Life has its daily challenges, so if you can find a way to make your drive to work every day more pleasant and relaxing, why wouldn’t you? That is where a luxury car comes in, and why so many drivers choose them. And you don’t have to spend six figures to get into a really nice luxury car.

    Take the 2009 Cadillac STS. Long the American standard in luxury, Cadillacs have changed a lot in the last five to 10 years, morphing from large land yachts to aggressively styled luxury machines. The STS is Cadillac’s mid-sized sedan, and it’s a very nice size; big enough to be comfortable inside, yet small enough to be maneuverable and easy to park. Styling is ‘aggressively conservative’ with an attractive front end, conservative roof line, and nice posterior, all done in a somewhat angular fashion.

    Inside, the STS offers all the dark wood and leather luxury one would expect in a Cadillac. Moderately bolstered, heated and cooled front seats are quite comfortable, and an electrically operated tilt/telescoping steering wheel ensures a comfortable driving position. I love those cooled seats on a hot day. Dual automatic climate control ensures cabin comfort in the very quiet interior. A display screen is used for the radio controls, with redundant controls on the steering wheel. The back seat offers plenty of room in all directions, along with heated seats and air vents with separate ventilation controls. The trunk is fairly large and there’s a pass-through to the rear seat for long objects, but the back seat does not fold.

    The 302 horsepower, 3.6 liter V-6 engine provides plenty of pep, while still returning 17 mpg city, 26 highway. A 320 horsepower, 4.6 liter Northstar V-8 is also available, as are all-wheel-drive, which enhances handling, and all-weather traction. Two-wheel-drive models send power to the rear wheels. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic with manual mode. Braking is also good. Stability control, traction control and ABS keep the STS in the desired direction. Handling is good, with a comfortable ride, and it’s actually kind of a fun car on a twisty road, though the steering is slightly over-boosted.

    According to Bill Pastor, assistant sales manager at ELCO Chevrolet Cadillac, “The STS offers the ideal blend of performance and size. It has a full-sized rear seat and offers plenty of room for five adults, plus it offers quick acceleration and available all-wheel-drive.”

    The STS has a base price of about $45,000 and can easily reach the $50,000-plus mark with a few options.

    Another example of a more moderate luxury car is the striking new Jaguar XF. In only its second year, Jaguar has already bumped both performance and luxury for the 2010 model.

  Replacing the retro-styled S Type, the XF offers very modern styling based on the drop dead gorgeous XK coupe. A large mesh grill is flanked by ‘cat eye’ headlamps that reside beneath a sculptured bonnet with a large center power bulge. The roofline cascades in a sharply raked slope to the chrome-accented rear, punctuated with a graceful leaping jaguar. It looks fast even standing still!

    Inside, of course, it carries on the Jaguar tradition of offering the most beautiful and luxurious cabin available for under six figures. Acres of wood and leather abound, and several new features make the XF interior unique and cutting edge. First of these is a rotary knob gear selector that ascends like magic from the center console when the car is started. Just rotate the knob to ‘D’ and you’re off. The six-speed automatic will do the rest, unless of course you wish to employ the paddles resting behind the steering wheel that allow you to switch gears manually. Another innovative feature are air vents that swivel and close when the car is not in use, thereby preventing dust and dirt from entering the ventilation system and subsequently being spewed out into the cabin.

    Heated and cooled front seats are mildly bolstered and very comfortable. Lights and the glove box release are touch-sensitive. No need to push a button; just put your finger over the button and the light goes on or the glove box opens. Pretty cool. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good in your hands and contains audio and cruise control switches. Dual automatic climate control and Sirius radio are controlled by a touch screen interface that is intuitive and easy to use. The trunk is large, though the opening is a bit small. The rear seat folds to expand capacity.

    The 2010 XF gets a new, 5.0 liter V-8 good for 385 horsepower, which is transmitted to the rear wheels. Gas mileage is 16 city, 23 highway. A supercharged XFR model pumps out 510 horsepower. The regularly aspirated version generates plenty of power to make for an exhilarating ride. A tight yet comfortable suspension and good brakes contribute to a great handling sedan. The XF truly delivers both luxury and performance.

    Ted Dickey, general manager at Moore Jaguar, says, “The XF is the new face of Jaguar style, and it’s a terrific performance car. It’s leading Jaguar’s re-invigoration, evidenced in part by Jaguar’s recent No. 1  reliability rating.”

    The XF starts at about $52,000 for the base model, $57,000 for the premium luxury model.

Robert W. Paster is also an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.