This class of car needs to be comfortable, refined and display some form of driving pleasure when the occasion takes, so which cars make our top ten?
26 January 2018

The mid-size executive class champions quality, economy and comfort, with the odd dash of handling dynamism thrown in for good measure.

These are the cars that will spend a great deal of their lives out on the motorway, so refinement is key. A bit of badge appeal won’t go amiss here, either. These are our favourites.

1. BMW 5 Series

BMW’s latest 5 Series is the quintessential executive saloon, which is no doubt a result of its 46-year history.

It sets the standard in the segment as far as interior quality is concerned, and also makes for a supremely comfortable long-distance tourer.

It may not be quite as engaging as, say, a Jaguar XF, but this is forgiven when you consider where cars of this type spend most of their time. The tech on board is a notch above, too. The true well-roundedness of the 5 Series earns it top honours here.

2. Jaguar XF

Jaguar’s XF is undoubtedly the driver’s car in the segment, combining deft handling characteristics with a supremely comfortable ride.

It is hamstrung only by its range of Ingenium four-cylinder diesel engines, which can be gruff on start-up, particularly in the cold.

The XF isn’t as quick as Jaguar claims, either. Still, cabin quality is strong and there’s a decent - if not generous - amount of space available for rear passengers. Were it not for the slightly lacklustre engines, the XF would be a strong contender for the number one spot.

3. Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class champions driver comfort over outright engagement. The cabin is a luxurious place to sit, and goes a long way to softening the blow of long-distance driving.

The new 2.0-litre diesel engine hustles the E-Class along at a respectable pace, although excellent refinement is its trump card. Its character is certainly more laid back than that of a BMW 5 Series or Jaguar XF, and it won’t be as thrilling if driven in a more spirited manner.

Cabin space is abundant, though, and entry-level models benefit from a strong amount of toys as standard.

4. Volvo S90

Sliding in at fourth place is the Volvo S90. Its striking design is shared with its V90 and XC90 rangemates, as is the strong focus on standard safety equipment - a big tick for family-minded buyers.

Also strengthening the Volvo’s case are a stylish cabin, spacious interior and comfortable on-road manner.

Similar to the Mercedes E-Class, the S90 has been geared more for comfort than driving thrills, meaning it comes in behind the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF, which excel on both fronts.

5. Audi A6

Audi’s A6 comes in at mid-table. Ingolstadt’s mid-range saloon does a lot of things very well indeed - it’s comfortable, well made, and handsomely styled - but in a class where the standard is set so high, the Audi suffers for falling ever so short of the mark.

To give Audi credit, though, its diesel engines are very refined, and standard equipment is generous, with even entry-level models benefitting from satellite navigation. There’s plenty of cabin space on offer, too.

While it’s well-balanced and poised through the corners, the steering is on the numb side of things, and sportier S-Line models can crash over imperfections in the road surface.

6. Lexus GS

The lack of a conventional diesel offering means the Lexus GS is a left-field choice in this segment.

The Japanese manufacturer instead opts for hybrid powertrains, which won’t be everyone’s cup of tea - particularly those who face regular long-distance motorway schleps. Around town, though, the electrified drivetrain will pay dividends and should save you money at the pumps.

The GS has a refined ride - especially the V6 hybrid model - and its bold styling allows it to stand out against more reserved rivals such as the BMW 5 Series. While standard spec is generous, the infotainment system can take some getting used to, and lags behind those offered by the German big three.

7. Skoda Superb

The Skoda Superb is big on many things: size, interior space, comfort and value for money.

In a class largely populated by upmarket rivals, the Superb undercuts the vast majority as far as initial outlay is concerned, although it doesn’t quite boast the same levels of badge prestige.

Still, buyers will be drawn to the Superb’s comfortable and refined drive, as well as its cavernous interior. Real-world fuel economy isn’t quite as good as Skoda would have you believe, mind.

8. Maserati Ghibli

While the Ghibli may command the most badge prestige of all the cars included in this top 10, that extra appeal does come at a rather serious price.

Still, your money will get you a sumptuous, if a little poorly finished, cabin, and the flagship S model’s V6 is Ferrari-derived; which makes for a nice pub fact.

Despite this, the Ghibli doesn’t offer as engaging a drive as its exotic name might suggest, and it does lag behind the established names in this segment as far as standard equipment is concerned.

9. Infiniti Q70

Infiniti’s ageing Q70 is a bit of a tough one to recommend. While it may be fairly handsome to look at, it’s let down by a lacklustre range of engines - particularly the four-cylinder diesel - as well as an inconsistent ride and questionable handling characteristics.

It’s at least spacious inside, and relatively competitive against class rivals as far as its CO2 emissions are concerned, but as an overall package it falls short of the mark.

At least standard equipment is relatively generous - as you would expect it to be in a £34,300 car.

10. Hyundai Genesis

Rounding out our top 10 mid-sized executive saloon list is this: the Hyundai Genesis.

Priced at more than £50,000, it’s by no means cheap, but at least you’ll be treated to a comfortable ride and a wealth of standard equipment.

You’ll also be driving something that’s a bit of a rare sight on UK roads, too, and exclusivity isn’t to be sniffed at.

Our Verdict

BMW 5 Series

The BMW 5 Series has been the go-to mid-sized executive saloon, and G30 generation brings 7 Series luxury limo quality to the class, but is it still the best?

Find an Autocar car review

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