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.
The premium large car class sees two redesigned models for 2019: the Audi A8 and Kia K900. The new A8 is powered by a 335-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 paired with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system and an 8-speed automatic transmission. Among the available features are front and rear heated armrests, an air quality package that includes an ionizer and aromatization, right rear-passenger relaxation seat with heated massaging footrest, and a predictive active suspension that uses a forward-facing camera to scan the oncoming road. A new version of the high-performance S8 variant is expected to follow as a 2020 model.
The new K900 is powered by a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 that makes 365 horsepower and is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. A full-time Dynamic Torque Vectoring all-wheel-drive system is standard. Available features include a mood-lighting system with seven different color settings, power-adjustable rear seats (12-way on the driver’s side, 14-way on the passenger side), and a 9.7-inch multi-function head-up display system.
The Lincoln Continental adds Lincoln CoPilot360 suite of safety features as standard equipment on all trim levels. The Cadillac XTS gets an upgraded wireless device charging pad. The Jaguar XJ adds a specially trimmed XJ50 model commemorating the XJ’s 50th anniversary. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet get specially trimmed Exclusive Edition models, and an S560e plug-in-hybrid sedan is expected to arrive mid-year.
There was no information as of this writing on the 2019 Genesis G80 and G90, or the Porsche Panamera. We are not expecting any major changes on these cars this year, but the G80 is likely to get a substantial update for 2020.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.
There are a handful of hybrids offered in the premium large class: the BMW 740e xDrive plug-in hybrid, the Lexus LS 500h, the Mercedes-Benz S560e plug-in hybrid, 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. The BMW Alpina B7 has a 600-hp twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8. Jaguar’s XJ offers 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 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.