It’s difficult to believe it’s been almost seven years since Jaguar first pulled the covers off the XF at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Those seven years have been impressive for the XF, as well as Jaguar and its sister brand Land Rover, with massive global growth. It’s the XF in particular that was the first catalyst for that boom – this was the car that transformed Jaguar’s styling, taking it from the traditional to the avant-garde, and moving away from the S-Type it replaced.
The XF was an instant hit, with more finding homes in its first year in showrooms than the S-Type had sold in nine years in production. Plus, a new era of improved interior quality, refinement and technological advancement allowed Jaguar to finally give the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 something to think about – for years, the S-Type had been little more than an also-ran in this class.
Initially, the XF was available with the same family of engines used in the contemporary XJ – the Ford-derived 2.7 or 3.0-litre TDV6 diesels, and a choice of 3.0-litre V6 or 4.2-litre V8 petrol engines. These were joined later by a smaller 2.2 diesel and a 2.0 turbo petrol to add versatility, fleet appeal and tax efficiency to the range. And all XFs handle with the poise and agility that defines the brand.
Jaguar completed the line-up in 2012 with the addition of the XF Sportbrake. This was the first full-size executive Jaguar estate, and although it was a long time coming, it was well worth waiting for – it’s one of the most elegant load carriers in its class. There are other executive cars that are great to own and drive, and some are more efficient. But none is quite as special or as rewarding as the XF.
Fair price: £24,600
The current incarnation of the 5 Series is the latest in a long line of BMW executive saloons that redefine driver appeal. Most used models are in the main dealer network, so aren’t cheap – but they’re a solid choice as an alternative to buying a new car.
Last year’s facelift means older cars have dipped in value, so a three-year-old 520d SE with lots of options is yours for just over £16,000. And if you go for one of the unfashionable petrol models, prices are even lower.
The punchy and frugal 242bhp 3.0-litre turbodiesel will be the best bet for most buyers, though, with its 40mpg economy and 166g/km emissions. It’s cheaper to run than some humble mainstream family hatches.
Better still, SE trim brings climate control, leather seats and Bluetooth. And while the warranty will have expired, most new buyers took out BMW’s five-year service plan, so maintenance bills should be minimal.
Fair price: £25,500
The current A6 might not be as pin-sharp to drive as its BMW 5 Series rival, but the beautifully made, generously equipped cabin means it’s a tempting prospect. Especially when you can save so much on the new price by going for a 2012 car.
It looks identical to the model in showrooms and gets the latest 175bhp TDI engine. It’s also good for close to 60mpg and CO2 emissions of just 129g/km.
Fair price £36,000
While the latest Lexus GS only recently went on sale, you can already pick one up for around £15,000 less than it cost new. It may not be as fun as the BMW 5 Series and lacks the quality feel of the Audi A6, but the GS is one of the most refined and comfortable cars on sale.
Plus, this is the hybrid version in top-spec Premier trim, so you get heated and cooled front seats, a rear view camera and full leather upholstery included.
Fair price: £19,482
BMW’s best seller has always been a big hit with fleets and private customers alike, making it a regular in the top 10 of the new car sales charts.
This popularity means the 3 Series frequently outsells supposedly more mainstream models, such as the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia. A large part of its appeal lies in the image. BMW’s status as a premium brand is without question, and the E90 3 Series – produced between late 2004 and late 2011
– exemplifies this, with sharp, angular styling and superb build quality.
Even though the oldest examples are now over nine years old, they still feel modern and well screwed together. Throw in Touring estate and folding hard-top Convertible versions, and the appeal of the range is clear.
So, the 3 Series has plenty of reasons to attract second-hand customers. Add its superb handling, even in entry-level trim, and the fact that it’ll raise a smile even on the most mundane journeys, and our compact executive class champion is a tough act to beat.
The 3 Series range comes in two distinct flavours: the sports models, which are powerful and focused on performance, and the business-oriented models, which are powered by efficient, yet pokey, diesel engines. The latter make more compelling second-hand purchases and are much more common on the used market.
The reasons for this are obvious. Fleet managers can put a BMW 3 Series on the company roster, run it for three years and retire it from active duty with around 60,000 miles on the clock having encountered very few problems. And stronger-than-average residual values mean the cars are still worth
a lot, so overall they don’t cost much to run.
As a used punter, that’s great news, as it means there’s a strong supply of well maintained 318ds and 320ds on the market. Offer a 3 Series a good home, and you won’t be disappointed.
Fair price: £2,995
Lexus’ compact exec has always been a little left of centre, with its petrol only, six-cylinder engine strategy. The second-generation was a bit more mainstream with a diesel option, but didn’t sell in great numbers, so is good value today.
Fair price: £14,500
if your budget can stretch to BMW’s latest 3 Series, even better. This model backs up impeccable handling and great looks with tax-friendly EfficientDynamics and ActiveHybrid models. It also holds on to its value impressively well.