The super saloon market is fiercely competitive at the moment. The German big three have a dominant presence as ever, with Mercedes-AMG claiming two of the top three spots courtesy of its C63 S and E63 S sledgehammers.
As ever, power and performance figures are getting more and more impressive - with some of the cars in this list now churning out in excess of 600bhp. Is horsepower alone enough to grab the top spot, though?
For anyone whose last drive in a four-wheel drive performance car came a decade or so ago, the handling of the BMW M5 will be little short of a revelation. Even after the likes of the Ford Focus RS, Audi R8 and Nissan GT-R, the M5’s agility, balance and playfulness seems remarkable for a car which can also offer all the traction and stability you would expect of a two-tonne, four-wheel drive super saloon.
The car’s outright damping authority and body control, meanwhile, are truly unequalled among its direct rivals. So, considering the titanic leap that the car’s performance has taken, how could we deny it the ringing endorsement of a five-star score? Only because of a handful of irritating shortcomings – slightly irksome steering weight, inconsistent brake pedal feel, that fake engine noise and an occasionally restless ride – which can collude to snap you out of the immersive thrill of driving it.
However, the BMW M5 has a dynamic versatility and poise that no other rival can equal, and it goes straight to the top of our super saloon rankings. If BMW M history is any guide, meanwhile (think ‘F10’ M5 ‘30 Jahre’, ‘F82’ M4 CS and others), its very best may be yet to come; and when it comes, it ought to be something very special indeed.
The Mercedes-AMG C63 S has had to fend off some serious competition to land the top spot on our super saloons best of list.
Gone is the phenomenal naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 of its predecessor, but the new twin-turbocharged V8 is by no means short on character or power.
While the C63’s ride is somewhat unforgiving, its handling is engaging and accurate, and the automatic transmission complements the engine brilliantly.
There is a noticeable amount of road noise, but the addictive nature of its V8 powertrain more than makes up for this. This is a seriously impressive piece of kit..
The Giulia Quadrifoglio missed out on the top spot by the skin of its teeth. Excellent handling, a composed ride and gorgeous looks are order of the day here - all key traits for any serious contender in this segment.
The Ferrari-derived V6 is also enthralling, but not quite as impressive as the Mercedes-AMG V8. It marks a stellar return to form for a company that had been floundering for some years.
Alpina has always done things in a slightly different manner to M Division when it comes to creating quick BMWs, favouring a more laid back approach that translates to huge amounts of comfort and refinement on road.
The new B5 BiTurbo is more of the same, but this latest generation model now boasts four-wheel drive and a 600bhp 4.4-litre V8, so while it may be set up with comfort in mind, it’s certainly no slouch. Standard spec is generous, and the cabin plush.
If there was only one reason that the E 63 S deserved your attention, it would have to be its ballistic engine.
That 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 churns out 603bhp and a mind-bending 627lb ft of torque for a 0-62mph time of 3.5 seconds. In a mid-sized four-door saloon. Crikey.
So, it’s certainly powerful, but there are a few small niggles. Namely that dynamically it’s not quite as good as it used to be. It’s still a very impressive car - and its Drift Mode feature is a riot - but compared with the Alfa and its C 63 S younger brother, the E 63 S lags just behind.
This is quite possibly the last V8-powered Vauxhall to grace the UK’s roads.
Based on the Holden Commodore, the VXR8 GTS-R is a swan song not only for Australian muscle cars, but also Aussie-built cars in general. It packs a phenomenal 587bhp supercharged 6.2-litre V8 under the bonnet, which sends its power exclusively to the rear wheels.
The M3 Competition Pack sees power hiked to 444bhp over the base M3, while BMW’s M Division has also fettled the performance saloon’s chassis settings and thrown in a number of styling tweaks for good measure.
The end result is a car that’s not only fast in a straight line, but sharp and precise through the twisty stuff, too.
The 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engine isn’t as sonorous as those power plants found in the Alfa Romeo Giulia or Merc C 63 S, and it can struggle to get its power down at times, but on the whole, the M3 is a thoroughly recommendable super saloon.
In a field of increasingly advanced competitors, Jaguar’s XJR 575 is a delightfully old-school proposition.
Power - all 567bhp of it - comes from an operatic 5.0-litre supercharged V8, which is sent to the rear wheels. It handles impressively, like all Jaguars should, and manages to mask its 1875kg kerb weight well.
Rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S and BMW M5 may be faster and more technologically advanced in terms of the toys they have on board, but they don’t quite match the Jaguar in the charm department.
While this is a car designed for travelling long distances at high speed on the Autobahn, it can still handle more challenging roads, with the adaptive air suspension mitigating body roll impressively.
There is one gripe, though - the steering. We didn’t like how vague it was on the straight-ahead, and the weight build up in Comfort mode doesn’t inspire a great amount of confidence. Still, as a fast, luxurious performance limo, there’s a lot to like.
The D5 S is unique on this list in that it’s the only oil-burning performance saloon included. That’s not to say it’s lacking in the performance stakes, though. It’ll still hit 62mph from a standstill in 4.9 seconds, all while being capable of achieving 46.3mpg on the combined cycle. You could say that it very nearly offers the best of both worlds, then.
As with all Alpina’s, it’s also far more comfort-orientated in its set-up than its M-Division brethren, without losing much in the way of handling prowess.