Which Luxury Cars have the most Appeal?

Who likes their vehicles more: Lincoln owners or Volvo owners? Cadillac owners or Acura owners? Audi owners or Infiniti owners? Well, if you answered Lincoln, Cadillac and Audi, rather than Volvo, Acura and Infiniti, you'd be right on target.  Those are some of the fascinating, and sometimes surprising, results from the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study, that is commonly referred to by its acronym APEAL. Now in its 12th year, the study measures owners' "delight" with the design, content, layout and performance of their new vehicles, and it is designed to complement the more well known J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study (IQS), which focuses on problems experienced by owners during the first 90 days of ownership. APEAL measures how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive.

An analysis of the results offers some intriguing insights into what owners think about their new 2007 model year vehicles after they have owned them for three months or so. For some buyers, the love that was in their eyes at the dealership still burns strongly, but for others that initial lust has cooled significantly and, perhaps, turned to heartburn. 

One thing that was no surprise is that Porsche owners love their vehicles.  Porsche was the highest-ranking nameplate in APEAL for a third consecutive year, and the Porsche Cayman topped the rankings in the Compact Premium Sporty Car segment, followed closely by its kissing cousin, the Porsche Boxster.

BMW owners also demonstrate a love for their vehicles. The Bavarian nameplate finished second in the overall rankings, while individual models took crowns in the Entry Premium Car segment (3 Series) and Premium Sporty Car segment (6 Series). In the latter category, the BMW 6 Series out-pointed two other models that traditionally engender passion among their owners -- the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class and the Chevrolet Corvette. Mercedes-Benz ranked third overall in the study with segment wins in the Midsize Premium Car segment (E-Class) and Large Premium Car segment (S-Class).

One of the surprises in looking at the data is that Lexus -- a perennial leader in J.D. Power and Associates quality and reliability studies -- ranks only fifth among all brands in APEAL, trailing not only Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but also Jaguar. One has to ask, where is the love? Jaguar finished fourth overall in the ranking of brands without placing a single model in the top three of the various segments in which it competes.

Looking at the sport-utility-vehicle side of the luxury market, BMW garnered the top spot in the Mid-size Premium Multi-Activity Vehicle segment with the X5, followed by a tie between the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class. In the Large Premium MAV segment, the Cadillac Escalade EXT and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class finished in a dead heat for the crown, followed by the Lincoln Navigator.

The first 11 spots on the overall APEAL list by brand were taken by the luxury marque, which proves, yet again, that it pays to be rich.

Driving Today Contributing Editor Tom Ripley writes about the auto industry and the human condition from the luxurious environs of his home in Villeperce, France.