Five of the best: mid-size luxury sedans
While the luxury SUV and crossover segment continue their onslaught on the once popular class, midsize luxury sedans have still proven popular in South Africa. While some brands - like Volkswagen and Volvo - no longer offer their products, the most popular remain.
We take a look at the remaining segment stalwarts, which include the more popular German trio, and the left-field options. It's worth noting that we're just focusing on the non-performance models here, with cars like the Giulia Quadrifoglio, M3 and S4 being excluded.
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Italy's only entrant into the class, the stylish Alfa Romeo Giulia, may not be a sales success - but it sure is a stunner. Owners love the exclusivity and driving dynamics which - some say - bests even the BMW 3 Series for dynamism and involvement. Aside from the high-performance Quadrifoglio, there's just one model. Priced at R989 900, the 2.0T Veloce has a four-cylinder which produces 206 kW and a healthy 400 Nm of torque.
Alfa claims a 0-100 km/h time of just 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 240 km/h. Despite those sporting figures, the Italian brand claims an average fuel consumption of just 6.0 L/100 km. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Standard features include leather seats, satellite navigation and autonomous emergency braking.
The oldest of the German trio, Audi's classy A4 has recently received a rather comprehensive update. While the styling remains relatively unchanged, Ingolstadt's midsize entrant now receives LED headlamps as standard as well as Audi connect technology with an updated MMI touch display. Three engine options are available - 35 TFSI (110 kW), 40 TFSI (140 kW) and 35 TDI (110 kW).
The range kicks off at R674 000 for a base-model 35 TFSI and ends with the 35 TDI S line, priced R759 000. 17-inch alloys are standard while Advanced and S line trims receive 18-inchers. Six airbags, climate control, cruise control and a suede/leather.
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BMW 3 Series
Known as the benchmark in this segment, BMW's '3er' is credited for creating the midsize luxury class. While comfort and refinement is important, BMW has always infused an unrepeatable balance of driving dynamics and comfort. The latest model is no different. Throw it into a corner and that supple chassis delivers, pivoting around a corner with poise and panache.
The base 318i will set you back R697 524. We'd recommend stepping up to the 320i, at R731 562. To us, it represents the perfect compromise in the range. The 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-pot petrol engine produces 135 kW and 300 Nm. This translates to an impressive 0-100 km/h time of 7.1 seconds. If your budget allows, try to find a 330d. It's an absolutely magical machine. Satellite navigation, cruise control and artificial leather are all standard on the 320i.
Japan's contender is from Lexus. Infiniti enjoyed a brief moment on the local market, but failed to capture SA's imagination. Lexus may not enjoy the sales success of the big Germans, but has a loyal fan base that keeps it successful in SA.The latest IS is available with just one engine choice (300h) and three trim levels - EX (R858 100), SE (R917 800) and F-Sport (R935 200).
The 2.5-litre petrol-hybrid engine, which produces 164 kW and 221 Nm, is mated to a CVT gearbox. Thanks to the hybrid technology, Lexus says the IS can average just 5.2 L/100 km. The base model EX is, all things considered, the one to have. Even though it's the cheapest, it comes standard with a host of standard features - 18-inch alloys and an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
The fifth-generation stalwart from Stuttgart takes styling cues from the latest S-Class - and borrows tech, too. Currently, just two engine options are available; the turbopetrol C200 and turbodiesel C220d. R856 080 gets you behind the wheel of a C200 Avantgarde, although we're guessing that Mercedes-Benz will introduce a cheaper 180 model in the near future.
The C200 may only pack a 1.5-litre engine, but it produces a healthy 150 kW and 300 Nm of torque. The diesel model offers slightly less power (147 kW) but a healthier torque output of 440 Nm. Both are equipped with the 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox. As with Mercedes, a raft of optional trim and leather choices means you can make your C-Class unique - at a price, of course.
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