The best luxury car your money can currently buy is, was, and may well always be the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It’s elegant, loaded with cutting-edge tech, and spacious regardless of how it’s configured, and we like that its low-key design allows drivers to fly under the radar. All variants of the S-Class offer the palace-like luxury you’d expect from a Mercedes, and the AMG-tuned model is seriously quick off the line — more than you’d guess given its dimensions. Add in a seemingly endless list of tech features and you’ve got all of the ingredients needed to make a peerless luxury sedan.
There are other alternatives, and Digital Trends has driven them all. Our experience behind the wheel allowed us to pick the best luxury SUV, the best luxury convertible, and the best luxury sports car, among other options.
Why should you buy this: It’s the luxury sedan that says “I’ve made it.”
Who’s it for: Executives, entrepreneurs, rappers.
How much will it cost: $94,250+ (sedan)
Why we picked the Mercedes-Benz S-Class:
The S-Class has served as the flagship of the Mercedes-Benz lineup for decades. “It has long been the measuring stick by which luxury cars are judged,” we wrote when we drove the newest version of it. It’s well into its sixth generation, but it was updated with minor visual tweaks, more efficient engines, and a lot more tech features under the skin.
Living up to its motto, “the best or nothing,” Mercedes ensured the S is comfortable regardless of whether the owner is driving or being driven. The sedan coddles its occupants with a spacious, well-lit cabin that’s as quiet as a bank vault, and it offers some of the most comfortable seats you’ll ever sit in.
There’s an S-Class to suit every luxury buyer’s need. The lineup includes an entry-level model with a six-cylinder under the hood, a V8-powered model, a plug-in hybrid, an immensely powerful variant made by Mercedes-AMG, and a pair of ultra-luxurious Maybach-badged models. In addition to the sedan, Mercedes offers S-Class coupe and convertible models… for now, at least. Both body styles will allegedly retire in the not-too-distant future.
Read our full Mercedes-Benz S-Class review
The best luxury car for chauffeurs
Why should you buy this: It’s like flying first-class on the freeway.
Who’s it for: Anyone who can afford it.
How much will it cost: $310,800+
Why we picked the Bentley Mulsanne:
Some people say the Bentley Mulsanne is old-school; we’d argue it’s timeless. It will continue to look elegant and define automotive luxury even if it manages to outlive our civilization. It’s based on a proven concept the British marque has refined since its inception, one that harks back to a time when a car was a hand-built work of art rather than a mass-produced commodity.
The best candidate for chauffeur duty is the Mulsanne EWB, which goes over the top with business class-style seats that recline and extend, a full center console, and picnic tables. It’s even available with a refrigerated champagne cooler in the back. It’s exceedingly rare, too; production is limited to 300 examples, and just 25 of them have been earmarked for the American market.
The other, more common Mulsanne variants are well-suited for chauffeur duty, too. Fit for a Roman Emperor, the Mulsanne Speed’s locomotive-like 811 pound-feet of torque will ensure your driver is never late to an appointment.
Read our Bentley Mulsanne first drive impressions
The best luxury SUV
Why should you buy this: It’s luxurious and it can hustle, too.
Who’s it for: Buyers unwilling to sacrifice comfort for off-road prowess.
How much will it cost: $164,000+
Why we picked the Bentley Bentayga:
Bentley gave the engineers in its research and development department a simple mission: build an off-roader without sacrificing comfort. They’ve succeeded. The Bentayga offers the ride and upscale features you’d expect to find in a Bentley in a package that can hold its own when the going gets tough.
Under the Bentayga’s long hood lies a 6.0-liter W12 engine that makes an even 600 horsepower. It’s so quick it made us call into question the laws of physics when we drove it. How can such a big, 5,300-pound car move so quickly? It accelerates like a sports car, and its trick 48-volt suspension system helps keep body roll in check. Bentley also offers the Bentayga with a twin-turbocharged V8 and a hybrid powertrain.
Buyers can order the Bentayga with four, five, or seven seats. We prefer the first configuration because it’s the most luxurious of the three. It replaces the rear bench with two individual seats that are heated, cooled, and adjustable. Try them out for yourself while someone else takes the wheel, and you may never want to drive the Bentayga again.
Read our full Bentley Bentayga review
The best luxury convertible
Why should you buy this: It’s a drop-top Rolls-Royce; enough said.
Who’s it for: Those who have everything – except for a Rolls.
How much will it cost: $346,300+
Why we picked the Rolls-Royce Dawn:
The Rolls-Royce Dawn is not for buyers who need to keep a low-profile. Just look at it — its front end is characterized by an immense grille proudly topped with the famous Spirit of Ecstasy emblem. It’s about as long as a Chevrolet Tahoe, and it’s equipped with a set of suicide doors. There’s no mistaking it for anything other than a Rolls.
It’s certainly not sporty to drive, but it simply doesn’t need to be. It’s designed to waft along the French Riviera in inimitable style. Its 12-cylinder engine is a work of art, but the most impressive part of the Dawn is the interior. When we drove it, we wrote the seats are so comfortable “they feel like they belong in someone’s living room.”
The Dawn is currently the only convertible in the Rolls-Royce lineup. It existed alongside the Phantom Drophead Coupe for years, but production ended recently and the British brand has confirmed the nameplate won’t return in the foreseeable future. That means the Dawn will be the flagship of the convertible segment for years to come.
Read our full Rolls-Royce Dawn review
The best luxury sports car
Why should you buy this: The 911 is luxurious, irreproachably quick, and relatively practical.
Who’s it for: Luxury buyers with a need for speed.
How much will it cost: $97,400+
Why we picked the Porsche 911:
The Porsche 911 is arguably the original daily-drivable sports car. It’s a car you can drive to and from work every day without crushing your spine, or take on an impromptu trip to the mountains – even if you want to hit the track on your way there. The rear seats are best reserved for smaller passengers, but the 911’s cabin is spacious enough for two adults and a weekend’s worth of gear.
While the 911 has always been a world-class performance car, it has gotten increasingly luxurious over the past few generations. The cabin now boasts the upscale materials and the faultless build quality you’d expect to find in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and enough tech features to satisfy the archetypal Silicon Valley executive.
The 911 lineup has many variants to choose from. It ranges from the base, 379-horsepower Carrera model to the 640hp Turbo S, which hits 60 mph from a stop in 2.6 seconds. Additional variants will join the range in the 2020s.
Read our Porsche 911 Carrera GTS first drive impressions
The best Luxury Hybrid
Why should you buy this: It’s a more eco-friendly take on the luxury sedan.
Product card: The Lexus ES is a great all-around luxury sedan that happens to be a hybrid.
Who’s it for: Discerning environmentalists.
How much will it cost: $41,810+
Why we picked the Lexus ES:
The standard, V6-powered Lexus ES is a well-executed luxury sedan that combines the Japanese automaker’s traditional cushy ride with a newly-found hint of sportiness, and thoughtful technology integration. It looks better (and more distinctive) than ever before, too. The hybrid model adds fuel efficiency to this luxury car’s resume.
Lexus is owned by Toyota, so it learned how to make a hybrid powertrain from the best in the business. Called ES 300h, the gasoline-electric model teams a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor that draws electricity from a small battery pack to offer 215 horsepower and up to 44 mpg in a combined cycle. That’s an impressive figure regardless of market segment, but it’s downright jaw-dropping when you take the size and weight of the ES into account.
The current-generation ES was the first Lexus model to offer Apple CarPlay. It’s also available with Amazon Alexa connectivity and on-board Wi-Fi from Verizon. And, like the V6-powered model, the hybrid is decked out with a long list of electronic driving aids designed to keep you and yours safe regardless of what you encounter on the open road.
Read our full Lexus ES review
How we test
The Digital Trends automotive team tests vehicles through a comprehensive scrutinizing process. We examine the qualities of the exterior and interior and judge them based on our expertise and experience in the context of the vehicle’s category and price range. Entertainment technology is thoroughly tested as well as most safety features that can be tested in controlled environments.
Test drivers spend extensive time behind the wheel of the vehicles, conducting real-world testing, driving them on highways, back roads, as well as off-road and race tracks when applicable.
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