Wednesday 17 October 2018

Executive decisions

 

Alfa Romeo Giulia
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Jaguar XF
Lexus LS
VW Arteon
Lexus GS
Ford Mondeo
Toyota Prius PHEV
Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Honda Civic
Hyundai i40
Volvo S90
Skoda Superb
Mercedes-Benz CLS
Audi A7
BMW 5 Series
Geraldine Herbert with the DS5, which is packed with French flair and aviation-style ergonomics Picture: Kyran O’Brien
Tesla Model S
BMW 7 Series
Geraldine Herbert

Geraldine Herbert

What's the best executive/family car for you? Our complete guide will help you to make the right choice

Alfa Romeo Giulia

The Alfa Romeo Giulia was finally the model to exceed all expectations and should have been the car to beat the Germans at their own game. Stunning to look at, the interior never lives up to the stylishness of the exterior and it seems to be a bit out of breath with the effort. Engine options include a raucous 2.2 diesel (150hp, 180hp) or a 2.0 petrol (200hp). The flagship four-door performance Quadrifoglio powered by a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 has enough horsepower to get you to the moon and is scintillating to drive but priced at just under €100,0000, it is not particularly mass-market. In terms of fuel economy the diesel engine returns 4.2 litres per 100km with 109g/km of CO2, while the petrol achieves 6.0 litres with CO2 of 138g/km.

Prices range from €39,995 - €99,945

Audi A3

This is Audi's take on the compact executive saloon and they have transformed the hugely popular A3 hatchback in to a very stylish saloon. Compact it may be, but the A3 Saloon is only a mere 24cm shorter than an A4 saloon and is ideally suited for anyone looking for a little more space and practicality than the A3 Sportback offers. The A3 saloon looks great, drives beautifully and has one of the most refined and elegant cabins around. All combine to give this saloon some serious showroom appeal. In terms of engine, there is a choice between two petrol (1.0-litre 116hp and 1.5-litre 150hp and two diesel options: 1.6-litre 116hp and 2.0-litre 150hp). The diesels promise efficiency of 3.9 litres per 100km and CO2 from 102g/km while petrol returns 4.5 litres and 105g/km. The A3 saloon is a seriously stylish machine.

Prices range from €30,210 - €41,260

Audi A4

The fifth-generation A4 may bear more than a passing resemblance to the model it replaces and you will spend some time trying to work out what had been nipped and what had been tucked but what is new is the engine line-up and chassis. Six engine variants underpin the range: two petrol (1.4-litre 150hp, 2.0-litre 190hp) and four diesels (2.0-litre 122hp, 150hp, 190hp) and 3.0-litre (218hp). Thanks to a weight reduction of 120kg, Audi claims fuel consumption has been reduced by up to 21pc. Petrols promise fuel consumption from 5.1 litres per 100km but the more frugal diesel can achieve as low as 3.8 litres. On the road, the A4 is smooth and refined, while it is not quite as engaging as some rivals. The interior is best in class and oozes quality.

Prices range from €36,780 - €59,170

Audi A6

Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, there is an all-new Audi A6 on the way that will be on sale in Ireland this summer. In the meantime, however, the current model is still well worth considering and is likely to be available at an even better price with a new one looming. Inside it is beginning to show its age and its rivals are sportier to drive, but the A6 remains a great all-round package that is economical and stylish. Powering the range is a petrol (1.8-litre 190hp) and diesels (2.0-litre 150hp, 190hp), 3.0-litre (218hp, 272hp, 320hp, 326hp). Official fuel figures give an economy figure on the diesel from 4.4 litres per 100km with CO2 of 110g/km and the petrol engines return a reasonable 5.9 litres and 133g/km of CO2.

Prices range from €46,160 - €87,250

Audi A7

If the first-generation Audi A7 was the very epitome of elegance, the second generation is a technological tour de force built around precision engineering. It's the kind of car people will congratulate you for buying and other drivers will wind down their windows to further compliment you with something along the same lines. Inside it is just as lavish and three screens - a 12.3-inch TFT display for the instrument cluster, a 10.1-inch display higher up in the centre console and an 8.6-inch unit in the lower dash - control all functions and removes the need for any button. A 3.0-litre diesel engine (282hp) is offered with hybrid technology. On the road it's all about comfort, practicality and driving ease. But none of this comes cheap and by adding a few additional packs you could manage to inflate the value of any A7 to in excess of €100k.

Prices range from €78,150 - €82,650

Audi A8

Ireland's first level-three autonomous car arrived with the launch of the Audi A8. Brimming with technology, highlights of the new car include cutting-edge design, adaptive air suspension and an innovative touchscreen operating concept. The A8 is also the first Audi model to offer a mild hybrid engine technology as standard. A plug-in hybrid will join the range later and will be capable of driving more than 50km in electric mode only. Powering the range is a 3.0-litre diesel (286hp) and 3.0-litre petrol (340hp). An eight-cylinder version - a 4.0 TDI with 435hp - is available.

Priced at just under €100k, the A8 is beyond the reach of most but for those who can afford it, the car is loaded with just about every goody and gadget to almost justify the price tag.

Prices range from €99,950 - €122,740

BMW 3 Series

The 3 Series has always enjoyed an army of devoted fans in search of the ultimate driving experience. In the face of ferocious competition from the Jaguar XE and the revamped Audi A4, BMW's timely facelift of the 3 introduced new engines and a few subtle exterior tweaks to the lights and bumpers. The interior was also refreshed and it all feels a little better quality than before. Inside, there's more legroom than in previous models, particularly in the rear and boot size at 480 litres is reasonably good. Several engines are available, including higher-powered petrols that are designed to appeal to performance-orientated buyers and diesel for high-mileage ones. You can also opt for xDrive four-wheel drive or the petrol-electric hybrid BMW 330e that goes from 0-100 in 6. 1 seconds and on a combined cycle has a claimed average of 1.9 litres per 100kms. The BMW 3 Series is fast, nimble and the handling is as good as ever.

Prices range from €35,810 (includes 9% discount)

BMW 5 Series

Since the polarizing Chris Bangle designs of the Noughties, BMW designers have maintained a strong visual link between the past and present 5 Series and differences between the all new version and previous generation are minor. The latest 5 Series is probably the most restrained offering to date and looks more like a shrunken 7. Inside it is packed with high-tech features including the new iDrive infotainment with optional gesture control for key functions such as navigation, telephone, entertainment features and vehicle functions. There is a good mix of diesel and petrol options and all offer greater fuel efficiency with lower emissions. There is also the option of a hybrid BMW 530e iPerformance Saloon. And for extra reassurance the 20d, 30d and 40i can be specified with BMW's xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive system. The 5 Series is still the best ambassador for the brand and can be placed at the very top of this market segment.

Prices range from: €48,750 (includes 9% discount)

BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe

BMW's stunning 6 Series Gran Coupe is like a cross between a saloon and a coupe and is essentially a more practical version of the two-door 6 Series it is based on. Designed to rival the Audi A7 and Mercedes S-Class Coupe, inside it is beautifully put together with all of the technology and luxury expected from a car with a price tag in the region of €100K. On the road it's hard to disguise its sheer size but it is quiet and refined with plenty of punch. Engine options include two petrols (320hp, 450hp) with fuel consumption from 7.7 litres per 100km and 176g/km of CO2 and a more frugal diesel (313hp) that promises to return 5.6 litres with CO2 of 143g/km. Smooth, sophisticated, smart ... the Gran Coupe is a sumptuous indulgence.

Prices range from: €90,780 (includes 9% discount)

BMW 7 Series

The 7 Series is a serious car, a statement car and a seriously sophisticated piece of machinery. It comes with high-tech goodies including inbuilt Wi-Fi, laser lights, night vision, gesture control and ambient air: you can even park the car remotely using the key. Encasing all this technology is a much more sharp and taut exterior than before. Like its predecessor, the new BMW 7 Series is offered in two body variants. Despite a good range of powertrains, the chances are high that if you are going to buy a 7 Series you will opt for the 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel with auto transmission. This engine produces 262hp and accelerates from 0-100kph in just 6.2 seconds with a top speed of 250kph and boasts fuel economy of 5 litres per 100 km and CO2 emissions of 132g/km. It comes with a slick eight-speed automatic gearbox and with several drive modes - Eco, Comfort and Sport among them. There are also two new plug-in hybrid models: the BMW 740e, and the BMW 740Le xDrive.

Prices range from: €83,670 (includes 9% discount)

DS5

The DS5 has shed its iconic chevrons and was the first to be launched by the all-new DS brand. Now with a more comfortable ride and improved road manners, there's a lot to like about this new DS5. Inside, the interior remains inspired by the world of aviation and surrounds you in a cockpit-style interior of pure luxury. There is an abundance of light and the seating position is comfortable but the controls are fiddly to use and not the most intuitive; there is also a lack of storage space throughout. There are three diesel engines , 1.6-litre (120hp) and 2.0-litre (150hp, 180hp) promising fuel efficiency from 4 litres per 100km and 104 g/km of CO2. The DS5 nods back to the days when Citroëns were about innovation, brave style and futuristic design. It is a beautiful, executive blend of estate, coupe and MPV but it would be a brave buyer that will opt for it over the competition.

Prices range from: €36,495 - €43,495

Ford Mondeo

The Mondeo is a sleek looking car and sports an Aston Martin-like front grille. Inside it is stylish, but the quality throughout could be a little better. Engine choice includes a 1.6 or 2.0-litre diesel and the powerful 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol. A hybrid version of the Mondeo has just gone on sale in Ireland. It is available with a 2.0-litre 187hp automatic transmission petrol engine in either the Titanium or Vignale series. The Titanium models start at €32,745 while the Vignale is from €35,280. The Vignale spec is Ford's premium tier, aimed at buyers who might otherwise migrate towards Mercedes, BMW and Audi and comes fully loaded with premium hand-stitched leather seats, SYNC2 with 8in touchscreen, active noise control, 19in alloys and 10-way power seats but it is hard to justify the premium price over the top-of-the-range Titanium equivalent on the standard Mondeo. Overall the Mondeo is a good blend of comfort and performance.

Price ranges from €28,845 - €50,480

Honda Civic saloon

An all new four-door Honda Civic saloon will be available in Ireland from late July 2018 with a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine in both CVT and manual transmission and in a comprehensively revised 1.6-litre diesel engine also available in both nine-speed automatic and manual transmission. The sharp, interesting and certainly dynamic styling of the hatchback is not to everyone's taste and for many it may just be a crease too far but the saloon, while modern, is a more muted version. Prices and specifications will be announced closer to the launch date.

Hyundai i40

The i40 is without doubt the most stylish car in the Hyundai range. Inside, it is very spacious with plenty of room for four or five adults and 525 litres of space. There is no scrimping on equipment: the standard spec includes leather steering wheel, electric lumbar support, bluetooth with voice recognition and auto cruise control with speed limiter. On the road it is smooth and comfortable, powered by a 1.7-litre turbo diesel engine with a choice of automatic or six-speed manual transmission.

Prices range from €26,495 - €35,245

Jaguar XE

Launched in 2015, the XE was designed to fill a gap in the Jaguar range left since the demise of the X-type some years before. The signature honeycomb grille, distinctive air vents and clean, smooth lines add to the aggressive and sporty stance, while the rear light cluster pays homage to the iconic Jaguar E-type.

Inside, it is smart and uncluttered, blending old-world with new technology. Space in the front is good but headroom is a little tight and head and knee room are not overly generous for back-seat passengers. Engines include a range of petrol (200hp, 250hp, 300hp, 350hp) and diesel options (163hp, 180hp, 240hp). Fuel efficiency is not as close to the official figure of 4.4 litres per 100km as we would like, the engine is noisy and it's not quite as practical as some rivals but despite this Jaguar's XE is a serious sports car with sharp steering and great driving dynamics.

Prices range from: €41,160 - €78,705.

Jaguar XF 

Sporting the now familiar Jaguar-style grille with a very distinctive coupe-like profile, the new XF weighs 190kg less than before so offers better fuel economy and improved handling. There is also very clever use of space and the boot, at 540 litres, is a reasonable size. Engine options include the 163hp and 180hp versions of the company's 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel and petrol (200hp, 250hp, 300hp, 380hp). The Jaguar XF is a very tempting car; it's sufficiently comfortable for those who like a cosseted drive but fast enough for those who yearn for a more sporty option.

Prices range from €45,995 - €93,640

Kia Optima

The Optima is a huge improvement on the previous model and brings Kia's saloon up to par with the rest of their range. Inside it is very roomy and the quality is good throughout. Powered by Kia's reliable 1.7-litre turbo diesel (141hp) there are three trim levels - EX, Platinum and GSE - and a choice between a six-speed manual and a seven-speed automatic gearbox. On the motorway it is refined and cruises comfortably and quietly. Kia's Optima is distinctively styled, spacious, well equipped and is a very well priced alternative in the demanding compact executive class.

Prices range from: €28,251 - €35,949

Lexus IS

Radically styled inside and out, the exterior won't be to everyone's taste but it is certainly striking. Inside the cabin is beautifully made, while on the road it is light and nimble to manoeuvre and around corners it's surprisingly sporty. At speed the IS 300h feels very assured and the steering is nicely weighted. Switch it to Sport mode and the suspension is firm but not harsh and overall it is very engaging to drive. As a hybrid you can do most of your local journeys in a fashion that's uber-green and ultra-cheap. CO2 emissions are just 97g/km and official fuel economy figures promise 4.2 litres per 100km.

The only real downside to this car is the very unappealing CVT gearbox but if you get past that, the IS300h is an interesting alternative to the Teutonic trio.

Prices range from €40,950 - €50,750

Lexus GS

With hints of the LFA supercar, the flared wheel arches, sharp design and spindly shaped grille of the Lexus GS combine to give it a dynamic and modern look. Behind the wheel it's a feast of technology with brightly lit gauges and switches. The driving position is excellent and it is supremely comfortable. Despite its weight, the handling is sharp and responsive but the steering is a little too numb for our tastes. Engine options include a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine combined with an electric motor that promised 4.5 litres per 100km and CO2 of just 106 g/km, and is the one to opt for. There is also a 3.5-litre V6 on offer in the 450h model. With muscular styling, the Lexus GS range combines advanced technology and driving dynamics with luxury guilt-free performance.

Prices range from €54,450 - €88,550

Lexus LS

The flagship saloon in the Lexus range arrived in January. The fifth-generation Lexus LS features a radical new design with a coupe-style silhouette and is a vast and luxurious car, so much so that as you pull majestically out of your driveway it will take at least a couple of seconds before the entire car is on route. Competing with rivals including the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the LS is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 petrol (299hp), a lithium-ion battery pack and two electric motors. The combined output is 359hp, allowing it sprint from 0-100kph in an impressive 5.5 seconds. Lexus is offering four trim levels on its luxury saloon: Executive, Luxury, F SPORT and Premium.

Prices range from €112,750 to €148,750

Maserati Ghibli

With smouldering Italian good looks, the Ghibli takes its design cues from its larger sibling the Quattroporte, but the coupe-like silhouette has a more aggressive stance. Interestingly this is the third time Maserati have launched a Ghibli. It began life as a 1970s saloon and two decades later a coupé. But beneath this stunning exterior is a cabin that blends Italian styling chic with genuine space for four, and a generous 500-litre boot that can be expanded with folding rear seats. Behind the wheel, feast your eyes on the sculpted dashboard, exquisite detailing and chrome-trimmed instrumentation, while glove-soft leather drapes everything else. For 2018 Maserati restyled the Ghibli and changes include new headlights, grille, and front and rear fascias and added two new distinctive trims, GranLusso and GranSport.

Prices start from €79,995

Mazda 6

Easily one of the best looking cars in its class, since its launch Mazda have continually updated and refreshed the range and this year it will once again be modestly revamped. Changes include a new mesh grille and chrome detailing around the car's fresh LED headlights. Inside there's a new seat design and altered dashboard, while the petrol engines have had their performance and efficiency enhanced. Buyers can choose between a 2.0-litre petrol (145hp) and a 2.2 diesel (150hp and 175hp) in both manual and automatic. CO2 emissions on the petrol are 129g/km, with average fuel consumption of 5.5 litres per 100km, while 4.1 litres is achieved on the diesel and CO2 is just 107g/km. Mazda has blended core saloon must haves such as space, comfort and fuel efficiency with their zoom zoom DNA to create an excellent all round car.

Prices range from €29,995 - €38,695

Mercedes- Benz C-Class

From whichever angle you view it, the C-Class is a very chic car. All the familiar Mercedes design cues are present and this baby saloon of the family is like a miniature S-Class. Like a day at an exclusive spa, the C-Class is the perfect place to escape the daily grind. Inside it has everything you would expect from a Mercedes: stylish and modern, the dials are clear and elegant and the seats are incredibly comfortable. Soft leather and leather-effect material drapes everything else. It is also bigger than the previous model with plenty of space, front and back.

Irish buyers get a host of diesel and petrol options, including the C350e hybrid. On the road there isn't so much as a whisper of road noise inside and it is smooth with plenty of oomph for effortless overtaking. A facelifted C-Class is expected in Ireland this summer.

Prices range from €37,570 - €53,855

Mercedes- Benz CLS

Mercedes' CLS promises the elegance and dynamism of a coupé with the comfort and functionality of a saloon. The new third-generation model will arrive in Ireland this summer and will be produced as a saloon only, putting an end to the CLS Shooting Brake estate introduced in 2012. Longer, wider and taller than the car it replaces, inside it now accommodates the family with seating for five and allows for a reasonable 520-litre luggage compartment. Sharing features in common with the S-Class, the new CLS comes with all of the latest generation touchscreen infotainment, safety and driver-assistance systems. Under the bonnet is a completely new engine line-up that will comprises six-cylinder, in-line diesel and petrol options with 4MATIC models. Prices will be announced closer to the launch.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The 10th-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a giant step forward. It now has a more coupé-like roofline with an S-Class-like sophistication and elegance. Combining practicality with good looks, there is also an extra 65mm in the wheelbase, which means improved legroom front and back. Under the bonnet is where the greatest changes have occurred and the E-Class is the first to benefit from the new 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel that replaces the 2.2-litre. It delivers a 17pc weight reduction, lower fuel consumption (3.9 litres/100km combined), lower C02 (102g/km), increased power (194hp), 400Nm of torque and lower road tax (€190). Petrol options include a 350e hybrid. The new generation E-Class is refined, efficient and very classy.

Prices range from €48,200 - €71.880

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Mercedes' largest saloon has been the traditional flag-bearer for the brand

However, can a luxurious saloon still outrank everything else as lavishly appointed SUVs compete for the top spot? For 2018 Mercedes-Benz have refreshed it and upgraded it with more equipment and even more technology, including Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Lane Change Assist and Remote Parking Assist with a new range of more efficient petrol and diesel engines. BMW's 7 Series is a more engaging car to drive but nothing comes close to the ride quality and comfort of the S-Class. Regardless of the competition, the S-Class is still the car that defines the luxury sector and is the benchmark by which all rivals will be judged.

Prices range from €90,880 - €152,885

Mitsubishi Lancer

Not the most exiting car in the Mitsubishi range, the Lancer is safe and solid on the road with plenty of room for up to five people and a good-sized boot. It is well equipped and comes with a decent spec including 16in alloys, front fog lights, led daytime running lights, Bluetooth hands-free system with voice and steering wheel controls, remote central locking and keyless entry system. Just one engine is offered, a 1.6-litre petrol, with 132g/km and a fuel consumption figure of just 5.7l/100km. Overall there is little wrong with the Lancer but its best days are well and truly behind it.

Price from €20,495

Opel Insignia Grand Sport

Keen to reinvent its popular but ageing Insignia, Opel have rebranded the new version the Insignia Grand Sport and it now comes with more space, a sophisticated interior and sleek new design. Climb inside and the changes are instantly noticeable: the new model is bigger, longer and wider and feels so much more spacious and airy. Engine options include a new 1.5-litre petrol engine with 140hp or 163hp, a 1.6-litre diesel with either 110hp or 136hp and a 2.0-litre diesel 170hp and turbo petrol 260hp. Fuel economy is as low as 5.9l/100km for the petrol range and 4l/100km for the diesel. The new Insignia is available with an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission, torque vectoring and all-wheel-drive. On the road, it's a refined drive, smooth and quiet.

Prices range from €27,600 - €38,295

Peugeot 508

Refreshed in 2015, Peugeot's 508 is an elegant, economical and practical family saloon. Well equipped even at entry level, a special-order GT model is available. All 508s manage to offer a nice fusion of good comfort and an involving drive; it is beautifully smooth and ideal for long journeys. There is a 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre diesel available and all options are very economical. You wouldn't call it agile on winding country lanes, but it is by no means tiring to drive and it's nimble enough and easy to manoeuvre so that city driving and parking is a doddle. The 508 has a sufficient dash of French chic to make it stand out from the crowd. A new 508 is due later in the year.

Prices range from €28,435 - €41,560

Renault Megane

The four-door Megane features a saloon body with touches of coupé styling and a panoramic glass roof linking the windscreen to the rear window, adding a sufficient dash of French style and sophistication. Inside, Renault plans to woo buyers from the Toyota Corolla and Skoda Octavia market with a spacious interior and a healthy 550-litre boot. The cabin is similar to that of the hatchback and shares features such as the seven-inch colour instrument panel and an 8.7-inch multimedia tablet. Two diesel engines are offered: the dCi 110, available with a six-speed manual gearbox or the six-speed automatic gearbox; and the dCi 130, available with a six-speed manual gearbox. Fuel economy is a very frugal 3.7l/100 km with just 95g/km of CO2. On the road the Megane is smooth and quiet.

As you would expect from Renault, it's very safe and shares the same range of active driving aids as the rest of the Megane family; once you get anywhere near another car, it will bleep you into submission.

Prices range from €22,490 - €28,990

Skoda Rapid

Sitting between the Fabia supermini and Octavia, the Skoda Rapid is a pared-down approach to motoring that will appeal to anyone in need of oodles of space and reliability with a price tag that won't break the bank. The Rapid is available with three different specifications: Active, Ambition and Elegance. There are also manual and automatic transmission options and three engines to choose from: a diesel 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre or a 1.0-litre petrol. The Rapid is roomy, practical, and good to drive. It would make a super family or executive car with sufficient space to accommodate everything from golf clubs to double buggies. It may not be brimming with character but it delivers quality and value for money at a price that's hard to beat.

Prices range from €19,250 €26,350

Skoda Octavia

Bigger than the Ford Focus but smaller than the Mondeo, the new Octavia is longer, wider and far more stylish both inside and out.   With slick, clean lines, the new model is bigger and classier than the previous model but, crucially, it is lighter, which means better fuel economy and lower emissions. Inside, it is the space that really sets the Octavia apart from rivals and the boot measures a whopping 590 litres, which is larger than the Ford Mondeo, VW's Passat and the Toyota Avensis. Offered with both manual and automatic transmission options and five engine alternatives, all engines come with stop-start technology that significantly increases overall fuel economy and include a 2.0-litre and 1.6-litre diesel and a 1.0, 1.2 and 2.0-litre petrol models. The new Skoda Octavia is elegant on the outside and cavernous on the inside. On top of all that, it is good to drive. With a host of different versions to choose from, there's bound to be one for you.

Prices range from €19,965 - €42,515

Skoda Superb

Skoda's flagship model lives up to its name supremely. The current model arrived in 2015. Inside, high-quality materials are used throughout but it is the rear leg room where the Superb really shines - there's plenty of space for two tall adults to stretch out and the boot is huge - in fact it's nearly easier to climb in rather than reaching to retrieve items from the cavernous space. There is a good engine range to choose from and all are efficient. In diesel you can opt for a 1.6-litre (120hp) or a 2.0-litre (150hp, 190hp) while petrol options include a 1.4 (125hp, 150hp) or a 2.0-litre with 280hp and an optional seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Skoda's Superb is pretty unbeatable. While is not as cheap as it once was, it is still excellent value when you consider the space, equipment and running costs.

Prices range from €28,150 - €51,050

Tesla Model S

THE Model S Tesla's flagship saloon is bigger than a BMW 5 Series but smaller than a 7. It's also got the option of seven seats, so it is unlike anything else in this market. Stylish and uncluttered, a large touch screen in the centre console allows you to control virtually everything from the sat-nav to the steering feel and suspension.  There is plenty of space for luggage too, as you get two boots - one in the front plus the main one at the back. The lack of storage and cubby holes inside the cabin is a little disappointing though, and you will be scrambling to find places for keys, water bottles etc. There is a 75d with a range of 490km, a 100d with 632km and the P100d with 613km range.

Despite a hefty weight, the road handling is impressive and it is comfortable and refined. It feels very 'normal', so it's easy to forget about that intoxicating power that can be unleashed at any time. The top-of-the-range P100D, in "ludicrous mode" will zip from zero to 100km/h in 2.8 seconds, so it will keep up with a Lamborghini Huracan and a McLaren 650S and only the Koenigsegg One and the Bugatti Veyron are faster. Behind the wheel it feels even quicker than the figures suggest, as it is pure straightline acceleration. The only disappointing aspect about the drive is the steering could be a little more involving.

Prices range from €87,900 - €152,150

Toyota Corolla

THE Corolla has been a huge success story for Toyota, with more than 40 million sold. As a nameplate it may have disappeared from a host of countries but Toyota currently operates 16 factories worldwide that supply Corollas to 154 countries. And despite increased competition, it remains a firm favourite amongst Irish car buyers. Few cars have had an appeal as enduring as Toyota's best-seller, and more than 200,000 Corollas have found homes in Ireland - 50,000 of those in the last decade. Three engines are on offer: two petrol (1.3 and 1.6-litre ) and one diesel (1.4-litre) but bear in mind Toyota is due to end production of diesel versions of its passenger cars sold this year. This practical, fuel-efficient saloon has all the virtues that car buyers seek, backed by its strong reliability track record.

Prices range from €22,250 - €27,250

Toyota Avensis

TOYOTA'S long serving Avensis is practical, safe and reliable and will accommodate five adults easily and comfortably. Originally introduced in 2009, it was significantly refreshed in 2015 and gained some subtle improvements to the exterior and two new BMW-sourced 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engines were introduced to the range. Fuel economy of 4.2l/100km and emissions of 108g/km on the 1.6 diesel is good and a stop-start system is standard on all diesel engines. The line-up also includes one 1.8-litre petrol option. The diesel option will no longer be available next year sparking rumours that it could be the end of the Avensis. Three trims are available - Aura, Luna and Sol - and every model has decent equipment. Both front and rear suspension systems features significant improvements to enhance both ride comfort and handling performance, while steering feel and responsiveness have also been improved. Well equipped, spacious and keenly priced, the Avensis may still not be the most thrilling car on the road but it offers quality and reliability that is hard to beat.

Price range from €29,930 - €36,255

Toyota Prius/ Prius Phev

There are few cars that can be considered truly game-changing, but the Toyota Prius is one. Now in its fourth generation, the Prius is lighter, stronger and more dynamic than the car it replaces. While still the familiar Prius, the new car gets distinctive styling, is now longer and wider and overall a much smarter looking vehicle. Inside, the cabin is more upmarket with a modern, almost space-age feel. The new Prius is even greener than before, and the 1.8 petrol engine has been tweaked and Toyota reckon you will get 94.1mpg (3l/100km) and it emits just 70g/km of CO2 emissions, so road tax is €170. Powering the plug-in version is the same 1.8-litre petrol engine from the regular Prius, so it can be driven over long distances as a hybrid. There are also two electric motors so you can also drive it in pure electric mode for about 50km, which for many people means you could get to work or collect the kids from school without using any fuel.

Prices range from €31,150 for the Prius to €39,550 for the Prius Phev

Volkswagen Arteon

Volkswagen is pushing upmarket with their flagship model, the Arteon. Featuring cutting-edge technology and a striking design, the Arteon is slightly longer and wider than the Passat. Inside, it's not overly busy or fussy but it is handsome - and spacious, with a 563-litre boot. There's a range of petrol (1.5-litre 150hp or 2.0-litre 190hp TSI) and diesel (2.0-litre TDI 190hp or the top-of-the-range 2.0 TDI 240hp) engines to choose from and three trim levels: Arteon, Arteon Elegance and the sporty Arteon R-Line. On the road it drives more like a plush saloon than a sporty coupé and accelerates smoothly on the motorway, where it will happily and comfortably munch up the miles. The Arteon is spacious, distinctive and has plenty of notable qualities, but the price is not one of them.

Prices range from €39,650 - €52,750

Volkswagen Passat

A handsome saloon, Volkswagen's Passat comes in a choice of petrol (1.4-litre 125hp) and diesel (1.6-litre 120hp and 2.0-litre 150hp, 240hp) engines and a variety of trim levels. A Passat GTE plug-in hybrid is also available with its 1.4-litre TSI engine that combines with an 85kw lithium-ion battery. Depending on the specification chosen -Trendline, Comfortline or Highline - there are plenty of equipment options to choose from. The Passat offers refinement, smart interior and good driving dynamics.

Prices range from €28,195 - €48,795

Volvo S60

The S60 is distinctively styled outside and simple and elegant inside. The Swedish interior is beautifully built yet both practical and functional. Space is good throughout but overall it is not quite as roomy as some rivals, particularly in the rear. In keeping with all Volvos, the S60 is all about safety and all are equipped with Volvo's City Safety System, designed to help a driver avoid a low-speed crash or to reduce its severity with a host of passive and active safety systems. Three new engines - D2, D3 and D5 - were added last year to the range plus power was increased for the now 190bhp D4, so the range now includes petrol T3 (152hp), T5 (245hp) and diesel D2 (120hp), D3 (150hp), D4 (190hp) and D5 (225hp). Much underrated by Irish motorists, the Volvo S60 is safe, comfortable and smooth to drive.

Prices range from €32,500 - €47,245

Volvo S90

The S90 is unmistakable on the road and it is the epitome of classy and cool Scandinavian design. Inside, it is familiar Volvo with an uncomplicated dashboard that is intuitive enough to use without taking your eyes off the road. Key to this simplicity is the easy-to-operate nine-inch iPad-like touch screen. The front seats are extremely comfortable, with plenty of leg and headroom. Powering the range is two 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine in three trim levels: Momentum, R Design and Inscription. As expected from a Volvo, the car comes equipped with an entourage of minders and guardians to keep you and your occupants safe on the road.

The S90 is the best saloon that Volvo has made and is a real premium alternative in this German-dominated market. Keen drivers may favour rivals but it's still a very tempting combination of luxury, comfort and technology with stunning good looks and is probably only second to ABBA in terms of Swedish accomplishments.

Prices range from €45,495 - €71,895

Sunday Independent

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