Who says entry-level price should get you entry-level luxury?
We recently had the opportunity to test the all-new 2019 BMW 3 Series. This new generation of 3 Series, codenamed the G20, brings with it improvements in efficiency, power, style, practicality, and technology. Unfortunately, this new and improved 3 Series doesn't come cheap with the base 330i model starting at $41,195. For that, you'll get a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four producing 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The more powerful M340i with the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six producing 382 hp and 369 lb-ft starts at $54,000.
But what if you were willing to toss around that same sort of money on the used market? We've come up with eight used alternatives, all of which cost less and are more powerful than a base 2019 BMW 330i.
One piece of advice we always like to give when shopping for used alternatives is to look at an older, performance version of the newer car. Instead of settling for the least powerful of the current 3 Series, you could have the most powerful model from the past two generations. For less than $40,000, you'll have your pick of the litter of the E9x generation M3 (2008-2013) and several F8x generation cars (2015-).
We prefer the E90 generation model, which was powered by a 4.0-liter V8 engine producing 414 hp. If you like something newer and faster, the F80 generation M3 produces 425 hp from a 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six.
Although many people have forgotten, Acura used to build several excellent cars for enthusiasts. The TL with Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) was among the best, offering an optional six-speed manual transmission. Finding a fourth generation TL with a stick shift isn't easy but it can be done for between $15,000 to $20,000 with low miles. The TL SH-AWD was powered by a 3.7-liter V6 producing 305 hp, enabling a 0-60 mph time of just 5.3 seconds. Not everyone was a fan of the TL's bucktooth front grille, which was done away with for the 2012 model year.
On any cheap luxury car list, you are bound to find the Infiniti G37 or Q40 (as it was renamed in 2014 and 2015). Even by today's standards, the G37 still looks great and offers impressive performance courtesy of a 3.7-liter V6 producing 325-330 hp. Most G37 models send power to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic (AWD was also available), though some rarer models routed power to a six-speed manual. Though we prefer the looks of the coupe, the sedan is the more likely alternative to a new 3 Series and can be found starting at less than $10,000.
If you're in the market for a new BMW, you may be looking for something more prestigious than an Acura or Infiniti. Introducing the B8 generation Audi S4. This handsome sports sedan is powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 sending 333 hp to all four wheels. The S4 was offered with either a seven-speed dual-clutch or six-speed manual transmission, both of which are excellent options. You can pick up an S4 for as little as around $12,000, but we suggest spending more to secure a low mileage example with a warranty.
Perhaps the 3 Series just isn't exotic enough and you'd like to stand out a bit more when you park your car in the driveway. If you'd like your car to be the only one of its kind on your block, you should get an Alfa Romeo Giulia. The Giulia has only been on sale since 2017 in the US, so finding a used one may not be so easy. Still, the least expensive used models we found started at just $25,000. Like the 3 Series, the base Giulia is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four. Unlike the BMW, Alfa's four-pot produces a whopping 280 hp.
If the exclusivity of the Alfa Romeo sounded appealing but you'd like a bit more power, consider the Jaguar XFR. Thanks to Jaguar's absurd depreciation, a used XFR can now be found under $30,000 and as low as just $12,000. The XFR was the most powerful of the XF models, with a fire-breathing 5.0-liter supercharged V8 under the hood producing 510 hp. If you do go down the XFR route, we highly suggest paying extra for a warranty.
If all you care about is raw horsepower, this next choice may be for you. The second generation Cadillac CTS-V is the most powerful car on this list with a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 pumping out 556 hp. Cadillac sold the CTS-V as a sedan, coupe, and wagon, though the wagon has become somewhat collectible in recent years. We never loved the rear end styling of the coupe, so the sedan is the one we'd opt for. Most will have a six-speed automatic but some came with a six-speed manual if you can find one. Prices range from around $30,000 to $40,000.
The Kia K900 may seem like an odd choice for this list because if you look at its dimensions, it is more of a rival for the BMW 7 Series than the 3 Series. However, we've previously stated that the K900 (and its corporate cousin the Hyundai Equus) are the most car you can get for under $25,000. In fact, used K900 models can now be found for around $17,000. And that's for models with the 420-hp 5.0-liter V8! If you can think of a car with more size, power, and luxury with a warranty for less than $25,000, we'd love to hear it.