The Two Tiers of Luxury: Which Do You Prefer?

"Tier 2" does not mean "inferior."

“Tier 2” does not mean “inferior.”

Is a Lincoln as good as a Lexus?

Can an Acura take down an Audi?

Will an Infiniti be as good as a BMW?

There are two groups of cars in the luxury world: the ones that command respect and the ones that desperately want it. Automotive News breaks these down a little more formally, calling them the “Tier 1” group and the “Tier 2” group.

Tier 1 includes BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz. Tier 2 includes Lincoln, Acura, Cadillac, and Audi.

If I were making the rules, I’d put Audi up in Tier 1, because it has decidedly outsold the others in Tier 2 and has, in my humble opinion, eclipsed the quality level of BMW.

The Tier 1 group continues to establish its dominance, while the Tier 2 group struggles to maintain relevance. Are cars from Tier 2 worth considering?

The short answer is yes, of course.

Each automaker builds cars worthy of our attention, our test drives, and our money. The best Acura right now is probably the TLX, which offers luxury and an incredible value when compared with the Germans. CarGurus’ Test Drive Review says:

Choose the least expensive version of the new Acura TLX and the car is equipped with a rear-view camera, keyless push-button ignition, Jewel Eye LED headlamps, and LED tail lamps. A dual-screen infotainment system is also standard, featuring Bluetooth smartphone pairing and integration, Siri Eyes Free voice control, satellite radio, and a USB port.

That’s a long list of goodies for a car that starts at just over $31,000. The tradeoff, of course, is the lack of having a Tier 1 logo on the grille.

The same goes for Infiniti. With the Q50, Infiniti brings a level of class and performance that eclipses Mercedes-Benz on a number of fronts. According to the Test Drive Review:

You can pay more to get the reputation that comes with the German brands, but if you want performance that inches into Bavarian territory with technology that drivers can access in a much more natural manner, the Q50 is the motoring definition of “East meets West.”

Lincoln is where things start to fall apart. With looks that scream, “I couldn’t afford a Lexus,” Lincoln is the Tier 2 brand in the most trouble. The MKZ has a lower cost of entry but a higher cost of ownership than other luxury cars and will depreciate faster than its brethren. It’s not attractive or cost effective, a death knell for any car playing in the luxury world.

You can’t go wrong buying a BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, or Lexus ES 350. However, you could save a few bucks and get more for your money by looking down market toward Tier 2. Better yet, look for a used Tier 2 car and save even more!

Where would you look to buy luxury, Tier 1 or Tier 2?


Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Acura TLX
Used Infiniti Q50
Used Lincoln MKZ
Used BMW 3 Series
Used Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Used Lexus ES 350


  1. I’m not a snob when it comes to luxury, so even a second tier car would be a joy to me … need to lease one in a few years just to get a taste of it!

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