Best large executive cars
Large executive cars continue to hold vast appeal and cachet. We pick out 10 of the best.
The best large executive cars are large cars aimed at executives – and also cars aimed at large executives. How large an executive do you have to be to get one of these cars? Well, it’s likely you’ll be a fairly big cheese: none of the models on this list cost less than £30,000, and quite a few are much more, especially once a few choice options have been added. That means you’ll either need deep pockets to buy them yourself or a handsome remuneration package and company-car allowance.
Fortunately, massive improvements in engine technology mean the taxman won’t necessarily ask you for too large a contribution if your company gives you a large executive car. Many manufacturers offer diesel engines with low CO2 ratings, while some build petrol-electric hybrid models, meaning your Benefit-in-Kind liability could be as low as 7%.
Low running costs need to be tempered with decent performance, though, as executives are unlikely to take kindly to being kept waiting by leisurely engines. That’s a challenge for carmakers, as heavy, powerful cars use more fuel than light, slow ones. Large executive cars often, therefore, benefit from fuel-saving and power-boosting technologies before smaller models.
Another juggling act large executive cars must perform is that they should be enjoyable to drive when required, yet offer effortless cruising abilities when not. They also often double up as family vehicles, meaning issues surrounding practicality can’t be ignored, either.
if you’re moving from an executive role to even more rarefied echelons, consider casting your eyes over our recommendations for the best luxury cars money can buy, or else read on to find out what we think are the 10 best large executive cars.
Put simply, the latest BMW 5 Series is a fantastic car. It features a beautifully built interior, excellent passenger space and – crucially – the best driving experience in its class. The 520d is the pick of the range for most buyers, going from 0-62mph in under eight seconds, yet returning over 70mpg if bought in EfficientDynamics guise. If you want more power, the 530d is unceasingly fast when accelerating, yet still offers reasonable running costs. Inside, state-of-the-art electronics and infotainment systems are blended perfectly with luxury woods and leathers, while the 5 Series is also the first car to offer wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity. It may look pretty similar to the outgoing model, but given that car continues to cut a dash on the road, we can understand why BMW took an evolutionary approach when designing the seventh-generation 5 Series.
The Mercedes E-Class is an absolute gem of a car. From a purely aesthetic point of view, its understated looks carry just the right amount of prestige without shouting about it too much. Climb aboard and it’s a similar story, as the dashboard and interior design somehow manage to offer traditional luxury with a thoroughly modern ambiance. The Mercedes star on the front means it’s packed full of the latest safety systems, while the tbrand carries a certain kudos many consider unmatchable. It’s not quite as sharp to drive as the BMW 5 Series, but some will prefer the more relaxed approach it offers. That, together with conventional engines that return up to 72.4mpg or take you from 0-62mph in under six seconds (as well as the tax-busting 350e hybrid), make the E-Class hard to beat.
The latest Audi A6 has all of its predecessor’s premium appeal, but the evolutionary body design possesses a dash of extra dynamism thanks to some sharp creases, flared wheelarches and a powerful grille flanked by swept-back headlights. Inside is where the real advances are evident, though, as Audi has pulled out all the stops to give its E-Class and 5 Series rival some seriously sophisticated technology. Top-spec models get Audi’s impressive Virtual Cockpit instrument pack, plus a big infotainment touchscreen at the centre of the dash, and a smaller touchscreen below for climate control and other ancillary functions. There’s also an array of safety and driver assistance technology that has trickled down from the A8 luxury flagship, so you can have active cruise control with steering assistance, while City Assist watches out for vehicles emerging from side streets that haven’t seen you. With super-frugal mild-hybrid powertrains offering up to 62.8mpg in the 2.0-litre diesel version, the A6 is a technical tour de force, while being smooth and comfortable enough to soothe even the most harassed executive’s troubled brow.
The latest Volvo S90 is even more focused on cosseting comfort than the Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6, but while those cars can be enjoyable to hustle down a winding B-road, the S90 is definitely more about wafting gracefully. It’s also only available with diesel engines, the least polluting of which attracts a BiK rate of 23%. In the S90’s favour are its distinctive looks, beautiful and modern dashboard (that’ll be familiar to XC90 owners), seats that offer peerless comfort over long journeys and the standard Pilot Assist system. This offers semi-autonomous driving at speeds up to 80mph, furthering the S90’s status as one of the most relaxing cars on sale today. With that in mind, we recommend the less powerful D4 diesel over its D5 sibling. Running costs will be lower while performance will undoubtedly take a back seat, as the S90 is about arriving at your destination as unruffled as possible, not as fast as possible.
The Jaguar XF is more involving to drive than the Mercedes E-Class, and some also feel it has more character. Its engines are impressively economical but it can’t quite match those offered by Mercedes and BMW rivals in terms of outright efficiency. It also takes a back seat to the E-Class in terms of interior design and safety, as the XF doesn’t feel quite as polished inside as the Mercedes, or feature quite such advanced protective technology. Many patriotic UK buyers will be delighted to see Jaguar returning in good form to the large executive class and even though the company is now foreign-owned, Jaguar still builds its cars in the UK. Minor quibbles aside, the Jaguar XF returns up to 70mpg, incurs as low a Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rate as 20% and has so much to recommend it, we can only advise you click the link below to read our full review. Read more.
When it first arrived back in 2012, the Tesla Model S tore up the rulebook for electric cars (EVs). Firstly, it looked better than any EV before it, and secondly, its 300-mile-plus range signalled electric cars could now be a genuinely practical proposition. The Model S doesn’t just impress as an electric car, though: it’s a thoroughly convincing car, full stop. It’s beautifully designed inside, with plenty of customisation options and a huge, easy-to-use portrait touchscreen taking pride of place in the centre of the dashboard. The Model S also has more luggage space than almost any other car on sale today thanks to its two boots and you can even order a pair of rear-facing child seats that rise up out of the boot floor. No doubt the Tesla is expensive, but once you’ve bought the car, running costs will be as low as possible. Tesla’s network of super-fast Superchargers can replenish the Model S’ batteries to 80% in just 40 minutes. Speaking of speed, depending on which model you go for, the Model S can go from 0-62mph in under three seconds, leaving Ferrari and Porsche owners trailing in your wake – a bone-fide executive perk.
The original Audi A7 single-handedly revived the large executive hatchback class in the mid-2000s, stirring memories of models like the Saab 9000, Rover 800 and Ford Granada. The second-generation model is bristling with up-to-date technology and looks more distinctive than its predecessor, as Audi begins to move away from the 'Russian doll' styling philosophy it has been criticised for in the past. The A7 is available with powerful V6 petrol or diesel engines and incorporates 'mild hybrid' technology, so it's surprisingly efficient for such a large and luxurious car.
The Lexus ES is designed to pinch sales from the almost ubiquitous German executive cars, and provides an interesting alternative for drivers who want to express a bit of individuality. The ES certainly stands out visually, with its cascading grille and complex body curves and creases. It also ploughs a relatively lonely furrow by offering only a petrol-hybrid powertrain, while most cars in the class favour diesel. Economy figures of 60mpg and emissions of 106g/km suggest that’s not such a bad idea, especially with a 22% Benefit-in-Kind rating that undercuts rivals. Build quality is superb, too; the interior boasts some lovely Japanese-inspired trim finishes and a flashy 12.3-inch infotainment screen – although a lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility is a bit of a gaffe. Front-wheel drive and no manual option underlines the fact that Lexus isn’t taking on the German Nurburgring warriors. Instead, a superbly cosseting ride and great refinement appeal to those who prefer to travel at a gentler pace – which is an approach that best suits the 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor combination, too.
Mercedes pretty much invented a new class of car with the first-generation CLS, and the latest, third-generation model builds on its predecessors' success. Based heavily on the Mercedes E-Class, it's intended to be a sporty and stylish counterpart to its more sober-suited cousin – especially in high-performance Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 guise. More efficient petrol and diesel engines are available, of course, but the CLS' downfall is that it's not as practical as the E-Class, with rear-seat passengers in particular paying the price for those swoopy looks in terms of reduced headroom. The boot isn't as big as the E-Class', either.
Just as the Audi A7 offers an alternative take on the A6 executive saloon, the BMW 6 Series GT is a larger and more spacious hatchback version of the more familiar 5 Series saloon. While it loses some of that car's elegance and sportiness, it's definitely an appealing choice for well heeled family buyers who want plenty of passenger and luggage space. Powerful six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines are found under the bonnet, while there's a choice of SE, M Sport and M Sport Plus trim levels.