What is the highest quality car I can buy?

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Answered by: Richard, An Expert in the Choose the Right Car Category
This is kind of a loaded question. Highest quality car means different things to different people. Some people equate highest quality to most expensive. Others think of the most reliable or longest lasting. I think what it really means is, "what is the highest quality car I can buy given the amount of money I have to spend?"

Even if money is no object, there are still questions. Do you want a sedan or a sports car? Do you want maximum prestige or maximum performance? Do you want a convertible or a hardtop? Decisions, decisions. Ferrari has tried to cover more than one of the bases with its newly introduced FF model, with 660 horsepower, seating for four, and a $300,000 price tag. In this stratosphere, you have your choice of various Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Maybachs (Mercedes top of the line) or any of a handful of exotics. Of course, at this level, you are buying more than just a car. You are buying a symbol of who you are, so what you buy is less important than the fact that you can buy it and be recognized for it. If having the valet park your chariot in front of the main entrance is important to you, then any of these will fit the bill.

Assuming, however, there is a limit to the amount you can or want to spend, you have a much greater, if somewhat less prestigious, variety of choices. If by quality, you mean the car with the most features and highest quality components which is also the most reliable, then the best choice is a Lexus. The LS460, at about $70,000 is, in my opinion, the highest quality car there is. It is made of the finest materials available, is supremely comfortable and quiet, and is probably the most reliable and durable car made today. The only drawback is that it is a somewhat isolated and uninvolving driving experience. It is so quiet and smooth that at times it seems as if you are not touching the road. It is designed for serenity, and it achieves it as almost no other car does, regardless of price.

If you want driving excitement, the BMW Seven series, at about $80,000 provides much more than the Lexus. Also made of the highest quality components, the big Beemer puts you much more in touch with the road. The steering feel is unsurpassed, as is the cornering and handling, particularly for such a large car. The tradeoff; the ride is much harder than the Lexus and it is much less reliable, with lots of little electrical and other problems.

In between the two, also at over $80,000, is the Mercedes S class. A little softer than the BMW, but still more of a "driver's car" than the Lexus, it is a fine choice. Mercedes has had terrible quality problems over the last few years, but it seems to have solved most of them. The doomed merger with Chrysler was no favor to Mercedes (although their executives did just fine, thank you).

As we move down the money ladder, the choices get even wider. Thanks to the recession, and the pressure from Japan, American cars have gotten much, much better over the last few years. The quality of Ford and GM are right up there with the Japanese now. But the biggest bang for the buck today is Hyundai, from South Korea. The Equus, at about $60,000, is amazing. The materials are first rate, the ride is smooth and quiet and the reliability is fine. The drawback is that the ride and handling are not quite up to the standards set by the higher buck cars.

The Hyundai Genesis, at about $40,000, is also remarkable. It compares favorably to cars costing $10-$20,000 more. Hyundai took a page from the Lexus playbook of twenty years ago, when they introduced the LS400 at a much lower price than comparable Mercedes and BMW's. The Genesis gets high reliability ratings and comes with a 100,000 mile warranty. It's hard to find anything comparable at the price.

The Hyundai Sonata, starting at around $20,000, rates as high as any car in its class. It has more standard features than the comparable Toyota, Honda or Nissan, or any of the American cars. It is very reliable and economical and is available with a standard four cylinder engine, or optional turbo charged four or a full hybrid. The only drawback is that a six cylinder engine is not available, but the turbo-charged four makes up for it, with better performance and economy than a six.

There is certainly nothing wrong with the any of the other car brands. As I said, all cars are of higher quality today than they were several years ago. Even Chrysler, which has lagged behind, is now catching up. But at the level below $60,000, you just cannot beat the "bang for the buck" you get from Hyundai.

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