Audi’s original Q7 represented a lot of car for the money when it came out in 2007 – but for all its virtues, it never felt quite right. Too bulky, too obviously made with the American market in mind.
The launch of the new Ford Mondeo has been a long and rather tortuous one. Initially shown at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, the car didn’t go on sale until this year after Ford decided to close a plant and shift all production to Valencia in Spain.
Skoda set a benchmark for the upper-medium sector with its previous Superb when it was launched in 2009. Cleverly adapting the China-market long-wheelbase VW Passat platform resulted in a car with class-leading rear seat space and luggage room.
It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since the world took its first glimpse of the Toyota Prius. Within two years, a 1995 Tokyo Show concept would be a production reality, and the hybrid revolution was under way.
It’s undoubtedly the benchmark car for executive chauffeur work, but the Mercedes-Benz E-Class has recently found itself under threat.
Hard to believe that the Ford Galaxy has been around for almost 20 years. And in that time, over two distinctive generations, the big Ford seven-seater has established itself as one of the most significant private hire cars on the market.
The 2010 Audi A8 has been a fine car, but it’s starting to show its age. That pop-up satnav screen was impressive on launch, but now its 4:3 format looks small and outdated compared to the vast digital panels of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. And while it’s still a comfortable car, it lacks the immersive opulence of the S-Class, or the tight, connected handling of the BMW 7-series.
The BMW 5-series Gran Turismo was well received when launched in 2010. Combining a tall hatchback body with the running gear of the standard-wheelbase 7-Series, it was seen as a bit of an oddball, but in a good way. The car has found its way on to a lot of chauffeur fleets, especially when a more frugal – and affordable - 2.0-litre diesel version joined the range after a couple of years.
How France must envy the German luxury car industry. Chic brands such as Christian Dior and Yves St Laurent rule the high-class end of the fashion industry, but French cars remain workaday volume models.
The third vehicle to derive form the new Ford Mondeo platform is the S-MAX. Overshadowed by the Galaxy as a Private Hire Vehicle, the more family-oriented S-MAX is nonetheless a highly competent people-mover.
Ford started calling its passenger-carrying Transit the Tourneo back in 1995, and the vehicle is well established as a reliable urban seven-seater taxi.
Earlier this year, the Jaguar XJ scored a notable conquest in London, with established operator Crawfords taking 50 of the revised flagship. It was a major coup for Jaguar, which is working hard to challenge Mercedes-Benz’s dominance in the chauffeur sector.
The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class has hit the ground running in the chauffeur market, winning the Executive Car of the Year award in last November’s Professional Driver awards.
Once upon a time, when the launch of the Ford Galaxy was far, far away, Renault bestrode the MPV universe like a colossus. The Espace, the car that invented the modern MPV, had few rivals, and for many chauffeurs, was the go-to car for hotel and airport business shuttle work.
The Seat Alhambra was born out of convenience in the late 1990s, to boost capacity at the Portuguese plant that makes the VW Sharan and, at the time, the Ford Galaxy. Ford soon split from the venture and made its own Galaxy, but the remaining twins have survived, with an all-new range launching in 2010.
Air quality is undoubtedly a major issue, and it’s one of the key drivers behind moves toward electric cars rather than petrol or diesel. Hybrids, especially plug-ins, are seen as an important staging post on that route, as they’re not totally dependent on inadequate electric charging infrastructure.
The Volvo S90 replaces the worthy S80, a versatile salon that was perhaps just a shade too small to compete with the sector-leading Mercedes E-Class or its other rivals.
Volkswagen’s CC four-door coupe turned out to be a surprise hit in the executive chauffeuring market. A stylish, low-roofed derivative of the previous-generation Passat its good looks won it some orders – though in truth, it was a little restricted in the back seats.
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