Executives and compact executives

* New Mercedes E-Class * Porsche Panamera * Jaguar XJ...

Executives and compact executives

Mercedes E-Class
Price from 29,000 (est)
On sale Summer
Whats great? Stylish looks, luxury interior

At last years Paris Motor Show, Mercedes rolled out a concept car that gave us a taste of four, possibly five, new E-Class models. All of them are going to be part of an extended family that will, in a return to past tradition, take in coupe and convertible variants, as well as a saloon and estate.

That concept car was called Concept Fascination, and the saloon and coupe spin-offs from it will be the first to arrive in the UK to take on BMW and Audi.

The estate, with five doors rather than the concepts three, will follow around a year later, alongside the convertible. Meanwhile a three-door shooting brake version could be built, although thats yet to be decided.

There will be a wide range of petrol and diesel engines, including a new 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel. It produces 201bhp and 369lb ft of muscle, so offers performance close to that of a 3.0 V6, but with lower emissions and far better fuel economy.

Mercedes has lagged behind BMW and Audi in engine efficiency gains recently, so that development is particularly intriguing and could hint at a raft of changes that are in the pipeline for this and other cars.

Mercedes is also working on its AdBlue technology to counter diesel emissions. This reduces oxides of nitrogen by injecting urea into the exhaust stream.

Not all features from the concept will make it to the production cars, of course, not least the smoked glass table that rises from the boot floor, or the on-board humidor that keeps your cigars in tip-top condition. Well-heeled Merc buyers may be, but these features are the indulgence of a designer.

Instead, for a touch of forward-thinking reality, look to other details such as the neat side storage areas for binoculars and cameras. These are far more likely to grace cars youll find in a showroom.

Infiniti G37 saloon and coupe
Price from 29,000 (est)
On sale Mid-2009
Whats great? The chance to be different, smooth V6 engine

The saloon and coupe versions of the G37 are based on the same platform and use the same 3.7-litre V6 engine turning out 316bhp.

Admittedly, the market for V6 saloons is not large, but if you want a fast family car that hits 60mph in under six seconds and one you wont find in every car park in the land, this could be for you.

Weve driven the saloon and the coupe, and think the two-door is the better buy. The four-seater has rivals such as the BMW 325i Coupe in its sights and is good fun to drive. Its likely to be costly to run, however, with high fuel consumption and emissions. It will also have a tough time on the secondhand market.

Engineers are working on a V6 diesel for the Infiniti which should be available in 2010, when hybrid powertrains may also be ready.

BMW Progressive Activity Sedan (PAS)
Price from 38,000 (est)
On sale Winter
Whats great? Its a kind of hatchback/coupe/estate all rolled into one

By next September well know for sure what the Progressive Activity Sedan (PAS) really is, but for now all we have to go on are the few clues available.

Spy shots, for example, show that, despite its name, the PAS is not a saloon at all. Its more of a sleek coupe/estate combo.

In that respect, it could bridge the gap that exists somewhere between the companys 5 Series Touring and its X6 4x4.

Like the X6, its thought the PAS will be a four-person car with heated and massaging seats for all. Its also tipped to have more room in the rear cabin than the X6 and a Skoda Superb-style hatchoon tailgate that you can open like a hatchback or a saloon.

Expect a similar engine line-up to the X6 as well, with diesels of 235 and 286bhp, and petrols of 306 and 408bhp.

Saab 9-5
Price from 22,000 (est)
On sale Summer
Whats great? Vauxhall Insignias strong points with Saab touches

The best indications of how the new Saab 9-5 will shape up come from its Vauxhall Insignia stablemate, as both are built on the same platform.

However, dont read too much into the similarities with the Insignia, because owner GM will still keep some distance between the brands by ensuring that they have exclusive suspension designs, steering racks, electronics and interiors.

Also helping to differentiate the two marques will be features such as Saabs electronic limited-slip differential, which will help to increase front-end grip by reducing wheelspin.

The engine range will closely follow the Insignias, however, although Saab will put extra emphasis on producing a bioethanol-compatible Biopower unit.

Mercedes C250 CDI BlueEfficiency
Price (est) 30,000
On sale Early 2009
Whats great? Good economy, performance and efficiency
New 2.2 diesel C-Class does 0-60mph in 7.0sec, 54mpg and emits just 138g/km of CO2.

Jaguar XF diesel
Price (est) 38,000
On sale Mid-2009
Whats great? Hotter diesels for our 2008 Car of the Year
A much cleaner and slightly more powerful 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine is tipped to be in the pipeline.

Lexus IS face-lift
Price (est) 24,000
On sale January
Whats great? Smooth, classy and tech-laden as ever
Expect some minor tweaks and updates to keep this rival for BMWs 3 Series up to the minute.