A promotion to the corner office used to mean an immediate trip to a local Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz dealership to get yourself behind the wheel of some top-notch German luxury. Germans had the market cornered, while Cadillac and Lincoln resisted innovation with aging designs, while the Japanese manufactures focused mainly on cheap, bland runabouts.
Then came the era of Acura, Lexus and Infiniti, Japan’s answer to European luxury cars. The subdued styling, increased reliability and comparatively reasonable prices made these luxury brand a big hit in North America.
Now, the resurgence of Cadillac, and slow transition of Lincoln into the modern era is giving Germans more to worry about. How do the Americans stack up? We compared some great pre-owned American luxury offerings against timeless classics from Europe to see whether the Old World cars still have the edge.
2014 – 2016 Cadillac ATS Vs. 2014 – 2016 BMW 3 Series
In the entry-level luxury sedan category, the BMW 3 series has always been and still is a legend, having sold well for a more than a quarter of a century. In 2014 – 2016, $45,000 would get you into a recently-redesigned 3 offering the available 3.0L Turbocharged Inline-6 spooling up an impressive 300 HP. With Cadillac’s notorious small car disasters, the Cimarron and the Catera, it is hard to expect great things from this entry-level Caddy. Third time is the charm, however, as the ATS is as brilliant as it is overdue. The youngest addition the Cadillac family does not disappoint — the same $45k was good for an ATS with the optional 3.6L V6 producing 321 HP. The interior of the BMW wins out for its understated elegance. The ATS’s interior, while a tremendous improvement over previous GM models, still exhibits a little too much love for large expanses of plastic and chrome. Nowadays, either the 2014-2016 model year Cadillac ATS or BMW 3 Series can be yours for incredible savings compared to the price as new.
Winner: BMW 3 Series. It was a very close call, but the veterans from Bavaria have done it again. The ATS is a tremendous competitor. With a more efficient top-of-the-line engine and improved interior, it could definitely win the same matchup.
2014 – 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible Vs. 2014 – 2016 BMW Z4
Open-topped roadster fun comes via very different cars in this comparison. While there is really nothing quite like the muscular Corvette on the European market, smaller roadsters from BMW and Mercedes-Benz do stack up in price. For around $56,000 when new, the 2014 – 2016 BMW Z4 range came with a folding hardtop, and the same 300 HP, 3.0L Turbocharged Inline-6 from the 3 Series. The interior was somewhat cramped, but the airplane-inspired design makes up for it. The electric steering makes the car feel numb, at times. The same price would get you into an open-topped, 455 HP, V8-Powered Corvette Stingray. New and completely redesigned for 2014, the much-anticipated rebirth of the Stingray ushered in the era of a true 21st Century Corvette, with gorgeous looks, luxurious interior and supercar power. Fast forward a few years, and both of these great automobiles represent tremendous pre-owned savings, when compared to their price as new.
Winner: Corvette. This is really a no-contest. This Corvette is much more of an exciting driver’s car than the Z4, with loads of interior room and stunning exterior lines.
2012 – 2014 Tesla Model S Performance Vs. Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid
If you are looking for green, executive-class luxury, few American models come to mind. Tesla, the upstart builder of impressive electric vehicles is the obvious choice. There are significant savings to be had now, after a few years since initial release. In 2013, the Model S Performance was powered by a 441 HP Electric Motor, good for a range of about 250 miles. Germany’s answer to this environmental statement was an S Class Merc powered by a 275 HP Hybrid engine. While the S Class features a bit more opulent and plush interior indicative of its $90,000+ price tag, Tesla won the battle hands down in exterior design and beauty, and overall market share. A 2013 Tesla Model S continues to age well, and looks as relevant as ever.
Winner: Tesla. The S400 Hybrid was a bit of a miss in the market. It was an extremely large executive sedan with a meager 275 HP, featuring a not-so-impressive-for-a-Hybrid gas mileage of 19/25. Tesla’s 441 HP came with the equivalent of 88/90 MPG. The Model S itself boasted more impressive specs and tech, making a much more profound statement than the aging S Class.