnering an array of awards and favorable reviews. The Swedish brand is determined to prove that the station wagon isn’t dead however, introducing a “two-box” version of its midsize 60-Series line for 2019. You can get it in standard wagon trim as the V60 or as a slightly more off-road-ready V60 Cross Country. Volvo has also launched a new compact model for the new year, the XC40 taking aim at the world’s fastest-growing luxury segment. As you’d expect, both models are loaded up with breakthrough safety gear, but they’re also stylish enough that some might be surprised to see the familiar Volvo “iron mark” badge on their grilles.

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