On the 11th and 12th September 2018, Professional Driver Magazine hosted a judging day for Professional Driver Car of the Year at Sandown Park Race Course. The Chauffeur Group were asked to attend this event to help judge a host of executive cars with the winners being announced at the QSi Awards in November. Choosing between such an array of beautiful vehicles was not as easy as it may seem!
Which manufacturers were there?
With over 50 cars available to drive, from most leading marques engaged in the chauffeur and private hire industry, choosing which ones to test, in a relatively short amount of time, was key. Audi, BMW, Hyundai and Jaguar Land Rover were all in attendance representing their brands and showcasing some exciting new products, this really did highlight their commitment to the professional driving industry.
Which cars did we drive?
As a company providing executive car services, we have a fleet of over 50 cars, predominantly Mercedes E and S classes. Mercedes for us have always represented the ultimate in luxury and comfort, but the competition we would discover, is hotting up…
So, we naturally steered towards the Mercedes E Class 220d AMG first which was highly specked and provided a very comfortable ride, as we expected. We then moved to the S Class 350d AMG, the model we drove really did provide the height of luxury but with a price tag of over £96k you would expect it to!
With airports and cities, such as London, looking to become more green, electric cars are most certainly the way our industry is headed.
Ultra Low Emission Zone standards
For example, to help improve air quality across London, from 8 April 2019 if you drive any petrol or diesel vehicle including cars, motorcycles and vans within the Congestion Charge area in central London, you will need to meet new tighter emissions standards called the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) standards.
ULEZ launch in two phases, initially operating in central London 24 hours a day, every day of the year, in the same area of central London area as the Congestion Charging zone. From 25 October 2021 the area will be expanded to the inner London area bounded by the North and South Circular roads.
Increasing the size of the ULEZ will not only help improve air quality for the 3.6 million residents living within the expanded zone, it will also help improve air quality across London as a whole.
Leading the market in this area, Jaguar Land Rover brought their new iPace along, the first all-electric Jaguar. We were told it was a sports car, however, the styling was very much in the form of an SUV. It wasn’t until we drove it that we realised just what a performance vehicle it was. The sound was that of a jet engine and it definitely felt like we were taking off. With 294hp and a 0-60 of 4.5 seconds, this vehicle means business! Is it likely to be on our shopping list though?
The iPace has a place in the market, but for our discerning customers where space and luxury are key, this car wouldn’t fit the bill. However, once the electric version of the XJ is launched, now that would be a serious contender.
We moved on to Volvo and chose the hybrid S90 T8. Although we didn’t much care for the rear styling, the front makes for a very attractive car indeed. The interior fell short when compared to the luxurious S class but when you consider this S90 is £30k cheaper and a hybrid, it earns a place in the professional driving industry. The engine was smooth and with a massive 320hp (plus 87hp), it was no slug either!
Finally, as the day was coming to an end, we grabbed the keys to the BMW 740LE XDrive M Sport Saloon, another hybrid and possibly the best-looking car in this category. We had had a long day and as we settled down in the plush leather seats, we suddenly felt like we were home. We silently pulled away, picking up a little speed on the roads to hear a beautiful song from the engine, the ride felt firmer than the S Class but there is no doubt, this car has presence on the road. The largest drawback, however, is undoubtedly the restricted rear boot space, compromised as a consequence of incorporating the battery technology.
Which would we choose?
The answer to this is simple, we wouldn’t choose any.
Until other manufacturers can provide all electric alternatives, whichever we choose will always be a temporary fix to what needs to be a long-term solution.
If our arm was forced, however, on the day, we thought the luxurious Mercedes S Class would make a worthy winner, but with a hefty price tag of over £96k it is beyond many chauffeurs reach. If you are company or individual working on a budget then the Volvo S90 should be on your test drive list in this class of vehicle, it doesn’t quite hit the mark, but it won’t break the bank either!
As an all round winner, given the choice currently available to our industry, we still feel the Mercedes E Class ticks all the boxes, it is comfortable, affordable and still has the prestige that our clients expect, for now…
The Chauffeur Group would like to thank Professional Driver Magazine for inviting us to attend such a well organised and enjoyable day. Also thank you to the sponsors Aston Lark and Ethos for making the day possible and to the manufacturers who took the time to attend the event. Their staff were all extremely helpful and informative.
We now look forward to the 22nd November where the winners will be announced at the QSi Awards. Which car do you think will win this year?