Executive stress: what makes a modern luxury car

Published: 16 August 2007

Serenity or sportiness – what should the key characteristic of today’s executive saloon be, asks Gavin Green

What a joy to drive an ‘executive’ car that puts comfort first! Most of the big selling top-line exec motors – the BMW 5s, the Benz Es, the Audi A6s, and their ilk – are exciting ‘sports’ saloons. They have big low-profile tyres, low ground clearance, firm suspension, powerful engines. They are aggressively styled – Bill Bryson once labelled it the ‘f**k you school of design’. Many are capable of 140mph-plus. They ply motorways fast and furiously, their big tyres humming on the tarmac, their bodies bob and jolt on the bumps before they quickly hunker down to their low and aggressive stance. They can lap the Nürburgring as fast as an old grand prix car. They can break eight seconds 0-60, no probs. Sporting-biased saloons now so dominate exec car sales charts that Jaguar, once the exemplar at offering a cushioned gentlemanly ride, is now about to go all sporty and firm too. (The new XF, successor to the S, is an overtly sporting saloon and future Jag four-doors will be the same, say the Coventry bosses.)

So what a revelation the Citroën C6 is! Here is an executive car biased to comfort rather than rorty acceleration and fast laps of the ‘Ring. I can’t recall a more relaxing motorway journey, as I wafted along the M1 between London and Birmingham. Soft-riding, excellent noise suppression, a magic carpet motor that, thanks to that long wheelbase, has fantastic space for back benchers. And what style! It is surely the most beautiful big car on sale today, a worthy successor to the marvellous CX and DS. Strange that there are only two mid-size or large executive cars that nowadays put comfort first. The C6 and the new Lexus LS, probably the world’s most gentlemanly car this side of a Rolls Phantom. The German rivals may be more exciting. But what is more important on our daily drives? Excitement? Or relaxation?

Has Gavin got it right, or should he be driving a something far more athletic? Let us know your thoughts by clicking the ‘Add Comment’ button…

By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience