When you think of a luxury car, what usually comes to mind is the three-pointed star of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The German automaker’s flagship has been considered the standard in luxury sedans since the S-Class designation was officially introduced back in 1972. With an impressive amount of luxury, new technologies and a handsome design, the S-Class has cemented itself as being the class leader.
But what if you want something a bit more stylish in your flagship sedan? What about something that doesn’t quite break the bank? What if you still want a German flagship, but don’t really care for the three-pointed star? Luckily, we have some alternatives to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
You Want to Stay with the Germans: Audi A8
The Audi A8 is possibly the closest alternative to the Mercedes S-Class in terms of variety. It comes in both short and long-wheelbase models, along with gas engines that range from a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 to a W12 with 500 horsepower. There is also a turbodiesel 3.0-liter V6 diesel that gets 28 mpg combined. All A8 models come with Audi’s famed quattro all-wheel drive.
Moving inside, the A8 features one of Audi’s best interiors to date with wide amount of finishing touches such as real wood and aluminum, quilted leather and a high-end Bang & Olufsen audio system. If you opt for a long-wheelbase model, you can order a package that adds power-adjustable rear seats, four-zone automatic climate control and a massage function for all of the seats.
The big downside to the Audi A8? It unfortunately looks too much like the smaller Audi A6, A4 and A3 sedans. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself correcting someone because they say you have a nice A4. Another downside to the A8 is the confusing MMI infotainment system, which features a control knob that can take some time to master.
The 2015 Audi A8 begins at $77,400, but the A8 has not been redesigned since the 2011 model year. You should be able to find a used Audi A8 from the current generation for around $45,000.
You Want to Stand Out in a Crowd: Jaguar XJ
The Jaguar XJ is considered to be one of the best-looking flagship sedans. Just one look and you could find yourself in awe. The design is simple with smooth lines and a large grille. Inside, the XJ continues the simple design with a clean dash layout, swaths of leather and the choice of aluminum or wood trim. Higher end models get the option of a rear seat package that includes tables behind the front seats and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Bolstering the XJ’s case is a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with 340 horsepower and the choice of either rear- or all-wheel drive. Those wanting a bit more oomph can choose from two supercharged V8 engines with either 470 or 550 horsepower. It should be noted you can get a sport package that adds such touches as 20-inch wheels, a front splitter and a raised top speed of 174 mph.
Now the big downside to the Jaguar XJ is age. This generation has been with us since 2011 and while it might not look like it on the exterior, the technology shows how old it is – especially if you’re considering an older model. The infotainment system can be somewhat clunky, with slow responses to user inputs. Jaguar’s questionable history of reliability may also give some shoppers pause, though it has been improving slightly in the past few years.
The 2015 Jaguar XJ begins at $74,200. You should be able to find a current-generation XJ in clean condition for around $50,000.
You Want to Save a Bundle of Cash: Kia K900
You might think that getting into flagship sedan may cost you an arm and a leg. But in the case of the 2015 Kia K900, it doesn’t. With a base price of $54,500, the K900 is very much an example of getting a lot for the money. The standard equipment list is extensive with power-folding mirrors, HID headlights that bend when you go into a corner, a 14-speaker audio system, a 9.2-inch display with navigation, tri-zone automatic climate control, power seats, heated front and rear seats and push-button start.
Power comes from a 5.0-liter V8 with 420 horsepower, and an eight-speed automatic transmission gets the power to the rear wheels. Sadly, no option of all-wheel drive is available.
Now the big problem with the K900 is the Kia nameplate. While Kia has made great strides in improving its reputation, telling someone you spent $54,000 on a Kia sedan may garner some strange looks. Not helping the K900’s case is fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2015 K900 at 15/23 mpg city/highway, or 18 mpg combined, which is fairly low for a V8-powered flagship sedan.
The Kia K900 was newly introduced for 2015, so used inventory may be in shorter supply than what you’ll find with the Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ. Still, with some careful searching you should be able to find a K900 for as little as $42,000.