Best used executive cars

If you need a fast, comfortable and stylish set of wheels, check out the best used executive cars the market has to offer

Executive cars are about so much more than simply getting to work and back: the best ones will deliver performance, good fuel economy, excellent ride comfort and style all in one package, while also serving as a family runabout and long-distance chariot in some cases.

Their breadth of talent is wider than almost any other kind of vehicle, and that’s why it’s so important to know the strengths and weaknesses of a used executive car before spending your money on one.

Unsurprisingly, these abilities command a sizeable premium over your standard, run-of-the-mill hatchback or SUV, but you needn’t worry: the used market is your friend when it comes to finding a bargain. Executive cars often serve on company car fleets but when the time comes for the fleet manager to wield the axe, used models can be a very cost-effective option for private buyers. You'll still pay a premium but the desirability of these models means they should hold on to their value better than a mainstream alternative when the time comes to sell. 

To get you started, we’ve put together the following list of our favourite executive and compact executive cars that you can get your hands on right now on the second-hand market.

There’s an amazing variety of vehicles here to suit all kinds of needs. And if one happens to catch your eye, why not head over to our sister site BuyaCar for the latest and best used-car offers?

The best used executive cars 

  1. Volvo S90
  2. Audi A4
  3. BMW 5 Series
  4. Jaguar XE
  5. BMW 3 Series
  6. Mercedes E-Class
  7. Tesla Model S
  8. Audi A6

Volvo S90 - Used Executive Car of the Year

  • Our pick - D4 Momentum Pro (2017/67, 15k miles, £17,950)

It’s the second win on the trot for the S90, which continues to deliver a compelling blend of luxury, comfort and eye catchingly low prices. Without the immediate badge appeal of its German competitors, values for the vast Volvo have stayed low, meaning it remains a conspicuous bargain. Don’t believe us? We found a one-owner 2017 D4 Momentum model with a mere 15,000 miles and full history for a whisker under £18,000. Locate a similar Mercedes E 220 d with the same mileage and history, and you will be paying up to £4,000 more.

Don’t confuse the affordable pricing with a lack of substance, however, because the sleek Swedish saloon has plenty going for it. It’s more exclusive than its rivals, while the spacious interior offers Scandinavian minimalist appeal. There are traditional dark colours, but choose light-leather seat trim and bleached-wood inserts, and the S90’s cabin really looks and feels a cut above. Even entry-level Momentum models have tons of standard kit, including the neat portrait-style infotainment, digital dial pack and an array of hi-tech driver aids. It’s also worth looking out for models fitted with the optional Bowers & Wilkins hi-fi upgrade, which sounds great and has cool metal speaker grilles and a dashtop tweeter.

Like other Volvos, the S90 is tuned for long-distance comfort. Not only does it ride bumps well, its cabin is well insulated from the outside world and its supportive seats are some of the best around. Yet with sharp steering and strong grip, this car can be hustled when you’re in the mood. There’s a good engine choice, but the muscular and efficient 187bhp 2.0-litre D4 diesel is up to the task and works well with the smooth eight-speed auto.

However, the market is catching on to the S90 and prices are starting to rise, so grab a bargain now.

BuyaCar finance options

The S90 is affordable to buy used, and even more reasonable on PCP finance through BuyaCar.co.uk, with monthly payments of £280 following a £1,000 deposit. This car should cost a touch over £11,000 if you finance it for three years and go on to hand it back. Of course, varying your annual mileage limit will see these figures rise or fall depending on your needs. If you want to own it at the end, expect to pay an extra £9,385.

See the latest used Volvo S90 prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

Audi A4 - Used Compact Executive Car of the Year

  • Our pick - 2.0 TDI 190 S line S tronic quattro (2016/66, 53k miles, £15,990)

Slightly overshadowed by the BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE in the new-car market, the Audi A4 turns the tables when it comes to buying a used compact executive car. With its top-notch build quality, sleek styling and unrivalled interior ambience, the classy German saloon is a great option for families looking for something posh.

Strong residual values mean you’ll have to pay a little more than for its rivals, but then you’ll also get back more when it’s time to sell. Take a seat in the A4 and you’ll immediately understand why it’s worth the extra outlay: its cabin is covered in high-grade materials, while the slick infotainment set-up and optional digital dials give it a cutting-edge look and feel. It’s fractionally roomier than its immediate rivals too, with a little more head and legroom in the rear, while its 480-litre boot is par for the course. 

On the move the Audi feels composed and capable. Its quick steering and strong grip allow you to tackle corners with confidence. This is especially true in models fitted with the optional quattro four-wheel-drive system, which delivers terrific traction in all conditions. And although the low-speed ride is a little firm, it smooths out the faster you go, making this a great choice for long motorway trips.

There’s a wide array of engines to choose from, including the extremely rapid V6 petrol and diesel models. However it’s the long-serving and gutsy 2.0-litre turbodiesel motor that makes the best all-rounder, especially when linked to the seven-speed twin-clutch S tronic transmission, because it will crack 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds yet still return as much as 50.4mpg, and costs as little as £30 a year to tax. 

Given the A4’s popularity, there is a huge number of examples to choose from, so make sure you know exactly what trim level and equipment you’re after. If your priority is comfort then the SE models are best, but sporty S line versions of the A4 look great and come packed with kit.

BuyaCar finance options

The A4’s premium price tag becomes more affordable on PCP finance through BuyaCar.co.uk, with a deposit of £1,600 and monthly payments of £400. A car similar to our pick should cost £16,000 overall if you finance it for three years and go on to hand it back, with the usual caveats of mileage and condition. An optional final payment of £8,980 will ensure the Audi is yours to keep at the end of the contract.

See the latest used Audi A4 prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

BMW 5 Series

The 5 Series still sets the standard for driving fun thanks to its engaging rear-wheel-drive handling and eager engines. Yet it was also one of the first execs to offer plug-in hybrid power, and early examples of the petrol-electric 530e are now temptingly priced. With an electric range of around 20 miles making fuel costs minimal with regular charging, it’s a desirable option.

What makes the 5 Series so good? For one thing it’s great to drive: despite sharing a platform with the larger 7 Series limousine, the latest-generation 5 Series - which has been around since 2017 - is 100kg lighter than the model that came before it, making it more nimble through corners. The extra space is a benefit inside too, with additional legroom and 530 litres of boot space.

The 520d is the most popular variant in the UK, with a four-cylinder diesel engine producing 187bhp and 400Nm of torque. That might not sound like a lot for a car of this size, but it really is enough: a mix of hushed engine noise and great soundproofing make it a calm cruiser too.

See the latest used BMW 5 Series prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

Jaguar XE

Last year’s Best Used Compact Executive Car winner takes the runner-up spot in 2021. The Jaguar’s blend of balanced rear-drive handling, a cosseting ride and good looks is a highlight, while the car’s 2.0-litre diesel engine is punchy and fuel-efficient. Early examples don’t have the best infotainment, and the interior isn’t as upmarket as the A4’s, but for keen drivers the sharp-steering Jag is a top choice.

An update in 2019 saw the XE’s engine line-up cut to three options: there’s a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel with 178bhp, and a pair of four-cylinder petrol units that produce 247bhp and 296bhp respectively. Unsurprisingly the former is the best for fuel economy, while the latter is daddy when it comes to speed.

While the pre-facelift model isn’t quite up to the level of its rivals (the boot is disappointingly small at 455 litres, and rear legroom is a little cramped), it isn’t far off. Diesel power is the most popular and three-year-old examples are currently going for less than £15,000, averaging around 40,000 on the odometer.

See the latest used Jaguar XE prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series has been one of the most consistent performers in its class for years. Not only is it great to drive, but there’s a range of different engines in the line-up that combine performance with very decent fuel economy, so you can have your cake and eat it too.

The latest, seventh-generation model arrived in 2019: there are more than a dozen powertrains to choose from, including a plug-in hybrid that promises 249bhp, 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds, up to 41 miles of zero-emissions, all-electric running and fuel economy of 166.2-217.3mpg.

The 320d SE - with its mild-hybrid technology - is the most efficient of the non-plug-in options, returning 60.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 123g/km. If it’s speed you’re after then the M340i is the fastest, with it’s 3.0-litre straight-six engine propelling the 3 Series from 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds. In reality, no variant of the 3 Series is what you’d call slow.

Improved refinement, interior space and in-car technology are also welcome additions to the 3 Series (although the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity is a drawback). One-year-old examples are beginning to change hands for less than £20,000; significantly less than the original asking price.

See the latest used BMW 3 Series prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

Mercedes E-Class

If comfort is your top priority, then the Mercedes E-Class is the best executive car you can get your hands on. It takes after the luxurious S-Class limousine in this respect, with optional air-suspension providing ride quality that’s second to none. It’s not quite as sharp to drive as the 5 Series, but that’s the price you pay for prioritising leisure over outright speed.

As you’d expect, the entry-level E 220d SE is very well equipped, with more standard kit than you’ll find in the Audi A6 or Jaguar XF. This includes self-parking, a reversing camera, sat-nav, climate and cruise control, heated seats, keyless go and plenty else besides.

The diesel engine in the E 220d is good for 191bhp and 400Nm, with 0-62mph taking 7.3 seconds. At the other end of the spectrum there’s the E 63 S, which harnesses the power of a 4.0-litre V8 engine producing 604bhp, covering 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds. Supercars beware.

See the latest used E-Class prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model S is just about the most capable electric car on sale today. The latest ‘Long Range’ version of the Model S will return as much as 379 miles of driving range from a single charge of the battery, the most of any electric production in the world right now. But don’t mistake it for an ultra-efficient milk float: the Model S is also one of the quickest vehicles on the road, with ‘Performance’ variants covering 0-62mph in a staggering 2.4 seconds with the brand’s famous ‘Ludicrous’ mode engaged.

Stats aside, the Model S is very easy to live with: there’s lots of passenger space throughout the vehicle and the boot measures a hefty 894 litres with the rear seats in place. Fold them down and that figure climbs to 1,795 litres.

The technology is impressive too, with virtually all of the car’s functions controlled via a portrait, 17-inch touchscreen in the dashboard. It’s very intuitive to use and the sheer size makes menus and maps easy to read on the go.

The Model S has been around for a few years now, which means there are plenty out there over a wide price range. Be sure to check exactly how old the car is if you arrange to see one: it’s evolved a great deal in a short space of time and newer examples offer far more range. So come with free use of the company’s Supercharger network as well.

See the latest used Tesla Model S prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

Audi A6

You’ve read about the offerings from BMW and Mercedes, now consider this one from Audi: the esteemed A6. Released in 2018, all editions of the latest version feature 48-volt mild hybrid technology and an extra-slippery profile for improved fuel efficiency.

The engine line-up consists of two petrols and two diesels, although the most frugal is the 40 TDI, a 2.0-litre diesel which returns 62mpg. Its 201bhp is enough for 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds en route to a top speed of 153mph, and while the other options in the line-up deliver more power, they can’t match its agility owing to its lighter construction.

Inside the build quality is second to none, with an array of screens inside the dashboard and controls on the steering wheel to manage key functions like media playback. The Virtual Cockpit behind the steering wheel has pin sharp clarity, although the haptic feedback on the touchscreens can feel a little awkward at first.

The current-generation A6 has been around for a little longer than some of its rivals, which means there are more bargains to be had on the used market. The cheapest from 2017 tend to have 40-50,000 miles on the clock, and start from a little over £15,000.

See the latest used Audi A6 prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

Find out more about the best used cars you can buy in each market sector with our Used Car Awards...

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