Currently reading: Top 10 best grand tourers 2024
The 10 best GTs currently on sale are all capable of eating up the miles while leaving you feeling fresh

What does ‘GT’ mean? It could be a trim level on a Kia, or it could be a hardcore, track-focused version of a Porsche. Historically, however, it stands for ‘grand tourer’, or ‘gran turismo’ if you’re feeling extra fancy.

Quite simply, a grand tourer is a car that you’d be happy driving very long distances in. That means it needs to be comfortable, with supportive seats and a compliant long-distance ride. That’s not enough, though. It also needs to feel special, during the journey as well as when parked up at your destination.

Traditionally, the recipe for a grand tourer would have been a big coupé with a long bonnet housing a large engine. Today, the GT church is far broader, including some elegant four-door cars, and even the odd electric car.

So here are the best four-wheeled, £100,000-and-under options on sale right now in which to while away miles in style, at pace, in some luxury – and with a broad smile on your face.

1. Porsche Panamera

The concept of a four-door Porsche saloon was controversial when the first-generation Panamera was launched in 2009. Despite being vulnerable to criticism for its awkward styling, this was a spectacularly well-engineered true driver’s car and an effortless continent cruiser.

Now freed from some of that initial controversy and much improved for its design, the second-generation Panamera feels like it’s finally cemented its place in Porsche’s model catalogue. We road tested this car in 2017, powered by a remarkable V8 turbo diesel engine producing 416bhp and 627lb ft of torque that was, in many ways, ideally suited to the car’s long-legged brief. Porsche later removed that version from sale when it abandoned diesels in 2018, but it left a fairly wide choice of engines in the showroom range.

In 2021, this range was tweaked yet again. The 542bhp Turbo model was dropped in favour of an even more powerful Panamera Turbo S variant, whose 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 now kicks out 621bhp. The Panamera GTS model also had its V8 tickled, so that it now develops 473bhp and better fills the gap between it and the Turbo S. 

Elsewhere, the remarkable Turbo S E-Hybrid range-topper now has a combined 690bhp from its petrol and electric motors. This isn’t the only low-emissions plug-in hybrid in the range, either. The 552bhp 4S E-Hybrid model is joined by a 456bhp Panamera 4 E-Hybrid variant as well. A selection of twin-turbo V6 engines fill the rest of the range. 

At its best, the Panamera blends dynamic driver appeal with distinguishing touring credentials better than any other car of its ilk. It steers with reassuring weight, handles with precision, grips assuredly and accelerates urgently, and although it’s a sizeable and heavy car, it doesn't suffer much for the additional weight of hybrid drive batteries.


Read our review

Car review

Four-seat grand tourer bids to redefine performance in the luxury class

Back to top

The regular four-door, four-seat version has a 495-litre boot, with 1263 litres of storage if you fold the rear seats down, and impressive in-car tech and infotainment. However, we prefer the five-door Sport Turismo shooting brake bodystyle, which includes a fifth passenger seat, adds useful boot space and puts a little more notional fresh air between the car’s exterior styling and that of a current Porsche 911, which is no bad thing.

10 Porsche panamera top 10

Save money with new Panamera deals from What Car?

2. Alpina B3

You might look at an Alpina B3 and simply see just a BMW 3 Series. And to some owners, that will be exactly the point of an Alpina. It’s a personal pleasure, one to be enjoyed by the owner and driver, a car that is less showy than BMW's own take on a fast 3 Series, the BMW M3.

Alpina takes a BMW M340i (saloon or Touring estate), complete with its four-wheel drive system, and inserts an Alpina-specific version of the M3’s S58 3.0-litre straight-six turbo engine and installs its own suspension. That includes a wider track, a number of unique components, different geometry settings and bespoke Eibach springs. The dampers and steering are standard M340i, but with Alpina’s own settings.

The result is something that is slightly softer and less immediate than an M3 but surpasses it as a GT because, in broad terms, the B3 Touring is easily one of the most capable cars ever made. Day in, day out, whatever the weather, there's almost no question to which it doesn't provide an enthusiastic, convincing answer.

Back to top

We gave the current generation of the B3 five stars in our 2020 road test because there is arguably no other car on sale that so successfully slathers its appeal across the realms of comfort, performance, practicality, engagement and – relative to the cars against which it competes – value for money. It is one sensationally well-rounded product. Alpina’s success stems from its ability to recognise what customers want from their cars.

Like the regular BMW 3 Series, the Alpina B3 got a facelift in 2023, which thankfully changed nothing about how it drives. The changes are limited to updated looks and the addition of the vast curving displays of the BMW's iDrive 8 infotainment.

9 Alpina b3 top 10

3. Mercedes-Benz SL

If you were to pick a GT car from the Mercedes range on name alone, the AMG GT would be the obvious choice. It would also be the wrong one, because the AMG GT is very clearly positioned to be a sports car that puts driving engagement above long-distance comfort.

Since the mid-1960s, the GT car in the Mercedes range has always been the SL, alongside the S-Class-based coupé of the day. The latter is no longer offered, but the SL has just been renewed for a seventh generation. It has now been completely developed by AMG, which has reinstated the fabric top and given it more of a sports car bent.

Even so, it’s still at its best as a GT. You would never tire of that 4.0-litre V8, its easygoing sledgehammer manner informing much of the SL’s character. This engine is decently free of lag, too, so the performance really is press-and-go. Unsurprisingly such effortless pace plays nicely into the car’s GT credentials, which are in general excellent, but for the ever so slight brittleness that creeps into the ride quality on poor surfaces. With a comfortable, plush, cosseting cabin and free-breathing vertical body control, most of time it just gobbles up big miles without thought.

Back to top

Having been developed by AMG, every new SL is an AMG. The range starts with the four-cylinder SL43 AMG. We’ve not driven that model yet, so it remains to be seen how much of the SL’s character survives without the V8. The SL55 has a 469bhp V8, whereas the SL63 has a 577bhp version of the same engine and adds hydraulic anti-roll bars, although the latter are some way short of transformative for the ride.

8 Mercedes benz sl top 10

Save money with new Mercedes SL deals from What Car?

4. BMW 8 Series Gran Coupé

There was a gap of almost 20 years between the deletion of the original E31-generation BMW 8 Series and the introduction of the latest version and the market for big GTs has changed quite a lot in the past two decades. And yet, while it doesn’t quite have the pioneering aura of its immediate forebear, BMW’s latest flagship coupé brings much more desirability, status and presence with it than the 6 Series Coupé that it directly succeeds, combining trademark BMW driver appeal with top-level touring comfort and impressively luxurious ambient richness.

And to give the Audi A7 and Mercedes CLS due competition, the model is also available in an especially rakish four-door Gran Coupé configuration. The pick of the range used to be the 840d Gran Coupé, with BMW’s outstanding twin-turbocharged diesel straight-six engine. However, the 2022-model-year update left only the straight-six petrol 840i, the V8 M850i and the M8 Competition Gran Coupé.

Back to top

All versions of the car are four-wheel-drive but all have steel-sprung suspension (unlike the air suspension offered on the Mercedes and Audi) – and all offer a driving experience tuned for a less cosseting, more engaging dynamic compromise than some cars in this class. Plump for an M850i, moreover, and you can have a car that has not only four driven wheels but also four-wheel steering and active anti-roll control suspension. 

7 Bmw 8 series gran coupe top 10

Save money with new 8 Series deals from What Car?

5. Jaguar F-Type

Nearly a decade after its debut, the Jaguar F-Type is beginning its farewell tour. Over the course of its life, the F-Type’s role has changed subtly. When it was launched in 2013, we imagined the buying public would value it as a sort of prettier and more dependable modern TVR, but as the car aged, the V6s proved more popular, and Jaguar later created another wave of interest in the F-Type by furnishing it with a four-cylinder engine.

So, after its latest facelift at the beginning of 2020, the F-Type straddles even more market territory than it used to, despite the decision to axe the V6, which was becoming increasingly difficult to clean up to meet emissions regulations. At the top of the range, F-Type R P575 remains a bleeding-heart, 567bhp upper-level 911 and cut-price Aston Martin Vantage rival; at the lower end, the F-Type P300 makes do with just under 300bhp from a 2.0-litre four. The middle engine is arguably the sweetest. With 444bhp, the F-Type P450 is plenty potent, offers good value compared with rivals and still has a V8 engine that mixes bombastic audible charm with brute strength like few others. It can be specced with rear- or four-wheel drive

Back to top

With more modest sporting aspirations than some other versions, it’s also the best GT. Despite 20in rims, the F-Type rides pretty quietly and, with the adaptive dampers set to Normal mode, with suppleness and isolation, too. Long distances are thus very agreeably dispatched, and the softer side of the car’s chassis tune makes it easy to luxuriate in the combustive richness that powertrain affords.

6 Jaguar f type top 10

Save money with new F-Type deals from What Car?

6. BMW M550i xDrive

Okay, so this particular entrant lacks the swooping rooflines and slightly more dramatic looks of some of the other entrants in this list, but the BMW M550i xDrive thoroughly deserves its place in this top 10. Hear us out.

This particular V8-engined 5 Series has been around for a few years, but it was only with the recent 2021-model-year facelift that BMW decided to offer it to UK buyers. The logic for doing do is pretty simple: the M5 - as incredible as it is - has become an increasingly hardcore driver’s machine over the years, one that’s now perhaps a touch too firm and a touch too aggressive to be considered genuinely comfortable for the daily drive. Here in the UK, where the spicier M5 Competition quickly became the only M5 variant on sale, that felt particularly true.

This shift effectively left more room in the BMW line-up for a second V8 5 Series model; one that, while still quick, placed more emphasis on comfort and rolling refinement than its M division sibling. And with the M550i xDrive, that’s exactly what you get - and for a sum that’s roughly £30,000 less than you’d pay for an M5.

Back to top

Even so, its 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 still kicks out a mighty 530bhp and 553lb ft, and it’ll still hit 62mph from a standstill in less than 4.0sec. So it’s damn quick. It also still handles in a really engaging manner, as any good BMW should. But with optional air suspension, impressive isolation and a plush, leather-rich interior, that immense pace is matched by a level of comfort that’s increasingly absent from full-fat BMW M cars. The M550i xDrive is still a fast, fun BMW when you want it to be, but it’s also a car that you’d quite happily - and comfortably - drive from one end of the country to another.

5 Bmw m550i top 10

Save money with new 5 Series deals from What Car?

7. Mercedes-Benz CLS

Whether Mercedes invented the modern hybrid vehicle bodystyle that, for a while, was amusingly dubbed the ‘coupoon’ (a four-door saloon crossbred with a more tapered silhouette and a swooping coupé-like roofline) or whether it was Maserati with the fifth-generation Quattroporte is a matter of contention. Either way, it’s fair to record that the original Mercedes CLS of 2004 was one of the originators of what still seems a fairly new vehicle type and Mercedes has probably done more than any other car maker to popularise it since.

It’s not hard to appreciate why such a car might make a great GT. The inclusion of four adult-sized seats, the access to which is made easy by four passenger doors, is chief among the reasons. Now in its third model generation, the CLS has always proved significantly better than most 2+2s for practicality, hitting a high point for it with the Shooting Brake version – a favourite CLS derivative at Autocar Towers that Mercedes regrettably decided would be discontinued with the current third-generation version of the car.

Back to top

The CLS has never looked better than in its first trend-setting model generation, but the slightly awkward looks of the second-generation version are now behind it, and the car’s technology-packaged, leather-bound cabin has never been more inviting than it is today.

The engine range includes both four- and six-cylinder turbocharged petrols and a couple of six-cylinder turbo diesels, with the four-wheel-drive CLS 53 performance hybrid having replaced the firebreathing V8-powered old CLS 63 at the top of the pile, and bringing an appealing different flavour to the AMG armoury. The chassis juggles involvement against isolation well – although bigger-rimmed versions fitted with run-flat tyres can suffer from iffy rolling refinement and are certainly worth a test drive before purchase.

4 Mercedes benz cls top 10

Save money with new CLS deals from What Car?

8. Tesla Model S

If any EV deserves to be included in a list that champions the very best long-distance tourers, surely it’s the Tesla Model S. After all, this was the original big-range EV. In Long Range guise, it is allegedly good for more than 400 miles on a charge, and a 500-mile Plaid+ version is in the works, too. With the Supercharger network on hand to provide exceptionally fast, reliable battery top ups as well, range anxiety isn’t a problem.

Of course, the Model S is quick in a straight line. The forthcoming Plaid model makes more than 1000bhp from its three electric motors and is supposedly capable of hitting 62mph from a standstill in less than 2.0sec. We’ll believe that when we see it, but even the lower-powered versions are still wickedly fast.

Back to top

Dynamically, the Model S has always behaved like the big, heavy car that it is. You don’t have to be pushing too hard to begin testing the limits of grip, but settle down and it's a fast, mostly comfortable long-distance tourer. There’s a softness to its air-sprung ride that makes the Tesla a relaxing motorway cruiser, but it can also feel just a natch too floaty on faster, undulating stretches of road.

As for the interior design, Tesla has become a byword for minimalism. Physical controls are sparse, with the vast majority of the car’s features being controlled either by a small collection of buttons on the steering wheel or via the colossal touchscreen. The Model S is an impressively spacious car, with loads of second-row room, and while material quality has improved over the years, it’s still not quite a match for that of the very best European marques. Build quality has been known to be a bit iffy in places, too.

3 Tesla model s top 10

9. Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé and Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet

The E-Class Coupé has always had a distinct whiff of golf course about it. It’s the sleek, handsome two-door for those who value an ability to waft about in calm, isolated comfort more than be thrilled by a car's innate willingness to engage its driver. And there’s not a whole lot wrong with that.

It was updated for 2020 and the already good-looking coupé now looks even better than it did before - both inside and out. The airy cabin has plush, rich-looking materials that sit smartly alongside Mercedes’ latest in-car infotainment technology, while large, leather-upholstered seats provide excellent comfort over distance.

Back to top

The engine line-up is much the same as it’s always been. A selection of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines form the entry-point to the range, but it’s the larger six-cylinder petrols that really suit this car best. The all-wheel-drive Mercedes E450 model is an impressively smooth operator, with decent straight-line punch, exceptional refinement and cosseting, comfortable ride.

Those who perhaps want a bit more dynamic bite will find the Mercedes-AMG E53 Coupé model more to their tastes. It’s certainly a more engaging drive than the E450, but compared with some of AMG's best efforts, it can feel a touch flat-footed at times, so it remains a car better suited to high-speed, long-distance schleps than a white-knuckle drive on your favourite B-road.

2 Mercedes nezn e class top 10

Save money with new E-Class Coupé deals from What Car?

9. Lexus LC

As a keen driver, you feel inclined to make a case for the LC. The LC 500 was updated in 2023, but kept its superbly charismatic and likeable V8 engine, and the car’s balanced, spry, involving handling makes it feel like a natural rival for a Jaguar F-Type or a Porsche 911.

The car seems large, heavy, leaden-footed and a bit cumbersome on the road at times, too – so you never quite escape a feeling of ambivalence towards it. As a grand tourer, the LC’s lack of carrying space, the pokiness of its occasional-use back seats and the wooden feel of its run-flat-tyre-hamstrung ride are all notable black marks against it, too.

Back to top

In the coupé, you get the choice of the aforementioned V8 engine or a V6 hybrid LC500h. There's also an LC500 Convertible, but because the roof is stowed in the place that the battery would go, it's available with the V8 only. That's no great tragedy, because the hybrid doesn't really work in a sporting car, and dropping the roof lets you enjoy that wonderful naturally aspirated V8 even more.

Ultimately, depending on how much you’re moved by its virtues or irked by its shortcomings, this car will seem like either a bit of a rough diamond or the dreaded curate’s egg – but if you like driver’s cars and you avoid the disappointing hybrid version, you’re much more likely to be in the former camp.

1 Lexus lc top 10 0

Save money with new LC deals from What Car?

What Car? New car buyer marketplace


Join the debate

Add a comment…
Brades 11 May 2023

Interesting read and I like the definition of a GT car.

I went through the process of choosing a 4 seater GT car a few years ago and came to similar conclusions although I was looking for something older where depreciation was not an issue and significantly cheaper as it happens. I choose a e39 BMW 530i SE touring which is probably in line with the modern equivalents chosen here.  Enough performance to overtake, an engaging drive and comfortable.  OK, not particularly striking and the bonnet is of moderate length but these kind of cars are relatively hard to come by now.  Most cars have dull steering, are not engaging to drive and often have overly firm 'Germanic' suspension, I guess one of the reasons I had a preference for the SE over the more popular Sport model.

Coupey 10 April 2022

There seems to be a common misunderstanding ofcwhat a GT car. For that matter, Mercedes cant even figure out what a coupe is.

It's ok if you want a sportier sedan.  However, that's not a Grand Touring car, and its not a coupe either.  

I would think an automotive enthusiast magazine would have the professional integrity to keep these terms straight. Let's get it right going forward. And, please don't tell me I'm out of touch. I'm not having it.