Full-sized luxury cars – mostly large traditional limousine saloons, with one or two oversized hatchbacks and demure SUVs included – are those in which high-end executives choose either to drive or to be driven in.
That means they need to offer outstanding comfort both in the front and back seats, a silky-smooth ride, excellent drivability, refinement and ample performance, and they must also serve as better status symbols than most things on four wheels. High levels of in-car technology and infotainment are a must and connectivity systems that will allow such machines to be used as mobile offices are increasingly important.
This list takes in cars that are both incredibly comfortable, great to drive and great to be driven in; and the ones at the top of our rankings are capable of more besides. Our super-luxury cars top 10, meanwhile, is where you will find the even pricier Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Mercedes-Maybachs of this world.
The 10 best luxury cars currently on sale
1. Range Rover
The latest, fifth-generation Range Rover continues where its imperious predecessor left off: at the top of the class. At a glance, the latest version doesn’t look much different to its stately forebear, but it's packed with fresh design details that mean it's much more modern but still unmistakably a Range Rover. It also retains the model’s unique blend of talents that sees it blend luxury, comfort and exclusivity with unrivalled usability and, of course, unmatched off-road ability.
Under the skin, it’s all-new, featuring Land Rover's MLA-Flex architecture, which features an 80% aluminium construction for lightness and strength (torsional rigidity is up 50% over the old car). In combination with finely honed air suspension, 48V active anti-roll bars and the availability of four-wheel steering, it means this is a Range Rover that handles with assured precision and surprising agility. It's also whisper-quiet on the move and boasts a sumptuous ride that steamrollers awkward topography into submission.
Solihull’s lately added straight-six diesel engines are carried over from the old model and with mild-hybrid assistance offer all the urge you will need and emit only a faint murmur even when extended. For fleet operators looking to keep their CEOs happy, the plug-in hybrid P400e and P510e models offer up to 70 miles of electric-only range, which makes for company car tax at a laughably low 8%. Those plutocrats more interested in performance than the fate of the planet can tick the box for a 523bhp 4.4-litre petrol V8 that will allow them to crack 62mph from standstill in a claimed 4.4sec.
Whichever model you choose, you will benefit from the same interior that effortlessly melds traditional club class quality and comfort with all the latest tech. There’s also more than enough space to lounge around, although that hasn’t stopped Land Rover from offering an extended-wheelbase version too.
Ultimately, whatever you need and want from a luxury car, the brilliantly executed Range Rover has it covered. The price of entry these days has risen to just shy of £100,000, which is rather a lot, but it's a mark of the car’s abilities that it easily justifies this figure – and more besides.
2. Mercedes-Benz S-Class
When Mercedes-Benz sets out to make a new S-Class, the brief is to make the best car in the world – simple as that. It has done on every single occasion that this defining ‘big Benz’ has been redesigned over the decades; and the last time that happened, in 2020, in a more challenging and fast-changing luxury car market than the car has ever faced, Stuttgart very likely did just the same.
This time, however, Mercedes didn’t quite hit its target right in the bullseye. What could be considered the 10th-generation S-Class risked much in a bid to level up with the digital technology of a Tesla, but to keep its recognisable high-quality feel, its opulent luxury and cabin quality and its uncompromising comfort and refinement.
It almost worked. The S-Class is still one of the most comfortable, enveloping and genteel cars in the world. But its new in-car technologies, although numerous and impressive in some ways (among them is an infotainment screen big enough to belong in the cockpit of an Airbus A380), aren’t all easy to operate. They don’t all integrate seamlessly into the car’s driving experience, and some of them feel like they’re affectations rather than enhancements.
While customers of the pricier Mercedes-Maybach S-Class get a choice of V8 and V12 powerplants, the regular limousine can be had as an S350d or S400d diesel or an S500 petrol, the latter also getting mild-hybrid assistance. The diesels are pleasingly real-world frugal and smooth, and the S400d has all the performance that a car of this brief would ever need in any case, but the S500 offers an even quicker (and yet still suitable quiet and smooth) 400bhp-plus option should you want it. There's also the plug-in petrol-electric S580e that could just offer the best of all worlds, with a combined might of 503bhp and an ability to travel up to 64 miles in electric-only mode.
The S-Class is engineered to operate quietly and comfortably at all times. On both town roads and motorways, it rides in isolated comfort and with plenty of trademark waft, although the fairly big alloy wheels of current cars make them just a little prone to thumping over raised ironwork and broken Tarmac.
Mercedes’ very latest rear-seat entertainment solutions and sleeping-seat cabin configurations will likely come to the standard S-Class later, once they’ve been rolled out on the pricier Maybach derivative. Even without those accoutrement, though, this remains a mighty luxury conveyance.
3. Audi E-tron
We’re now entering reasonably well-established times for the premium electric car. There have been fast ones, very fast ones, big ones, small ones, expensive ones and cheap ones, and some that even attempt a bit of four-wheel-drive versatility.
But never has an electric car come along and done onboard luxury better than Audi’s first stab at the zero-emissions template: the E-tron. This car combines four-wheel drive and a commanding outright performance level with SUV-typical space, convenience and usability, and also with Audi-brand desirability. But what really makes it stand out is how superbly hushed, comfortable and refined it is. When we road-tested one, our decibel placed its cabin noise level closer, at a 70mph cruise, to that of the Rolls-Royce Phantom than the Tesla Model X.
Audi-brand modern luxury comes with state-of-the-art onboard technology too, of course, while the potential for 150kW public rapid charging, combined with an everyday range of between 200 and 250 miles on a charge, also makes the E-tron a more usable electric car than some of its ilk. Right now, there's no more luxurious electric car in the world than this one.
4. Audi A8
The recently facelifted Audi A8 features some of the most advanced chassis, powertrain and in-car technology in the luxury class – including, when it’s finally switched on, what promises to be the greatest capability for autonomous driving of any production car in the world. The car represents Audi doing classic Vorsprung durch Technik in a properly committed way.
There’s a choice of turbocharged engines – a 282bhp diesel or 335bhp petrol – with four-wheel-drive as standard and a 48V electrical system that gives it mild-hybrid status. Higher up the model range, you will find the tax-saving six-cylinder petrol 60 TFSIe, whose refinement and effortless responsiveness really boost the appeal of the car's driving experience - as well as the range-topping V8-powered S8 executive express.
The A8's quality interior feels like it was built to outlast civilisation itself, although it lacks the sense of occasion of the class-leading Range Rover. The ride is smooth and the car is easy to drive, although it's not quite as pillowy and luxurious as its key German rival and not quite the Mercedes' equal in the ways that matter most.
5. Mercedes CLS
Whether Mercedes invented the modern hybrid vehicle bodystyle that, for a while, was amusingly dubbed the ‘coupoon’ (a four-door saloon crossbred with a more tapered silhouette and a swooping coupé-like roofline) or whether it was Maserati with the fifth-generation Quattroporte is a matter of contention. Either way, it’s fair to record that the original Mercedes-Benz CLS of 2004 was one of the originators of what still seems a fairly new vehicle type. Also that that vehicle type has become an important part of the modern luxury-car landscape and that Mercedes has probably done more than any other car maker to popularise it.
Now in its third model generation, the CLS has always proved significantly better than most 2+2s for practicality, hitting a high point for it with the Shooting Brake version – a favourite CLS derivative at Autocar Towers that Mercedes regrettably decided would be discontinued with the current third-generation version of the car.
The CLS has never looked better than in its first trend-setting model generation, but the slightly awkward looks of the second-generation version are now behind it, and the technology-packaged, leather-bound cabin has never been more inviting than it is today.
The engine range includes both four- and six-cylinder turbocharged petrols and a couple of six-cylinder diesels, with the four-wheel-drive CLS 53 performance hybrid having replaced the firebreathing V8-powered old CLS 63 at the top of the pile, and bringing an appealing different flavour to the AMG armoury. The chassis juggles involvement against isolation well – although bigger-rimmed versions fitted with run-flat tyres can suffer from iffy rolling refinement and are certainly worth a test drive before purchase.
The CLS doesn’t quite offer limo-like rear-seat space, but in every other respect it's a luxury car worth seriously considering.
6. BMW 7 Series
Ever since its launch in 1977, the BMW 7 Series has been in the shadow of the Mercedes S-Class, but this latest version is BMW’s most committed attempt yet to fully crack the luxury saloon market. The car combines optional adaptive air suspension with pioneering infotainment and convenience features, plus it offers a choice of two wheelbase lengths and rear or four-wheel-drive.
The interior trim conjures a sense of space, integrity and usability, although the fascia is perhaps a bit too similar to that of lesser BMW saloons and lacking in lavish material flourish. The engines are quiet, powerful and efficient, the range opening up with the familiar six-cylinder diesel, but also taking in the most BIK-tax-friendly plug-in hybrid option in the limo class in the shape of the 745e and culminating with one of only a handful of remaining 12-cylinder limo options in the M760Li, and both are impressive works of engineering. The handling is more poised and precise than rivals', although the ride isn’t quite as well isolated.
The 7 Series is an unexpectedly appealing driver’s car, then, even if it falls behind its very best rivals in ways more core to the mission and identity of the luxury car. There's an all-new model on the way at the end of the year, complete with an all-electric option for the first time.
7. BMW X7
Don’t think of the X7 as an enlarged BMW X5, says Munich, but rather a jacked-up 7 Series that has been readied for limited off-roading work. That description doesn’t much account for the fact that the X7 is a seven-seat, two-box passenger car with an extended roofline, of course, but it does tell you about the priorities that BMW’s designers and engineers had when it came to refining and tuning the car.
This SUV comes with a choice of one diesel (the 40d) and two turbo petrol engines (the entry-level 40i and range-topping M50i) in the UK. The M50d version used to offer fully 394bhp and more than 500lb ft of torque but has since been dropped, while the V8-petrol M50i winds the performance dial all the way out to 523bhp.
On the road, the X7 handles its size and bulk well, feeling surprisingly precise and athletic when cornering. Even the diesel engine is smooth and refined, developing enough torque to move the car along easily, while its ride is comfortable without running out of control. The X7 manages its mass better than big luxury SUV rivals and feels more intuitive to drive.
A slightly ordinary cabin, light on special material touches and differentiation from BMW’s lesser SUVs, and that controversial front-end styling are the biggest disappointments. With that oversized grille, some would call the X7 ugly – but few would deny its competence or its completeness as a luxury car.
8. Audi Q8
A great many modern car enthusiasts have taken against the modern luxury-car buyer's preference for the SUV, but when you drive a car like the Audi Q8, it’s easy to appreciate why they're so liked. This designer take on a Q7 has more visual presence and kerbside appeal than its dowdier, boxier relation but the same brilliantly rich, solid-feeling and inviting interior.
It offers generous space for four adults conveyed at a height that makes you feel like you’re lifted above the melee of traffic below; and enough versatility and capability to deal with whatever else your daily routine is likely to throw at you, with plenty left in reserve.
Comfort and refinement are first-class. The driving experience is light-feeling and filtered, with stable and secure handling being delivered like it might be on a less advanced four-wheel-drive estate car. And the engine range is wide. You can have six-cylinder petrol or diesel power; there’s a choice of two emissions-saving plug-in hybrid petrol engines, one with as much as 457bhp; and then there are the SQ8 and RS Q8 performance models, which allow you to mix as much urgency into the Q8’s driving experience as anyone could want.
SUV or not, the Q8 is undeniably one of the best luxury vehicles that Audi makes at the moment.
9. Lexus LS
The Lexus LS has always been a niche choice in the UK, but its success elsewhere has guaranteed this latest version a seat at the top saloon table.
The car has had a major styling overhaul and the interior feels both modern and luxurious in a likably unconventional way. There are four trim levels, the top one coming with plenty of equipment and, spec-depending, also a rare kind of material richness that few cars in the world can match.
Dynamically, the LS is less convincing as a luxury item. The 3.5-litre hybrid V6 has to work hard to cope with the car’s 2420kg weight, and while the handling is quite impressive, its noisy and slightly brusque run-flat-shod ride is quite the opposite.
Against the latest S-Class, 7 Series and A8, the LS is an interesting alternative but still not the most credible of rivals.
10. Genesis G80
Like Lexus three decades ago, Genesis is trying to break into a luxury-car market dominated by established European brands. Hyundai’s high-falutin’ spin-off brand certainly has a mountain to climb, but it has already proved a big hit in its native Korea as well as in the US, where badge-snobbery isn’t as rife as on this side of the pond.
Since arriving in Europe last year, Genesis has added numerous models (mostly SUVs, natch), but the first to his showrooms was the G80, a large saloon with the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series firmly in its sights. Large exterior dimensions and bold design help it stand out, while the spacious interior’s mix of tech and top-notch quality creates a surprisingly upmarket and sophisticated ambience.
Genesis claims that the G80’s dynamics have been tuned for Europeans tastes, and this largely stacks up. A relatively soft set-up and strong refinement mean that comfort is the order of the day, but the accurate steering and secure, predictable handling mean the rear-wheel-drive limo can be hustled when you’re in the mood, even if keen drivers will find greater rewards in the 5 Series.
If there’s a weakness, it’s the engine line-up, which comprises just a pair of four-cylinder engines: a 2.2-litre diesel and a 2.5-litre petrol. In fairness, the latter is a smooth operator and not short of easily accessible muscle, but neither can it match the cultured appeal of the six-cylinder alternatives available in rivals. That said, there is also a rather good electric version of the G80, which offers 365bhp and 323 miles of range.
The G80 still falls a little short of its European rivals in terms of driver appeal and desirability, but it’s not far off and represents a fine first attempt. If you’re looking for something a little different and prefer a soothing sybaritic approach to an overtly sporty one, it’s well worth a look.