By on January 8, 2020

2016 Infiniti Q70 Premium Select EditionWe continued the QOTD sedan series last week, with 2020’s best all-round small luxury sedans. Today we head up a size class and focus on luxurious midsizers. As you might expect, the field of contenders shrinks a bit this time.

As before, we’ll use a U.S. News classification (plus a couple) to determine our list of midsize luxury sedans. And like before, the list will contain only sedans with four real doors and a trunk, as well as a premium badge.

Acura TLX
Audi A6
BMW 5 Series
Cadillac CT5
Genesis G80
Infiniti Q70
Jaguar XF
Lexus ES
Lexus GS
Lincoln MKZ
Maserati Ghibli
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Volvo S90

Thirteen cars in total, and you’d be forgiven if you thought a couple of these disappeared a year or two ago (like the MKZ, XF, and Q70). One of these entries, the CT5, is brand new. Others, like the three just mentioned, are sorta on their last legs. And the Ghibli was an add-on which our source publication neglected to rate. So what’s left? What’s the desirable all-rounder in this declining segment?

I’ve got to pick the E-Class here. Though the sedan is our topic today, it’s also available in other body styles. It has a few different engines on offer, plus various bits of trim and tune which range from expensive to good grief. It’s a quality-made item, passing the prestige test by standing above such riffraff lease specials as the CLA/GLA/A.

Your dentist might drive an E-Class; it’s respectable. Other entries in the segment have big faults. Glancing through, the GS is too old and due for retirement, the S90 seems built to last the length of a lease, and the TLX feels special in exactly zero ways. I think E-Class is the way to win at best all-round midsize luxury car in 2020.

Care to disagree?

[Images: Daimler, Infiniti]

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45 Comments on “QOTD: Best All-round Midsize Luxury Sedans in 2020?...”

  • avatar

    I had a 2002 E39 BMW 5 series and it was by far the finest automobile I ever had. I know BMW has changed a lot since then and not for the better, but it’s really all I’ve got to go on. What a beautiful automobile that was

    • 0 avatar

      +1 to that, those were really nice little cars. Just big enough with classic proportions, nice inside other than that garish and instantly dated (and rapidly failing) orange pixel radio display, great ride balance, great power with the V8 in a car that small. Didn’t draw nearly the reckless driving a-holes that the 3s of the time did either.

      They were also ruinously expensive in every sense from the depreciation new to the wear item cooling systems to the 15 mpg on 93 to the net effect that they’re pretty well extinct on the roads here.

      But in concept if not execution I don’t think a small 4 door has ever been done better.

  • avatar

    The ol’ Q70 is outdated these days but I still might pick one up used if I wanted something Japanese and reliable. Same ol 3.7L engine too! (Or the 5.6L V8 if you don’t care about mileage).

    But, if I was a rich bloke, I would go with the E-Class too. How are these used – dependability-wise? It would be an excellent snobby car for my wife, provided she got in 4Matic form.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    The Genesis is the only one I would buy new. But I’m another one who would look at the Q70 used.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Interesting list; I’ve never been in any of them.

  • avatar

    If money isn’t a concern, the MB gets the nod, but if I had 50 grand to spend it would probably be on a G80. I currently own a 2015 Genesis, and it’s just *nice to live with*. Until the redesign (and maybe even after) the G80 isn’t going to compete with MB’s tech and option list, but optioning the MB to the point that it has all those advantages is super expensive relative to the Genesis.

    The S90’s interior is just gorgeous in Inscription trim, and it’s a beautiful car available at a massive discount, so that’s another possibility – but it’s looking like owning one outside of warranty isn’t a hot idea, which effectively increases the cost.

  • avatar

    I’ve never been in any of these, and I don’t live in a social circle with people who do. To own (or likely, lease) one of these means that money isn’t much of an issue. I still love the S90 interior. If I won the lottery or something, I’d special order a V90 and pick it up through the delivery program. Among this list, its not in the same league, but I kinda like the MKZ. The depreciation is massive and it seems like a great used car that an average Joe in my pay grade could easily afford.

  • avatar

    Funny, $50k is what a mid-size sedan used to cost, and it’s the number that pops into my head when I think of the class; but nowadays it’s getting hard to find a 3-series or C-Class for less than $50k unless you’re buying a stripper. My local Mercedes dealer doesn’t show a single E-Class below $65k right now.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 to that too, these cars were always expensive but between the rising tide of inflation everywhere and the garbage four cylinder base motors that it’s another 10k to get away from, and even that’s just to a six… you got to be kidding me.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, but this six is a really good one. To wit:

        2014 E550 with twin-turbo V-8 test:

        Current-gen E450 with twin-turbo six test (and it’s a wagon, no less, so it’s heavier than the sedan):

        V-8s are great, but if a six performs like this, I have zero problems with it.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s not a rational thing to me. I grew up in crappy economy cars with fours in a world where middle class cars had sixes and anything aspirational had a V8. That association is permanent. A V6 is and always will be something that you settle for, a four is and always will be buying day old bread.

          • 0 avatar

            Well, I grew up in the ’70s with smog-choked V-8s, so I’d say the aspirational aspect of that engine is best described as case by case.

            As long as we’re talking about larger sedans, agree 100% on turbo-fours. They have no business in an E-class Benz. But my A3 has one with a six-speed DCT, and it’s terrific. In fact, rather the lighter turbo-four than a heavy V-6 that would ruin the handling balance, or some VTEC-style four that I’d have to keep above 4000 rpm to get speed out of it.

            As far as the six goes, they’re not all created equal. The one in the Benz is good.

          • 0 avatar

            “Well, I grew up in the ’70s with smog-choked V-8s, so I’d say the aspirational aspect of that engine is best described as case by case.”

            If you weren’t impressed by a 145 horse 305, consider that the 3800 of the time was good for 110.

            The 85 horse Iron Duke wasn’t good for anything.

    • 0 avatar

      I gotta tell you something. You say $50k is what it used to cost for a midsize luxury sedan, and you’re right.

      But the BMW 5 Series of 1994 was *smaller than* the 3 Series is today.

      1994 5 Series: 186″ L x 69″ W x 56″ H
      2019 3 Series: 186″ L x 72″ W x 57″ H

  • avatar

    Whoops, that was meant as a reply to PeriSoft.

    Anyway, E-Class is my first, second, and only answer in the class, though the Volvo is my favorite rental car in the world.

  • avatar

    I am a serial BMW leaser since the mid 90’s, and I currently have a 2019 5 Series. Yeah; I’m that guy. For the record, I used to buy them but around 2004 I came to the conclusion that I never, ever, wanted to own a BMW that isn’t under warranty. Great cars to date, but marriage may be a bad idea, if you know what I mean.


    I like this car. It’s smooth and quiet and easy to drive and well assembled out of quality materials. It seats four adults comfortably, and has a surprising amount of luggage space; both rear seats fold flat if you need the extra space. In my opinion the interior is less spartan/Germanic than the equivalent Mercedes. It’s full of the apparently mandatory gimcracks and toys. Lane departure etc, etc…the usual suspects are all present but it’s almost Japanese in having the little things you didn’t know anybody wanted: the side mirrors are self-dimming; the headrests are power operated, you can not only open the trunk with a foot-swipe, you can close it that way too. There’s an narrow ambient light strip that goes around the interior of the car for “mood lighting” – there are at least 5 different possible color choices. There’s AppleCarPlay as well as a 200 gigabyte hard drive for storing CD’s. There’s a phone app for locking/unlocking doors, turning on the fans, telling you where the car is parked, how much gas you have etc. The best part of the app is that you can look up an address in maps on the phone and send it to the car Nav system, so it’s there when you start the car.

    Now, about the car – I went for the turbo 2 Liter as frankly I can’t justify the bucks for the six. I used to love those BMW straight sixes with all that smooth torque. The turbo four cylinder is … okay. There’s plenty of power (240 HP?) running through an eight speed automatic, but the engine needs to spin to generate torque. Combine that with the %#$&*:,!! automatic engine shut off at a full stop and there is a moment of “Oh, Sweet Jesus Save ME” when you pull out into traffic as for a brief instant nothing happens as the engine starts, then not much happens as the turbo spools up and then just as you are about to die the tire chirp and you slam through four or five gears and rocket away. However in normal driving, the combination of the four and the eight speed are almost invisible, so it’s generally pleasant.

    Handling is good; but please the whole car has a detached feel. Throttle, steering, and suspension are all electronically controlled. I call it a computer simulation of a BMW. Electronic control does means adjustability though so you can choose a custom mix of throttle tip in, steering weight, and suspension stiffness. You are pretty much nanny-watched (although your can turn it all off) so the car will do things like apply one front wheel’s brake slightly to help with turn in a hot corner. Pretty invisible though. Still this car is very much an isolated from the road and the world driving experience.

    Summary: a nice comfortable gentleman’s cruiser which can handle twisty roads If called upon, but one that won’t make you dream of seeking them out. Still German, but the designers visited Japan for a while.

    So, this is my contribution – can anyone fill us in on any of the others?

  • avatar

    am I alone in considering most of these full size cars?

  • avatar

    Lokki, thanks for that lovely post above. I can’t contribute here because I only buy compact cars.

    Given just how different these cars are, the real question here is, which one of them has managed to redefine the segment without being an also ran, cheaper version of the real deal, bit player, etc.

    I think the answer here would have to be, and it pains me to say this, Lexus ES.

  • avatar

    Replies seem broken now, so @spookiness, the G80 is also great used deal right now. $25k will get you an up-level G80 with as much warranty time and mileage remaining as you’ll get new on the others. Consumables (fuel / tires!) will be more than a $25k Accord or Camry or Sonata, but it’s triple the car.

    The only negative is that not a lot of people know what Genesis is, and it has RWD proportions that scream ‘money’ to non-car-people even though they don’t know it, so you’ll get people thinking you spent four or even eight times (I had one guy ask if it was a Bentley) the money. That’s mostly fine but might be awkward if you don’t want people in parking lots asking you for money, or having the other parents thinking you’re showing off even though you spent less on your car than they did on their CRVs!

  • avatar

    I would be happier driving a Mazda6 Grand Touring Reserve or Signature than many of the above cars.

  • avatar

    E-class – if you can afford the right one (an E450 at minimum), it’s a splendid car. But it’s also upwards of seventy grand with the minimum stuff you’d expect on a car like this (leather heated seats, uprated sound system, etc). Yikes.

    Lexus ES – assuming you can deal with the Predator grill (which I can on this car), it does everything you’d want a luxury sedan to do at a very reasonable price. Plus, I’ve heard nothing but good stuff about the Lexus ownership experience.

  • avatar

    I’d probably get the TLX, one I’m driving a TSX Sportwagon and so far have had no problems. Second, I’m pretty sure I can get a TLX V6 AWD for about $40,000

  • avatar

    Unrelated but I have a data point which suggests GM did in fact fix the Northstar before dropping it.

    Manheim As-Is Sale recently:

    2008 CADILLAC DTS 1SB 8G 4DSN A PS AC SR 4X2 201,733 BLACK $1,600

    Either someone at some point paid for a replacement motor out of warranty or its original. To my reelection they seldom could do 100K on one motor, let alone 200K.

    • 0 avatar

      Or maybe someone breathed fairy dust on that particular motor at the factory!

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I saw a very nice 05 Bonneville GXP with the Northstar on eBay for $8k.
      A bit pricey but I think these final Northstars have been fairly trouble free with normal maintenance.

      • 0 avatar

        I have an immaculate MY08 Grand Prix with leather/roof and Series III 3800 @ 95K and I’d be lucky to get $2,500. That crack smoking dealer needs a visit from He Who Shall Not Be Named.

        Oh and I’m pretty sure that iteration of the Northstar (LD8 maybe?) is still broken, its the one that came out for MY06 that has magic powers.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          The holy grail of the Northstar is the 4.4 SC in the Cadillac STS-V and XLR-V. Maybe the rwd configuration was reliable with fewer issues.
          A few years ago I had considered a 98-2000 Grand Prix coupe with the 3800SC. Nice car but went for another MN-12 Thunderbird LX.

          • 0 avatar

            Saw an XLR-V in the wild the other day and did a quadruple take. How many of those supercharged Northstars did GM build, total? A few thousand, maybe?

  • avatar

    Of the list I’ve driven the E class and the XF, both were in the UK. I was in the UK with a friend and the E Class had some sort of weird drone that would put him to sleep as soon as we hit the motorway. Had a double espresso before we got in the car and he fought it as hard as he could, but soon there was snoring from the passenger side. He was fine out of the car, it was most odd. Later I drove the same roads in the XF and he was completely unaffected, it was something peculiar to the MB.

    I thought the Jag was a nicer car, the controls were more self explanatory and easier to use. In comparison the MB felt clunky. The MB was a 4 cylinder turbo, the Jag was a V6, and the MB was noticeably agricultural in comparison. It was noisy, and had very significant turbo lag. The Jag was also a turbo diesel and with the twin turbo had no lag. With the MB waiting at a roundabout for a gap, I could put my foot down and nothing changed, not even the idle speed for about 3 seconds and then it would snap you neck back and go once the boost built up.

    So simply by virtue of going when I want it to go, my vote is the Jag!

  • avatar

    Acura TLX – this is an Acura, dummy. A fake!
    Audi A6 – Solid German machine that just don’t worth the $$ demand
    BMW 5 Series – don’t buy Russian cars and German electronics.
    Cadillac CT5 – Caddy without a v8, is it still a Caddy?
    Genesis G80 – THIS is the BEST
    Infiniti Q70 – when did you see one last time?
    Jaguar XF – parts fallen off this automobile are of fine British craftsmanship
    Lexus ES – FWD
    Lexus GS – with v8 THIS is the BEST
    Lincoln MKZ – Amigo Mexicano,
    Maserati Ghibli – Ferrari engine is a serious claim but ….
    Mercedes-Benz E-Class – which one, 2.3L turbo?
    Volvo S90 – Hello China. Bye.

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?

    (I’m kidding. Don’t flame me, Bro.)

  • avatar

    FYI the commenting system seems totally crazy now, can’t “reply” to people and other people’s replies are outside the margins of the area that can be read.

    Personally my pick in this list would be some sort of Venn Diagram between hp/torque, purchase price, and value (what you get for your money.)

    And likely all of them CPO to let someone else take the depreciation beating.

  • avatar

    To lease: Audi A6. Interior is head and shoulders above the rest. I’d also be tempted by the Volvo S90 if only it were available in T8 form, but it’s not.

    To buy: My choice is gone (the dearly departed Lexus GS450h). I’d probably buy a gently used one before any of the new cars in this class. I’d also buy a used Genesis G80 before most of the new cars in this class; they’re deals. But if you put a gun to my head and told me I’d have to buy new in this class, then I’d probably come out with a gas Lexus ES. I can’t handle the idea of a four-cylinder sound, I don’t want German reliability, and I’m honestly fine with FWD if it comes with reasonably good suspension behavior.

    • 0 avatar

      “I’m honestly fine with FWD if it comes with reasonably good suspension behavior.”

      Wouldn’t this be similar to your Legend in road manners?

      • 0 avatar

        A current ES rides way nicer than my Legend but is somewhat floatier and definitely more susceptible to torque steer.

        The Legend is sort of a special case because it is FWD with a lot of the geometry, and the weight distribution, of a RWD car. It also has equal length halfshafts. I’ve never had another powerful FWD car with nearly as little torque steer.

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    I love the Genesis G80 but I wouldn’t call it “small.” If that fits your criteria, then stick a Chrysler 300 in here.
    After taking my brother’s G80 on a 4,000-mile trip last year, I’m sold on it. The Audi A6, which I’ve also driven a lot, is more fun to drive, more tigersh, agile and fun. Also gets far better gas mileage than the G80, which, V8 equipped is relatively thirsty. (Something you notice over 4,000 miles.) In the long run I reckon I’d opt for the Genesis reliability.

    If one had cash to burn, then the Maserati would be a good addition to the garage. Drove a 4S Ghibli in a bad winter storm once and it tracked very well. Whatever the engine’s provenance, it didn’t sound so very uproarious. Still, a fun car. No idea of its reliability.

    I need to test the CT5. Had a week loan of the CT6 (4.2 TT engine) and thought it better than the sniffish car reviews said it would be.

    For my long road trips, the new Lexus might be best of all. Quiet as a snoring butterfly. The F-sport version intrigues me.

  • avatar

    Crossing off the FWD half of the list out of hand, the availability of a NA V8 – with right wheel drive and no forced AWD bundling! – in the G80 is enough incentive for me to go along with pretending that a Hyundai is a luxury car.

    As a side note, has anyone noticed that in BMW’s pursuit of Mercedes you can now buy one with a glowing kidney grille. That right there would make me feel a little bit better about driving a Hyundai.

  • avatar

    When I test drove a Ghibli in 2018 I thought it sounded pretty decent. At used car prices I actually liked the Maserati a lot but I wasn’t really looking to stay with FCA at the time.

    The G80 and G90 are nice sedans but they tilt much more to the “old school” version of luxury (which many of people on TTAC would probably enjoy). If I were doing a Genesis I’d likely stick to the G70.

  • avatar

    Not driving the new E class, I very much like the old one.

    I would put the Lexus ES at the top I think tho. A quality piece in every way. Reliable as hell. Very nicely done inside. A car you get in and the outside world melts away. Buttery smooth controls and engine.

    Since we are also talking Fusion today… a car I really like, the MKZ would probably be up there too. I like the style and if it’s like a fancier Fusion that would work for me.

  • avatar

    xF …… sportbrake oops you meant sedan my bad

  • avatar

    We are down to three engines, no matter the wrapper.

    2.0 Turbo – pass on anything claiming to be luxury…ok in a FWD econobox, or even a GTi. Don’t ask for 50k plus and give me a four… and that includes the most recent Porsches. Tuned from 170 hp to 275 in most applications-still a four, still needs to be hammered. Drove an ecotech Mustang, made great power, quite fast…but in a sportscar application, not a lux sedan.

    3.0 turbo six – tuned four different ways depending on car intent. Minimum at this price point, a 3.6 NA is nice if you can find it.

    4.0 turbo eight – outside this price class.

    The Benz will have a four, so no-the blown sixes are nice but outside the price.
    I’ve driven most of the MB line from AMG eight to c class four, and the four is … a four. meh, not what I think for Benz-or luxury. Ditto BMW’s four. Silk purse, sows’ ear, etc.
    Infiniti will give us a six, ok
    Genesis likewise, ok
    Caddy also a four at this price-pass
    Maserati ? not at 50k
    Jag-no experience
    Volvo-Pass, won’t buy a Chinese car yet, sorry.
    Lexus-FWD nope, and the ES doesn’t stir the enthusiast soul, although it will probably run till 2040.

  • avatar

    I am very happy with my AWD 2018 Fusion Titanium (second in the row so I am very consistent). I do not see what cars from that list of yours may bring to the table except of much higher price, bloody terrible depreciation and expensive and frequent repairs. So no, thank you – you can keep them.

    But if you put gun to my head, well then I would take…I would rather die than waste all that money.

  • avatar

    I’ve driven most of these. If long-term reliability/maintenance costs are not a factor, the A6 6cyl mild hybrid (I don’t remember their term) drives incredibly well and has an interior that feels like the future.

    The 5 series BMW is really well sorted car that drives well, even if it isn’t the ultimate driving machine any longer.

    If ownership cost is a concern, the Genesis and Infiniti both are in a strange land of being the perfect buick, if that is what you are looking for.

    I would be more inclined to spend my money on the Lexus GS, edging out the TLX, primarily due to RWD and preferable styling.

    The Modern E-class has a great looking interior, but if feels cramped to me compared to the others, I also don’t like the high gauge panel.

    The Ghibli is the only car I haven’t driven, but it doesn’t really appeal to me.

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