Car Buyers' Guide: Five luxury sedans for $20k
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BMW 5 Series
A lot of people were hung up on the sheer Bangle-era looks of the E60-generation BMW 5 Series, writing it off before even giving it a chance.
It’s a shame, because was it a great drive and those same looks have aged quite well. In 2017, the E60 is rather handsome. I think so anyway.
With that badge on the bonnet and boot, it’s no surprise the E60 5 Series features a hearty dollop of creature comforts. Active Cruise Control, Park Distance Control, and a Harman Kardon sound system are all standard. They also come with an early iteration of BMW’s iDrive interface — though that can be read as both a good and a bad thing.
For $20,000 on Driven, you can grab the 525i, 530i, 540i, or even the 4.8-litre V8 550i. That 550i might not have the V10 sports-sedan cache of its M5 stablemate but it features most of the performance; many examples sport the same M-style body kit and quad exhausts. It’s probably the one I’d take home.
The XF represented something of a turning point for Jaguar in 2007. It debuted a new styling language for the marque, and helped set the tone for a range of future models – including the critically acclaimed F Pace SUV (both from design genius Ian Callum).
While you’ll be hard pressed to find one of these for less than $20,000, there are plenty of good examples priced just above that mark on Driven. Both the 3.0-litre V6 and 4.2-litre V8 petrol variants are commonly offered; all come with touch-activated features and leather interior. Curiously, Jaguar only ever offered the XF with leather interior, never with cloth.
This tends to go under the radar compared to the more storied nameplates on this list, but is worth mentioning simply because of the bang-for-buck on offer.
While you’ll be able easily to afford a VY or VZ–generation Calais with this budget, your main target should be a 2007–’14 VE or VE II version. The VE was Holden’s largest ever development and the first ever Commodore designed and built in Australia (others had been based on Opel underpinnings).
While you won’t quite be enjoying the same kind of luxury or driving dynamics as you would with the BMW or the Jaguar, you’ll still get plenty of kit, including satnav, leather-appointed or full-leather interiors, and a Blaupunkt sound system, all standard.
There are two engines available; a 3.7-litre V6 or a 6.0-litre V8. The former is far more common, particularly at this price.
If you’re feeling particularly brave, look for a VE-generation Holden Statesman too. Longer length means more toys and more room inside.
When was the last time ‘the big Lexus’ really crossed your mind?
Ironic, isn’t it? The LS started out as Lexus’s grand debut — their throw down to the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But as time’s marched on, it’s sort of faded into the manufacturer’s background, despite remaining one of their most ambitious products.
Arguably, the LS offers more than anything else on this list. They come with a big soft 4.6-litre V8, satnav, heated steering wheel, climate control that uses infrared to detect the body temperature of passengers, eye-sensing driver monitoring and a host of other technological wonders.
More than anything else, this big Lexus is one segment up on the ‘premium’ cars on this list. Instead of competing against the BMW 5 Series and the Jaguar XF, it’s meant to take on the 7 Series and the XJ. Yet it costs the same…
But – there’s a but. They’re not easy to find, budget or not. At the time of writing, just one was listed on Driven — a 2007 LS460 priced $4000 above budget. But, if it’s luxury you want, there it is.
The last luxury sedan on this list is … an SUV.
The idea of plonking the Cayenne on this list was fired across the Driven office and, for the life of me, I couldn’t think of anything else that deserved to be in its place more. They’re luxurious, powerful, have incredible badge credentials and are cheap as chips these days.
The Cayenne was initially seen as a bit of a sell-out from Porsche. Understandably so, considering every car they’d ever made up to that point in 2002 was some kind of sports car. Over time Porsche’s decision has been vindicated by moves made by a swag of other luxury and sport-car manufacturers to produce their own SUVs.
At this price point, your only real limitation is that it’ll have to be a first-generation Cayenne. Beyond that, you can almost wiggle your way into anything in the line-up, barring perhaps the Turbo or Turbo S. At the time of writing, Driven listings had V6s and V8s, both priced from just over budget (a bit of bartering may fix that).
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