Top 3 alternative executive cars for £28,000: Volvo S90, Jaguar XF, Maserati Ghibli
"Dear Carbuyer. I have a budget of £28,000 for an executive car that stands out from the crowd. What should I buy?"
For a long while, it looked like Germany had the medium executive-car market all to itself. The BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class seemed to have the run of corporate car parks everywhere and rival brands struggled to get a look in.
A secondhand budget of £28,000 will put you behind the wheel of any of the German "big three", but these days there's far more scope to be individual. Choose an Infiniti Q70 or Lexus GS, for example, and you're unlikely to park next to an identical car at the motorway services.
Our money, though, would go on one of the three luxury cruisers below:
The luxury choice: Volvo S90
For: Sleek design, hi-tech cabin, strong refinementAgainst: Rivals more agile, petrols rare, fiddly screen
The fantastic-looking Volvo S90 is a testament to how far Volvo styling has progressed in recent years – this is one of the most distinctive saloons you can buy. It's just as stylish inside, too, with a hi-tech feel borne out by a raft of clever features. There's loads of rear seat space, as well, plus a useful 500-litre boot. A budget of £28,000 will secure a 2017 D4 diesel S90 R-Design with as few as 4,500 miles on the clock.
Niggles are few, but not everybody finds it easy to use that eye-catching central touchscreen. We've heard of occasional electrical gremlins on the earliest S90s of this generation, but these are likely to have been ironed out by now. It might not be the most interesting car to drive, but takes some beating as a smooth and extremely safe motorway cruiser.
The driver’s choice: Jaguar XF
For: Engaging drive, sharp looks, low running costsAgainst: Mixed interior quality, dated tech, noisy diesels
Jaguar is another brand that has undergone a design renaissance in recent years, and the sporty XF's sleek style is a far cry from the stuffy traditionalism of old. It's good to drive, too; a genuine match for the BMW 5 Series' handling prowess, with plenty of power from even the most economical engines. You'll find a 17-plate 2.0-litre diesel R-Sport with around 7,000 for less than your £28,000 limit.
The Jaguar is a match for the Volvo when it comes to interior space and rides just as smoothly, too. It falls a little behind for build quality, though, with some dubious interior finishes. Our 2018 Driver Power survey also revealed that 28.1% of Jaguar drivers reported at least one fault in the first year of ownership.
The charismatic choice: Maserati Ghibli
For: Badge appeal, loads of style, powerful dieselAgainst: Low-rent interior, lacks space and comfort
Just a few years ago, a Maserati-badged rival to the BMW 5 Series would have been unthinkable, but the Ghibli introduced a bit of Italian supercar glamour to the executive saloon market when it was launched in 2013. Its elegant style belies its competitive price, and it seems astonishing that a 2015 example with 28,000 miles falls within your £28,000 budget, with the powerful 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine, too.
Some of the interior surfaces feel a little cheap, though, and you won't find as many gadgets on board as either the Jaguar or Volvo can muster. The driving experience is rewarding, though, and the boot is as big as the Volvo's, but rear-seat passengers don't have quite as much space to stretch out. Expect sizeable bills for servicing and due to expensive repair costs, we recommend a comprehensive aftermarket warranty.