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 sizable 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
This year’s best used executive car is the Volvo S90, and for a very good reason: it’s a total bargain on the second-hand market, and you’ll struggle to find anything newer, or with a lower mileage for the cash.
That’s before you even consider the merits of the Volvo over traditional executive favourites such as the BMW 5 Series or the Mercedes E-Class. Here is a classy saloon that oozes quality, comfort and refinement, and a dash of exclusivity, too.
The S90 is still on sale as a new car today, making the prospect of finding a current model for a fraction of the price on the used market hard to ignore. There’s plenty of choice out there, with the market for S90s growing steadily since it hit showrooms in 2016 into the fruitful pickings you’ll see in classifieds today.
D4-engined models use a refined and economical 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel, and in Momentum trim stand out as some of the best deals. This model represents the entry-level version of the S90, but that’s a relative term, and equipment levels are very strong. You’ll get plush leather seats, plenty in the way of driver-assistance features, including cruise control, a pinpoint-sharp nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation and even digital dials.
However, if you’d prefer a sportier R-Design car or a plusher Inscription model, they’re out there for the same kind of money, just with a higher mileage on the clock. For instance, our pick of the classifieds was a 17-plate D4 Momentum with 22,000 miles for £16,700. Yet for £16,995, you could be driving a range-topping Inscription car, but with the wear and tear of 49,000 miles.
The Volvo is a cruiser and not much of an entertainer, but if you value comfort and quality, it’s a solid choice.
See the latest used Volvo S90 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...
BMW 5 Series
The BMW 5 Series is a previous Used Car Award winner, and a commendation at the 2020 Used Car Awards demonstrates what a great car it still is. Previous-generation F10 models in 520d spec are abundant, and some newer G30 versions are beginning to wear tantalising price tags, albeit with high mileages.
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...
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...
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...
There are many reasons to love the Jaguar XE: it’s fabulous to drive, the interior is very appealing and the infotainment is bang up-to-date for the modern world. Plus, it has a certain magic about it that its German counterparts can’t seem to replicate. The current model was launched in 2015, and it was so good we named it our Compact Executive Car of the Year for three years on the bounce.
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...
Alfa Romeo Giulia
It’s extremely hard to get a car right at the first time of asking, but the Alfa Romeo Giulia hit the ground running when it reached our roads in 2016. Much like the Jaguar XE, it has bags of character to take it in a different direction from the mainstream German contenders. It drives with all the flair that you’d expect from a car sporting the Alfa badge, and it’s exterior styling is certainly eye-catching.
When the Giulia went on sale you could have it with a 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 197bhp, or a 2.2-litre diesel that produced 148bhp or 178bhp depending on spec. There was also a V6 Quadrifoglio model with 503bhp. An update since then has seen power on the diesels rise to 158bhp and 187bhp respectively. A combination of 50:50 weight distribution, double-wishbone suspension at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear means handling is brilliant, although there’s no manual gearbox option for the purists out there.
Two- to four-year-old Giulia’s in diesel form are currently priced in the region of £15-18,000, depending on age and mileage. They’re not the last word in practicality, nor is the ride up there with the best compact execs in the class, but the Giulia is the kind of car you buy with your heart rather than your head.
See the latest used Giulia prices on our sister site BuyaCar...