Top 10 best luxury cars 2024
If money is no object and your tastes run to extravagance, read on for the 10 best luxury cars on sale today
Luxury, by its very nature, is utterly unnecessary, but that’s not to say we all wouldn't like a little bit of it from time to time. The best luxury cars have power, equipment and comfort beyond what you can get in less prestigious models and that extra quality is reflected in their prices.
If you can afford it, there's no better way to travel but few buyers do and that keeps the numbers of luxury cars sold relatively low - and therefore they remain exclusive. These cars do fulfil another vital role in the car industry, however. As 'halo models', showcases for new technology and design, luxury cars point to the future direction carmakers may take, helping draw attention to models further down a manufacturer's range. It was only a few decades ago, for instance, that the Mercedes S-Class was one of the first cars in the world to come with anti-lock brakes – a safety feature all cars must have by law today.
The definition of luxury has changed in the automotive context over the years – decades ago luxury meant the use of only the finest materials around the cabin, and a focus on the rear passengers’ comfort first and foremost. While that’s still true, modern luxury means hi-tech and futuristic features must be a part of the recipe, and some luxury cars even aim to be as fulfilling for the driver as they are for the chauffeur-driven VIP passengers.
Although large, thirsty, yet refined and smooth petrol engines used to be the quintessential recipe for luxury cars, an increasing number of them are now offered with plug-in hybrid and even fully electric powertrains. In some ways this actually adds an extra level of opulence for the occupants, with the peace and quiet that comes with the low noise levels associated with an electric motor.
It does, of course, mean that you’ll save on fuel costs, too, although we’d imagine that might not be the main draw for someone in the market for an extravagant and lavish luxury car. While some manufacturers used to boast about how many cow hides were used for each car’s leather interior, there’s also been a shift towards new sustainable materials and textiles, matching the changing tastes of buyers.
Read on for our list of the top 10 best luxury cars, or head over to our rundown of the best sports cars if you’re after a toy for the weekend. If you're after luxury at a slightly more palatable price point, our lists of the best executive, best large executive and best used luxury cars are all well worth a look, too.
Often imitated but never quite equalled, the Mercedes S-Class is the definition of ‘flagship’. For decades it’s been the luxury car to beat, with the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8 and many more all trying to wrest the crown from its head. As the first production car to have anti-lock brakes and an airbag over the years, the S-Class has pioneered a long list of technology that we now take for granted.
Today’s S-Class is a high-tech masterpiece and even has the ability to optimise ride quality by reading the road surface ahead. There’s a choice of silent-running petrol or economical diesel and hybrid engines - the plug-in hybrid manages a huge 62-mile electric range - as well as a long-wheelbase version for added space. Buyers after a pure-electric model are also catered for by the Mercedes EQS.
The S-Class’ cutting-edge interior rivals a private jet for design and opulence and places the Mercedes firmly at the head of the luxury-car table – somewhere it’s sat for some time. If the S-Class somehow isn't luxurious enough, there's also a Mercedes-Maybach version which costs around £100,000 more and is even more opulent.
The Range Rover has long been driven by wealthy owners – none more so than members of the British royal family – but recent cars have also been a hit with chauffeurs transporting VIPs in the back seats. Its appeal has been given a big boost by the arrival of a long-wheelbase version with additional rear legroom, along with a much greater focus on luxury.
Choose the Executive Seat package and the standard rear bench is replaced by two individual reclining chairs with a massage function and calf rests. Options include rear screens to keep passengers entertained and a fridge between the rear seats. The Range Rover’s air suspension does a great job of filtering out bumps and road noise for a serene ride, too. Conveying a tough image and with real off-road prowess, the stretched Range Rover might also appeal to dignitaries who might need to evade the odd bit of bother.
The BMW 7 Series sets out to prove that big luxury cars can be as rewarding to drive as they are cosseting to sit in. It has always had a knack of ‘shrinking’ around the driver, somehow managing to feel as nimble and agile as a much smaller car. Yet the entertainment it provides behind the wheel isn’t at the expense of comfort. With the aim clearly being to unseat the Mercedes S-Class from its luxury-car throne, the latest 7 Series has an incredibly pliant ride and a beautifully finished, tactile interior dripping with technology.
It can be incredibly economical, too, with up to 45mpg possible from the 730d. A plug-in hybrid is also offered, with the 745Le managing around 30 miles of pure-electric driving. Whichever model you go for, the 7 Series is fairly imposing to look at, described more accurately as ‘distinctive’ rather than ‘beautiful’. The 7 Series’ electric counterpart, the i7, is based on the same platform but has a much different look, and can deliver an electric range of nearly 400 miles on a charge. For such a large, heavy electric car, the i7 is remarkably agile too, so your chauffeur can have as much fun driving it as you can watching movies in the back, while it wafts along in silence.
You may be surprised to see a Hyundai-related car so high up on our top 10 list but image aside, the Genesis G80 offers Mercedes S-Class levels of luxury for a little over half the price.
The G80 delivers a comfortable and settled ride and the 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivers a healthy 300bhp. Just like the aforementioned S-Class, the interior has a ‘first-class airline cabin’ feel about it. If you choose to opt for the ‘Luxury’ pack, the opulent design is backed up with features like heated and ventilated seats, soft close doors and even curtains to offer privacy to the rear passengers.
With an impending electric version, the G80 sits as an unusual but shrewd alternative to more established German competition.
The Mercedes EQS SUV is one of the brand’s latest luxury electric SUV models. It builds on the ethos of the sleek and tech-laden Mercedes EQS saloon, but adds more practicality and interior space – every version of the EQS SUV (bar the Maybach) gets seven seats as standard. Despite a larger 108.4kWh battery, the heavier SUV gets an electric range of 365 miles compared to the saloon’s 450 miles, but that’s still one of the longest-rang electric vehicles on the market – 200kWh charging speeds also means it shouldn’t take too long to top-up at a charging station.
The EQS SUV’s cabin is as luxurious as ever – Mercedes has been on a roll with its interior designs of late, and the electric SUV incorporates plush materials and features a cutting-edge infotainment system. The Maybach version is the sub-brand’s first electric model, and takes the EQS SUV’s opulence up a notch further, with unique two-tone paintwork and exclusive alloy wheels on the outside, plus a chrome and Nappa leather-laden interior with ventilated massage seats, including neck and shoulder heating. Rear passengers even get their own screens, a fridge and silver-plated champagne goblets.
The Bentley name is a brand which is synonymous with luxury and opulence, and the latest Flying Spur is comfortable, stylish and boasts a beautifully hand-crafted interior. As you’d expect, the materials used inside the Flying Spur are of the finest quality – it strikes a great balance between classic luxury touches, such as chrome dials, and modern tech including a 12.3-inch infotainment screen that’s revealed behind a beautifully finished wooden veneer panel at the flick of a switch.
There’s also the assumption that the owner will be pretty keen on driving the Flying Spur themselves from time to time, rather than be merely chauffeured around in it, so this Bentley is actually quite rewarding. Top-of-the-range models can be had with a monstrous 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbocharged engine with 626bhp, although we’d recommend the V8 model with 542bhp – it’s lighter, less expensive and almost as quick. There’s also a plug-in hybrid 2.9-litre V6 with an electric motor giving a total output of 536bhp if you want to make an environmental statement – it’s cheaper to run (although that might not matter to most luxury saloon buyers) and you’ll get up to 25 miles of electric range to a charge, allowing the Flying Spur to waft along gracefully in complete silence.
Look past the massive kidney grilles and the divisive styling, and the BMW X7 is one of the poshest large SUVs that you can buy. Its boxy shape gives it a cavernous interior offering seven seats. The inside is luxurious, with everything from the folding seats to the split tailgate operated electronically. Air suspension allows you to drop the ride height by 40mm to make loading easier as well.
The X7 features a mass of standard kit including two 12.3-inch displays for the instruments and infotainment. Two diesel engines and a single petrol engine are available, with the range-topping 395bhp X7 M50d taking only 5.4 seconds to do 0-62mph. On the road, the X7 feels composed and refined thanks to its air suspension setup, with optional rear-wheel steering giving it impressive cornering ability despite a weight of nearly 2.5 tonnes.
The Audi A8 takes understatement to another level, being barely distinguishable from other Audi saloons apart from by its sheer size. It’s actually a measure of the success of Audi’s identity that even the less expensive models are allowed to resemble the A8, and indeed share its fantastic quality. For its flagship model Audi has pulled out all the stops, with a restful, beautifully built and double-glazed interior that includes temperature-controlled seats and the Audi Drive Select system. This allows you to prioritise sporty handling over feather-bed smoothness when the mood dictates.
If you’re planning on driving the A8 yourself, consider the high-performance S8 saloon, which is faster than any car of this size arguably has a right to be – although it does cost much more than the standard car. The A8 has always had a low profile in the luxury car market, but those who choose the Audi seldom regret their decision.
There was a time a Rolls-Royce SUV would have been an unthinkable prospect, but the British brand has now had to move with the times. The result is a very impressive vehicle, boasting typical Rolls-Royce luxury as well as not-insignificant off-road ability.
It's powered by a 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine, but prioritises comfort over outright speed. A versatile interior and boot means the Cullinan can be practical, too, making it appealing to more adventurous owners.
The old Porsche Panamera was a competent and quick car, but it had ‘challenging’ looks, to put it politely. This latest version, however, is now handsome and sleek, as well as being even better to drive than the previous model, with improved performance and economy. As a driving machine, it’s extremely hard to beat among luxury-car rivals, with steering precision, power and tenacious grip that Porsche 911 enthusiasts will applaud. Passengers don’t get a rough deal, either: the rear seats sit either side of a cool colour touchscreen if you go for the four-zone climate control.
While those in a position to afford a Panamera may have another car (or, indeed, staff) to head to the dump in, a hatchback boot and individually folding rear seats mean the Panamera is almost as practical as it is luxurious. Choose the 4 E-Hybrid for low running costs and London Congestion Charge exemption or the Panamera Turbo if you want to go faster than 99% of other cars on the road. There’s a Panamera for everyone, then – well, everyone with more than £72,000 to spend on a car. We’d also recommend checking out the electric Porsche Taycan, which starts at the same price.
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