The best-selling luxury cars in the country don’t actually sell that many units, but then again, these entries stress premium quality over absolute quantity. Nowadays, however, that means not just impeccable craftsmanship inside and out, but also much in the way of cutting-edge infotainment and safety technologies, as well as a potent supply of power beneath the hood. As far as their status as best sellers, that’s based on volume numbers through the first half of 2015, a period when the luxury car segments did happen to underperform the industry overall, and some even lost a little ground as compared to the same time last year. That being said, there were some big gainers, especially in the entry-lux segment—where, for context, the No. 1 seller notched about 10,000 fewer sales in the first half of 2015 than the best-selling full-size pickup did in June alone.
All-new for the 2015 model year, the fresh design and improved dynamics of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class have elevated it to the very acme of the best-selling luxury cars leaderboard. Indeed, deliveries of the 2015 C-Class were up by 31.2 percent during the first half of the current calendar year, backed by 43,337 sales, innovations like the segment’s first air suspension and GPS-enabled climate system, the Mercedes COMAND suite of connectivity features, and safety measures that include not just the usual suspects, but also an automatic “traffic jam” assistant for low-speed vehicle following and pedestrian-recognizing brake assistance. It’s also clear that M-B plans to build on that momentum with an influx of new C-Class models for the 2016 model year: the C350 Plug-in Hybrid, offering a 20-mile all-electric driving range plus a powerful 2.0-liter turbo engine, and the C450 AMG 4Matic, bringing a comprehensive go-fast upgrade from the automaker’s AMG performance-engineering division.
BMW 3 Series
BMW’s decision to split its Coupe and Sedan lineups into two separate series has had an unfortunate unintended consequence for the brand: Although the 2015 BMW 3 Series sedan and 4 Series coupe would have otherwise combined to become the top-selling luxury cars of the first six months of the year, the 3 Series alone was about 600 units behind its Mercedes C-Class rival; although the former car’s 42,783 deliveries did reflect a volume bump of 3 percent. On the other hand, the 2016 3 Series, due later this year, should welcome a nice spike in demand to match its extensive model-year refreshing, which is expected to include the debut of BMW’s 320-hp TwinPower Turbo six-cylinder engine, in an inline configuration that also pours out 330 lb.-ft. of torque. Also on the horizon are a new track-friendly handling package, LED headlights, and the series’ first plug-in hybrid model.
With 29,041 year-to-date sales through June of this year—down 12.4 percent versus 2014—the 2015 Lexus ES boasts mid-size dimensions and a standard V6 engine, along with traditional, hybrid and range-topping “Crafted Line” editions—each evincing the Lexus brand’s relentless pursuit of perfection. The ES also is in line for a mid-cycle refreshing for the 2016 versions and will introduce a revised, more aggressive iteration of the Lexus “spindle” grille, as well as new appearance themes for its opulent cabin and wider availability for its premium Mark Levinson audio. The biggest upgrade, though, is the latest Lexus Safety System+ that integrates a pre-collision system, lane-departure alert with steering assistance intelligent high beams and “High Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.” A blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert also is available, making the ES a safe bet to continue as one of the best-selling luxury sedans in the United States.
BMW 4 Series
The 2015 BMW 4 Series represents the current evolution of the compact 3 Series coupe and Convertible, but with the four-door Gran Coupe also in the mix based on its sleeker-than-a-sedan styling. Together, the trio has posted 24,906 sales through June of 2015, good for a robust 61.7 percent jump in volume. Yet that’s also just a starting point for a wealth of enhancements for the 2016 4 Series portfolio. Chief among them: Much of the content of the 2015 4 Series Sport Line is now standard for the 4 Series, highlighted by sport seats, a leather-wrapped sport-style steering wheel, and high-gloss black exterior accents; alternatively, last year’s Luxury Line setup is available as a no-cost option for owners who prefer to emphasize the car’s creature comforts. There’s also more standard content in the upper-level trims, with the 435i, for example, coming straight from the factory with Harman/Kardon audio.
BMW 5 Series
The 2015 BMW 5 Series is another of those vehicles that has seen a challenging sales environment over the first six months of this year, with volume down 14.6 percent on 23,581 deliveries. Yet that seems to be more about market conditions than the car itself, since the 5 Series—serving up turbocharged, diesel and hybrid powertrains—was rated by owners as the No. 1 Midsize Premium Car in the J.D. Power 2015 Initial Quality Study. Additionally, like a number of the best-selling luxury cars from the Bavarians, the 5 Series will benefit from important revisions for the 2016 model year, including the introduction of enhanced USB connectivity and Bluetooth technology as standard content, the launch of fresh upholstery choices and exterior finishes for both the 5 Series sedan and Gran Turismo, and, for premium trims, a newly standard power tailgate and Harman/Kardon surround-sound audio.
Taking a more athletic approach to the entry-lux segments than the Lexus ES, the 2015 Lexus IS nonetheless shares its sibling’s position as one of today’s top-selling luxury vehicles. The bottom line here: 23,420 delivers for the IS through June of this year, translating into a slight 0.6 percent drop in volume as compared to the first six months of last year. Yet while the car is holding its own in the marketplace, it goes above and beyond in providing owners with premium-style performance and amenities. Thus, despite being introduced as an all-new generation for 2014, the 2015 models have been further bolstered with distinctive LED fog lights, new interior design themes, Siri Eyes Free technology from Apple, and Lexus Enform Remote; IS F Sport high-performance editions also gain heated and ventilated seats for all models, as well as a heated steering wheel for those equipped with all-wheel drive.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz E-Class represents the end of the line for the current generation, with M-B expected to launch the all-new model in the spring of 2016. The situation has naturally depressed E-Class demand by a massive margin through June, as some folks wait for the new editions to debut. However, the 2015 lineup does remain firmly established as one of the best-selling luxury cars in the nation, thanks to 22,252 first-half sales and an especially large roster that includes sedan, coupe, convertible, diesel, hybrid, high-performance and even station Wagon configurations—and that’s in addition to providing both rear- and all-wheel-drive powertrains. It’s also worth pointing out that, along with typically Mercedes-esque luxuries, the 2015 E-Class showcases an array of camera- and radar-enabled safety systems, the brand’s COMAND infotainment setup and advanced “mbrace” telematics, which allows owners to rely on their smartphones or computers to remotely access key vehicle features.
Acura has enjoyed relatively brisk sales for its recently redesigned roster, and its midsize sport sedan—the all-new 2015 Acura TLX—is a fine case in point. It’s become one of the best-selling luxury cars in the country in its first full year at dealerships, courtesy of 22,172 sales during the first half of 2015. And keep in mind, the TLX is truly the first of a new breed from Acura, as it advances the benefits of the premium Acura TL and sporty TSX sedans—from the 2014 Acura range—into one satisfying next-gen package. As a result, the TLX touts all of Acura’s current design cues, including Jewel Eye LED headlights, woodgrain accents and Milano-leather seating trim, with performance-enhancing technologies like Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, Precision All-Wheel Steer, Agile Handling Assist and a multimode Integrated Dynamics System. The TLX also raises the safety bar with the debut of the brand’s Road Departure Mitigation system.
The 2015 Infiniti is a notable up-and-comer among the most popular luxury cars in the country, launching as part of Infiniti’s larger brand makeover last year and still gaining ground during this one. In fact, sales of the Q50 were up by 13.3 percent through the end of June, with the car delivering 20,400 units over the first six months of 2015. Certainly helping matters is a sophisticated series of technologies, led by the InTuition driver-memory system and the InTouch infotainment system. The former relies on key-fob recognition to adjust various seat, climate and audio settings for individual drivers, while the latter furnishes two touchscreens, capable of recognizing tablet-style hand gestures, to furnish leading-edge telematics functionality. Moreover, Infiniti innovation also extends to the Q50’s safety measures, highlighted by the world’s first collision-warning system capable of detecting not just the car directly ahead of the Q50, but also the vehicle ahead of that.
Offering sedan, high-performance sedan, “Sportback” and convertible body styles—along with turbo, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains—the 2015 Audi A3 offers a little something for all compact luxury customers, and all of those choices add up to one of the top-selling premium cars in the nation. And that momentum is still on the upswing for the A3, as evidenced by a 131.5 percent spike in volume during the first six months of the current selling season, based on 17,905 sales. The four-rings brand also will furnish yet more features for the 2016 models, which are scheduled to add a rear-view camera, parking assistance, aluminum interior accents and heated exterior mirrors, with washer nozzles, as standard equipment. Upscale models will pack in more standard content as well, though, including the addition of active lane assistance, adaptive cruise control and Audi’s “pre sense” collision-mitigation technology to the A3 Prestige edition.