SUNDAY Times Driving has created their brilliant Top 100 Cars of 2016 guide. Read excerpts here or the full list at Driving.co.uk.
1. BMW 5-Series
Buy this and you won’t have to forgo the driving fun just because you need to be able to cart kids around: with its handling it puts many smaller, lighter cars to shame. The 5-series is, simply, brilliant. On offer is a range of four-cylinder and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, which are efficient and mostly muscular too.
Whatever variant you buy, you’ll almost certainly love it, but we reckon the best is the 520d, which can crack 60mpg while having a strong appetite for the cut and thrust of everyday driving.
- Price: £33,315 – £51,270
- Our pick: BMW 520d SE Touring, £34,815
- Engine: 1995cc, 4 cylinders
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 8.1sec
- Top speed: 142mph
- Fuel | CO2: 61mpg | 122g/km
2. Jaguar XF
Lighter, thanks to a new aluminium shell, and more spacious because of a longer wheelbase, Jaguar’s new XF handles impressively and delivers more luxury. There’s an all-new dashboard but the big news is under the bonnet: Jaguar’s Ingenium 2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine in 161bhp or 177bhp form. It’s a great powerplant — muscular, frugal, clean and smooth — but a tad vocal sometimes.
- Price: £32,300 – £49,945
- Our pick: Jaguar XF 2.0d Prestige auto, £34,550
- Engine: 1999cc, 4 cylinders
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 8.1sec
- Top speed: 136mph
- Fuel | CO2: 65.7mpg | 114g/km
3. Mercedes CLS
Closely related to the E-class, this so-called four-door coupé looks more stylish and has more of a driving focus: the suspension is stiffer and the steering sharper. This makes for a much more involving car that can still accommodate four people (there’s no middle rear seat). Aimed very much at the premium end of the market, the CLS comes with huge amounts of equipment as standard, whatever variant you pick.
- Price: £46,500 – £86,510
- Our pick: Mercedes CLS 350d AMG Line Premium, £53,090
- Engine: 2987cc, 6 cylinders
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 6.5sec
- Top speed: 155mph
- Fuel | CO2: 52mpg | 142g/km
4. VW Passat
To some it’s anonymous and unexclusive, but if you appreciate fine engineering, are happy to blend into the scenery and value fit and finish delivered to a fetishistic degree, the Passat will give you a warm glow every time you climb inside.
Having realised that nobody in this segment buys a petrol engine, VW offers the Passat with a 1.6 or 2-litre diesel engine only, as a manual or automatic — or there’s a rather good (if costly) hybrid, the GTE.
- Price: £22,320 – £40,150
- Our pick: Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDi 150 SE Business, £25,240
- Engine: 1968cc, 4 cylinders
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 8.7sec
- Top speed: 137mph
- Fuel | CO2: 71mpg | 106g/km
5. Mazda 6
The Mazda6 is the least expensive model in this category but it is no cut-price contender. It’s a spacious saloon that’s engaging to drive and — after a recent update — has an interior that matches the good looks on the outside.
Smooth petrol and diesel engines harness Mazda’s Skyactiv technology — essentially, they are lighter and more efficient. Equipped with a mini hybrid system that conserves energy that would normally be wasted, the Mazda6 can return decent real-world fuel economy.
- Price: £19,795-£28,795
- Our pick: Mazda 2.2 SkyActiv-D 175ps Sport Nav, £26,795
- Engine: 2191cc, 4 cylinder
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 7.9sec
- Top Speed: 139mph
- Fuel | CO2: 62.8mpg | 119g/km