Best buys executive saloons: Mercedes E-Class is the star once more

Our choice of the corporate cruisers on the market right now

 

Best One: Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The old E-Class had been threatening to overtake the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 for quite some time, but with this generation, introduced in 2016, Stuttgart really got its executive saloon game together. Sleek looking, smooth to drive (especially if you go for the optional air suspension) and with a genuinely game-changing cabin with its Airbus-style all-glass cockpit (basic models still get analogue dials, so watch the spec). The E combines near-peerless refinement with exceptional cabin comfort and quality. Which it pretty much always did, but the difference is that this version is fun to drive, with sharp steering and a genuine feeling of agility. 2.0-litre 190hp diesel engine is excellent, E43 AMG turbo V6 is a pleasant middle-ground for those who don’t fancy the full-on performance of an AMG V8. Estate is the one to go for, with its smooth exterior and cavernous lines. Coupe looks gorgeous but feels a touch redundant; All-Terrain estate is a useful SUV alternative.

Best model: E220d AMG-Line estate for €55,420 Price range: €48,200 to €147,180. Finance from €561 per month. Co2 emissions: 80 to 225g/km Sum up: Sorted for E’s

Worthy Contenders

BMW 5 Series

When first we tried out the new 5 Series, it was a car that seemed just a touch out of sorts, a little like one that had not advanced quite far enough from the previous version. Since then, the new 5 has matured a little, and the trick is to look beyond the previously default old 520d diesel. Try, maybe, the plugin hybrid 530e, whose tricks you need to learn to get the best economy from, but which is hugely refined and satisfying when you do. Or try a 530d, with its sonorous big six-cylinder diesel engine. Or maybe, just maybe, if the six numbers really do come up, try out the 600hp M5, now with four-wheel drive, and the sort of performance that makes the word ‘ballistic’ seem rather ineffectual. Touring estate, as ever, is the one to have but all versions have an utterly gorgeous cabin.

Best model: 530d M-Sport Touring for €78,370 Price range: €52,660 to €164,170. Finance from €641 per month. Co2 emissions: 46 to 241g/km Sum up: Still great but can’t quite nudge ahead of the E-Class

Jaguar XF

The XF was a car that looked rather ordinary, at least to our eyes, when it was first launched. The styling just seemed too close to that of the prior model, too plain when we were hoping for chiselled. Well, the XF is a car whose looks have aged beautifully. Every time we spot one on the streets, it looks better and better, especially so if it wears the muscular R-Sport bodykit. Inside, though, the XF still has a major weak point - the cabin layout and design is so plain, so unexciting that you could mistake it for a Hyundai. At least the Jag makes up for that, more than makes up, in the way it drives. Its steering and chassis balance are still the best in this class, by a long stretch. Diesel engines are decently economical, but rather too noisy. Sportbrake estate gorgeous and useful. Supercharged 3.0 V6S is big fun.

Best model: 2.0 D 240hp R-Sport for €60,390 Price range: €45,995 to €93,640. Finance from €385 per month. Co2 emissions: 104 to 198g/km Sum up: Subtly sexy

Volvo S90 & V90

The big Swedes are not big sellers, at least not in Ireland where the sales focus is very much on the SUV side of the Volvo showroom, but if you’re in the market for a big, posh, four-door you really ought to give one of these your consideration. For a start, there’s arguably not a better-looking car in this list, inside or out. The S90 (and even more so the V90 estate) is the very definition of vehicular handsomeness, and the big-screen cabin, with is quality and comfort, really is hard to beat. Clever safety gear helps keep you straight on the motorway, and secure in all environments, and it’s even enjoyable to drive - an R-Design S90 actually has sweeter, better-balanced steering than a BMW 5 Series. Special offer has the base price for an S90 temporarily down to under €40,000.

Best model: V90 R-Design D4 for €55,745 Price range: €39,965 to €79,145. Finance from €POA per month. Co2 emissions: 47 to 160g/km Sum up: Safe, slinky, and surprisingly scrumptious

Wild Card: Lexus GS

You’ll have to be quick (well, not that quick - like end of this year quick) if you want a Lexus GS because soon it will be no more. Lexus will replace it at the end of this year with a new ES saloon which, because it shares a platform with the US-market Toyota Camry, will be front-wheel drive. So this is the last chance to buy a mid-size Lexus saloon with correct-wheel drive. Hybrid only range means a change of mindset for many owners, but don’t be afeared - the GS 300h is a genuinely effective diesel alternative. Comfort, even in this class, is unsurpassed but it’s not as sharp in the corners as German rivals. Reliability and quality leave them for dead, though.

Best model: GS 300h Luxury for €59,450 Price range: €55,950 to €74,450. Finance from €538 per month. Co2 emissions: 106 to 115g/km Sum up: On the way out; still worth a look

Incoming: Audi A6, Lexus ES