Top 10 $100K Cars

While the average car buyer might scoff at the notion of spending more than $100,000 on a new car, "affordable" exotics are a rapidly growing segment. Much like the proliferation of McMansions, $100,000 cars are often purchased more as stylish status symbols than for their substance, although each of these cars offers plenty of both. The trend doesn't look to be ending anytime soon, either. New $100,000-plus entries from Porsche and Aston Martin are on the way, and even BMW and Mercedes-Benz are looking to produce new, rarified models.

Cars that made the list had to sticker between $100,000 and $200,000 and go above and beyond pedestrian luxury cars in terms of style, performance and attitude.

10. Maserati Quattroporte

The Quattroporte holds the No. 10 spot on the list because it was one of the first near-$100,000 cars to really sell in significant quantities, leading other automakers to believe they could get away with attaching six-figure price tags to fancy cars. It's still one of the most inexpensive Italian exotic cars you can buy, at $110,600, and this year it sports a traditional automatic transmission. Plus, you can feel like one of the guys from "Entourage." At the same time, though, that show illustrates how quickly trends can change. The "Entourage" crew moved on from the Quattroporte to Aston Martins and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class faster than they changed clothes.

9. Lamborghini Gallardo

Lamborghinis may only be alluring to teenage boys and adults who haven't progressed beyond the Peter Pan syndrome, but they're still brutish and powerful, and they look like nothing else. At $175,000 for the hardtop and $195,000 for the roadster, the Gallardo stretches the $200,000 budget. They're native Italians, but are most often seen in high-profile areas like South Beach and Hollywood. As those areas suggest, it's all about the looks; the cabin is sparse, the ride is harsh and the exhaust is more than boastful. Good thing it has the performance cred, or it would be all show.

8. BMW M6 Convertible

Its style might not be for everyone, but the M6 convertible hits 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. That means it'll only take a minute to dry your hair after you leave the beach. Of course, we wouldn't recommend tracking sand in a new, $104,900, V-10-powered BMW, unless your detailer is on speed dial. This is probably the least attractive car on the list, but we've run into more than one luxury owner who covets the 6 Series above all else. Loyalty — and the engine — put it in at No. 8.

7. Mercedes-Benz S600

This one almost didn't make the list, but we've seen too many of this $139,900 sedan on the streets and parked in front of fancy restaurants to let it slip out of the top 10. Plus, it has a powerful V-12 engine and a very upscale cabin, complete with mood lighting. That's why it comes in at No. 7, even if it looks like its less-stellar S550 sibling.

6. Ferrari F430

Yes, you too can own Ferrari's "entry-level" F430 for under $200,000. It'll probably hold its value — it starts at $168,005 — better than most of the cars on this list, but if you're thinking about resale value, you're probably not in the right mindset to hand over that down payment. In fact, if you need to make payments, you probably shouldn't be buying a mid-engine, paddle-shifting exotic sports car with a racing heritage, either. Still, it's been said that this might be the easiest Ferrari ever to drive like a pro. You can't put a price tag on that.

5. Bentley Continental GTC

Spoiler alert — this isn't the best Bentley on the list; in fact, the elegant GTC convertible isn't even the best Bentley based on the Flying Spur. The GTC's motorized canvas roof might seem like something from your grandpa's old Buick, but it's the look with the top down that seals the deal. If you think an average convertible is an impractical buy, what does that say about this one, at $189,990? How, then, did it make the list? You just can't have too many Bentleys in your stable.

4. Porsche 911 Turbo

It may look like Porsches of the past, but the new 911 turbo is the highest attainment of Porsche-iocity ever built. Hey, $122,000 might seem like a major investment, but a 911 Turbo never goes out of style; unless the boys in Stuttgart go against almost 50 years of tradition, a 911 will look like a 911 for decades to come. Even if the next generation Turbo outdoes this one under the rear bonnet, passers-by will never know. It'll also sneak by all those garish Ferraris and Lamborghinis getting pulled over by the men in black and khaki — just pull a wraith-like triple-digit scoot past the flashing lights.

3. Audi R8

The new kid on the block is Audi's first take on the semi-exotic sports car. Its mod styling and impressive performance, about on par with the Porsche 911 Turbo, make quite the value statement at $109,000. The huge grille, mid-engine layout and sporty cockpit scream business, if your business is going fast. The bold stripe on the side shouts eccentricity — just what you want in something this expensive.

2. Aston Martin V8 Vantage/Vantage Roadster

Everyone wants to be James Bond, even if they won't admit it. The V8 Vantage coupe and convertible are sultry, British and fast. For a mere $110,000, the coupe is a major head-turner that will stand out in a crowd of Porsches and even Ferraris in your favorite swanky restaurant's valet lane. The Aston has subtle elegance with a ton of performance squeezed out of its V-8 engine. It's just so ... British. You can't help but fall in love with it, just like all those girls who fall for Bond.

1. Bentley Continental Flying Spur

And in the No. 1 slot: The best of one of the brands that has redefined the segment. The two-door Bentley Continental GT broke things open for the British coach builder with its most famous owner — Paris Hilton — getting them plenty of free publicity. But it's the four-door Flying Spur that is the epitome of how much exotic luxury you can get for your money. About $170,000 of your money, that is. Even though Bentley is churning out more Continentals than any other model, they're still hand-built and can be custom ordered down to the wood grain, leather pigmentation and shoe size. OK, maybe not shoe size.

© 2/11/09