Best executive cars 2023
A good executive car need to be comfortable, classy and well equipped, yet also cheap to run. So, which models hit all their targets, and which should be avoided?...
Executive saloons need to combine two opposing qualities: luxury and affordability. The best have efficient engines that make them cheap to run as company cars, or even utilise electric power. Yet they also have plush interiors and enough soundproofing to keep them super-quiet on the motorway.
Comfort and driver enjoyment are also important. Plus, they should have a user-friendly dashboard layout and come equipped with the latest infotainment and safety technology.
Here, we reveal our top 10 buys, and name the executive cars to avoid. If any of the models on the list take your fancy, just click on the relevant link to find out more or see how much of a discount you could get by using our free New Car Buying service.
Tesla Model 3
Tesla knows a thing or two about building electric cars, and that’s evident by the Model 3’s long list of abilities.
For starters, it’s great to drive and gets a smart interior packed full of technology. The boot is a good size, too, and it offers more space than you’ll find in the likes of the Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series.
If range is important, the Model 3 is also very competitive. The entry-level rear-wheel-drive model, for example, can officially cover 305 miles between charges.
Factor in strong performance, competitive pricing and tiny tax bills, and it’s not only a great electric car, but the best executive car you can buy.
- Savage acceleration – particularly in the Performance version
- Long range between charges
- Surprisingly practical
- Fast charging via Tesla's prolific Supercharger network
- Rivals are quieter on the move
- Handling not as entertaining as the best petrol-powered rivals
- Some may find the ride a touch firm
Many rivals outshine the C-Class in terms of interior quality, but the C300e plug-in hybrid version offers a huge official electric-only range of 68 miles. That means it makes for a very cheap company car, offering almost double the official 37 miles the BMW 3 Series 330e can travel.
In the corners, the C-Class is also very composed – especially in C300e form with its standard rear air suspension. In fact, it strikes a wonderful balance between ride comfort and cornering composure, and does a brilliant job of managing the extra weight of the battery.
- Plug-in hybrid has an impressive ride
- Fuel economy and emissions compare well with rivals
- Plug-in C300e hybrid has a seriously low BIK rate
- Disappointing interior quality
- Not as much fun to drive as a BMW 3 Series
- Some road noise
BMW 3 Series
For many, the 3 Series remains the de facto executive car, and it's easy to see why.
The latest version is the best-steering BMW of recent times and matches this with stellar body control and plenty of grip, yet it still manages to serve up good ride comfort and relaxing refinement.
Our preferred version of the 3 Series is the 330e plug-in hybrid. It offers strong performance and a decent official electric-only range of 37 miles, while promising lower running costs than non-hybrid versions.
The interior of the 3 Series also feels solid and well made (although it’s not quite a match for the Audi A4), and it gets one of the best infotainment systems in the business.
- Brilliant fun to drive
- Class-leading infotainment system
- Great range of engines
- Ride is rather firm – particularly in M Sport versions
- Not as well finished inside as an Audi A4
- Voice command or fiddly touchscreen only way to adjust climate control
Calling a car the Superb gives it a lot to live up to, but Skoda's executive car is fully deserving of its moniker.
It's comfortable, nicely made, well equipped and great value for money. It’s also very spacious in the back seats (few cars this side of the Mercedes S-Class can match it), and the boot is massive.
It also gets a good range of engines, including petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid variants, although we think the 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine is the best option. No matter which version you go for, though, the Superb is definitely worth a place on your shortlist.
- Vast interior and boot space
- Exceptional value for money
- Classy, high-quality interior
- Some rivals are more fun to drive
- Sluggish dual-clutch automatic gearbox
- Not as quiet on motorways as the Audi A4
Despite being launched in 2015, the A4 is hard to fault in almost any area, so it’s still among the best executive cars around.
As you'd expect, the interior is luxurious and beautifully finished, with practical rear seats and a spacious boot. It's more comfortable than the BMW 3 Series, too, although that car offers greater thrills behind the wheel.
Go for our recommended 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine (badged 35 TDI) and you’ll get gutsy performance combined with good fuel economy. If you’re looking for a tax-efficient plug-in hybrid, though, the A4 will leave you disappointed.
- Class-leading interior quality
- Smooth engines
- Entry-level engines are a touch weedy
- A BMW 3 Series is more fun to drive
- You can’t add many options
BMW's i4 electric car is fast, comfortable and extremely hushed at high speeds. Our preferred version is the eDrive40 model, which offers an impressive official range of 367 miles.
No matter which version you go for, though, the i4 is great to drive and smart inside, making it a compelling alternative to a Tesla Model 3. It’s also a good choice if you prioritise practicality, with its hatchback boot opening and 40/20/40 split folding rear seats.
However, if you cover a lot of motorway miles, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Model 3 has the BMW pipped, because it grants you access to a significantly better charging network.
- Brilliant performance
- Impressive official range
- Class-leading infotainment
- Relatively expensive to buy outright
- M50 not as sharp as Tesla Model 3 Performance
- BMW lacks Tesla’s world-beating charging infrastructure
Audi A3 Saloon
Like the hatchback on which it's based, the Audi A3 Saloon is tidy in the bends and very comfortable to drive. It also comes very well equipped, and gets many features that you would normally expect to find in much more expensive rivals.
There’s also a good range of engines to choose from, including petrols, diesels and a plug-in hybrid. The 148bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged unit is our pick of the bunch for its gutsy yet fuel-efficient nature.
If your budget can stretch to it, however, we’d recommend going for the bigger Audi A4. It’s a lot quieter and has a classier and more practical interior.
- Good ride and handling balance
- Punchy 35 TFSI petrol engine
- All versions are well equipped
- Distracting infotainment system
- Road noise at speed
- Small boot by class standards
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Alfa Romeo's latest attempt at an executive car is also a strong effort. Like the Jaguar XE, the Giulia makes an appealing choice if driving enjoyment is a top priority, but it falls behind in similar areas such as quality and reliability.
However, where it steps ahead of the XE is with practicality, because it gets a much bigger boot and more spacious rear seats.
Behind the wheel, it’s quiet and composed on the motorway, yet it’s engaging to drive when the going gets twisty. It’s also available with a couple of petrol engines that are smooth, responsive and powerful – although those factors come at the cost of fuel economy.
- Engaging handling
- Strong performance
- Competent petrol engines
- Diesel engines could be quieter
- Rivals have a bigger boot
- Interior quality still can’t match German rivals
Taking on the big German brands in this class is a big ask, but Jaguar has made a good go of it with the XE.
It’s competitively priced, well equipped and rewarding to drive, with excellent steering and sharp handling. On top of that, the suspension – even in standard form – is well controlled and supple enough to take the sting out of potholes.
If you value interior space, though, there are much better options. Plus, Jaguar doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability; it finished in 26th place out of 32 brands in our most recent Reliability Survey.
- Agile, enjoyable handling
- Well priced and well equipped
- Comfortable ride
- Tight for rear-seat and boot space
- Interior could be classier
- So-so reliability record
It may not be as beautifully finished inside as an Audi A4 or as dynamic to drive as a BMW 3 Series, but the Volkswagen Arteon is a comfortable and well-equipped choice among executive cars.
For something with such a sleek roof, the Arteon is surprisingly practical. For example, the amount of rear leg room is vast, and the boot is bigger than you’ll find in the rival Jaguar XE – plus it comes with the added practicality of a hatchback opening.
If you are tempted by an Arteon, though, be aware that depreciation is worse than anything with a premium badge.
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- Strong engines including a plug-in hybrid option
- Generous standard equipment
- Huge interior space and boot
- Automatic gearbox is a little jerky at low speeds
- Poor resale values against premium rivals
- A BMW 3 or 4 Series is more fun to drive
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