A four-wheel drive sedan offers the best of both worlds; it offers the grip and stability of a 4×4 in the winter months, while also remaining sleek and sporty the rest of the year. If, like our reader, you have £25,000 to spend on a premium four-wheel drive sedan, read on to see our top picks.
Limousine cars, also called sedans, are characterized by a trunk space that remains separate from the passenger compartment. Most sedan models for sale are rear-wheel drive, meaning the engine and gearbox drive the rear wheels, while the front axle is reserved solely for steering. This setup is favored by car enthusiasts because it gives the feeling of being ‘pushed’ with the car when accelerating and is better able to oversteer – the action of a car swinging its rear end when cornering.
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While this kind of setup can certainly be fun in nice weather, it’s not always ideal for people who live in colder and wetter climates. Fortunately, a select few models (usually more premium offerings) are available with four-wheel drive. As the name suggests, all four wheels of the car are powered, with the front wheels also providing the steering. Four-wheel drive models can distribute engine power between the two axles to provide the optimum amount of grip, meaning the car is less likely to skid or lose traction in slippery conditions.
As you might expect, the added complexity of four-wheel drive means these cars are more expensive than their rear-wheel drive counterparts. For example; equipping a BMW 3 Series 320i with xDrive costs an average of about €2,000.
However, on the second-hand market, prices are much more favorable; while four-wheel drive cars typically hold their value better than their front- and rear-wheel drive siblings, there are still plenty of deals to be found. We searched the web and found three options that all offer as much grip as luxury for our reader’s budget. If you’re looking for something newer, why not check out our list of the best large executive cars? Keep reading to see what we found.
The sporty choice: Jaguar XF
FOR: Sporty and comfortable, stylish image
AGAINST: Interior lacks quality compared to rivals
Style may be subjective, but the Jaguar XF is one of the sleekest premium sedans around, and it backs it up with the way it drives. The fast steering offers decent feedback, while the suspension tuning offers a fine balance between comfort and dynamics. The refinement is strong too and the XF is a great cruiser.
It’s fair to say that the Jaguar XF loses interior quality compared to its rivals here. While there’s a mix of soft leather and decent aluminum-style trim, the quality of the 5 Series and S90’s cabs feels noticeably better, plus the Jaguar’s infotainment system is also less usable and has fewer features than the one in the BMW 5 Series rival. Rear legroom doesn’t quite match the space available in the 5 Series, although the XF’s boot space is slightly larger at 540 litres.
Your budget has a Mk2 XF, although it will be a pre-facelift model. We found an 18-plate XF 2.0d (178 hp, 44.4 mpg, 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds) Portfolio AWD with 15,500 miles on the odometer for around £23,000.
The balanced choice: BMW 5 Series
FOR: Almost flawless all-rounder, fantastic interior
AGAINST: Can’t pull the heart like an XF
The BMW 5 Series does everything a premium sedan should do. This great all-rounder seamlessly combines an engaging ride and an impressive level of comfort, even if the Jaguar’s quicker handling might appeal to those seeking a sharper B-road experience. The xDrive system adds traction without sacrificing driver involvement.
The interior of the 5 Series shows how well BMW can put together an interior. Even in pre-facelift examples, there are no build quality issues in the German sedan, and the caliber of materials used is absolutely top notch. It also offers more legroom than its competitors in this test, while the infotainment is the best by a reasonable margin. The 530-litre boot is perfectly adequate for a model in this class, and is only slightly behind the XF’s 540-litre capacity.
You get a current 5 Series within budget in the specs you want, but only in pre-facelift guise. At the higher end of your price range, we found a 25,000-mile, 17-plate 520d (187bhp, 49.6mpg, 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds) xDrive M Sport.
The comfortable choice: Volvo S90
FOR: Most comfortable car on test, strong interior quality
AGAINST: So-so handling and a slight lack of luggage space
Even when fitted with a powerful engine, the Volvo S90 feels much more geared towards comfort than an exhilarating drive. That’s not a bad thing, and may suit you better than the sporting behavior offered by its rivals here. It drives superbly and is very refined, while grip is plentiful and the four-wheel drive system inspires confidence. But if you continue in the S90, you’ll see light steering without much communication, while the bodywork is relatively prominent.
Like the 5 Series, the S90 benefits from a fantastic quality interior, with a well laid out dashboard. The Swedish sedan’s front seats are incredibly comfortable, and this feature, together with the softer suspension, makes the Volvo a very relaxing car for long-distance driving. Legroom in the rear is decent, albeit a tad lower than the 5 Series, while the Volvo’s infotainment configuration is better than Jaguar’s system, but not as good as the BMW’s. The luggage compartment stands at 500 liters, which is not a bad volume, but still places the S90 here in third place.
We saw a 20,000-mile, 18-plate D5 PowerPulse (235 hp, 43.5 mpg, 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds) inscription for a £25,000 stunner.
The car buyer’s choice:
Like its smaller brother, the 3 Series, the BMW 5 Series has long set the benchmark in its class. This latest generation of the 5 Series (referred to as the G30 by enthusiasts) is one of the strongest yet, with a stylish design and a high-quality interior. Even on pre-facelift models with the old version of iDrive, BMW’s infotainment system here is the best of the three, with a slick dial and intuitive menus. The 5 Series also uses the brilliant Munich brand xDrive system; this distributes 60% of the power to the rear axle, providing the pleasure of a rear-wheel drive car without loss of grip. All this makes the 5 one of the most complete cars currently on sale.
Fancy something cool with four-wheel drive? Check out our list of the Top 10 best 4x4s