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2001 Luxury Car Buyer’s Guide
Role Models

By Steve Siler

  Spirit. Vision. Leadership. These are words that are used to describe you. Don’t blush, just smile. Because we at American Woman Road and Travel acknowledge your talents—aspects of yourself that you’ve worked so hard to develop. You are a role model, and it’s okay to be proud.

The world has its rewards for pioneers like you. Chief among them are luxury automobiles, cars that at the turn of a key restore everything you’ve put out in a hard day’s work. They are the overachievers of the automotive world, able to execute any demand you make of them in a calm, “as you wish” manner. These cars have gone to finishing school.  

But today’s woman does not want to be chauffeured around like the queen of England. She wants to do the driving. And trust us, in this collection of high-zoot automobiles, the driver’s seat is the place to be. Strong engines, responsive handling and state-of-the-art safety features show that true luxury cars are as much about getting you there quickly and safely as they are about pampering you along the way.

And yes, these cars do come at a price. The refined machines we’ve gathered below command between $30,000 and $55,000. But then, that’s not too unreasonable for a car that inspires such confidence, control and leadership. And since those words describe you too, read on. You deserve it. 

Cadillac DeVille

As Cadillac has undergone a renaissance of sorts in the past several years, the name DeVille doesn’t mean what it used to, that’s for sure. Now “DeVille” refers to the base iteration of this newly stylish front-drive sedan (which is hardly anything to call “base”), and then suddenly the acronyms begin, with DTS (DeVille Touring Sedan) and DHS (DeVille High Luxury Sedan) models adding more features to the DeVille while subtracting letters from its name.

All DeVilles et al. offer enormous interiors, cold A/C, OnStar and Northstar V-8 engines, as well as a slew of standard features meant to coddle, isolate and pamper up to six passengers. The DHS hikes the luxury factor up several notches with leather-covered massaging seats, wood steering wheel, chrome wheels and more. The DTS takes the performance route (clearly, our favorite route) by making standard many of the DHS’ features, as well as a more powerful version of the legendary Northstar V-8 and a computer-controlled suspension that gives the DTS handling that truly belies its formidable mass. Options include the cool ultrasonic parking assist, useful “infotainment” navigation/sound system screen, and the rather less useful Night Vision. Whew! Clearly, this ain’t your Aunt Mildred’s DeVille! 
Investigate more DeVille acronyms here

Lexus GS300/GS430

The wide, tall Lexus GS Series slots neatly between Lexus’ smaller ES300 and IS300 “near luxury” sedans and the over-the-top LS430, and is the lucky beneficiary of the most positive traits that each of those cars possess. It is sporty like the IS300, yet has almost as much space as the LS430. It also has the requisite bazillions of luxo-features to hold its head up in the $40—$50K company it keeps. The GS300 (220 hp) is quick enough, and the GS430 (300 hp), which shares its engine with its big brother LS430, is more than quick enough. And for those who can’t get enough performance, or who for one reason or another are looking for an alternative to an AMG Mercedes or an M-badged BMW, Lexus has “L-Tuned” GS models that don’t get a boost in power, but do receive enhanced handling. The interior is a tasteful, calm, whisper-quiet environment in which to do your driving business, with leather and wood assembled with the meticulous craftsmanship that has made Lexus the envy of the car business. The GS is, then, the best of both worlds: calm and serene as long as you hold back on the gas pedal—but if you’re the trigger-happy type, then hold on!
Investigate your next tall, wide car 


Audi A6

If there was just one word we were allowed to use to describe the Audi A6, it would be panache. First of all, it is tough to think of a prettier sedan than the graceful and elegant A6—with its geometric shapes and crisp lines, it can be called rolling artwork without exaggeration. What’s more, it turns corners as well as it turns heads, available as it is with Audi’s legendary Quattro all-wheel drive and your choice of a 2.8-liter V6 (200 hp), a 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (250 hp) or a gutsy 4.2-liter V8 (300 hp). The middle choice, called the A6 2.7T, is the most engaging of the bunch, as the A6 4.2 is tuned to deliver more of a luxurious experience than a thrill ride (athough the $50K 4.2 gets even lovelier with its flared fenders and larger wheels). The gorgeous interiors (Audi calls them “atmospheres”) are custom ordered with your choice of leathers, metals and types and stains of wood. They are equipped, of course, as opulently as a luxury car should be. Don’t look for a screen-based navigation system, though—Audi’s system unfortunately uses less useful visual pointers in the middle of the gauge cluster. Otherwise, the A6 is hard to fault. Luxury and competence don’t get much more stylish than this. Start driving your vehicle with panache

MB E320/E430

After decades on the market, the stoic Mercedes-Benz E-Class remains true to its course as a safe, rock-solid luxury sedan. And if you look around, you’ll see that many decades-old E-Class sedans and wagons are still running strong today, something to think about when you’re plunking down fifty large. Today’s E-Class looks better than ever, big, wide-eyed headlights leading the otherwise conservative sedan down the road. Inside is traditional Mercedes-Benz, which is to say luxurious without being overwrought with either style or complicated features. There’s adequate room for four adults for long journeys; five is no problem for shorter runs. Power for either bodystyle comes handily from the 3.2-liter V6 (221 hp), and the sedan offers a strong 4.3-liter V8 (275 hp); both are available with all-wheel drive, a features that gives the E-Class added stability and control when it’s not so sunny. The E55 AMG is a hard-to-find, steroid-laden version of the E-Class sedan, and is accordingly expensive (there is an available Sport package that livens up the others for much less money, though). The E-Class is not the cheapest luxury car out there, but if you’re in it for the long term, this may be the one for you. 
Ride with a car that is rock-solid

BMW 525/530/540

We have always loved BMWs here at RTM, and no BMW has been as universally popular as the 5-Series. Having simply the perfect balance of space and sport, we have lovingly accused it of being the archetypal sport sedan. This year has witnessed its first significant styling update since it first circled the globe as the automotive envoy of the ’96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, with revised headlights, taillights and bumpers making the 2001 model special. Otherwise, not much of the rear-drive luxury sedan has changed on the outside, and thus it surely will remain at the top of the wish list among people who appreciate tastefully restrained styling, interior accoutrements, and think-it-and-its-done driving reflexes. Under the hood, however, we see some interesting changes. For example, a new 525i (184 hp) enters as a lower priced “base model,” which stickers for less than $36,000! The 530i (225 hp) replaces the less powerful 528i (which used to be the base model), while the $53,000+ 540i (282 hp) is yet another notch up the 5-Series ladder. At the top, there is the monster-engined M5, which feels less like a 5-series than a supercar with a 5-Series body grafted to it. In any case, the higher you go up that ladder (and the more you pay), the more raw performance you get. But even the base 525i balances fashion and finesse in a tasteful way that only BMW can muster. Drive one and you’ll understand. 
Drive a perfectly balanced car

Lincoln Continental

The Lincoln Continental is what Americans typically associate with the word “luxury:” quiet, strong V-8 power, wide leather bench seats and room to spread out. Delivering on all those counts, and pleasing further with its enormous trunk and available six-passenger seating, it is grand transportation as only Lincoln can offer. It overlaps in price with the rear-drive (and enormous) Lincoln Town Car, but the Continental is a shade more sporty (although we’ll use that word sparingly). The Connie’s real reason to exist is its over-the-top list of techno features and luxury amenities—again, part of the typical American definition of luxury. These include a concert-quality sound system, air-cleansing climate control system, easy entry seats and a sophisticated trip computer. The Driver Select system—a network of electronics that not only remember seat and mirror positions, but the settings for the driver-selectable ride quality and steering effort systems as well—seems a bit excessive, but does effectively change the dynamics of what could be a lumbering whale of a car into a much more responsive sedan. With all this equipment in a graceful, lengthy package, the Continental truly embodies Lincoln’s tagline: American Luxury.
Learn more about this sporty, luxury vehicle 

Volvo S80

Volvo’s flagship, the S80, is the one that basically started the “ReVolvolution.” With a bold grille leading it down the road, followed by rounded, expressive flanks, and a cliff-like rear deck, the S80 represents a huge styling departure from Volvo’s previous sedans, which were about as inspiring as the T-Square they used to design them. Inside the newly luscious S80 are fantastically comfortable seats (Volvo actually has great seats across its model lines) which face a clean, crisp, ergonomically superb dashboard. If more proof is needed to convince skeptics of Volvo’s commitment to the cutting edge, just turn on the stereo: the standard system is incredible, and the optional one is spine-tingling. We wish we could gush as much over the base 2.9-liter inline-6 (197 hp), which is lazy at best, but the T6 version, in all its turbocharged glory (268 hp), is not. The S80 Executive sedan even features a rear DVD player, wireless fax machine and copier, refrigerator and reclining seats. And what Volvo would be a Volvo without a cornucopia of safety equipment, including whiplash protections seats and enough air bags to raise the Titanic? Style, safety and serious sound—you’ll find it all in the S80.Start a revolution with this car

Jaguar S-Type

Throughout automotive history (and c’mon, what other aspect of history really matters?), Jaguars have had the most consistently lovely and passionate shapes, inspiring both men and women to part with huge sums of money (and unfortunately, time taking them to the shop) in order to own one. Today’s Jaguars have kept the best of the past, namely Jaguar’s relentless beauty and luxury, while improving the sketchy reliability. And yes, they’re still expensive—but now, they’re worth it! The passionate Jaguar S-Type more than recalls the sexy Jaguars of yore on the skin, but now they purr with power and sophistication that the old ones never dreamt of in their wildest catnaps. Inside, the lacquered wood dashboard and aromatic leather seats are splendiferous nods to the past, but now they are surrounded by things like voice-activated stereo and climate controls, as well as GPS Navigation (although the latter isn’t our favorite system) The V6 (240 hp) is plenty powerful for most drivers, especially those with coifs that cost as much as their car, but the speed demons among us will much prefer the bad-kitty V8 (280 hp). Our favorite color? Why, British Racing Green, of course.Learn more about the S-type here

Infiniti Q45

Behold Infiniti’s technological tour de force, the Q45! As the old Q loomed invisibly in the shadows of higher profile luxury cars for the last several years, the all-new Q is stylish, powerful, and massive in both content and weight. The new Q knows how to make an entrance, bringing with it a virtual marching band of performance and luxury features, such as voice-activated controls, radar-cruise control, creamy leathers, planks of real wood accents and a neighborhood-rousing sound system. It shines bright with the world’s strongest and most accurately aimed (not to mention coolest-looking) headlights and protects with side and head air bags. Options include a “BirdView” navigation system and a camera-assisted reverse system. For a car of its, ahem, large dimensions, it handles very enthusiastically, and its sinewy V-8 engine boasts a more-than-potent 340-horsepower. Some (including us) would say that it competes more with the pricier Lexus LS430, the Audi A8 and the Mercedes S-Class than most of the luxury cars we’ve collected in this guide, but priced as it is just north of $50K, we figured we had to show it to you here. It is a true bargain for the incredible car that you’ll get. Be forceful with this powerful car

Saab 9-5

Most of us in America don’t know that Saab has been building cars for half a century. And over time, Saab has cultivated quite a unique character as a carmaker. Certainly, no one who owns a Saab complains about how much it looks or feels like other cars. And we love them. The Saab 9-5 is the most luxurious Saab ever, and though its longer, wider proportions and more conventionally laid out interior make it the most “normal” Saab in history, it is still every inch a Saab. And in spite of the fact that General Motors owns Saab outright, you won’t see any switchgear, seats or instruments from a Tahoe or Grand Am in a 9-5 interior. What you get here one unique car: great seats, a lovely, upright dashboard, lots of air bags to protect you and yes, even the ignition switch on the floor, a Saab trademark. Truly impressive power comes from the range of engines, all turbocharged, with two four-cylinders in group as well as a six. The latter is the smoothest, but the high-output turbo-four in the Aero is really fast, especially fun if you like a stick shift. Best of all is the $32—$40K price, which is surprisingly low, despite offering just as many features and more interior space than many in this group. And in the character department, none of the others come close. Be original with this car