New models make for an eyecatching display
SENIOR managers are becoming spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding on executive diesel transport to carry them to their next meeting.
While tradition used to dictate a rather sober choice of transport, they can now opt for an executive off-roader without damaging their image in the company car park.
Among the six cars on our panel this month is the Volvo XC90, a run-away success for the manufacturer, offering MPV dimensions with executive status.
The new Land Rover Discovery goes one step further, offering immense off-road ability together with its three rows of seats and updated image.
But if managers wish to remain faithful to their executive models, fresh, modern designs from key competitors have made them less sober than they used to be.
The new face of the Audi A6 has given it an eye-catching presence on the road, while the BMW 5-series has been at the centre of intense debate since it was launched.
The Jaguar S-type offers a British contender to our test, while the Mercedes-Benz E-class offers a real class statement for drivers.
Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro SE auto
P11D price £31,727
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £2,164/£3,934
2004 VED bill £165
LeasePlan Fleetline £593
Lex Vehicle Leasing £583
Custom Fleet £616
Lloyds TSB autolease £607
BMW 530d SE auto
P11D price £33,382
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £1,983/£3,605
2004 VED bill £165
LeasePlan Fleetline £575
Lex Vehicle Leasing £615
Custom Fleet £599
Lloyds TSB autolease £610
Jaguar S-type 2.7D V6 S auto
P11D price £31,217
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £2,060/£3,746
2004 VED bill £165
LeasePlan Fleetline £608
Lex Vehicle Leasing £635
Custom Fleet £617
Lloyds TSB autolease £615
Land Rover Discovery 3 2 .7 V6 S auto
P11D price £33,287
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £2,563/£4,660
VED bill £165
LeasePlan Fleetline £609
Lex Vehicle Leasing £627
Custom Fleet £596
DCSFM £619 Lloyds TSB autolease £636
Mercedes-Benz E270 CDI Elegance auto
P11D price £32,642
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £1,795/£3,264
2004 VED bill £155
LeasePlan Fleetline £591
Lex Vehicle Leasing £594
Custom Fleet £587
DCSFM £613 Lloyds TSB autolease £609
Volvo XC90 2.4 D5 S geartronic
P11D price £31,782
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £2,447/£4,449
2004 VED bill £165
LeasePlan Fleetline £605
Lex Vehicle Leasing £614
Custom Fleet £619
Lloyds TSB autolease £629
Head of LeasePlan Fleetline
THE recent addition of a diesel option to the Jaguar S-type range should have brought this model back on to many fleet lists, but may be too late in the day for what is the oldest saloon in the Jaguar range.
The Audi A6 has safety advantages of four-wheel drive and an attractive and modern design and it should remain at the top of most drivers’ lists. The BMW 530d offers a fantastic combination of build quality, badge kudos and a comprehensive service and maintenance package, meaning BMW has provided a class-leading fleet choice.
The Mercedes-Benz E270 is an ever-popular choice and rightly so, with good looks and an engaging drive.
However, lack of Euro IV compliance is the only real factor against it. The Volvo XC90 is the firm’s most popular car, but has the impressive new Land Rover Discovery threatening what is highly accomplished package.
Consultancy manager, DaimlerChrysler Services Fleet Management
THIS selection compares executive vehicles in their varying guises of traditional four-door saloons alongside SUV variants from Land Rover and Volvo.
This sector will typically feature in a user-chooser policy and the vehicles will be selected on their individual merits, whether the priority is performance, image, economy or versatility.
The Mercedes offers a prestige image with excellent fuel economy from its 2.7-litre CDI engine. Jaguar has now entered the realms of diesel engine technology, introducing it to the S-type to keep it on a par with the competition. The Volvo is in demand as it offers outstanding value for money and commands strong residual values. The Land Rover is the new kid on the block, with an improved look and engine range, as well as a host of electronic equipment to assist its renowned off-road capabilities.
Pricing manager, Lloyds TSB autolease
COMPETITION in the executive large sector is very strong at the moment. Drivers are looking for drivability, style and the prestige status associated with these brands.
The Audi A6 and Land Rover Discovery are the latest models hoping to compete with the BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-class, Jaguar S-type and Volvo XC90. The new A6 borrows a great deal from the A8 and includes its distinctive front grille and different engine options. The engine is more powerful than most in this survey and is four-wheel drive.
The E-class is the most refined vehicle in this sector. The others are more rugged-looking, especially the 5-series. The 5-series is an excellent all-round package, offering the smoothest ride, superb handling and a quality cabin. It also benefits from reasonable running costs and strong residual values.
There isn’t much between the A6, 5-series and E-class on rental rates, so the choice will come down to driver preference. The most expensive is the new Discovery, mainly caused by a higher purchase price than the rest.
Trade services manager, Custom Fleet
THIS sector of the market is characterised by the same fiscal shaping that has affected others within the overall fleet market, with a similar swing to diesel to capitalise on the tax advantages under the emissions-based benefit-in-kind system.
In a segment where affordability is not so much of an issue, it is very much a question of brand preference, with the German prestige marques continuing to rule the roost. From a rentals point of view, there is not much to choose between the six cars reviewed here.
Our favourite is the new-shape BMW 5-series, which has strong residual values, competitive maintenance charges and keen rentals, but the margin between it and the A6, which also has a fabulous engine, is small. The E-class is one of two models featured here without a Euro IV-compliant engine, which counts against it. The Jaguar S-type has individual styling but is let down by the poorest RV performance. The Discovery and Volvo XC90 are much loved by the school-run brigade but the Disco is let down by hefty maintenance and there is a six-month waiting list for the Volvo.
Pricing manager, Lex Vehicle Leasing
THE dilemma in board- rooms through- out the country is whether to opt for traditional saloon or SUV. The saloons offer respectability, comfort and effortless cruising, while SUVs offer kerbside kudos that has been a welcome change to this sector.
The 5-series and E-class are separated by styling, with the BMW’s striking looks inspiring love or hate reactions in most people, while the Mercedes-Benz is more conservative. Both offer competitive rentals despite high list prices.
Both Audi and Jaguar seek to break into the market, but in very different ways, Audi with superb build quality and sporting ambitions and Jaguar through distinctive styling and its new twin-turbo diesel engine. Both should increase their market share, but are unlikely to significantly swing the balance.
Volvo’s XC90 has been collecting accolades for its strength, space and refinement for two years now, while the Discovery 3 looks and feels like a baby Range Rover. Both require company car drivers to weigh up BIK tax and fuel economy penalties.
How the panel voted
1. BMW 5-SERIES
LOW running costs, excellent residual values, great diesel economy, great on-road perfomance, strong demand and one of the lowest monthly leasing rates make the BMW top with our panel.
2. MERCEDES-BENZ E270
ECONOMY and emissions figures alone make the Mercedes-Benz a strong contender for the hearts and minds of drivers and managers alike. Also boasts lowest leasing rate.
3. AUDI A6
A CLEAN sweep for German brands with our panel as the Audi takes third spot. Despite higher maintenance costs and net price, has the second lowest leasing rate of our contenders.
4. VOLVO XC90
THE XC90 has been a great success story for Volvo, taking it into a new segment and offering a great alternative for drivers. However, relatively high costs mean it isn’t a package that will suit everyone.
5. LAND ROVER DISCOVERY 3
THE best off-roader in the world? If the amount of technology you pack into a car is anything to go by, then it certainly is. Fantastic, but likely to appeal to a niche of drivers in the executive sector.
6. JAGUAR S-TYPE
WITH a new diesel engine that is one of the best around, the new S-type now offers a very strong package for drivers. But high maintenance costs and low RVs didn’t please our panel.