German manufacturers used to dominate the executive car market – not any more. Europe’s automotive powerhouse still produces the benchmark models but there are now dozens of options.
The forecourts are littered with a mind-boggling display of luxury vehicles, all offering top specification and ground-breaking features for the busy gentleman on the road.
Luxury comes in many forms these days, be that saloon or SUV, but which one is right for you? We’ve picked six of the best – including a German contender…
Infiniti Q70 2.2d Premium, £33,400
If exclusivity is top of your ‘must have’ list then the Q70 is unrivalled. Infiniti is the luxury arm of Nissan and this curvy saloon is the automotive equivalent of the lesser-spotted woodpecker.
Designed primarily for the American market, the Infiniti was originally equipped with either a hefty 3.7-litre petrol engine, or a 3.5-litre hybrid. Neither was that suited to European roads but the latest 2.2-litre turbodiesel has rectified that.
It pumps out 170bhp and can return up to 57mpg but the four-cylinder can be noisy when pushed hard. And you’ll need to push the seven-speed auto gearbox very hard to make 0-60mph in under nine seconds.
Soft suspension is fine for US highways but the Infiniti doesn’t offer much enjoyment for the spirited drivers in the UK. Still, I found the Q70’s enormous seats supremely comfortable around town, or on the motorway where it will spend much of its life.
The Q70 scores high in the cabin. It’s loaded with luxury kit, such as heated and air conditioned leather seats, a sophisticated entertainment system and electric everything.
Still, it’s odd that a car with a heated steering wheel as standard doesn’t come equipped with DAB radio.
Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro, £56,000
Don’t expect to wow the neighbours with an A8 parked on your driveway. Audi’s luxury saloon just looks like the ubiquitous A4 on steroids. It’s a familiar shape and lacks the visual drama of some of the other models tested here.
At least the big Audi is beautifully put together. Advanced, refined and technologically superior, it ticks all the boxes, despite that inability to set the pulses racing.
My 3.0 TDI quattro model starts the range at £56,000, returns an impressive 44mpg and will power to 60mph in 6.1 seconds. That’s largely due to the lightweight construction, with aluminium making up much of the bodywork.
Buyers can opt for a long wheelbase model, with extra rear legroom, or the storming 6.3-litre petrol version that tops out the range at £94,000. It’s as fast as a Porsche 911.
The A8 interior is a class act. I warmed to a subtle blend of wood, metal and sumptuous leather that wraps the driver in luxury, although the infotainment system requires a session with the manual to fully appreciate.
If you’re looking for a car to make a massive understatement this is it. It’s hugely capable and slightly cheaper than a Mercedes S-class too. A shame then that ownership might leave you feeling a little cold.
Jaguar XF S, £49,995
The new XF shares a lot in common with its smaller XE sibling – which is no bad thing. And with the new F-Pace SUV making all the headlines right now, owning a Jaguar hasn’t been as cool since the iconic E-Type.
Most UK buyers will choose a diesel-engined XF for tax reasons but my 3.0-litre petrol S car weighs less and feels much more nimble. With 375bhp under the bonnet it’s surprisingly rapid too, claiming 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds.
What I didn’t expect is that the XF would offer such a refined ride. It’s helped by a terrific interior that matches anything else you can buy for £50,000.
Loaded with a Meridian sound system, an eight-inch touchscreen and analogue dashboard dials, it’s a very lovely place to sit for mile after mile – although rear legroom is less impressive.
The exterior styling? Well, I’m not convinced the XF doesn’t look like countless other cars, even in sporty S trim. It’s prettier and less common than the BMW 5 Series but needs an injection of charisma to make it a winner.
Hyundai Genesis 3.8, £50,700
A Korean car that costs upwards of £50,000? The grandly titled Genesis is Hyundai’s flagship luxury saloon and is now available in the UK for the first time.
Unlike the Infiniti, Genesis is only offered with a 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine – an immediate disadvantage for British buyers. Consequently, road tax is high and economy tops out at 25mpg, less if you constantly race to 60mph in 6.5 seconds.
Still, if you can cope with the fuel costs it oozes class from every pore of the perforated leather seats. Wood veneer and aluminium trim titillate the cabin but you would expect that for a car costing £48,000 – almost as much as a Maserati Ghibli.
Hyundai’s styling is also easy on the eye, so you won’t look like the poor relation in the management car park. It looks Audi-esque with an enormous front grille and LED ‘fairy’ lights for daytime driving.
Genesis is whisper quiet at high speed and handles much better than the Infiniti. The suspension manages to iron out the bumps of a British road, while the steering offers plenty of feedback.
The big Hyundai is worthy contender and I can guarantee you will almost certainly be the only person in your street to own one. However, badge snobs might want to look elsewhere.
Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE, £83,000
The ultimate go anywhere, do anything vehicle is still an executive masterclass on muddy wheels. Incredible refinement, classy interior and that legendary off-road ability make it hugely attractive to executive buyers.
2016 with see a raft of new SUV models in the UK, with manufacturers like Maserati and Bentley joining the fray for the first time. However, I suspect none of them will be able to compete with the Rangey as an all-round package.
Range Rovers are mostly found on Tarmac these days but there’s a certain comfort in knowing you’re driving a machine capable of tackling the rough stuff. It’s loaded with drivetrain technology that takes the effort out of every difficult situation.
Despite the intimidating dimensions, it’s not a difficult car to drive. That’s partly thanks to a lightweight, aluminium bodyshell, as well as a super-smooth, eight-speed gearbox and air suspension.
The Range Rover line-up starts at £76,000 for the ‘entry-level’ V6 diesel and tops out at £165,000 for a long-wheelbase SV Autobiography. They’re all brilliant but the £83,000 SDV8 combines all the best features in one exclusive package.
Lexus RX, £47,000
The new RX looks destined to be one of the brands best-selling models. That’s largely due to the latest styling, giving the Lexus SUV an edge over key German rivals from Audi and BMW.
It’s also loaded with a lot of equipment as standard and represents good value for money, starting at £40,000 and rising to £47,000 for the hybrid tested here.
The 450h hybrid has a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and an electric motor that together produce a promising 308bhp. Somehow it doesn’t feel that fast. The RX reaches 60mph in 7.7 seconds and there’s not much response from the automatic gearbox. A 2.0-litre petrol is available too.
Still, this new model is better to drive than the previous RX, with improved suspension and more precise steering. Being an SUV, body roll remains an issue on harsh cornering.
Inside, the latest RX is much roomier, although the trim materials don’t feel up to German standards. The infotainment system is over-complicated but I do like the large, heads-up display on the windscreen.
The new arrival from Lexus is no drivers’ car but it will do everything you ask of it – except go fast.
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