Dear Santa, I've Been a Very Good Boy
THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY, whatever the country it may be, is run by the sales of compact sedans, pick-ups and people carriers. The numerous Toyota Vios’ and Honda Citys running around are what give the car companies the lion share of the market. That said, although these vehicles are runaway sales hits, they are not the truly desirable ones—the car that people actually dream of owning and driving one day; the type of car that carries the most powerful and affluent people of society. These are reserved for the Executive and Luxury Sedans, touches of luxury on four wheels. It is these vehicles that CoTY – Philippines that put to the test in the recently concluded Test Fest in Eagleridge Country Club in Cavite.
Like before, each of these vehicles were subjected to the same level of quantitative tests: acceleration, braking, interior noise levels—all that would translate to important real-world values. Beyond the mere figures though, things such as ergonomics, build quality, space, handling—items that would actually make or break a purchase were also put to the test. With such a huge price variance in this group, the CoTY group decided to split this category into three: Best Executive Sedan (up to P1,800,000), Best Luxury Sedan (up to P5,000,000) and Ultra-Luxury Sedan (above P5,000,000).
Hyundai Sonata GLS (P 1,087,000)
Being the most affordable car in this line-up doesn’t mean cheap. The Hyundai Sonata GLS is truly one globally competitive car. Although the odd-ball looks may sound Korean, it’s well-built, roomy and nicely equipped for the price. The Mitsubishi-sourced engine may not be the most refined engine on the planet, but Hyundai did it best by equipping the Sonata with a 4-speed automatic with manual shift override.
Mazda 6 (P 1,105,000)
The perfect long-distance driving companion, the Mazda6 is the first car to be designed under the ‘Zoom-Zoom’ corporate philosophy. Its sublime chassis produces class-leading handling without sacrificing a comfortable ride—something expected in this class. The compact, sporty exterior hides an excellent finished, roomy cabin. The 131-bhp engine is a tad underpowered, but it manages well with its responsive 4-speed automatic.
Nissan Cefiro 300EX (P 1,450,000)
The first of the big three Japanese sedans, the Nissan Cefiro was the first in the market to offer a V6 engine in its class. Now, with a displacement bumped up to 3.0-liters, the Cefiro has the straight-line grunt that’s closer to a muscle car than a sedate luxury cruiser. The VQ-series V6 engine aside, the Cefiro is well equipped and well priced. Gone are the tacky stuff from the previous Brougham VIP, and only the top-notch fittings get retained inside.
Honda Accord 3.0 VTEC V6 (P 1,600,000)
Best described as a business executive in an Adidas track suit, the Accord V6 is the fastest sprinter here—doing 0-100 km/h in just 7.5 seconds! The Accord’s sporty demeanor is more subdued than the Mazda6, but it’s certainly there from the throaty VTEC engine to the F1-inspired suspension to the driver-oriented interior. Beyond being merely fast, the Accord is vast, well-equipped and highly comfortable.
Toyota Camry 3.0V (P 1,680,000)
The big ticket to success is best seen in the new Toyota Camry 3.0V. With a long range of equipment, the Camry 3.0V puts even some of the big German boys to shame. Yet, beyond the gadgets, the Camry offers a very soft ride—something that’s important to the 8-5 businessman. The 3.0-liter engine equipped with VVTi may not have the same grunt as the Honda or Nissan power plants in a straight line, but it does pull very well.
Volvo S40 2.4i (P 1,850,000)
The most handsome in the Volvo family line, the S40 is sleek and stylish—inside and out. Yet, behind the looks lies a new, world-class chassis and engine. The inline-5, Volvo’s new trademark, is powerful and refined. The body feels as solid as a bank vault, bringing it much closer to the Germans in feel and quality. The interior is equally sleek with special fabric seats and a floating aluminum center console.
Volvo S60 T5 (P 2,590,000)
Sharing its platform with its big brother, the S60, it’s by no mean the forgotten middle child. The S60 is well constructed inside and out and equally potent with a high-output 2.3-liter inline-5. The 250 horsepower engine is complimented by performance-oriented 17-inch alloy wheels and powerful vented disc all-around. The list of standard features is long too, including a hands-free phone kit, dual zone climate control and dual front power seats.
Mercedes-Benz C240 Elegance (P 2,995,000)
Realizing that Mercedes-Benz can’t survive on badge alone, they’ve equipped its baby C-class sedan with everything a businessman would need: hands-free phone kit, moon roof, power leather seats—all wrapped in a sporty and capable chassis. The 2.6-liter V6 coupled with the 5-speed automatic is smooth and refined.
Jaguar X-Type 3.0 V6 AWD (P 3,100,000)
A Jaguar for C-Class or 3-series money? Hard to believe, but true. The classic Coventry lines are supplemented by well-built and luxurious cabin with top-notch leather and burr-walnut trimmings. Nods to the past aside, the X-Type is underpinned with a modified Ford Mondeo platform and powered by a Ford-sourced 3.0-liter V6. And yet, it manages to bring the leaping cat badge well into the twenty-first century.
BMW 325i (P 3,130,000)
Even with much newer competition, the 3-series, especially the 325i remains the cream of the handling crop with unparalleled driving dynamics. Unadulterated by any sort of electronic nannies, the 3-series is the perfect combination of tidy, crisp handling along with improved comfort and refinement. The inline-6 provides excellent thrust with a remarkably throaty exhaust note.
Volvo S80 2.5T (3,200,000)
Volvo’s flagship sedan breaks from the norm by sliding itself (in terms of size) between the mid-sized and large sedans. To an extent, they got thing spot on with a well-sorted ride and a responsive 2.5-liter turbo engine. The revised styling may still look a bit anonymous compared to the larger Germans, but the S80 hasn’t always been about sticking out of the crowd. It’s about being successful and being discreet about it.
Mercedes-Benz E240 Avantgarde (P 4,850,000)
A good performer in every aspect, the E-Class is the world’s best-selling luxury sedan, and there’s no surprise why. It combines the brand’s traditional values of bank-vault solid build and reliability along with sporty and yet comfortable driving experience. Fully-equipped, the E240 Avantgarde is the ultimate symbol of success and status.
BMW 530d (P 4,880,000)
A statement of individuality, the 530d is certainly not for the introvert with the killer cyborg look. With 218 turbo-diesel horses, it has enough punch to match. Yet, the 530d provides excellent, petrol-like refinement as well as a well-built, nicely equipped interior. It rides on the firmer side, but is never uncomfortable, especially from behind the sporty, three-spoke steering wheel.
Jaguar XJ8 (P 5,100,000)
It may look like the previous XJ, but everything about the XJ8 is all-new. From its sexy aluminum body to its well-crafted interior, the XJ8 exudes class in the traditional sort of way. Yet, it provides excellent road manners actually closer in feel to cars 20 percent smaller than the long-wheelbase XJ8. The 4.2-liter V8 is potent as it is aurally pleasant, making this one slick British alternative to the German invasion.
BMW 745Li (P 8,200,000)
The most expensive car in this test is also the most advanced. The 745Li is a tech-geek’s delight with a 6-speed automatic, a 4.4-liter Valvetronic V8, soft-closing doors and of course, the famed (or infamous) i-Drive system. It distances itself well beyond the previous 7-series by having driving pleasure run by chips and sensors. That said, it’s muscular stature and large bulk make it a standout in city traffic.
The cars mentioned here are winners in their own right, whether it may be in terms of value for money, performance, looks or practicality. Yet, among the fifteen mentioned here, only three will emerge victorious, those that will carry the crown for Best Executive, Best Luxury and Best Ultra-Luxury Sedans. The winner will be announced in February 2005, during the Car of the Year Awards – Philippines awarding ceremony.
By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang and Jason Ang