Despite their sometimes-staggering prices—or maybe because of them—there are more premium large cars on the market than large cars. High prices usually translate into higher profit margins, which is why companies can subsist on relatively low sales volumes.
Cars in this segment range in base price from just over $42,000 (the Genesis G80) to well past the $200,000 mark (top-line versions of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class). That’s quite a big spread, but the high end of the scale offers some very opulent large cars with tremendous capabilities and an air of exclusivity. Note that we classify cars where the least-expensive model starts well north of $100,000 as “exotics,” which aren’t included here.
Lexus’s flagship LS sedan is redesigned on a longer and lower platform, gaining swoopy new styling, a host of new technology and luxury features, and the choice of a 416-hp twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 (LS 500) or a 354-hp 3.5 V6/twin electric-motor hybrid (LS 500h). The Mercedes S-Class lineup is extensively updated, gaining new bumpers, headlights, and taillights; S450 models powered by a 362-hp bi-turbo 3.0-liter V6; and S560 models powered by a 463-hp bi-turbo 4.0-liter V8 (the S560 replaces the S550). The AMG S63 gets a 603-hp bi-turbo 4.0-liter V8 with a 9-speed automatic transmission in place of the previous 577-hp 5.5-liter V8 and 7-speed, and an S560e plug-in hybrid model is slated to debut in the U.S. in mid-2019.
After its redesign last year, the Porsche Panamera lineup gets a wagon-like Sport Turismo body style and a Turbo S E-Hybrid variant that puts out a combined 680 horsepower. The Genesis G80 gets refreshed styling inside and out, standard Pedestrian Detection and Driver Attention Monitor, and a performance-oriented 3.3T Sport model powered by a turbocharged 3.3-liter V6. The Jaguar XJ gets an updated infotainment system with a 10-inch touchscreen, and a super-performance XJR575 model with a 575-hp 5.0-liter V8. The Cadillac CT6 debuts the brand’s “Super Cruise” hands-free-driving system, and also gets an updated automatic parking system, a washer for its rearview camera, and an updated infotainment system. The Cadillac XTS gets a mild facelift with LED headlights and taillights, revised chassis and front seats for a more comfortable ride, more sound insulation, and an updated infotainment system. The rest of the class is either unchanged or sees minor updates such as revised infotainment systems or a shuffling of standard and optional equipment levels. The Audi A8 skips 2018, but will return with a redesigned car for 2019.
There are a handful of hybrids offered in the premium large class: the BMW 740e xDrive plug-in hybrid, the Cadillac CT6 plug-in hybrid, the Lexus LS 500h, the Mercedes-Benz S550e Plug-In Hybrid (soon to be S560e), and the Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid and Turbo S E-Hybrid.
This category also offers some truly spectacular performance models. Most of the cars in this class offer a V8, but some go above and beyond with something special. Audi’s S8 offers a 605-horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8. The BMW Alpina B7 has a 600-hp twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8. Jaguar’s XJ is now offered in an XJR575 model with a 575-hp 5.0-liter supercharged V8. The Mercedes-Benz AMG S63 has a 603-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8, and the AMG S65 packs a 621-hp 6.0-liter V12. The Porsche Panamera can be had with a 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 that puts out 550 hp in Turbo form, or a whopping 680 hp in the Turbo S E-Hybrid version. In terms of body styles, there are only two that vary from the 4-door-sedan norm. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class offers a 2-door coupe and convertible, and the Porsche Panamera comes as a 4-door hatchback or a new Sport Turismo wagon. Same goes for drive wheels. Rear-wheel drive is the norm, and most of those cars are also available with all-wheel drive. The only front-drive cars are the Cadillac XTS and Lincoln Continental, which are also offered with all-wheel drive.