What we were looking for
The best that money can buy, but not in a blank cheque kind of way. The rich didn't become rich by throwing money about, so value is just as important here.
Mercedes-Benz S320 CDI
List price £55,022
Target Price £52,448
This is where the S320 CDI wins hands down. It's everything a luxury car should be - big, roomy, comfortable, technologically advanced and rich in quality and refinement - but it doesn't stick two fingers up at anyone with environmental concerns or those tightening their purse strings.
On a run you'll get comfortably more than 30 miles out of every gallon of diesel and CO2 emissions are a reasonable 220g/km.
For owners, that means less frequent fuel stops, reduced day-to-day running costs and some not inconsiderable taxation savings if you've chosen it instead of a comparable petrol-engined car.
It isn't as though you've had to choose between a rock and a hard place, either. You're still in an S-Class, after all.
Air suspension delivers a peerless ride, but if you find yourself in a pressing hurry on a challenging route, you have only to push the Sport button to reveal another side to its character. With 398lb ft of muscle provided by a 3.0-litre V6 diesel, it's almost indecently brisk.
With a car of such high quality, you would expect there to be very little noise disturbing the luxurious ride in the cabin. So, no surprises as that this is exactly the case here.
Few cars are as effective at shutting out not only the hubbub of the outside world but also any self-created noise. Inside an S-Class, all is serene.
Ultimate in comfort
We could go on indefinitely about the ways in which it soothes and cossets, such is the level of features in the car, but we'll single out just a few highlights.
The seats are superb - all the more so if you choose the multi-contour option, in which case they constantly vary their shape to brace you against cornering forces. The trim materials look and feel suitably expensive, just like the Mercs of old.
And finally, while none of us likes to think about the consequences of an accident, your chances of surviving one unscathed are probably better in this car than in most others. Not for nothing has Mercedes again won our Safety Award.
All things considered, it quite restores your faith in the future of luxury cars.
Best buy under £50,000
Jaguar XJ TDVi Executive
List price £45,542
Target Price £40,825
Best buy over £100,000
List price £265,500
Target Price £265,500