There are much better ways to drive around without getting noticed and driving around in cars that cost well over what any of us make isn’t one of them.
Our cars - a Mercedes-Benz S600 AMG , BMW 760Li , Jaguar XJ and the Audi A8 - are dressed in their best colors with the waxed paint job glimmering in the evening sunlight. Driving through the heavily used highways around the Cleveland area is prime gawking time for motorists. At first, the stares and pointing fingers can make you feel a bit uncomfortable, but can you blame them? It isn’t everyday that you see a luxury barge roll through a relatively poor city, especially now that LeBron James is gone.
These four sedans might be large in stature, but one nudge or poke in the wrong place and its goodnight in one impressive display. So, with more onlookers than a Thanksgiving Day parade, we are obliged to find the best luxury sedan among the four.
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These large sedans are bought with a purpose. They obviously give the impression of wealth and space and that the driver or passenger wants complete luxury. With that in mind we headed off to the shops, but not just any old shops, high-end stores in which these machines would fit in well with the luxurious lifestyle.
The S600 amazes us instantly. It’s been around for some time now, but it still feels brilliant. The twin-turbocharged V12 cranks out locomotive-type power, with 510 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque, and the styling is typical Mercedes . The cabin is conservative compared to the others and mostly button free. You feel like you’re surrounded by amazing power and technical brilliance. Just to give you an idea of this car’s imposing nature, the minute we pulled up to the front of The Collection in Troy, Michigan, the valet boys seemed either intimidated or overwhelmed. It was like a UFC fight for who was going to park it and the massive tip they thought they would receive from us.
The steering is tight and tidy and the body control is sensational. The V12 motor has plenty of low-end power and doesn’t need to revved up in order to perform. The dual-mode five-speed automatic is very good, but we would have liked Mercedes to include the seven-speed gearbox from the S63 as an option. The S600 doesn’t feel like a car that beckons you to sit in the back. It’s a car that wants to be driven.
The 760Li on the other hand, is the complete opposite. The overwhelming size of it gives passengers in the back more room than first class on a jet. In fact, this thing is massive any way you look at it. Under the hood is a massively huge 6.0 liter twin-turbocharged V12 that cranks out 544 horsepower. It weighs a bit less than the S600 and can hit 60 miles per hour in just 4.6 seconds. Both cars are limited to 155 mph, but the way the BMW gets to that speed is miles different.
The BMW accelerates with the power of the space shuttle, but with the smoothness of a yacht. The transmission is so sensationally gentle that you would be able to keep all the champagne in your glass as you’re sitting in the backseat.
Sitting in the driver’s seat isn’t as fun as being in the Mercedes, as this sedan is more of a limo than a performance vehicle. It’s confusing to us then, that the BMW has such a massive motor and five different driver’s settings. Why give the 760Li these toys when it doesn’t feel like it was meant for them?
We move on to the new boys, the Audi A8 and the Jaguar XJ. The Jaguar is a car that has made a huge impression since its debut for those dazzling looks that make the others seem a bit dull. By no means is this car flashy and gaudy, but it looks more modern than the old school Mercedes. The 5.0-liter supercharged V8 gives us 500 horsepower to help get the car to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds.
That being said, the car is the loudest and the most unpleasant when riding in the back. If you’re looking to be driven somewhere, the BMW is still the best bet. Yet, despite it’s unimpressive backseat, the Jag is the best driver’s car here. While the Mercedes has gizmos and gadgets that keep it in line, the Jag feels lighter and more natural. The brakes have tons of feel, the steering is precise, and the interior is like modern-London.
That leaves us with the Audi A8 L 4.2-liter FSI. The Audi is seemingly outclassed among these three, as its engine lacks the punch of a turbo or a supercharger. The V8 only puts out 372 horsepower and 328 pound-feet of torque. That being said, it will get better mileage, which might be important to some.
The new A8 also has more technology than NASA, making this the geek’s ride of choice. Some of the features include handwriting recognition, wireless LAN, nightvision, multi-input adaptive cruise control, and a boatload of other toys. Take those neat toys and put them in something that looks pretty good and Audi has a real winner on its hands.
Driving through town after town and parking lot after parking lot, it was clear which car got the most attention; the Jaguar and the Mercedes. The Jaguar has the looks of a starship and the S-Class is instantly recognizable. On the road, the Audi was clearly slower with a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds, but the all-wheel drive system was nice around the bends. The A8 seemed more willing to cruise as well, where as the other three wanted to jump up and attack.
The most shocking thing about this long test session with each car was the way they were treated. It was as if we were driving a Ferrari . You could see people looking out of their car windows as we drove past. No matter what we had that day, the XJ, the A8, the BMW, or the Merc; people seemed to take notice.
On our final day with each of these machines we made some big conclusions. The A8 from a distance looks a bit too much like an A4 and the motor just isn’t strong enough to compete on the track with these insane machines. That being said, it has plenty of power to get up and go and the smoothness to make any journey relaxing. Had this been a competition against a normal 7-Series, S-Class, and XJ, the A8 would have come real close to winning.
The Mercedes verdict is similar to the BMW’s. These cars are hugely impressive, but what are they really for? One doesn’t need a sub-five second 0-60 time in order to be driven around in and if you want a performance machine, buy the SL or the S63. These two cars seem like toys for people who couldn’t care less about dropping $100,000.
The BMW suffers from this confusing packaging the worst. It goes fast, but it just feels off. With all that space in the back there is no need for that much power and those confusing driver’s settings. The Mercedes was a little better to drive, but we were a bit letdown by the S-Class’s interior. Sure, it’s really neat and feels like a quality product, but compared to the others, it’s downright boring.
That leaves us with the Jaguar. Those of you who have been keeping up with our top tens will remember that we ranked this as the top luxury sedan and we are going to do it again. It has the best interior, the best driving dynamics, and it’s the best looking by a country mile. The Jaguar XJ is our car of choice.
Driving around in these sorts of machines gives you a new appreciation for the engineering that went into them. Each of the cars was masterfully built and they would all be smart buys. But in this arena, the XJ is top of the class.