If there’s one thing that you can rely on any kind of businessman for, it’s a nice car – they always have nice cars – but what happens when the businessman takes his suit off at the end of the day? Is a posh, German saloon really practical?
We didn’t know the answer, so we thought we’d take a look. We’ve picked out three of the most popular saloons on the market at the moment – going by sales and offers on the popular car leasing websites – and we’ll be assessing the drive, comfort and space that each model boasts.
In our mix we have the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes C-Class and the Audi A4, and because it’s sensible to go in alphabetical order, we’ll be starting with the Audi.
The A4 is Audi’s best-selling model for a reason – because it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s an executive car that’s not too big and bulky, but still manages to equal the toughness of rivals. With a number of trims available on the last model, there’s a good chance they’ll make a return with the new A4 too, which means you’ll have a car that’s equipped to the level that’s right for you.
Style-wise, you’ve got a typically conservative executive car with the A4; it’s not a car that anyone’s going to be offended by, but this doesn’t mean it’s not super stylish. Despite being conservative, it still carries the aggressive face of other, sportier Audis, so you’ll certainly have the edge on the road.
In terms of drive, the Audi gives its rivals some great competition, the drive is direct- sports mode succeeds in creating an even sharper drive – and the noise in the cabin has been considerably reduced compared to the previous model.
As usual there’s a range of engines to choose from but it’s likely to be the 2.0 litre diesel that’s the best-seller. This one’s available with 148 or 187bhp – there’s also a cracking 3.0 litre, 215bhp diesel engine going too!
There’s a lot of stigma attached to these kinds of executive cars and to the people that drive them, one of the most common beliefs being that they’re not practical, when this isn’t the case at all. The A4 is extremely spacious compared to its closest rivals with generous headroom, legroom and a more than spacious boot of 505 litres standard, or 1,510 litres with the back seats folded – there’s no way anyone can argue impracticality here.
In terms of running costs, CO2 emissions on the 2.0 and 3.0 litre diesels are under 100g/km, and even on the most powerful 3.0 litre V6 268bhp, diesel engine, they’re only 129g/km. You can also expect as much as 45.6mpg combined on the saloon.
BMW 3 Series
The BMW 3 Series has been around for more than 40 years and it’s been a favourite ever since its introduction. The most recent model is a mere facelift of the 2012 release and went on sale in the UK earlier in 2015, and was unsurprisingly a class winner yet again. However, the latest models of the A4 and the C-Class – the 3 Series’ closest rivals – have certainly upped their game in their latest editions.
As you’d expect from any kind of executive car, the 3 Series is extremely well equipped, with built in sat nav, DAB radio, cruise control, rear parking distance control, Bluetooth mobile preparation with audio streaming and dual zone automatic air conditioning, available on certain models.
In terms of style, it’s as good as it’s ever been which is why BMW didn’t really mess with the look of the 3 Series for the revamp of the latest model. The only thing that’s different is the sporty take on the traditional saloon and day-time running lights that now come as standard on all new car models.
The changes inside have been kept to a minimum too which has ensured the cabin’s kept its minimalist style. You’ll find a wraparound dashboard with just a few buttons and a clear and simple display on a large central screen. In the cabin, there are no complaints from us, it’s solid, classy and quality – you really couldn’t ask for anything more.
Moving on to practicality, the 3 Series isn’t quite as roomy as the Audi A4, but it’s certainly upped its game and is now 50mm longer, giving taller passengers plenty of added legroom. The boot isn’t too far off that of the A4 – not enough for you to really notice anyway – at 480 litres.
It’s not only the A4 that’s doing well on emissions, the 3 Series is well up there too with the four-cylinder diesel engines emitting less than 120g/km of CO2, and the 320d EfficientDynamics model just under the 100g/km threshold – it also produces a cracking 74.3mpg in the automatic versions – costs are certainly kept to a minimum.
Finally we reach the Mercedes C-Class, a car that’s now posher than it’s ever been before and, just like the A4 is looking like it could topple the BMW 3 Series from the top spot, for the first time ever.
The new model is slightly more expensive than the previous and also a little more expensive than rivals, with prices starting at just under £27,000, but this shouldn’t put you off.
Trim-wise, you have a choice between a C220 or C250 BlueTEC diesel, along with a C200 petrol. At the top of the range you also have the AMG C63 and, in 2016, there’ll be the introduction of the four-wheel-drive AMG C450 as well.
We all know that looks count for a lot in an office car park so the styling on these cars is extremely important, Mercedes have certainly got it going on with the latest C-Class after taking inspiration from their S-Class limousine.
With neat lines, swept-back headlights and perfectly sculpted side panels, the C-Class has a kerb appeal that blows most cars out of the water – the only two that are really close to it are the A4 and the 3 Series.
In terms of drive, the C-Class has Mercedes’ new rear-wheel-drive architecture, which reduces the bodyweight by around 70kg. This, along with other changes has meant the new model C-Class weighs around 100kg less than the previous, considerably improving the overall driving experience. The steering on the C-Class is direct and it’s quick to respond – you can’t really ask for anything else on the road.
Finally, we move on to the all-important practicality of the C-Class. The new model is longer and wider than before, and that can only be a good thing. There’s plenty of storage space throughout the cabin for the usual accumulation of clutter, and the boot is an impressive 480 litres as standard, equalling that of the 3 Series.
With all this in mind, there’s really no way it can be argued that the modern day executive car isn’t practical. They’re built with comfort in mind and have the space for a good amount of luggage even when the car is full.
Although the impracticality may have been a valid argument in the past, it’s one that, in our opinion, certainly doesn’t stand today.