You don’t need to remortgage your house to get a grand tourer capable of epic road trips. Traditional 12-cylinder dream machines, such as the new Bentley Continental GT and Aston Martin DB11, cost grand sums of money, but there are far less expensive options. You just need to be creative.
Unless you’re brave enough to dive into the classifieds for a used $60,000 Bentley coupe – and deal with potentially ruinous maintenance costs – you’ll have to make some compromises to go grand touring on a budget. Sadly, there are no new V-12-engined cars available in the Honda Civic price bracket.
The requirements for any grand tourer are that it be able to cover great distances, at great speed. It should be comfortable on the highway and fun to drive on a twisty road. Generous luggage space is a necessity, and good looks are obviously a plus. Now you begin to see why traditional grand tourers are so expensive: They need to do it all.
Honda Civic Coupe EX-T
It’s not what you picture when you think “grand tourer,” but the humble Civic Coupe would make an excellent – and extremely affordable – cross-country chariot. The “T” model is only a couple thousand dollars more than the base Coupe, and gives you a more powerful, more exciting 174-horsepower engine. It’s no rocket ship, but with the manual transmission it’s fun to drive and comfortable over long distances. You’ll be able to travel far without breaking the budget on fuel, too; highway consumption is just 5.7 L/100 km. It’s no Bentley Continental, but it’s almost one-tenth the price.
Dodge Challenger SXT
Yes, it’s sort-of a muscle car, but we did say you’d have to creative to find a grand tourer on a budget. The Challenger ticks a lot of boxes: two doors, plenty of cargo space for two and a surprisingly cushy ride. It’s a mile crusher. Even the bare-bones base model gets a big 3.6-litre naturally aspirated V-6 that’s good for 305 horsepower. Or, for a hair more than $40,000 you can get the Challenger GT with a 5.7-litre HEMI V-8.
Audi A5 Coupe
In the $40,000 range, you’ve got a lot of options. If you’ll be touring with children, a four-door fastback such as Audi’s A5 Sportback, BMW’s 4 Series Gran Turismo or even Volkswagen’s coming Arteon are worth considering. In this price bracket, you can find true entry-level Grand Tourers including Infiniti’s Q60 Coupe and the sublime Mercedes C-Class Coupe. Our pick for an extended journey, though, would be Audi’s new A5. All-wheel drive is standard. It looks more expensive than it is. Trunk space is plentiful, at 465 litres. Engine output is a modest 252 horsepower, but the car’s refined ride and sure-footed handling will matter more over long distances. If you need more chutzpah, you can have the S5 Coupe with 354 horsepower for $61,500.
Mercedes E-Class Coupe
The E-Class Coupe is an odd duck. It is part of a long line of big Mercedes coupes, dating back to the 1969 W114 and W124 of the 1990s. But the E-Class is oft forgotten as the middle child in Mercedes’s current coupe lineup. It errs more on the comfort side of the grand-touring spectrum. The twin-turbo V-6’s power delivery is muscular rather than explosive. In the cabin, however, you’ll find a supremely luxurious environment. Swaddle yourself in the wood veneer and quilted leather upholstery and watch the miles fly past. The lack of B-pillar gives the E-Class an open, airy feeling that’s unique among its peers.
Lexus LC 500
It looks like a concept car, but somehow Lexus put the LC into production. It is alien-looking, turning heads wherever it goes. From behind the wheel it feels exotic – only Lexus’s aging infotainment system lets it down. The naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V-8 engine is a throwback to a time before turbochargers muted engine sounds. Over an Alpine pass, letting this 471-horsepower motor run to its redline would be bliss. Since it’s a Lexus, comfort over long distance is a given. Skip the more expensive 500h hybrid and go for this old-school V-8.
BMW 8 Series
Price: $115,000 (estimate)
Finally, the 8 Series is coming back after a nearly 20-year hiatus. BMW unveiled a concept version at Villa d’Este last year, so the production model is imminent. The engineers will be throwing everything into this new flagship coupe. Expect all-wheel drive, a next-gen infotainment system and V-8 engines. The range-topping M8 will make more than 600 horsepower. On paper, it ticks all the boxes for a great grand tourer; we’ll find out soon enough what it’s like in practice.
Money no object? Bentley and Aston a bit too common for you? The higher up the price ladder you go with grand tourers, the more eccentric they get. The Lusso is an all-wheel drive, V-12 engined, 680-horsepower hatchback that’ll do 0-200 km/h in just 10.5 seconds. The rear seats are roomy enough for adults, although getting in and out requires some gymnastics. It’s not the best-handling Ferrari, but it’s certainly the coolest in recent memory. Buon viaggio!