The Executive Car sector has changed almost beyond recognition in the last few decades. Once it was controlled by the mainstream makers, with big Fords and Vauxhalls marking their territory in the executive car parks the length and breadth of the country.
Arguably, the switch to more prestigious brands began with the rise of the so-called ‘Compact Executive Car’, pioneered by models like the BMW 3 Series and later, the Mercedes 190. These bought the build quality and powerful engines of the true Executive class to a size of car somewhere between an Astra-sized Family Hatchback and a Mondeo-sized Medium Range Family saloon. Delighted, the premium brands realised they could charge high prices for these models and still attract up and coming executives in their droves.
Better still, once these people had tasted the ‘high life’ in compacted form, they nearly always traded up to the true Executive saloon or estate that now represented the next rung up on the ownership ladder. As a result, by the mid-Nineties, BMW’s 5 Series, Mercedes’ E-class and Audi’s A6 were suddenly almost volume sellers. Apart from Saab, Volvo and Lexus, the only real opposition came from Vauxhall’s Omega, though big Citroens, Alfa Romeos, Hondas, Renaults and Nissans continued in tiny numbers.
And the British love affair with the prestigious Executive Car continues. Surprisingly, despite the huge numbers of BMWs, Audis and Mercs on the used market, used values are still high. If you’re not prepared to fork out for something with an upmarket badge, then don’t worry. Those large Executive Cars that do remain from the mainstream makers have had to get their act together to compete, an improvement rarely reflected in what can still be frighteningly low residual values. Unless you’re completely into snobbery, it’s well worth checking one of these out with a view to potentially pocketing a large saving.