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Best large cars of 2021

The Mercedes-Benz EQS is an impressive newcomer, but the Porsche Taycan and BMW 5 Series remain the large car class champions

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The large car sector covers an enormous range of price tags – you’ll see a £30K Skoda Superb mixing with a £300K Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Alongside traditional saloons and estates, there are also sleeker liftbacks and ‘four-door coupé’ models trying to grab buyers’ interests as well.

Over the years, the sector has shifted more and more towards luxury car territory, as the famed ‘Mondeo Man’ of the 1990s has largely shifted to an SUV or a smaller but more premium saloon.

Electrification is working its way into the market, with a couple of key new EV contenders entering the market in 2021. Plug-in hybrids tend to be more popular for manufacturers in this segment at the moment – although this will shift in the next couple of years.

Our awards recognise both the best new models to have been launched over the last 12 months, but also the best overall cars in each category – because newer doesn’t always mean better, as you can see below.

The best large cars of 2021

Best large cars 2021 – Mercedes-Benz EQS

Best new model: 
Mercedes-Benz EQS

Class champion, overall:
Porsche Taycan

Best large cars 2021 – BMW 5 Series

Class champion, petrol/diesel:
BMW 5 Series

The Mercedes-Benz EQS is the company’s electric alternative to the traditional S-Class saloon, and has an identical Expert Rating score. However, it still falls a couple of points short of the critics’ favourite large car, the performance-oriented Porsche Taycan.

If you’re looking for a more traditional petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid option, the BMW 5 Series is an outstanding car that continues to show the way to its executive saloon rivals.

Best new model: Mercedes-Benz EQS (86%)

TCE Expert Rating: 86%

Euro NCAP safety rating: 5 stars

The all-new Mercedes-Benz EQS arrived in the UK in late 2021 and is a technological tour de force. Similar in size and price to the traditional S-Class flagship, the EQS shows just how suited an EV can be to luxury motoring.

Its smooth, slightly futuristic styling is a contrast to the more conventional, boxy shapes of Mercedes saloons. Combined with its high-tech interior, including an optional £8K ‘hyperscreen’ dashboard that fills the entire dashboard width with touchscreens, the EQS sets the stage for the next generation of Mercedes-Benz electric models.

The EQS prioritises comfort over performance, unlike other large electric saloons from Porsche, Audi and Tesla, and is a fine benchmark for the rest of the car industry to chase over the next few years.

Class champion, overall: Porsche Taycan (88%)

Best large cars 2021 – Porsche Taycan

TCE Expert Rating: 88%

Euro NCAP safety rating: 5 stars

Although the Mercedes EQS is an impressive machine, it hasn’t quite managed to overtake the Porsche Taycan as the critics’ favourite electric saloon. An Expert Rating of 88% is an impressive result, which earns the Taycan the title of Class Champion for large cars in 2021.

On paper, you might struggle to rate the Taycan over the Tesla Model S, which is significantly cheaper, slightly quicker and has a better battery range. But the Porsche is universally admired for offering better build quality and a far superior driving experience. An estate version, called Sport Turismo, will join the range in 2022.

Incidentally, the Porsche Taycan isn’t the highest-rated large car in our Expert Rating Index – that falls to the Rolls-Royce Phantom with an incredible score of 92%. However, the Phantom (unsurprisingly) doesn’t have a Euro NCAP safety rating, so it’s not eligible.

Class champion, petrol/diesel: BMW 5 Series (87%)

BMW 5 Series (2020 onwards) – Expert Rating

TCE Expert Rating: 87%

Euro NCAP safety rating: 5 stars

The BMW 5 Series has been the benchmark for executive saloons for generations, and the current model is as good as any throughout the model’s storied history. For a conventional petrol/diesel/plug-in hybrid saloon with a relatively normal price tag, its Expert Rating score of 87% is outstanding.

Regarded as an accomplished all-rounder, the 5 Series is enjoyable to drive when you’re in the mood and comfortable when you’re merely commuting. The saloon is spacious for passengers, while the Touring estate version adds a large boot for practicality that is leagues ahead of most SUVs.

Notes on eligibility

To be eligible for our Best New Model or Class Champion titles, there are a couple of requirements in addition to having a top Expert Rating score.

Firstly, the Best New Model must have been launched in the UK between 1 December 2020 and 1 December 2021. That means cars registered and on the road, not just available to order for deliveries starting sometime in 2022.

Secondly, a car must have a current Euro NCAP safety rating of either four or five stars. If a car scores three stars or less, we can’t in good conscience give it an award for being best in class. If a new model has not been tested by Euro NCAP by December 2021, it will not be eligible but we will consider it next year if it has been tested.

A lack of Euro NCAP rating has affected our Class Champion results for large cars. The highest-ranked car is the Rolls-Royce Phantom, which scores an incredible 92% on our Expert Rating Index. But, unsurprisingly, the Phantom has not been subjected to Euro NCAP crash testing and is therefore ineligible.

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