Best luxury cars 2024
What springs to mind when you think about luxury cars? Something more opulent and comfortable than a five-star boutique hotel room? A car the size of Hampshire? More tech than a NASA control room?
For car to be considered luxurious, it needs to boast a beautifully crafted interior, the waftiest (made-up word) ride quality, the right badge and an engine powerful enough to whisk its occupants from private members' lounge to yacht club before you can say, “if you have to ask the price...”
Gone are the days when luxury was the preserve of a four-door saloon. Today, you're just as likely to see a luxury SUV waiting alongside a private jet on an airport runway.
Whether you're looking for something to enjoy from the back seat or you intend to do the driving yourself, these are the best luxury cars available right now.
Best luxury cars
Take a good look at the current S-Class, because it provides a tantalising glimpse of what you can expect to find in smaller Mercedes models of the future. It’s hard to pick faults with this benchmark luxury saloon, which showcases the latest technological advances, all with superb attention to detail. It feels as good in the driver’s seat as it does if you’re in the back, enjoying the space and comfort. Standard- and long-wheelbase versions are available, along with a choice of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains. Air suspension with automatic level control is standard across the range.
The BMW X7 could be the perfect luxury SUV. It’s large, seriously spacious, seats six or seven (depending on the specification), and boasts a high-quality feel throughout. It’s also great to drive, which isn’t a given in the luxury SUV sector. Prices start from £86,500, which sounds like a lot until you peruse the specification. Even the 'entry-level' Excellence model features four-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, acoustic glazing, adaptive LED headlights, heated seats, ambient lighting and a vast 14.9-inch widescreen display, which is one of the best in the business.
No list of luxury cars would be complete without a Rolls-Royce or two, and the Phantom has to be on it. Although much attention is paid to the Cullinan SUV (and more on that in a moment), the Phantom saloon remains Rolls’ flagship car, and the pinnacle of its engineering expertise. Prices start very high and then get very much higher as you add basically whatever options you want. Each Phantom comes in literally any colour you want, with a plethora of handcrafted details, and wafts along in serene tranquillity. You don’t order a Phantom – you commission it, like a work of art.
Bentley Flying Spur
As Rolls-Royce has its Phantom, so Bentley has its Flying Spur – a large, powerful and beautifully honed flagship saloon. But where the Phantom is all waft and quiet, the Flying Spur has a sporty edge to it, with dynamic capability that the Rolls just isn’t interested in. Flying Spur owners are as likely to want to hit a country road themselves as being ferried by a man in a peaked cap, and there’s a huge 6.0-litre W12 engine to help them. And of course, they’ll be surrounded by a top-quality, handcrafted interior while they do it.
The Porsche Panamera is a luxury car for the discerning owner who fancies using a chauffeur during the week before taking the wheel at the weekend. Few cars offer the same blend of opulence and driver appeal – the Panamera feels like a sports car behind the wheel, but a luxury saloon in the back. Quality is impeccable, the tech is dazzling and the engineering is first-rate. There are only two seats in the back, but if you’re after a little more space, you could opt for the Sport Turismo estate model. Either way, the Panamera is like having your expensive luxury cake and eating it.
Aston Martin DBX
Thanks to its 550PS 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, the Aston Martin DBX will hit 62mph in 4.5 seconds before maxing out at 181mph. Choose the 707PS DBX707 and the figures are 3.3 seconds and 193mph respectively. Impressive for a saloon or sports car; alarmingly so for a super-SUV. This is a luxury car for those who prefer to drive than to be driven. Predictably, it’s also supremely opulent, thanks to a spacious and intricately-designed cabin that’s loaded with neat details. On the move, it’s not quite as cosseting and sumptuous as some rival luxury SUVs, but that’s a small price to pay for a car that’s this rewarding to drive.
The Range Rover has come to define the luxury SUV, with the all-new model taking things to a higher plane. Quite literally, in fact, because the Range Rover retains the unstoppable off-road qualities of its predecessors. Of course, few owners actually take their Range Rovers off the beaten track; you’re more likely to find one parked on King’s Road than venturing off-road. Highlights include a 13.1-inch infotainment screen, power-assisted doors (a Range Rover first) and active noise cancellation. Prices have gone up, so you’ll spend at least £104,000 for the privilege.
BMW, the owner of Rolls-Royce, says the Cullinan is the ‘only purpose-built, luxury SUV in the world’. Plenty will disagree with that statement, but one thing’s for sure: this is the definitive luxury SUV. You’d expect as much from a car costing around £315,000 (before options), but the most impressive thing about the Cullinan is how it feels on the inside. Somehow, Rolls-Royce has managed to retain the high-speed ride comfort of its ‘lower’ vehicles in a more top-heavy format. It’s also extremely competent off-road, but good luck spotting a Cullinan with a muddy makeover.
The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is designed for those who think the ‘standard’ S-Class is a little too common. It takes luxury to the next level, but you’ll pay handsomely for that exclusivity. Highlights of the Maybach upgrade include 20-inch forged alloy wheels, electric rear doors, a garage door opener, a radiator grille with 27 vertical struts, rear-axle steering, deep-pile floor mats, rear seats with a massage function, a Burmester 4D premium sound system and a high-end rear-seat entertainment package. This is the next best thing to flying first class, so it’s rather apt that First Class is one of the trim levels. Oh, some of the metallic paint options cost more than the price of a new Dacia Sandero...
Time has been kind to the Bentayga, with a 2020 facelift helping to soften its looks. It remains an imposing luxury SUV and a vehicle that needs to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of the Rolls-Royce Phantom and Mercedes-Maybach S-Class. It’s less sinister than a Cullinan, and more exclusive than a Range Rover. All versions feature LED matrix headlights, a 10.9-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a range of connected services. The All-Terrain Specification adds four additional off-road driving modes to the four on-road settings. Choose from three engines: 4.0-litre V8, 6.0-litre W12 or 3.0-litre hybrid.
Is it possible to buy a small luxury car?
It’s worth noting that space and ride comfort are two of the primary benefits of owning a luxury car. The absence of these, along with a shorter list of equipment, means that the small luxury car doesn’t really exist. That said, the little Honda e electric car sports a standout exterior and a cabin that’s crammed with eye-catching tech, and it’s also not particularly cheap, so it gives a very passable impression of a small luxury car.
Can I buy a luxury car on the cheap?
Buying a used luxury car would be the best way. Luxury cars tend to depreciate far and fast. However, if you’re after something new with the benefit of a manufacturer warranty, we’d look no further than the Skoda Superb. It’s like buying an Audi A6 or Mercedes E-Class on the cheap, thanks to its spacious cabin and huge boot. Seriously, the rear legroom is on a par with a limousine. You even get an umbrella in the door, so you don’t need that Rolls-Royce.
How bad is the depreciation on a new luxury car?
Depreciation is one of the hidden costs of motoring, and while it’s unlikely to bother the original owner of a luxury car too much, it’s worth remembering that a vehicle will lose a large chunk of its value in the first few years. Vehicles such as the Audi A8 and Mercedes S-Class suffer more than most, which is great news if you’re looking at a used example. It’s also worth noting that expensive options add little value to a used car.