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The BMW 5 Series was the first model to feature the controversial ‘flake’ design which divided opinion. We’ve always been fans, though, so we were eager to see if the latest design would hit the spot as well. We think BMW has got it right again with a dynamic and thoroughly contemporary design that keeps the 5 bang up to date.
The new 5 Series comes with a range of EfficientDynamics technologies. It has Auto Start-Stop, optimal gearshift indicator, Brake Energy Regeneration, Active Aerodynamics and low rolling resistance tires. Additionally, a state-of-the-art 8-speed automatic transmission with a longer final drive ratio to reduce engine revs at highway speeds helping to achieve great fuel consumption.
In the handling stakes BMW has retained the trademark 50:50 weight distribution, which together with the front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, makes the 5 Series more nimble than rivals. There’s also no reason to expect anything other than the excellent build quality we’re used to.
The latest 5 Series is more evolutionary than revolutionary, but when you start so close to perfection, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The 520d ED delivers strong real-world performance while achieving fuel economy that puts many city cars to shame. With an excellent blend of quality, style, performance and driving fun, it remains our favorite executive car.
It wasn’t long ago that Mercedes tried to enter this guide, but with a new range of super high-tech engines that is about to change. Mercedes may have been the slowest of the German manufacturers to bring fuel-efficient models to market, but the results are impressive.
Gone are the days when you could tell how big a Mercedes engine was just by looking at the badge. As an example, both the E200d and E220d share the same 2.0 liter engine. They even have the same compression ratio (an impressively high 15.5:1 since you ask) so the difference in power has more to do with engine management than old school engineering.
Each engine is more than up to the task of providing good pace and given that they achieve the same official fuel consumption, the choice is likely to come down to budget. It’s worth noting that you should stick to the standard 17-inch wheels to get the best efficiency with larger rims, resulting in a hefty penalty (up to 10gCO2/km).
To keep the E-Class ahead of the competition, the standard-fit automatic gearbox now has 9 ratios, which goes some way to explaining the excellent official fuel consumption figures. Left to its own devices, it’ll mix at the highest possible speed, but you can take control of things if you want to get going, thanks to ‘Dynamic Select’ which offers ECO, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and a blend setting and matches.
The latest E-Class takes the best aspects of the previous model, but adds the latest engines and a contemporary interior to keep it fresh. The executive Mercedes has always lagged behind the 5 Series and XF in the driving stakes, but now it’s closer than ever which means it’s no longer a default option. Which one you choose will come down to personal taste as they all represent executive saloons at the top of their game.
Jaguar’s renaissance has been one of the most surprising stories of recent years. In 2008 Tata bought the brand from Ford, who never quite figured out what to do with Jag, and made two very important decisions; Jaguar needed investment and Tata put a lot of money on the table, but it didn’t need management intervention.
The XF is the latest confirmation that Tata was absolutely right. Jaguar never forgot how to build contemporary executive saloons, it just wasn’t allowed. The XF takes the fight to the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class and is all the better for it.
Jaguar has invested heavily in integrating aluminum into its production models with fantastic results. The latest XF is significantly lighter than the competition and is only 4% heavier than the smaller XE. Such a radical weight loss diet is fine by us as it benefits fuel consumption, handling and performance.
Alongside advanced build materials, the XF also boasts an all-new ‘Ingenium’ engine which finally provides Jaguar with a world-class diesel engine. It also contributes to weight loss thanks to even more aluminum and its compact size. At the same time, it is capable of producing impressive power and torque figures that imbue the Jag with excellent performance.
There’s never been much wrong with the way the XF drives or looks, but it’s never had a truly efficient engine. With that issue now firmly addressed, the combination of excellent official fuel economy, engaging dynamics, impressively low weight and sleek looks make for a compelling proposition.
The Lexus GS has graced the pages of the Green Car Guide for a number of years, but thanks to its performance hybrid approach Lexus has never really explored the system’s fuel consumption potential, preferring to compare fuel economy against petrol rivals and return the fuse up. than chasing oil numbers and diluting performance. That’s how it is so far.
The 300h was clearly designed to take on diesel rivals with fuel economy, performance and price, all while mimicking the first German offerings. Lexus has long claimed that its petrol/electric hybrid system can do anything a diesel can, and the repost is ‘proven’. It seems worth being careful what you wish for, as on paper the 300h is up to the task and surprisingly that includes the list price.
To extract better fuel economy, there have been some major mechanical changes. Out goes the 3.5 liter petrol engine and in comes a 2.5 direct injection unit producing a limited 178bhp. This is complemented by a deregulated electric motor which produces an additional 140 hp providing a very favorable total system power of 220 hp. Drive is still transmitted to the rear wheels via a CVT gearbox, which is as ever excellent for fuel economy and frustrating if you’re pushing it.
So the Lexus may beat its diesel rivals for outright grunt, but what about torque? The petrol engine can’t come close, with 163lb ft at a lofty 4200 – 5400rpm, it won’t see how the competition fared. But as always with hybrids, that’s only half the story. The electric motor comes to the rescue once again, with a useful 221lb ft available from work, it fills the gaps superbly and keeps the GS 300h in contention.
The GS remains superbly complete and is probably better suited to the lower output system as it is competent to drive rather than razor sharp. The 300h is no more expensive than its diesel rivals, has competitive fuel economy and, thanks to petrol emitting less CO2 than diesel, falls into VED band B and attracts significantly lower company car tax. It also has the advantage of not emitting PM and very little NOx which diesel rivals have to resort to after expensive exhaust treatment. The GS still isn’t perfect, but the 300h is a good enough package to make you think twice before ordering a diesel rival. Looks like Lexus wasn’t kidding after all, petrol hybrids really can take on diesels at their own game.
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