Top 10 Luxury Cars in the 3rd Quarter of 2007

BMW and Mercedes-Benz remain the most-researched brands on ForbesAutos.com, but a couple of newcomers join the list.

For the second straight quarter, vehicles from German premium brand BMW took up half of the list of luxury vehicles most researched on ForbesAutos.com. The order changed a little between the second and third quarters, but the BMW 3 Series Coupe and Sedan, 5 and 7 Series sedans, and X5 SUV again made the high-hit list, according to ForbesAutos.com search data.

Click through for the list of Top 10 Luxury Cars in the 3rd Quarter of 2007.

Top 10 Luxury Cars in the 3rd Quarter of 2007:

1. Mercedes-Benz S-Class: 2nd Quarter – No. 1
2. BMW 3 Series Sedan: 2nd Quarter – No. 5
3. BMW 7 Series Sedan: 2nd Quarter – No. 3
4. Jaguar XKR Coupe: New to the list
5. Acura MDX: New to the list
6. Acura TL: 2nd Quarter – No. 9
7. BMW 3 Series Coupe: 2nd Quarter – No. 8
8. BMW X5: 2nd Quarter – No. 10
9. BMW 5 Series Sedan: 2nd Quarter – No. 2
10. Mercedes-Benz SLK: 2nd Quarter – No. 6

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Top 10 Luxury Cars in the 3rd Quarter Gallery:

          

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Luxury Car Hot List: Third Quarter 2007

BMW and Mercedes-Benz remain the most-researched brands on ForbesAutos.com, but a couple of newcomers join the list.

by Jeff Zygmont

For the second straight quarter, vehicles from German premium brand BMW took up half of the list of luxury vehicles most researched on ForbesAutos.com. The order changed a little between the second and third quarters, but the BMW 3 Series Coupe and Sedan, 5 and 7 Series sedans, and X5 SUV again made the high-hit list, according to ForbesAutos.com search data.

The models’ online stamina reflects the success that BMW dealers enjoyed in their showrooms in 2007. Through the first three quarters, BMW of North America’s sales rose eight percent from the prior year. Through August, 3 Series sales alone were up 24 percent over the same period in 2006, according to data compiled by Bandon, Ore.-based CNW Marketing Research.

What makes these strong sales more remarkable is that overall, car sales in the U.S. are down three percent this year compared to the previous year, based on data from industry analyst AutoData Corp., in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

BMW’s gains have come from the hides of other luxury car makers, says Martin Hansberry, sales manager of Tulley BMW in Nashua, N.H. “Quite a few people are coming over from the other European manufacturers,” he said. At his dealership, for instance, Hansberry has noticed a lot of customers coming to BMW after owning Audis and Mercedes-Benzes, with some converts from Volvo as well.

Hansberry says these buyers are drawn by BMW’s customary commitment to spirited, athletic motoring. “The main thing we do is build sports cars,” he said, applying the term liberally to BMW’s full line of vehicles.

It helps that BMW plays to people who are well attuned to Internet shopping, said Belis Aksoy, an associate analyst who follows online car marketing for New York-based Jupiter Research. The Internet is an increasingly important buying tool, she said, even as overall auto sales falter.

Manufacturers who market effectively on the Web have a major advantage, and BMW is a good example because it attracts a more tech-savvy audience, Aksoy said. “They’re more affluent and younger, so that makes them more open to using the Internet,” she said.

Aksoy also puts BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo among the brands that are learning how to get people off their computers and into showrooms by incorporating dealers into Web campaigns.

One notable addition to our third-quarter Luxury Car Hot List is the Acura MDX, which joins the BMW X5 from last quarter and doubles the number of SUVs in the ranking. The seven-seat MDX is a so-called crossover, which means it blends the high seating position and utility of a traditional SUV with the superior on-road handling and sleeker look of a car. Click here to read more about crossovers in our Top 10 Most Fuel-Efficient Luxury SUVs feature.

Fuel economy remains a lesser concern among luxury shoppers. Aksoy said that a survey by Jupiter shows that luxury-car drivers rank fuel efficiency as their sixth priority. To drivers in general, fuel efficiency ranks second in importance, she said.

That helps explain why the Mercedes S-Class repeats as the most frequently researched vehicle on ForbesAutos.com. The big sedan achieves an EPA-estimated 11-14 miles per gallon city/17-22 mpg highway, depending on the engine choice.

Most prices shown in this ranking are for 2007 models, which were current through September, when the third quarter ended. The one exception is the BMW 5 Series Sedan, because the 2008 model came out this past spring. At $44,300, it lists $800 above the ’07 version. With the influx of ’08 models comes a bounty of inflated window stickers. The $40,195 2008 Acura MDX, for example, shows a $200 increase over the base price of its predecessor.

Editor’s note: The list excludes boutique manufacturers with yearly production volume below 10,000 units.