Luxury sedans priced upward of $60,000 might be affordable for only a small fraction of all Inland Northwest car buyers. Yet, they are selling in increasing numbers here, auto dealers say.
The luxury market here has been continually getting stronger, says John LeFriec, general manager at Bend, Ore.-based Lithia Motors Inc.s Mercedes-Benz of Spokane dealership. The economy is generally strong, and the stock market continues to rise, which helps drive up luxury car sales, he says.
Comfort, convenience, and class long have been the trademarks of luxury vehicles, and dealers say the lavish interiors and elegant designs of the newest cars on the market preserve that tradition. Increasingly, though, customers are looking for sedans that not only ensure they will arrive at a destination in style, but that also have navigation systems to help get them there.
Other high-tech gadgets onboard most new luxury cars include intelligent cruise control, backup cameras, climate-controlled seats, and Bluetooth technology, which enables motorists to receive cell-phone calls through their cars radio.
Customers, though, should prepare to pay a hefty price for the pampering. Many of the new high-end luxury vehicles on the market have price tags in the $100,000-and-up range.
For instance, BMWs 760, which is the newest car in the high-end BMW 7 Series, sells for between $111,500 and $124,000, says Steve Schneider, a sales associate at Lithia Motors Camp BMW, of Spokane. The 760 has a 6.0-liter 438-horse V-12 engine, and comes in two trim lines, one of which includes a body style that has five inches more leg room in the backseat. The car has a voice-activation system, navigation, Bluetooth capabilities, and a feature that BMW introduced in 2002 called iDrive, which uses a single knob to control the climate, audio, navigation, and phone systems. It also has BMW Assist, which includes a Global Positioning System and wireless communication system for roadside assistance, stolen vehicle recovery services, emergency services, and automatic collision notification in case the driver is unable to call 911 after an accident.
The 2007 Mercedes S550 is the latest arrival here for the Mercedes S-Class flagship line of luxury sedans, and an all-wheel drive version of the S550 and an S600 are due out later this year, LeFriec says. The S550, which was introduced here in February, ranges in price from $85,400 to more than $100,000, LeFriec says. It has a 5.5-liter V-8 engine, and available features include memory-seat and memory steering-wheel settings, a heated steering wheel, a DVD-based navigation system, a rear-view camera that helps the driver park the car, and a radar-guided cruise control. It also can include a Keyless Go system, which uses a credit card-like key that unlocks the car at the touch of the door handle when the driver is carrying the card.
The S600 will appear in late summer, and an all-wheel drive version of the S550 will be available in September, LeFriec says. Customers in the Northwest particularly are interested in cars with all-wheel drive, because of the winter weather conditions here, he says. Those cars sell for more than $100,000, but Mercedes also offers lower-end luxury cars with starting prices in the mid-$30,000 range, he says.
Our lower-end luxury cars are getting to larger markets, he says. You dont have to be a millionaire to drive a Mercedes-Benz anymore.
Other high-end luxury car manufacturers, including BMW, Audi, and Lexus, also offer models in the $30,000-and-up range.
At the highest-priced end of Lexus luxury sedan models, the LS430 sells for $64,000 up to $72,000, and can include a navigation system, climate-controlled seats, a laser- and radar-guided cruise control, a refrigerator in the back seat, and reclining back seats that massage passengers, says Shawn Dougall, a leasing and sales representative at Downtown Toyota/Lexus Inc., of Spokane. The LS430 has a 4.3-liter V-8 engine and three trim levels.
Due to hit the market this fall, the 2007 LS460 will range in price between $66,000 and $100,000, Dougall says. It will have a 4.6-liter 370-horse V-8 engine. Available features will include a drop-down DVD screen, a sonar system to help drivers parallel park, fully reclining back seats with a pull-out ottoman, and a navigation system that responds to voice commands. He says 17 people already are on the waiting list to buy that high-end luxury model when it arrives here.
It appeals to a different class, and were trying to hit that type of clientele with this car, Dougall says. Its about making your car as comfortable as your home.
A representative at Appleway Audi, of Spokane, declined to comment on Audis new cars for this story. However, Consumer Reports magazine, in its just published annual auto review, says that Audis flagship sedan, the A8, ranges in price from $68,000 to $118,000 and has two engine packages and three trim levels. Engine sizes include a 4.2-liter V-8 engine and a 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine. The A8 has a DVD-based navigation system, Bluetooth capabilities, and a driver-interaction system that integrates audio and navigation controls.
Another luxury sedan sold here, the Jaguar XJ8, sells for between $61,800 and $115,300, Consumer Reports says. The big luxury sedan has six trim lines and two engine packages, including a 4.2-liter V-8 engine and a 4.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine. Features can include premium soft-grade leather seats, lambswool rugs, a DVD entertainment system, and Bluetooth capabilities, Jaguars Web site says.
The Cadillac STS is available in three trim packages and can come with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, says Christie Hulce, a sales associate at George Gee Cadillac/Isuzu, in Coeur dAlene. Engine packages include a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, a 4.6-liter V-8 engine, or a 4.4-liter V-8 supercharged engine. The STS ranges in price from about $40,000 to more than $90,000, Hulce says. Available features include navigation, On-Star assistance, satellite radio, and a display on the windshield that shows the speed, radio station settings, and other information.
Acuras RL starts at about $53,000 and has a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Features can include a tire-monitoring system that alerts the driver if a tire is leaking air and a paddle shifter on the steering wheel for a manual transmission, says Mac McMackin, a salesman at Valley Honda & Acura. The luxury sedan also can be equipped with navigation, Bluetooth capabilities, On-Star, and satellite radio.
The Infiniti M45 is a luxury sedan thats priced at about $50,000, says Scott Christensen, sales manager at Wendle Motors Inc., of Spokane. The rear-wheel drive car has a 4.5- liter dual-overhead-cam V-8 engine and comes in two trim levels. Available features include a navigation system, Bluetooth capability, satellite radio, heated and cooled seats, and a mobile DVD entertainment system. The M45 also has intelligent cruise control, which uses a laser to keep the car within a certain distance from other vehicles, and a lane departure warning system that alerts the driver if the car is veering out of its lane.
The (Infiniti M45) cars are selling like hotcakes, Christensen claims. Theyre selling before they even get into the store.
Another luxury sedan is the 2006 Lincoln Town Car, which has one of the largest trunks of any full-size luxury car on the market, says Phillip Buxton, a sales representative at Foothills Lincoln Mercury Mazda, of Spokane. The Town Car, which ranges in price from $38,000 to $49,000, has a 4.6-liter V-8 engine and is available in three trim levels. Its trunk has 21 cubic feet of space and a power lid that opens and closes automatically.
The Town Car is hugely popular with elderly customers, he says, partly because it doesnt include the buttons and electronic features that now fill the consoles of most luxury vehicles. The sedan does feature, however, adjustable foot pedals and a reverse-parking assist feature that beeps at drivers when the car gets close to another object, he says.
Its a high-tech competitive thing with most luxury car manufacturers, Buxton says, but Lincoln has kept it simple, and a lot of older people dont like tiny and complicated buttons.
Contact Emily Brandler at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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