If the catalyst for this change was the new company car tax introduced last year, the quality of diesel cars on offer these days must also have had a significant impact. Here are 10 of the most luxurious and refined diesel cars on the market, writes Abby Jones of WhatCar?
The A4 is a classy, solidly built car. It drives well, thanks to a stiff body and a new suspension, although around town the ride is a little on the firm side. However, this results in fine composure at speed and great handling through bends. It is also a very refined car – wind and tyre roar is virtually non-existent at UK motorway speeds – and, although some of the engines in the range are a little gruff, it’s a quiet ride overall. All the engines on offer do their jobs well, but the diesels are particularly strong and frugal with it. With good reliability and rock-solid residuals, the A4 makes sound sense for both the private buyer and business user.
The BMW’s image, driving characteristics and performance make it one of the most highly sought, small executive saloons. Impressively strong residuals, especially on the punchy and frugal diesel models, make it a great private buy, and reasonable CO2 emissions mean company car drivers aren’t punished too much. On the road, the 3-Series is a bit firm. Nevertheless, the handling smooths out on the motorway.
Jaguar’s first attempt at a compact executive car is spot-on. The X-Type combines taut handling and a smooth ride with good safety and security kit. It’s good value for money, too. However, it can’t compete with the Mercedes C-Class’ level of refinement. It does have a very reasonable price tag, though. Residual values are strong but, until the arrival of the diesel, the Jag’s high emissions were prohibitive.
The distinctive-looking 9-3 is a well-priced, well-equipped small executive car. The latest version is based on the same chassis as the new Vauxhall Vectra, so ride and handling is good. Saab has tuned this platform to offer greater feel through corners and tauter steering. Regardless of speed, the 9-3 is comfortable and quiet, and its build quality and reliability are matches for German cars, which dominate this sector. The 9-3 has generous levels of equipment, including safety and security kit, across the range. The engines on offer are all reliable, clean and perform well, particularly the flexible turbodiesel.
A great-looking, great-driving car, the C-Class is refined, comfortable, practical and stylish. It has crisper steering and tighter body control than its predecessor, making it sportier to drive than before. Despite this, it still retains all the older model’s suppleness and is more than capable of soaking up urban bumps. When inside, you are completely shielded from the outside world – the cabin is a wind and tyre noise-free zone, and all the engines are quiet. The latest supercharged petrol units available have lowered the tax bills of company car buyers, but the diesels are still the best option. Mercedes is well-known for its superb reliability and the C-Class holds on to its value well.
The A6 is a classy-looking, spacious and refined car. The pick of the bunch is the smooth and strong 2.5-litre V6 turbodiesel. All models are refined, remaining impressively quiet at any speed. Unfortunately, the A6 doesn’t compare with some of its rivals when it comes to handling. It is obviously intended as a motorway cruiser – slack body control means bumpy roads set off a rocking motion, and it has a fidgety ride at low speeds. While its residuals aren’t quite as strong as the BMW 5-Series, it makes a sound private buy and its quality levels are superb.
This is still one of the best executive cars on the market. It drives brilliantly, has superb ride and handling, and offers unrivalled comfort in this sector. The engines available are quiet, too. Its fantastic image and excellent driving manners mean residual values are strong and the 5-Series is as well built as it is desirable. It is also one of the best-equipped BMWs with traction control, air conditioning and alloy wheels all standard kit. Most models also get metallic paint included in the base price, and the number of safety and security features is impressive.
This is the finest luxury car available. It combines limousine splendour with executive saloon agility, and it’s genuinely good to drive, too. The S-Class threads effortlessly through town and is surprisingly nimble on winding country lanes. The ride is smooth and quiet, anywhere, at any speed. It is also superbly refined, with little or no noise intrusion. All the available engines are brisk, but the best of the bunch is the silky turbodiesel – it is a strong mid-range and offers good economy. The S-Class is spacious, comfortable and just oozes quality.
The latest 7-Series is powerful, refined and high-tech. It is bigger than its predecessor, offering increased luggage space and passenger room. To drive, it is impressive – the combination of power and automatic transmission is really smooth. The futuristic iDrive multifunction system controls the suspension so you can choose between the comfort and sports settings. Both absorb bumps well and body roll is well contained. The car has plenty of safety and security kit, too.
The A8 is an understated, well built and refined luxury car. Tidy handling and good body control make the A8 a good drive. However, while the speed-sensitive steering makes the Audi easy to drive around town, feedback is reduced as speed increases. Residual values should be high, but it’s too soon to predict used values.