Best luxury cars
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 help 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.
It’s also likely your current or next car will have Bluetooth connectivity, sat nav and a DAB radio; again, these are all systems that initially featured on high-end models, before trickling down to more attainable cars.
True, it remains unlikely that lambswool carpets and bespoke oak veneers will feature in a budget city car anytime soon, but the latest Peugeot 3008 SUV is available with a massaging driver’s seat, so such indulgent extras are becoming democratised as the years go by.
Something else that luxury cars have in common with their more run-of-the-mill cousins is efficiency. While a few of the models on this list come exclusively with powerful and thirsty petrol engines, others have relatively parsimonious diesels or hybrid powertrains. Fuel-saving technologies that debut in expensive luxury models are often put to better use further down the range in more affordable models or by other car brands in the same group.
Scroll down for our list of the top 10 best luxury cars on sale today.
While you're in an indulgent mood, head over to our rundown of the top 10 sports cars or, 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.
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 don’t have long to wait for the new Mercedes EQS, which goes on sale shortly.
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 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 they cost £20,000 and £35,000 more than the standard car respectively. The A8 has always had a low profile in the luxury car market, but those who choose the Audi seldom regret their decision.
The latest Mercedes GLS is the firm’s flagship, seven-seat SUV. It offers an incredibly plush and luxurious limo-like experience, and its massive dimensions result in a spacious third-row of seats. With the optional E-Active Body Control air suspension, the GLS uses cameras to spot road imperfections so it can adjust the suspension accordingly to minimise impact on passengers. This system also improves cornering ability, which is impressive for an SUV that weighs over two tonnes.
Billed as the “S-Class of SUVs,” the GLS can be specified as a six or seven seater, with the option of rear entertainment screens and massaging seats adding to the already luxuriously equipped cabin. In GLS 400d spec, you get a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine that produces 326bhp, with four-wheel drive and a smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox. Despite its size, the GLS can get from 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds, all the while offering a relaxed and comfortable drive.
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’. Still, it’s not as likely to impress onlookers as it is those travelling inside it.
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 Range Rover has long been driven by wealthy owners – none more so than members of the British royal family – but the latest generation has 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 186mm of 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 could need to evade the odd bit of bother.
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.
Priced from around £70,000, 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 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 £70,000 to spend on a car. We’d also recommend checking out the electric Porsche Taycan, which starts at the same price.
The legendary British brand Bentley has added the first SUV in its history to its portfolio. So, was the Bentayga worth waiting for? If you want the most luxurious interior in a five-seat SUV possible, then yes. Almost every aspect of the upholstery and trim can be chosen to suit your taste and will be of the highest quality once fitted.
Unlike the stretched Range Rover, the Bentayga is firmly aimed at drivers; the Speed version has the highest top speed of any SUV. The electric Tesla Model X is quicker from 0-62mph, but the 600bhp 12-cylinder petrol engine in the Bentayga can take it to 190mph.
The Bentley Bentayga has proved very lucrative for the British brand but its saloons haven’t been completely abandoned. Replacing both the old Flying Spur and the bigger Bentley Mulsanne, the new Flying Spur is now the only choice if you want a four-door Bentley.
We don’t, however, expect many buyers will feel hard done by because the interior is just as opulent as you’d expect given the ‘Flying B’ on the bonnet. Shared mechanicals with the Porsche Panamera mean the Flying Spur is surprisingly capable if you fancy driving rather than being driven. Power stands at 626bhp in the W12 and 542bhp in the V8, with both capable of around 200mph.
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