What Car? Car of the Year awards 2011 - Executive car contenders

Article 29 of 36 See all
  • 17 categories of awards
  • All the winning models featured here
  • What Car? Car of the Year 2011 revealed

What Car? Awards 2012 website

Best buy less than £30,000
BMW 5 Series 520d SE
List price £28,045
Target Price £26,681


Every businessman understands the importance of efficiency, and executive cars don’t come much more efficient than the BMW 520d SE. Under its bonnet sits a 2.0-litre turbodiesel producing 181bhp and 280lb ft of torque. That’s more than enough for lively acceleration and good in-gear flexibility.

The 520d also features planet-friendly technology such as radiator grilles that open and close to keep the engine at the optimum temperature, brake-energy regeneration and an engine stop-start system.

This makes it cleaner and greener than any major rival. Average fuel economy is a whopping 57.6mpg, while CO2 emissions of 129g/km give it a lowly 18% company car tax rating.

You have to spend extra on Variable Damper Control to give the Five the ride and handling it deserves, but refinement is peerless and the cabin is classy and user-friendly.

For similar money the Mercedes E220 CDI Blue Efficiency offers gutsy performance and an extremely cosseting ride. However, it’s more expensive to run and has a noisy engine.

BMW 5 Series review

Performance
0-62mph 8.1 seconds Top speed 141mph
Running costs
Economy 57.6mpg CO2 129g/km
Insurance group 32

Best buy £30,000-£40,000
Jaguar XF 3.0D V6 Luxury
List price £35,900
Target Price £32,558


For this budget you can have six-cylinder versions of the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class or, if you want to stand out from the crowd, Infiniti’s all-new M30d. However, our money would go on Jaguar XF.

For starters, the XF has stronger emotional appeal thanks to its gorgeous looks, funky interior and stunning handling.

Just as importantly, it ticks the ‘sensible’ boxes because running costs are competitive, it’s refined and comfortable, and the slinky styling doesn’t compromise practicality.

We’re particularly keen on the lower-powered 3.0-litre diesel engine: acceleration is lively and it averages over 40mpg. True, the S version provides an extra 34bhp and a noticeable step up in performance, but it’s not worth the £4000 premium.

We also see little point in upgrading from the entry-level Luxury trim because it brings powered seats, sat-nav, an auto gearbox and parking sensors.

Next year, the competition will be tougher with the arrival of the new Audi A6. However, it will need to be special to topple the XF.

Jaguar XF review

Performance
0-62mph 7.1 seconds Top speed 149mph
Running costs
Economy 42.0mpg CO2 179g/km
Insurance group 43

Best buy more than £40,000
Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI 245 quattro SE
List price £48,000
Target Price £47,307


We could quite easily have put a more expensive 5 Series or XF in here. However, people spending this sort of money want something different, and that’s exactly what Audi is offering with its new Audi A7 Sportback.

The A7 will be a comparatively rare sight on the roads because prices start on the far side of £40k. What’s more, unlike most of its rivals it’s a hatchback rather than a four-door saloon.

The cabin is one of the company’s best, which means it’s stylish and beautifully made, while under the skin there’s an all-new platform that features multi-link front and rear suspension and, in most versions, a 40:60 rear-biased four-wheel-drive system.

These mechanicals give the A7 a beautifully balanced feel, plus there’s loads of traction and grip. The A7 is incredibly comfortable and composed at motorway speeds.

The one black mark is reserved for the steering, which is disappointingly vague. However, our favourite engine – the 3.0-litre turbodiesel – is as refined as it is frugal, and the A7 generates very little wind or road noise.

Audi A7 Sportback review

Performance
0-62mph 6.3 seconds Top speed 155mph
Running costs
Economy 47.1mpg CO2 158g/km
Insurance group tbc

Tester's view
‘As a lover of black T-shirts and heavy metal, I don’t consider myself a typical Jaguar fan. However, I’m a keen sportsman and respect any hat-trick. So, when the XF notched up its third What Car? Executive of the Year Award last year, I was deeply impressed.

‘With the arrival of the new BMW 5 Series, though, I knew the XF would have its work cut out to continue that winning streak. After all, our favourite Five will average close to 60mpg – way more than any XF.

‘Naturally, I enjoy driving executive cars, but what I love about them is that they have to satisfy heart and head. On the one hand, they need the right image, and must convey besuited execs in comfort and refinement. On the other, the sums have to add up.

‘It’s a tough gig for any car.’
Andy Pringle Content editor
Andy.Pringle@whatcar.com

What Car? Car of the Year awards 2011 - Executive car winner

advertisement

Free car valuations

advertisement