Executive cars are nothing new. But thanks to changing demands from top company brass, they are changing. Executive cars used to be big, burly machines that weren’t particularly practical. But thanks to demand from customers, they’ve changed somewhat, becoming more compact as the years have gone alone. That’s not to say, of course, that they’re small cars – just that they are less flamboyant than they once were. And that’s a good thing.
BMW, Mercedes, and Audi have all jumped on the compact executive car bandwagon. Each manufacturer is looking for ways to shorten the classic saloon while maintaining that luxury element. Executive cars not only have to be just faster, better-style saloons, but they also need to have a practical side too. After all, executives have jobs to do.
The good news is that when it comes to executive cars, buyers are spoilt for choice. Not only do the big German car brands specialize in them, but there’s also competition from outside the EU which is spicing up the market even more. The following compact executive cars take the driving experience to the next level.
Volvo’s previous generation executive car, the S60, had a relatively positive reception. But it’s new big brother, the S90 saloon is arguably a lot more impressive. The four-cylinder turbocharged petrol version of the car is built on a similar platform to the company’s wildly successful XC90 SUV and replaced the old S80 and S70.
Volvo was very deliberate about their decision to build the car on the same platform. This was because they wanted the S90, which is similarly styled to the XC90, to share all that car’s safety features – features which the company has touted as being the most advanced in the world.
The car isn’t the most powerful in the world: it’ll put out around 315 bhp with the supercharger added. But that’s not the point of the vehicle. The point of the car is to deliver executives to their destinations safely and in unparalleled luxury.
Speaking of which, Volvo offers two levels of trim. Both packages offer impressive interiors compared to the benchmark standard for the class, set by BMW. With the S90, owners, get dual-zone climate control, leather seats and a 9-inch portrait display for sat-nav, music, and other features. It’s not quite the minimalist styling we’ve seen from the likes of Tesla, where the screen is, in effect, the dashboard, but it’s getting close.
Although the S90 is a great car, it’s not the cheapest to run. The Mercedes C-Class, however, thanks to its mass market appeal. Comes with some cost savings that many company execs will appreciate. What’s more, it’s relatively compact compared to the S90, making it a great car for people who do a lot of traveling in cities.
The performance of the AMG C63 S version of the car is better than the top-of-the-line S90. It’ll do 0 to 62 MPH in 7.7 seconds – by no means fast, but still better than its more expensive rival. What is impressive about the engine, however, is how frugal it is. Mercedes have really been working their magic here. If you opt for the C220d version of the car, not only will you pay less at the pump, you’ll also do an impressive 70.6 miles to the gallon – perfect if you’re using it every day.
There are various trims available for the interior, but many features of the C-class come as standard. This includes a rear-parking camera, DAB radio, and seven-inch display. Better interiors are available as you climb the product stack up to AMG-level trim, but a lot is on offer at SE level already, which is why the car is so compelling.
Jaguar is a car company with an incredible heritage. Despite the fact that the company has struggled for a long time to turn a profit, its brand is so enduring that it still manages to command a premium even in today’s incredibly competitive international car market.
A lot was riding on the release of the XE for the company. Not only did the car cost an enormous amount of money to develop, but if it had flopped, it’s unlikely that Jaguar would have ever returned to profitability, and yet another British car manufacturer would have gone the way of the dodo. Fortunately, that isn’t how things eventually transpired. Jaguar pulled the cat out of the bag, and the XE was a raging success.
Drive down any highway today, and at least a fifth of all the executive cars you see will be made by Jaguar. The company has managed to tread a fine line between performance, styling, and cost-saving, giving executives all three things that they want up front. Despite the rather nippy 0 to 60 time of 6.1 seconds, Jaguar claims that its 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine will do more than 50 miles to the gallon – not bad for such a powerful and large car.
Importantly, Jaguar cares about the privacy of their drivers, fitting windows with the darkest legal tint available. Inside the car, the interior is everything you’d want from an executive class car: it’s got some subtle design flourishes that really distinguish it from its more clinical German rivals. Leading features include the rotary design gear selector positioned in the central console and the automatic start button. According to those who have driven the car, it adds a sense of theatre rarely seen in other, run-of-the-mill company vehicles.
Of course, the XE comes with a plethora of modern equipment. No, it’s not quite as high tech as a Model S. (What is?) But you do get Bluetooth, DAB radio, and dual climate control as standard.
What’s more, the safety of the car is off the charts, making it competitive with the S90, Volvo’s pride and joy. Not only did the XE get 5 stars in the Euro NCAP testing, but it managed to score extremely highly across the board, especially in areas like emergency braking.
BMW 3 Series
If you were to pick a car that defined the compact executive class, which would it be? In all likelihood, it’d be a BMW 3 series. This car has been the most popular over the last decade, thanks to providing customers with an all-around package that they just love.
Is it the world’s best executive car? Not according to customer reports. That accolade goes to Tesla’s Model S. But the BMW 3 series comes close. Not only does it have BMW’s highly refined driving experience, but it’s also a heck of a lot more polished than previous iterations of the car, some of which had a bad habit of falling apart at the seams.
BMW has made a lot of friends with the 3 Series, especially in the auto press. Time and time again, the company delivers a driving experience that people actually want, which might explain why so many car lovers set their sights on owning a BMW.d
The 330e model – the hybrid electric version of the car – also pushes fuel economy to new heights. BMW says that the 330e will do 150 mpg, more than double the petrol equivalent. What’s more, the car is nippy too – as are so many electric vehicles these days. It’s a lot faster than the more expensive S90, and it’ll get you to 62 mph in just 5.5 seconds.
The majority of people, however, will still want to opt for the cheaper 320d. This diesel stalwart will still do around 74 mpg, although it is significantly slower than the hybrid version. But for many, that doesn’t matter. What marks the 3 series apart isn’t the speed, it’s the ride and the handling. And this is probably what most executives want most from a compact car – something which takes up little more space than a family hatchback but delivers incredible performance thanks to its compact shape. Cornering in the 3 Series is bliss, and this is probably why it’s one of the world’s most popular cars right now.
Audi has been in the executive car business for many years. In fact, the company pretty much defines what it means to be an executive car. But can it still compete in the compact executive car market with competitors like Jaguar nipping at its heels?
The Audi probably isn’t the car enthusiast’s first choice. It’s a little boring compared to some of the other cars discussed here, especially from a styling perspective. But Audi knows their market, and the A4 was never meant to be about flamboyance. Instead, the car’s purpose was to appeal to company bosses’ bottom line, providing them with something that would be relatively cheap to run and maintain over the long term. Thanks to its relatively small engine and manual options, costs to buy are low too, making this the sensible company choice.
The A4 does come with a 268 bhp V6 diesel variant, but this is not a popular option. Most people choose the middle of the range 148 bhp 2.0-liter engine instead which will deliver 27.3 mpg, practically identical to the Mercedes and BMW equivalents.