Although the defining line between “regular” and “premium” cars isn’t as sharp as it used to be, the latter still tend to offer performance, luxury, and convenience features—along with a more prestigious name—for which some people still seem willing to pay extra.

Speaking of prices, our premium classes tend to span a wider dollar range than those for regular cars, and the premium midsize category is no exception. The least expensive entries start around $35,000, while the most expensive model (the BMW 8-Series Gran Coupe) starts at around $85,000—and goes up quite a ways from there.

The majority of premium-midsize cars come only as 4-door sedans, though the Volvo V60 and V90 are wagons, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class offers not only a wagon, but also a coupe and convertible. The entries are split pretty evenly between front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive, and the majority also offers all-wheel drive. Model lines offering a hybrid or plug-in hybrid version include the Audi A7, BMW 5-Series, Lexus ES, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Volvo S60/V60 and S90. Others include mild-hybrid systems.

HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2021

Arguably the biggest news in this class for 2021 is that it’s much smaller than last year—the Acura RLX, Buick Regal Sportback, Buick Regal TourX, Lexus GS, and Lincoln MKZ have all been discontinued. The Jaguar XF Sportbrake wagon has also been discontinued for the U.S. market; the XF sedan continues with updated styling and a new infotainment system, but it loses its available V6 engine, leaving only 4-cylinder P250 and P300 models.

The Acura TLX is redesigned on a slightly larger platform, gaining new styling, improved interior materials and new technology features. The standard engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder rated at 272 horsepower. A performance-oriented Type S model gets standard AWD and a 355-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V6.

The Audi A6/S6 lineup adds a high-performance RS 6 Avant wagon model, and the fastback A7 adds a plug-in-hybrid model with 362 hp. The BMW 5-Series is refreshed with updated styling and improved infotainment/driver-assist features. The plug-in-hybrid 530e now has 40 more horsepower, for a total of 288, and the 540i gets a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class gets freshened exterior styling and other revisions that include an updated infotainment system and enhanced driver-assist technology. The E450’s previous V6 is replaced by a turbocharged inline six with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The E450 wagon gets SUV-style body cladding and adjustable air suspension to become the E450 All Terrain.

The Cadillac CT5 is now available with a digital instrument cluster and the latest version of Cadillac’s Super Cruise driver-assistance system. The Lexus ES adds an all-wheel-drive ES 250 version with a 203-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The Volkswagen Arteon gets refreshed styling inside and out, along with enhanced interior materials, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, and adjustable ambient interior lighting. The Volvo S90 and V90 get subtly updated front and rear styling.

MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL

Several premium midsize cars offer high-performance variants with breathtaking capabilities. The Audi S6 and S7 have a 444-hp, twin-turbo 2.9-liter V6, while the RS 6 Avant and RS 7 have a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that makes 591 hp. The BMW M5 and M8 Gran Coupe have a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 rated at 600 hp, or 617 with the Competition Package. The Mercedes-Benz AMG CLS53 has a turbocharged, mild-hybrid 3.0-liter 6-cylinder that puts out 429 hp, and the AMG E63 S has a 603-hp 4.0-liter turbocharged V8.