Best executive car 2017: New entries from BMW, Lexus and more

Saloons and estates from BMW, Mercedes and Tesla among this year's top executive models

Tesla Model S
(Image credit: Tesla)

Best executive car 2016: the rivals

20 January

There's quite a lot of choice in the executive saloon market at the moment, with traditional German-made models, like some of the ones listed below, increasingly coming under pressure from the step up in quality of brands not usually associated with luxury rides. Even the smaller models from within their own stables are beginning to create competition within brands themselves.

But what if you're looking for a good all-rounder, a traditional medium-big saloon or possibly a new take on the formula? Here's five of the best executive cars on sale in 2016.

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BMW 5-Series

Starting price - £31,115

Auto Express says the BMW 5-series is still a "very tempting proposition in the full-sized executive class".

The 5-Series handles superbly, according to CarBuyer, and is comfortable – things you'd expect from the badge on the front. It comes with a vast array of engine options, too, ranging from frugal diesels in cheap road-tax bands at the bottom of the range to far more powerful options.

The roomy cabin is well designed and the 5-Series comes with a long list of options. The equipment level is impressive all through the trim levels, including satellite navigation as standard on all models. The entry level SE trim is suitable for most buyers, adds CarBuyer, but the sportier M-Sport models are enticing.

The main drawback is the look of the current 5-Series. Compared to other vehicles in its category, its design is slightly anonymous, trademark BMW kidney grilles aside. A new 5-Series is on its way in 2017, which will freshen up the image.

Jaguar XF

Starting price - £32,300

Jaguar Land Rover's current entry into the larger executive saloon market is one of the most handsome options.

Not only is it one of the best looking saloons on the market, it's also one of the best to drive and potential buyers can be assured over its practicality. "Around the new XF’s class-leading steering, ride quality and feelsome balance, its maker has clustered a spacious, well-finished and very handsome car," says Autocar.

However, such kind words have not been afforded to the XF's engines. The diesel powered 2.0-litre Ingenium units aren't quite as refined as the diesel options found in the XF's rivals, while the larger 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 300bhp is of an older design than the smaller engines and is significantly less efficient. A 375bhp V6 Petrol is available at the very top of the range, though its running costs are high.

Despite its price increasing over its rivals as you go up in trim level and the criticism levied at the engines, it remains a compelling choice.

Audi A6

Starting price - £32,395

CarBuyer says the Audi A6 has always been the "conservative choice" in the executive class, but the latest model proves it's a great all-rounder.

This is highlighted in the choice of engines prospective buyers have when speccing their A6s. Popular choices will be the 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre diesels, which return decent fuel efficiency (up to 67 mpg on the 2.0-litre model) and fit into low tax bands – handy for company car drivers.

Hotter versions include the more powerful S6, with a 4.0 litre twin-turbocharged V8 producing 444bhp, and the RS6 estate using the same engine but in a higher state of tune.

Each one can be fitted with Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system and the interior is a solid effort, using quality materials mated to good design and a decent level of equipment.

In their assessment, the Daily Telegraph says the A6 is a practical car and in certain specs is very affordable to run. They do add, though, that in this generation, the BMW 5-Series has the potential to be better, depending on what options boxes tick and trim you choose.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Starting price - £35,935 (2016 model year)

The newest addition to the executive class is Mercedes' brand new E-Class. It was revealed at the Detroit Motor Show earlier in January and critics have been lining up to comment on the S-Class-inspired design and technology heavy aspect of the new car.

Auto Express says it comes with a "raft of innovations." The main highlight inside are the two 12.3ins screens dominating the dashboard, handing the likes of climate control, radio and the digital instrument binnacle. Interaction is via two touchpads mounted on each side of the steering wheel, as well as a central control. The car can update its software wirelessly and Mercedes has introduced elements of autonomous technology.

From launch, only two engines will be available, a four and six cylinder diesel. Lots more options are on the way, though, including several petrol units, a hybrid, and a twin-turbocharged V8 in the AMG version.

Tesla Model S

Starting price - £57,335

A curveball choice but Tesla's all-electric Model S is more than comfortable among its conventional petrol and diesel-powered rivals.

While going electric may seem like quite a leap for most people in the market for an executive saloon, the Model S brings "credibility, luxury and useful range to the electric car market", says Autocar.

Its price is much higher than the other cars we've listed, but with that comes the most sorted electric car experience you can buy, mated to genuine luxury and exclusivity that goes down so well in the executive market.

Drivers who love new technology will fall for the automatic software updates and the raft of new self-driving features Tesla is introducing bit by bit. Performance-wise, it's not to be sniffed at, neither. The Model S is fast thanks to the instant torque provided by its electric motors. In entry level 70D trim, the electric power is the equivalent of 514bhp and it has a credible range of 275 miles, making it a great cruiser.

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