The classification of these goods is also confusing. For example, I drive a Lexus IS250 AWD which would be considered a luxury vehicle but actually comes in at the same price point as Toyota 4Runner.
Additionally, the variance in prices between luxury and non-luxury goods is decreasing. A low-end Lexus now costs less than $10k more than a similarly equipped Subaru Outback or Honda Accord, making the difference when it comes to actual affordability pretty small.
...which makes the bottom line even more pathetic. You make your payment on the Honda Accord, and after a few years, you own it. It continues to be drivable, and the amortized cost of ownership begins to decline.
If you hop on the luxury-car leasing merry-go-round, then sure, you get to drive a new car every few years, but the payment never goes away. Meanwhile, you've almost certainly over-paid for the car relative to what it would have cost to buy up front.
When it comes to cars, the financially responsible question is not "4Runner or Lexus?"; it is: "can I live without one?"
For many of us, cars are nothing more than a rarely used, depreciating asset with high maintenance costs that gets us from point A to point B. I'd rather rent one occasionally, and spend the money I save on all of the other things you mention.
If you work on them yourself, sure, then it's not much more expensive.
Oh, also, I'm fairly certain that the German brands are actually a good bit less reliable than the Japanese brands in general. I know that my experience with a less than 10 year old BMW was that it was rather less reliable than my current more than 10 years old Nissan.
I mean, the BMW is a nice car; in terms of handling, I agree that you are getting something for the money. But don't kid yourself. It's going to be quite a lot more expensive than a Japanese car, even if the up-front cost seems reasonable.
Real luxury brands are the ones those of us in the middle class can't even consider buying. Maybach. Bentley. Rolls Royce. Bugatti. I could drive a Lexus today if I wanted. Even a BMW. I don't think I'll ever have enough money to blow on a Rolls.
Moral of the story: being rich and acting rich are two different things.