There’s no doubt, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the most popular chauffeur car operated by the UK industry – but is it the best?
Guest blogger Paul Gibson from TheChauffeur.com finds out the alternatives on offer if you don’t want to follow the crowd.
The success of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is well documented within the chauffeur industry over the past few decades, and it continues to this day – in fact, Plan Insurance Brokers have reported 37% of the chauffeur vehicles it insures are S-Classes.
This is the Plan Insurance, Top 5 alternatives to the S-Class…
BMW – Percentage insured: 15%
7-Series Long Wheelbase
Born in 1977, the 7-Series is now in its sixth generation, and with the latest model arriving in the marketplace late last year, it’s now ﬁrmly nibbling at the heels of the S-Class.
Image source: bmw.co.uk
The 730Ld is the obvious chauffeurs choice, boasting 58.9mpg and a Co2 ﬁgure of just 127g/km, there’s no doubt the new model interior levels match the quality of the S-Class. Just to give it another kick in the teeth, the BMW has 35 litres more boot space allowing to squeeze in a bit more luggage.
With an X-Drive (four-wheel-drive) version now available and the forthcoming arrival of a 740e plug-in Hybrid, there’s certainly plenty of choice for chauffeurs.
The technology levels have gone mad in the new 7, with a unique gesture control system allowing the chauffeur to use the telephone and audio system by using a number of hand gestures.
BMW has recently relaunched its chauffeur programme to include free 120,000 servicing programme and a 50 strong specialist chauffeur dealership network across the UK all within the monthly price of a 7-Series.
Audi – Percentage insured 8.5%
A8 Long Wheelbase
In 2009, Audi launched the current shape of the A8, which then received quite a dramatic facelift in 2014. This saw the introduction of the stunning LED headlamps and subtle tweaks to the exterior.
Image source: carmagazine.co.uk
The new era of A8 has been around for seven years, this can only mean one thing – we’re due a new model! Audi is certainly one to watch over the coming twelve months, as more details are leaking of the forthcoming all-new Audi A8 which is rumoured to be with us in 2017.
Audi was one of the ﬁrst manufacturers to introduce a chauffeur programme, so it certainly knows something about the industry. It’s cars are normally seen treading the red carpets at London ﬁlm premiere’s which is a great platform for Audi to show off the A8’s chauffeur credentials.
The A8 has super soft suspension and the LWB version offers as much room as you could possibly need in such a vehicle. The interior quality has never quite matched the 7-Series or S-Class, but this is certainly set to change in the all-new version (we hope). Boot space at 490 litres is smack bang in the middle of the S-Class and 7-Series, so you certainly won’t have difﬁculties ﬁnd room for those bulky cases.
Jaguar – Percentage insured: 3.6%
The big cat has one great advantage when it comes to chauffeuring – it’s badge. The XJ is quintessentially British and with the all-new look entering the market in 2009, it’s done relatively well since.
Image source: jaguar.co.uk
However, chauffeurs didn’t welcome it with open arms initially – its swooping roof line limited the rear seats for tall clients and disappointing boot space let the car down, but it has looks to kill and has been improved and freshened up for 2016.
There’s been many improvements to the XJ since it relaunched, so chauffeurs who originally didn’t approve of it, may want to take another look. Rear seats have been lowered slightly to address the headroom issue and new air suspension gives the XJ a much improved ride for the rear client.
A relatively comprehensive chauffeur programme is still on offer from Jaguar – an XJ could be on your ﬂeet from £785 +vat per month and a range of other beneﬁts such as priority servicing and tailored ﬁnance are all on offer.
Land Rover – Percentage insured: 1%
For chauffeurs with a more rural client base, the Range Rover is no doubt the ultimate 4×4 vehicle for the industry. The Land Rover Discovery is certainly the second best option, but I’ve previously described the Range Rover as a go anywhere S-Class!
Image source: landrover.co.uk
Why? It’s ridiculously quite, smooth, powerful, beautiful to look at and sit in! The long wheelbase model increases these levels of comfort dramatically as does the price. A well-equipped Range Rover Long Wheelbase will set you back a whopping £110k!
Forget the Hybrid diesel model, its batteries just aren’t efﬁcient enough to warrant the extra costs and only give you a single mile of diesel free motoring.
If you do choose the Range Rover for your ﬂeet, then hopefully the higher price tag will pay off when the white stuff falls and you’re able to get your clients wherever they want – leaving all the other rear-wheel drive chauffeur cars spinning around in their own tracks!
Volkswagen – Percentage Insured: 0.4%
For over 10 years now, the Phaeton has been battling to get noticed. Some chauffeurs swear by them, others wouldn’t even consider getting behind the wheel of one.
Image source: volkswagen.co.uk
Why? The badge. Unfortunately, the Phaeton has a massive VW badge on the front and clients don’t really want to be chauffeured in one. It’s basically their loss because the Phaeton is based on the chassis of a Bentley and is a perfectly capable chauffeur car. A massive boot, economical engines and discreet looks makes it a fantastic chauffeur car for an operator who wants to offer luxury with a difference (if they can get clients in the back seats).
However, it’s aged badly, and even up until last year the Phaeton hadn’t changed much since its launch in 2002. The dash and operating system felt ancient – but good news for Phaeton lovers, a new model should be launched next year. For chauffeurs looking to operate one now can pick up a well-equipped two or three year old example for under £30,000!
Well that’s Paul’s list of the top 5 vehicles that are challenging the Mercedes S Class domination of the chauffeur industry. We’d love to hear your alternative suggestions.
For example – how many of you think the 100% electric Tesla should be on there, or is it not up to scratch as a pure chauffeur vehicle?
Join the conversation and let us know your thoughts at @planinsurance