Some people purchase luxury rides for their plush interiors, slick exteriors and high-tech amenities. Others do it for the status. Either way, they have purchased a vehicle in a segment known for refined cosmetics, top-shelf build materials, gadgets galore and ultracomfortable ride characteristics.

Unfortunately, luxe cars are also known for their high sticker prices — a fact that consumers haven't overlooked. The luxury market was down 16.6 percent in 2008, compared with 2007. However, with the exception of the most expensive entries, the overall luxury segment's share of the U.S. car market actually increased slightly, so people are still interested in plush performance.

MSN Autos separates the luxury segment into three categories: near luxury, luxury and ultraluxury. Not surprisingly, the lesser-priced near-luxury category (prices start in the low to mid $30Ks) is the most researched group on MSN Autos. Regardless of its popularity, sales in this subcategory are down around 13 percent in 2008, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

Is there a silver lining here? Sure. What hasn't been hurt by this topsy-turvy economy is the quality and selection of luxury cars available to buyers today, which is reflected in this year's list of the top 10 most researched luxury cars on MSN Autos.

View Pictures:  Popular Luxury Cars on MSN

Eight of the 10 vehicles in our list are near-luxury models, led by the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Cadillac CTS. European entries dominate, taking half of the available spots. In addition to the aforementioned models from the Old Country are the BMW 5-Series, the Audi A4 and the new Jaguar XF. The CTS — all-new last year — is the only domestic to crack the top 10.

Finally, there is one notable newcomer to this list: the Hyundai Genesis. The first luxury car sold in America to come from South Korea, the Genesis is the 2009 North American Car of the Year.

Without further ado, here's the complete list:

BMW 3-Series

Click to enlarge picture2009 BMW 3-Series (© BMW AG)

2009 BMW 3-Series

BMW's best-selling 3-Series is offered in sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon versions. The 2009 model has a refreshed exterior that includes a slightly restyled front end as well as new headlights and taillights. Also new in 2009 is the addition of the 335d with an inline 6-cylinder twin-turbo diesel engine. The 335d runs clean enough to meet emission standards in all 50 states and produces 265 horsepower with an impressive peak torque of 425 lb-ft at just 1750 rpm.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Click to enlarge picture2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C63 AMG Sport Sedan (© Mercedes-Benz USA)

2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C63 AMG Sport Sedan

The C-Class is the Mercedes-Benz entry-luxury sedan, redesigned last year and offered in either Luxury or Sport trim, the latter easily identified by the three-pointed star incorporated into the front grille. Initially, the new C-Class was available only as either a C300 or C350 (both of which are rated at 25 mpg on the highway). Now, it also comes in high-performance guise as the C63 AMG, which is armed with a 6.2-liter V8 engine that pumps out an amazing 451 horsepower.

Cadillac CTS

Click to enlarge picture2009 Cadillac CTS (© General Motors)

2009 Cadillac CTS

Redesigned in 2008, the Cadillac CTS received fresh exterior and interior styling as well as a number of technological advances, including a DVD-based navigation system with a touch-screen LCD, a Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround audio system and an Easy Key system with Smart Remote Start. The CTS is also available with all-wheel drive and a new 6-speed automatic transmission. In an effort to keep up with the BMW M-Series and Mercedes-Benz AMG models, Cadillac also updated the high-performance CTS-V for 2009. It now boasts a 556-horsepower V8 engine that can power this 4-door sedan from zero to 60 mph in less than four seconds.

Acura TL

The 2009 model year marks the introduction of the fourth-generation Acura TL. The all-new TL incorporates fresh styling and new performance features. The best-selling vehicle in the Acura lineup, the TL is offered for the first time with the brand's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). Two new powerplants are available: a 3.5-liter 280-horsepower V6 and a more muscular 3.7-liter 305-horsepower V6, the latter being the most powerful engine in the Acura lineup. The new TL is also larger than its predecessor, providing a more spacious interior. A number of new high-tech features are available, including Keyless Access System with push-button start, Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition, AcuraLink real-time traffic, real-time weather with Doppler-style radar mapping and Bluetooth audio connectivity.

Do you think the luxury market can continue to take market share from other segments, or is the increase just an anomaly?

BMW 5-Series

Click to enlarge picture2009 BMW 5-Series

2009 BMW 5-Series

BMW's 5-Series received a number of updates last year, including a refreshed look and a redesigned interior. The 525i and 525xi were replaced by the 528i and 528xi, each receiving a new standard 230-horsepower engine, while the 530i and 530xi were replaced by the 535i and 535xi, and upgraded with a 300-horsepower twin-turbo inline-six engine as standard equipment. Other additions included a Lane Departure Warning system and Active Cruise Control with a "Stop & Go" feature. A new Sport Package is available in the 550i that gives it 19-inch wheels and new body treatments.