Seductive curves, a hot little motor built for speed and a sexy European name don't always justify the small fortunes spent on them.
Automotive lust comes at a high price for car lovers who just have to have a $1.7 million to $2.4 million Bugatti Veyron with its 2.5-second zero-to-60 acceleration and 267 mph top speed. Those longing for the new Lamborghini Gallardo debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week will have to part with $2 million just to start their fast-lane fling.
But slow down a second. Even with U.S. auto sales up 7.5% in August and more than 10% during the first eight months of 2011 over the same period last year, aren't even big-ticket car buyers looking for a little more than a trophy ride for their investment? Porsche's SUV, the Cayenne, was still the sport marque's best-selling vehicle when it unveiled the sporty, 179-miles-per-hour, $123,000 Porsche 911 in Frankfurt.
High-end automakers such as Bentley and Maserati are tailing Porsche all the way to the bank after unveiling their own SUVs this week. The Bentley's still in the planning stages, but will feature a V-12 or plug-in hybrid engine in the final product. The Fiat-owned Maserati, meanwhile, is still being sketched out, but Fiat freely admits the upper-class grocery getter will be built on the same platform as one of its other, more downmarket products: the Jeep Cherokee.
Even the world's newest luxury automaker, Britain's Eterniti Motors, announced at Frankfurt that its first offering would be the $276,000 lacrosse-practice-friendly Hemera SUV. Will its 629-horsepower V-8 engine be worth the sticker shock to the luxury value shopper? Much as it is with any luxury auto purchase, the answer's fairly subjective.
If you're looking for a slightly more tangible return on the financial equivalent of rolling a three-bedroom house or college education off the lot, we've found six examples of costly cars worth the vaults full of cash being paid for them:
Ford F-450 Super Duty
MSRP: $49,940 to $63,975
The Ford F-450 is one of the least expensive vehicles on the list, but you still have to have $50,000 laying around to get into one.
The cargo bed of the F-450 may not have enough room for all the reasons contractors love it and all the arguments that counter its lofty sticker price. The F-450's 6.7-liter, 400 horsepower Power Stroke V-8 turbo diesel engine can carry nearly 5,300 pounds of payload and tow another 17,500 pounds. Equip it with a semi-style fifth-wheel coupler in the back and that towing capacity bulks up to 24,500 pounds.
Perks such as leather seats, LCD screens, satellite radio, navigation, backup sensors and heated mirrors up the price a bit on the more tricked-out packages, but few items on the F-450 can be described as luxuries. It's a truck that was built to take a beating, which is why the more than 361,000 F-Series trucks sold year to date are the most sold by any model in the U.S. and outpace the runner up — GM's competing Chevrolet Silverado line — by nearly 110,000 vehicles so far this year.
They also don't lose much of that brawn when they roll off the lot. Kelley Blue Book last year credited the Ford F-Series Super Duty line with having the best resale value of any full-size pickup in the U.S.
MSRP: $47,200 to $63,800
Luxury's nice, but luxury combined with utility will help a carmaker earn that high price tag every time.
Few luxury cars of any kind, never mind SUVs, fulfill their price's promise quite as well as the X5. This little luxury SUV that could gets a lot of help from fun toys such as a panoramic moonroof with two-piece glass panel, automatic front climate control with separate left and right temperature settings, automatic tailgate with opening and closing feature, front and rear parking distance sensors, rearview camera, a heads-up display on the windshield, Sirius satellite radio, HD radio, rear entertainment center for the kids and a navigation system with traffic alerts.
It's that third row of rear seating and engines that range from the 269-horsepower, 26-miles-per-gallon diesel V-8 of the xDrive35d to the 4.4-liter, 400-horsepower V-8 of the xDrive50i that keep the X5's prep-school parents happy, though.
How happy? Enough to make the X5 BMW's third-best selling line behind its 3 Series and 5 Series this year and to increase the X5's sales 2.7% year to date over last year, while the 3 Series posted a 4.9% decline during the same period.
This has all combined to give the X5 the best resale value of any luxury utility vehicle, according to Kelley Blue Book. The xDrive35d's 26 miles per gallon doesn't exactly make it a gas sipper, but it does give owners reselling them more for their money than any other luxury hybrid or diesel SUV.