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In association with MotorEasy

Most and least reliable executive cars

In our annual Reliability Survey, we ask readers to rate the dependability of cars aged up to five years old. Here we list the most and least reliable executive cars in the UK...

Reliability executive cars

Executive cars are status symbols that tell the world you've reached a certain standard in your working life. They're usually medium or large saloons with premium badges and lots of electrical gadgetry. 

While they're good-looking and generally great to drive, they have a lot of kit that could go wrong, and being stuck at the roadside waiting for a breakdown truck isn't going to do your image any good – so you need to pick your executive express with care. 

And our Reliability Survey data shows that some executive cars fall well short of the standard you might expect. While this is not the most problematic car class, their average score of 91.1% signals that some can be rather flaky. The class average has dropped a little on 2022, when it was 92.1%, demonstrating the need to choose your executive car wisely.

How the research was carried out

The latest survey, compiled in association with MotorEasy, contains data from 21,732 car owners, and reveals the reliability ratings for 178 models from 32 different brands. Each rating is based on two crucial factors relating to every car that suffered a fault: how much each fault cost the car owner in repair bills, and how long the car was stuck in the workshop getting fixed.

To add extra depth to our ratings, we also asked car owners to tell us which component on their vehicle went wrong, asking them to choose from 14 different areas Our car reliability data covers cars aged up to five years old. 

The 2024 What Car? Reliability Survey is live, tell us about your car now

Most reliable executive cars

1. Lexus IS (2013-2021)

Lexus IS

Reliability rating 98.0%

What went wrong? Battery 6%, brakes 6% 

The Lexus IS never really caught on as an executive toy, but those who own one are a contented bunch because it’s exceptionally durable. Only 12% we were told about suffered any problems and all were fixed for free by Lexus. The faults appear to have been minor, because all cars could still be driven and half were in and out of the garage the same day.

Owner’s view: “It's been the most reliable car I’ve owned in 50 years of driving.”

2. BMW 5 Series petrol (2017-2023)

BMW 5 Series

Reliability rating 97.2%

Petrol (2017-2023) BMW 5 Series models are less prone to problems than diesels, with a fault rate of 15% (versus 20%). What’s more, 80% of petrols were fixed for free, versus just 25% of diesels. Forty percent of repairs took a day or less, and only 20% took more than a week. Non-engine electrics were the main weak point.

3. BMW 3 Series petrol/PHEV (2019-present)

BMW 3 Series front three quarters

Reliability rating 96.4%

Petrol and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions of the latest BMW 3 Series are more dependable than diesels: owners told us 13% went wrong, with the most common fault areas being electrics, the engine and infotainment. BMW paid for 96% of repairs and fixed two-thirds of cars in less than a week.

4. Audi A4 petrol (2015-present)

Audi A4 front right tracking

Reliability rating 96.0%

Although 44% of the latest Audi A4 saloons we were told about went wrong, getting them fixed was an affordable and fairly quick process for most owners. Audi covered the cost of 97% of repair bills, and the remaining invoices were all for less than £200. More than half of the faulty cars were back on the road in less than a week, and a quarter of them were fixed in a day or less. The most common causes of complaint were engine electrics and the sat-nav/infotainment system, followed by problems with the gearbox/clutch and other electrical issues. 

5. Volvo S60 (2010-2018) / Volvo V60 (2010-2018)

2013 Volvo S60 T6 review

Reliability rating 94.2%

A quarter of the 2010-2018 Volvo S60 saloons and the 2010-2018 Volvo V60 estates in our survey had a problem, with the bodywork and non-engine electrics accounting for most issues. Demonstrating the minor nature of most faults, nearly two-thirds of cars could still be driven, and three-quarters had their problems resolved in less than a week; a quarter were put right in a day or less. Volvo paid for the repairs on 86% of cars, and the remaining bills were reasonable – all were less than £500. 

=6. Lexus ES (2018-present)

Lexus ES 2022 front right tracking

Reliability rating 93.3%

Although only 20% of the Lexus ES saloons reported on went wrong, the biggest issue for owners was lengthy waits to get their cars back: 43% of cars were out of action for more than a week. The main headaches were the sat-nav/infotainment system and other non-engine electrics, and there were also some issues with the steering system. The good news is that Lexus stumped up for all repair bills. 

=6. Mazda 6 (2013-2022)

Mazda 6

Reliability rating 93.3%

Bodywork and brake system issues were the most commonly cited problems for the 31% of 2013-2022 Mazda 6 owners whose cars went wrong. They also told us there were some problems with other electrical systems, the air-con and the gearbox/clutch. Mazda covered the cost of all fixes, and 58% of cars were out of the garage in a day or less. Only 8% of faulty cars took more than a week to put right. 

8. Mercedes C-Class (2014-2021)

2019 Mercedes C-Class front

Reliability rating 93.0%

The exhaust system and engine electrics were the biggest bugbears for 2014-2021 Mercedes C-Class owners, who told us 27% of their cars had a glitch. They also reported some issues with the bodywork, fuel system and non-engine electrics. While Mercedes paid for 82% of remedial work, some owners were left with bills of up to £500. Although most cars could still be driven and 47% were back on the road in a day or less, 36% were in the workshop for more than a week. 

=9. Skoda Superb petrol (2015-2023)

2019 Skoda Superb front

Reliability rating 92.9%

Petrol versions of the 2015-2023 Skoda Superb are a far more dependable option than diesels because they're cheaper and quicker to fix; as a result, the latter only scored 86.7% for reliability, ranking 19th in our executive car chart.

Skoda coughed up for 85% of petrol Superb faults, and most cars remained driveable and 45% were fixed in a day or less. Petrol Superb owners told us 23% of their cars had suffered a problem, with the sat-nav/infotainment and other electrical systems giving the most grief.

=9. Volkswagen Passat (2015-2022)

Volkswagen Passat saloon front

Reliability rating 92.9%

Only 23% of the 2015-2022 Volkswagen Passat saloons and estates in our survey went wrong, but those that did landed some owners with hefty repair bills. While Volkswagen paid for 73% of remedial work, the remaining owners were left with bills ranging from £301 to £750. Most cars could still be driven, but 46% were out of action for more than a week. The biggest problem area was the sat-nav/infotainment system along with a range of other electrical issues.  

Least reliable executive cars

1. Audi A6 (2018-present)

Audi A6 2022 front right tracking

Reliability rating 76.3%

What went wrong? Engine electrics 22%, sat-nav/infotainment 22%, non-engine electrics 19%, gearbox/clutch 11%, bodywork 7%, interior trim 7%, air-con 4%, brakes 4%, engine 4%, steering 4%

The Audi A6 saloon has been blighted by a range of electrical issues: 44% had a fault, two-thirds concerning engine and non-engine electrical systems or the sat-nav/infotainment. Although 83% could still be driven, 46% took more than a week to put right. However, 97% were repaired for free, and none cost more than £200.

2. Alfa Romeo Giulia (2016-present)

Alfa Romeo Giulia front cornering

Reliability rating 77.3%

The Alfa Romeo Giulia may look drop-dead gorgeous and be great to drive, but it’s less fun to live with. Overall, 44% went wrong, with a third being out of action for more than a week. Although Alfa Romeo paid for 72% of repairs, 17% of owners faced bills in excess of £1000. The main bugbears were batteries, electrics and the engine.

3. BMW 3 Series diesel (2019-present)

BMW 3 Series - blue front

Reliability rating 78.0%

Almost a third of diesel-powered BMW 3 Series went wrong. Exhaust and sat-nav/infotainment systems were the main problem areas, followed by bodywork, brakes and engine electrics. Half were out of action for more than a week. BMW paid for only 58% of repairs, while 42% of owners paid more than £1500.

4. Audi A3 Saloon (2013-2020)

2014 Audi A3 Saloon 1.6 TDI S tronic review

Reliability rating 80.8%

Problems with the battery, bodywork, non-engine electrics and sat nav/infotainment were all reported on the 2013-2020 Audi A3 Saloon. Just one in eight faulty cars were fixed under warranty, with the rest costing owners between £51 and £500. And, while no repair took more than a week, 25% of faults put cars out of action until the repair could be carried out.

5. Jaguar XF (2015-present)

Jaguar XF

Reliability rating 85.9%

The Jaguar XF may be great to drive, but that’s not much use if your is constantly in need of TLC from the dealership. Twenty nine percent of XF owners who completed our survey reported a fault with their car; of these, 14% of issues rendered the cars undriveable, and 43% took more than a week to put right. A majority (71%) did at least get their cars fixed under warranty, although some required repair bills of up to £1000.

6. Skoda Superb diesel (2015-2023)

Skoda Superb front left static

Reliability rating 86.7%

Almost a third of the diesel 2015-2023 Skoda Superb models in our survey suffered a fault, across a variety of areas – owners reported air con, battery, bodywork, engine, exhaust, and sat nav/infotainment issues – half of which prevented cars from being driven until they were repaired. Additionally, only 50% of repairs were covered under warranty; those that weren’t set owners back between £101 and £1000.

7. BMW 3 Series (2012-2019)

BMW 3 Series

Reliability rating 87.5%

A mixture of issues afflicted 2012-2019 BMW 3 Series models, including problems with the battery, gearbox/clutch, electrics and sat-nav/infotainment system. Only 30% of faulty cars were fixed for free, and 40% of owners paid out £751 or more to get their car put right. At least repairs were mostly done swiftly; 40% of cars were repaired in a day or less, and only 20% were stuck in the garage for more than a week. 

8. Jaguar XE (2015-present)

Used Jaguar XE 2015-2024 front cornering

Reliability rating 88.7%

Electrical issues were the main headache for the 26% of Jaguar XE owners who told us their cars had gone wrong in the previous 24 months. There were also some reports of problems with the exhaust and suspension. While Jaguar covered the cost of 83% of remedial work, 13% of owners had to find between £750 and £1000 to get their cars put right. The good news is that two-thirds of cars were fixed in less than a week. 

9. Volvo S90 (2016-2023) / Volvo V90 (2016-2023)

Volvo S90 2021 front right tracking

Reliability rating 88.9%

A range of faults dent the ownership experience of the 2016-2023 Volvo S90 / 2016-2023 Volvo V90, including issues with the bodywork, engine and electrics. Overall, 27% of the cars reported on had a problem. Volvo stumped up for repairs in 77% of instances, though, and most bills were less than £500; only 4% of owners had to find £1000-£1500. And two-thirds of cars were fixed in less than seven days.  

10. BMW 5 Series PHEV (2017-2023)

Used BMW 5 Series 2017-2023 front cornering

Reliability rating 89.8%

Plug-in hybrid versions (PHEV) of the 2017-2023 2017-2023 BMW 5 Series suffered far more faults than their conventional-engined counterparts. Thirty-eight percent of PHEVs went wrong, with 25% of faulty cars suffering electrical issues. Most faulty cars remained driveable, and a third of issues were resolved in a day or less; and BMW covered the cost of all remedial work. 

To read the reliability data for other car classes follow these links:

All cars and SUVs here
Most reliable small cars
Most reliable family cars
Most reliable luxury cars
Most reliable small SUVs
Most reliable family SUVs
Most reliable large SUVs
Most reliable seven-seaters
Most reliable electric cars
Most reliable electric SUVs
Most reliable sports cars
Most reliable car brands

Reliability of family cars aged up to five years old

Rank Make and model Score
1 2013-2021 Lexus IS 98.0%
2 2017-2023 BMW 5 Series petrol 97.2%
3 BMW 3 Series petrol and PHEV (2019-present) 96.4%
4 Audi A4 petrol (2015-present) 96.0%
5 2010-2018 Volvo S60 / 2010-2018 Volvo V60 94.2%
6 2013-2022 Mazda 6 93.3%
7 Lexus ES (2018-present) 93.3%
8 2014-2021 Mercedes C-Class 93.0%
9 2015-2023 Skoda Superb petrol  92.9%
10 2015-2022 Volkswagen Passat 92.9%
11 2017-2023 BMW 5 Series diesel 91.8%
12 Mercedes E-Class (2016-present) 91.5%
13 Audi A4 diesel (2015-present) 91.2%
14 2018-2023 Volvo S60 / 2018-2023 Volvo V60 91.2%
15 2017-2023 BMW 5 Series PHEV  89.8%
16 2016-2023 Volvo S90 / 2016-2023 Volvo V90 88.9%
17 Jaguar XE (2015-present) 88.7%
18 2012-2019 BMW 3 Series 87.5%
19 2015-2023 Skoda Superb diesel  86.7%
20 Jaguar XF 2015-present) 85.9%
21 2013-2020 Audi A3 Saloon 80.8%
22 BMW 3 Series diesel (2019-present) 78.0%
23 Alfa Romeo Giulia (2016-present) 77.3%
24 Audi A6 (2018-present)


How the survey was carried out

Each year, the What Car? Reliability Survey, conducted in association with MotorEasy, is open from December to June, and it's open to all What Car? readers and subscribers. In it, we ask thousands of car owners to tell us how dependable their cars have been over the previous 24 months. 

To assess the seriousness of any faults that are reported by owners, we ask them to tell us how long each one kept the car off the road and how much it cost to fix. We use a combination of these two details to create a reliability rating for each model and brand. The latest survey had 21,732 responses and that enabled us to report on 178 models (up to five years old) from 32 brands. 

About the report author

Claire Evans has been a motoring journalist for more than 30 years with a focus on consumer issues for much of that time. She was the advice columnist for Carweek magazine in the 1990s, and also spent six years working on motoring content for Which?.

Claire launched the What Car? Reliability Survey in 2017, and since then has helped thousands of buyers choose the most reliable new cars and SUVs, as well as the most dependable used cars

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