Best luxury cars 2021
A luxury car obviously needs sumptuous materials, ride comfort worthy of a magic carpet, and a super-smooth engine. However, models targeting company car drivers must also offer low emissions...
The range of luxury cars on sale is huge, stretching all the way from executive cruisers through to some of the most expensive cars on the road.
What they tend to have in common is superb comfort and refinement. Plus, many offer beautifully finished interiors complete with high-tech entertainment systems and loads of space for rear-seat passengers.
Running costs might seem less important, but luxury saloons are often run as company cars, so CO2 emissions and fuel consumption can actually be key considerations.
Which are the very best models, then, and which are best avoided? Let's start with the top 10:
There are plenty of luxury cars that make more financial sense than the Flying Spur, and quite a few that offer superior refinement. However, few can match its sense of occasion, so we can certainly see why you might be tempted.
- Stunning interior
- Huge performance
- Mostly comfortable ride
- Awful visibility
- Some road noise
After something a little less ostentatious and a lot more affordable? Then this big, Swedish saloon could be just the thing, because it has a spacious and stunning interior, and comes very well equipped. Just bear in mind that it's not especially good to drive.
- Offers excellent passenger space
- Generous standard kit
- High quality cabin
- Not as comfortable or nimble as its rivals
- Fiddly touchscreen system
- Relatively small boot
Thanks to its precise steering and agile handling, no mainstream luxury saloon is more entertaining than the Jaguar XF, yet it's also comfortable over long distances. The best rivals are quieter, though, and they have classier interiors.
- Brilliant handling
- Well equipped
- Undercuts rivals yet comes with tonnes of kit
- Interior build quality disappointing
- 2.0-litre diesel engines aren't very strong
- Rivals are quieter
Despite being a huge car, BMW's latest 7 Series flagship handles well – although the down side of this is a slightly firmer ride than you get in its chief rivals, the Audi A8 and Mercedes S-Class. The 7 Series is also refined and surprisingly fuel-efficient, plus it's available with plenty of impressive gadgets.
- Strong engines
- Brilliant infotainment system
- Plug-in has exceedingly low CO2 emissions
- Busy low speed ride
- Not quite the driver’s car BMW suggests it is
- Some versions are very pricey
The latest E-Class is available with a great range of engines, comes very well equipped and is a pretty quiet and comfortable cruiser. However, the low-speed ride could be better and it's not as spacious in the back as key competitors.
- Punchy and efficient engines
- Lots of standard equipment
- Big and clever boot
- Not as fun to drive as a 5 Series
- Relatively weak resale values
- Rear space tighter than its key rivals
This is a cosseting, quiet and technologically advanced saloon that feels beautifully built. Its infotainment system is distracting to use on the move, though, and the automatic gearboxes can be slow-witted, so the A6 has to settle for fifth.
- Very quiet engines
- Spacious interior
- Excellent build quality
- You can’t add many options
- Hesitant automatic gearboxes
- Infotainment difficult to use on the move
Not only is the Mercedes S-Class packed to the rafters with technology, but it’s also a very comfortable and exceedingly well-appointed luxury saloon, and one of the best for rear-seat passengers.
- Smooth and responsive S500 petrol engine
- Feature-packed infotainment system
- Loads of space inside, especially in the rear of long-wheelbase models
- No plug-in hybrid option (yet)
- An Audi A8 is slightly quieter and more comfortable at times
- Overly reliant on fiddly touch-sensitive controls
This Rolls-Royce is unbelievably luxurious and comfortable, offering monstrous performance along with serene cruising manners and a truly exquisite interior. For those who can afford to buy and run it – you will not be disappointed.
- Outstandingly comfortable ride
- Fabulous interior
- Crushing performance
- Astronomically expensive to buy
- Thirsty engine also makes it costly to run
The A8’s blend of performance, comfort and serenity are wedded to a beautifully built, practical and well-equipped interior. In fact, by a whisker, it beats its chief rival the Mercedes S Class, which shows just how good it is to drive and be driven in.
- Extremely comfortable ride
- Spacious interior and boot
- Class-leading interior quality
- Not as sharp to drive as rivals
- Expensive to run
- Dim-witted automatic gearbox on the diesel
The latest BMW 5 Series isn't just our reigning Luxury Car of the Year, but a former overall Car of the Year. Whichever version you choose, you’ll be getting one of the classiest and most comfortable cars on sale today, but the 530e plug-in hybrid is particularly good. In fact, we reckon it's the supreme luxury package, without the price tag to match.
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- Agile and relatively comfortable – when fitted with standard wheels
- Beautifully made interior
- Superb infotainment system
- Adaptive suspension not available on SE trim
- A Volvo S90 has bigger rear seats
- A Mercedes E-Class has a bigger boot
And the luxury cars to avoid...
Aston Martin makes some fantastic cars these days, but the Rapide S isn't one of them. It's noisy, the ride is unsettled and the handling nothing special, while the interior is seriously cramped. Read our review
Best plug-in hybrid cars 2021
Plug-in hybrids can reduce fuel consumption to an absolute minimum, but which models are the best all-rounders and which should you avoid?
Lexus ES long-term test review
The striking ES hybrid is designed to grab Lexus a bigger slice of the luxury saloon market. But does it have what it takes to turn top execs away from the usual German models? We're living with one to find out