Every corner of the new car market is changing rapidly at the moment - and the mid-sized executive saloon niche, one of the most traditional there is, emphatically proves as much.
Here, as both plug-in hybrid and full electrification spread throughout the segment, the old multi-cylinder diesel engines that we so often used to recommend as some of very the best powertrains in the world are disappearing, as more and more customers retreat from them.
Where once the majority of the cars in this list came with six-cylinder diesel engine options, now only two do. At the same time, only two cars here now omit some kind of hybridised or all-electric model.
This used to be the class where you'd find more affordable versions of the Tesla Model S - but after the American firm's recent decision to end right-hand-drive production of the car, it can no longer really be considered a viable option for people looking for a daily-use business tool.
So, one way and another, change breeds upheaval. With the old default recommendations gone, and one or two of the new ones to boot, who are the ruling powers among the mid-sized, premium-brand saloon and estate set? Read on to find out.
1. BMW 5 Series
The BMW 5 Series is a long-lived executive grandee with distinguishing strengths across the board. It sets a high standard for perceived cabin quality and makes a very comfortable long-distance tourer in pretty much any engine and trim you might choose. Its best engines also offer first-rate performance and drivability, and very creditably real-world efficiency too – and its rear-driven handling poise makes for plenty of sporting appeal when you go looking for it, without compromising on ride comfort.
A pair of plug-in hybrid powertrains make the car very easy to recommend to both fleet drivers and private owners. The more powerful BMW 545e comes exclusively in saloon-bodied, four-wheel-drive form and mixes six-cylinder richness and pace in with zero-emissions running, but the more affordable 530e can be had in any driveline configuration or bodystyle you might want.
Meanwhile, at the richer but more traditional end of the 5 Series engine spectrum, plenty of reward might be found by opting out of the company car scheme altogether. The current 5 Series M Performance derivative, the M550i xDrive, does a very convincing and appealingly laid-back impression of an M5 super-saloon for a much more accessible price.
On the diesel side, we mourn the loss of the superb 530d, withdrawn from sale in the UK in early 2023 in the face of dwindling demand. Very few modern passenger cars have won more road test comparison exercises in Autocar than it has over the past two decades, and its blend of refinement, pace, drivability, refinement and sporting appeal will be greatly missed. But the frugal, four-cylinder 520d continues for those who still depend on the high-mileage efficiency of diesel.