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Most Fuel-Efficient Luxury Cars: Real MPG

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 9/12/2015 Austin Lott

Luxury \lk-sh(-)r\ noun

Research

: a condition or situation of great comfort, ease, and wealth

: something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary

: an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease

We can get on board with Merriam-Webster's definition of luxury. We're talking ventilation, heating, and massage for the seats, power sunshades, gargantuan sunroofs, and sumptuous leather as far as the eye can see. But as many a self-made millionaire will tell you, you don't get to the top by living frivolously. We combed through Motor Trend's Real MPG database to bring you the three most fuel-efficient luxury cars in five categories: full-size, compact, coupe, midsize, and sporty.

If you want to learn more about how we get our Real MPG numbers, Motor Trend testing director, Kim Reynolds, explainshere.

Full-Size: Mercedes-Benz S-Class—Tied for Silver

2015-Mercedes-Benz-S550-Plug-In-Hybrid-front-side-view-closer© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-Mercedes-Benz-S550-Plug-In-Hybrid-front-side-view-closer The longtime king of the full-size luxury segment is undoubtedly the S-Class. We tested a 2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 Plug-In Hybrid, which is rated by the EPA for 24/30 mpg city/highway. We achieved just 22.8/27.2 mpg in our Real MPG test, though. It's got the luxury, but a diesel-powered competitor managed to just edge it out. Our next entrant is rated higher on the highway but lower in the city.

Full-Size: Audi A8—Tied for Silver

MotorTend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTend Image Audi is known to have some of the best interiors in the business and has some spectacular massaging seats in its flagship, the A8. We sampled a 2014 Audi A8 with a 3.0-liter, turbodiesel V-6, which is rated by the EPA for 24/36 mpg city/highway. In our Real MPG testing we saw 21.0/31.1 mpg, which works out to an identical combined rating with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Drive more around town? Mercedes-Benz has your ride waiting. Long jaunts on the interstate? Audi, baby. But what's better than either on the interstate and around town?

Full-Size: BMW 7 Series—Gold

2015-BMW-740Ld-xDrive-front-three-quarter-in-motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-BMW-740Ld-xDrive-front-three-quarter-in-motion BMW takes the crown for most efficient full-size luxury car. We tested a 2015 740Ld xDrive. You read that correctly: The long-wheelbase, all-wheel-drive, turbodiesel 7 Series beats a hybrid and a short-wheelbase Audi. Maybe that's because the big BMW is an overachiever, as it bested its EPA rating of 23/31 mpg city/highway and saw 24.3/36.2 mpg in the Real MPG test. The Ultimate Driving Machine takes the gold. We can't wait to test the new 2016 7 Series, though; it adds even more technology and should be even more efficient without sacrificing an iota of luxury.

Compact: Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class—Bronze

2014-Mercedes-Benz-CLA250-front-passengers-in-motion1© Provided by MotorTrend 2014-Mercedes-Benz-CLA250-front-passengers-in-motion1 We drove Japanese and American luxury, but the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 we tested, which had an EPA rating of 26/38 mpg city/highway that translated into a Real MPG rating of 25.2/34.3 mpg, bumped the non-German competition out of the running for compact luxury. The CLA250 with its mini-CLS styling and sloping roofline is easily the most stylish sedan of the compact segment.

Compact: Audi A3—Silver

2015-Audi-A3-18T-front-three-quarters© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-Audi-A3-18T-front-three-quarters It really is a shame we haven't tested the Audi A3 in turbodiesel guise, as it would have likely cleaned up the compact segment. The turbocharged, 1.8-liter I-4 in the 2015 Audi A3 we tested is rated by the EPA for 23/33 mpg city/highway but beat the ratings with 24.4/35.6 mpg in our Real MPG test. Audi's smallest sedan is hardly a penalty box. It features a top-notch interior that's more simple and elegant despite the near-$30,000 entry price. The A3 isn't bad, but the champion is in a different league.

Compact: BMW 3 Series—Gold

2014-BMW-328d-xDrive-Wagon-front-three-quarter-04© Provided by MotorTrend 2014-BMW-328d-xDrive-Wagon-front-three-quarter-04 Hey! The numbers don't lie. BMW takes another gold medal with the 3 Series. We tested a 2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon, which the EPA rates 31/43 mpg city/highway. That number was neatly mirrored in our Real MPG test, where it saw 29.8/44.2 mpg. Interior space is quite dear in the compact segment, but if you want to maximize space, luxury, and efficiency, the 3 Series wagon is the way to go.

Coupe: Infiniti Q60—Bronze

2015-Infiniti-Q60-Coupe-front-three-quarter-in-motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-Infiniti-Q60-Coupe-front-three-quarter-in-motion The 2015 Infiniti Q60 beat a German coupe for the bronze medal. The Q60 is also the only luxury coupe on the podium to beat both its city and highway EPA rating (18/25 mpg) in Real MPG testing. We saw 18.4/27.6 mpg, which is fairly impressive when you consider that the Q60 is essentially the same sporty G37 coupe we've loved for years. But the name in the efficiency game is technology and advancement, thus the smaller turbocharged mills of the next two victors relegated the Infiniti to a respectable third-place finish.

Coupe: Cadillac ATS—Silver

2015-Cadillac-ATS-Coupe-20T-Premium-front-three-quarter-turn© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-Cadillac-ATS-Coupe-20T-Premium-front-three-quarter-turn As the sole manual-transmission luxury coupe to finish on the podium, the ATS should get a higher measure of respect from enthusiasts in the crowd. We tested a 2015 Cadillac ATS with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter I-4, rear-wheel drive, and a six-speed manual. EPA was 19/30 mpg city/highway. Real MPG, though, was 22.7/28.8 mpg.

Coupe: BMW 228i/428i—Gold

2014-BMW-228i-front-three-quarter-in-motion-02© Provided by MotorTrend 2014-BMW-228i-front-three-quarter-in-motion-02 Team BMW shares the top spot for most-efficient luxury coupe. Both the 2015 BMW 228i and 2014 BMW 428i sport the automaker's turbocharged, 2.0-liter I-4 paired with an eight-speed automatic powering the rear wheels. EPA estimates are 23/36 mpg city/highway for the 228i and 23/35 mpg for the 428i. This is where it gets interesting, as the Real MPG ratings of 23.4/32.1 mpg (228i) and 22.1/35.4 mpg (428i) work out to an identical 26.6 mpg combined rating. For your Bavarian coupe, if you want to err on the side of touring, go with the 4 Series, but if you want the spiritual successor to the old 3 Series coupe, the 228i is the way to go.

Midsize: Audi A6—Bronze

2014-Audi-A6-TDI-front-three-quarters-in-motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2014-Audi-A6-TDI-front-three-quarters-in-motion We thought it would be another sweep for Germany, so we were surprised when the diesel-powered contender from Ingolstadt merely took bronze. The 2014 Audi A6 TDI we tested held an EPA rating of 24/38 mpg city/highway, though in our testing we saw a Real MPG range of 24.6/33.6 mpg. The Audi A6 is lavishly appointed, and the recently introduced 2016 model is even better. Although the TDI is incredibly efficient, it was edged out in our testing by two others.

Midsize: Acura TLX—Silver

2015-Acura-TLX-24-front-three-quarters-in-motion-03© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-Acura-TLX-24-front-three-quarters-in-motion-03 Acura's TLX is a bit of a tweener, neither solidly compact nor on the bigger end of midsize. Despite the question mark, we looked at the nicely appointed sedan and saw that it was just about spot on with its EPA rating of 24/35 mpg city/highway; we saw 23.7/36.4 mpg in our Real MPG testing. Despite the TLX's in-between size, there should be no questions about the TLX's status as a luxury sedan. From the incredibly polished powertrain to the finely finished interior and the handsome Jewel Eye LED headlights, it's right at home.

Midsize: Lincoln MKZ—Gold

2014-Lincoln-MKZ-Hybrid-front-three-quarter1© Provided by MotorTrend 2014-Lincoln-MKZ-Hybrid-front-three-quarter1 When you're talking about luxury and sense of occasion, Lincoln is hard to beat. Their latest products have a way about them, a way of making the driver and passengers feel special. The 2014 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid that passed through our doors had an EPA rating of 45/45 mpg city/highway, which translated in our Real MPG test to 41.7/46.9 mpg. The MKZ is more than just efficient, though. It rewards driver and passengers with one of the most impressive panoramic sunroofs available. The entire roof seemingly lifts and slides back on rails to rest over the rear window, allowing the passengers to enjoy the great outdoors from their luxurious leather thrones.

Sporty Luxury: ATS-V Coupe—Bronze

2016-Cadillac-ATS-V-Coupe-front-three-quarter-in-motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Cadillac-ATS-V-Coupe-front-three-quarter-in-motion Cadillac has aimed the ATS-V squarely at the M3/M4, and if you look to the spec chart, they're rubbing shoulders. Performance aside, with an EPA rating of 17/23 mpg city/highway, it's nearly identical to the M3. In Real MPG testing, the ATS-V Coupe (manual transmission, of course) posted slightly better --19.4/23.2 mpg --than its EPA figures. The American luxury contender for the gold is an excellent handling car, but it lacks some of the brash violence all the previous CTS-V versions have taught us to expect. This may be a good thing in your book. Take it or leave it, the ATS-V was, sadly, knocked down to the bronze position by a surprising trim level of a surprisingly efficient opponent.

Sporty Luxury: Jaguar F-Type R—Silver

2015-Jaguar-F-Type-R-Coupe-front-side-view-in-motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-Jaguar-F-Type-R-Coupe-front-side-view-in-motion Yes, folks, we're talking about the supercharged, 5.0-liter V-8 that makes 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque. The rear-wheel drive* 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, rated by the EPA for 16/23 mpg, not only beat its own EPA numbers but also beat two other supercharged V-6 F-Type models we tested. In Real MPG testing, we ended up with 18.8/28.9 mpg. How do we describe the F-Type R? The sound is delicious. Jonny Lieberman waxes eloquently on the subject here. It's as good as he says.

*The 2015 F-Type R, with its terrifying acceleration and tail-happy rear-wheel drive, will come with mandatory all-wheel drive from 2016 onward.

Sporty Luxury: BMW M3—Gold

2015-BMW-M3-Sedan-front-three-quarters-in-motion-04© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-BMW-M3-Sedan-front-three-quarters-in-motion-04 BMW isn't king of the hill on reputation alone. The performance is there, and although there's some question of dilution in the Ultimate Driving Machine, when comparing these numbers, which few will compare, the M3 is still on top. We ran an M3 equipped with the seven-speed twin-clutch transmission (EPA rating of 17/24 mpg) through our Real MPG program, and our jaws dropped: 24.2/28.5 mpg! QED: BMW makes the most-efficient luxury sports car.

Most-Fuel-Efficient-Luxury-Cars© Provided by MotorTrend Most-Fuel-Efficient-Luxury-Cars
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