The mid-size executive class champions quality, economy, comfort and space, although cars with a dash of performance and handling dynamism as well inevitably stand out in within it.
These are the cars that will spend a great deal of their lives out on the motorway, so refinement is key. The office car park status conferred by the right premium badge doesn't go amiss here, either. These are our favourites.
BMW’s latest 5 Series is in many ways the quintessential and defining mid-sized executive saloon, which is no doubt a result of its 46-year history.
Recently face-lifted, it sets a high standard in the segment as far as perceived cabin quality is concerned; it 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 545e plug-in hybrid would make a fine fleet option, while either a 530d or 540i would reward you for opting out of the company car scheme, albeit it for different reasons.
It may not be quite as engaging to drive as a Jaguar XF but this may be forgiven when you consider where cars of this type spend most of their time. The BMW's tech on board is a notch above most rivals also, particularly for the impressive configurability of the car's driver assistance systems.
The distinguishing completeness of the 5 Series earns it top honours here.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the sort of executive option that priorities driver comfort, onboard luxury, occupant safety and all-round ease-of-use over outright driver engagement. The cabin – updated for 2020 – is a luxurious place to sit and, combined with the car's excellent active driver assistance systems, would go a long way to make long-distance commuting pleasurable.
Mercedes offers abundant choice on propulsion, with electrification now playing a leading role, and the entry-level PHEV derivative offering 154bhp in petrol form and 158bhp for the diesel. At mid-level, the E300e is petrol-electric while the E300de is diesel-electric, with both cars being quite evenly matched for price and performance (although, predictably, the diesel delivering better real-world long-distance fuel economy). And further up the range still, buyers can choose from a couple of straight-six diesels; there's also the six-cylinder turbocharged E450 warm petrol option; and only then do you get to the rarefied and expensive levels of the mild-hybrid AMG -53 and full-fat AMG -63 performance versions.