Large, classic luxury cars may not be as popular in the United States as they once were, but their value to global automakers hasn’t altered. These flagships, as they have for decades, are designed to be the finest of the best, rolling exhibitions of their abilities in comfort, design, performance, and cutting-edge technology. All are fast and feature-rich, and riding in one is still a clear sign of success. They are substantial; it is the market that has shrunk.
In 2023, both BMW and Mercedes-Benz, long dominant in the luxury liner realm, will provide electric counterparts to their regular gas-powered flagships, the i7 and EQS to the 7 Series and S-Class, since EVs are the new trend. Due to supply chain and model release delays, our ranking of the finest luxury vehicles for 2023 includes a mix of 2022 and 2023 models; however, aside from Genesis and BMW, most entrants in this class receive just minor updates for 2023.
We used our usual criteria, which are mentioned at the bottom of the list, to build our submissions as well as assess the quality of materials and degree of workmanship, brand cachet and lineage, available tech, performance, and luxury features.
The 2023 S-Class is an outstanding luxury sedan. This Benz has a lot to enjoy, with a large cabin, steady handling, a polished ride that helps smooth out road bumps, and plenty of modern electronics. The trunk is a little tiny, but that’s not a big deal when you’re driving one of the most luxurious automobiles available today.
The S-class caters to its wealthy clientele’s preferences with a plethora of beautiful materials, deep-seated comfort, and a plethora of technology. The S500 and S580 are two variants with unique powertrains that are both equipped with standard 4Matic all-wheel drive. The S500 is powered by a smooth 429-hp turbocharged straight-six, while the S580 is powered by a smooth 496-hp V-8.
The Mercedes-Maybach S-class super-luxury vehicle provides an opulent experience. Although the thick leather thrones in the front and back rows indicate the S-emphasis class’s emphasis on comfort and swankiness, the standard air suspension rounds out the experience by turning the road into silk. And the optional E-Active Body Control can even lean the car into corners to help you avoid spilling any of your champagne cocktail, which you’ll be sipping while relaxing in the luxury of the available power-adjustable, reclining rear seats with heated massage functions. The S-class does an excellent job of bringing the good life to life.
The BMW 7 Series, the S-Class’s archrival since the 1970s, is all new for 2023 and appears to have landed all of its punches against its Mercedes enemy for the first time. While BMW is known for its performance and driving pleasure, the 7 Series must serve as both a sports sedan and a luxury limousine. To some extent, this has always given it a very different personality, one that is less concerned with all-out luxury than the Merc, but this new version rivals its competitor in many aspects while costing less.
BMW’s designers have created the biggest, most opulent 7 Series yet while retaining its sporting DNA. To begin, there are two gas versions: the six-cylinder 740i (375 hp) and the V8 760i (536 hp), but there is also a fully electric version, the i7, and a plug-in hybrid 745e will be available this summer. While not an M3, the 7 Series is a fast driver with snappy handling for a car the size of a Ford Crown Victoria that is more than capable of keeping up with the S-Class. It has a spacious cabin with back seat space appropriate for NBA centers and only slightly less space than the S-Class or Audi A8.
It’s unmistakably lovely on the outside, and the interior is equally stunning, with crystal-like detailwork and wacky choices like a drop-down movie screen and cashmere-blend textiles. BMW has also integrated its new curved display dashboard and iDrive 8 operating system, but the new 7’s weaknesses include the complexity of these technologies and the fact that its greatest active-safety equipment is optional. The new 7 Series also outperforms Lexus’ hybrid LS in terms of fuel efficiency, has far greater back seat capacity than the Genesis, and offers more luggage space than Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom is the most recognized emblem of automotive opulence and privilege on the planet. Its massive waterfall grille and traditional upright proportions provide a clear and unmistakable message: money belongs here. Or maybe royalty. The 2023 Phantom also stands out in the ultimate-luxury automobile segment due to its price, which is hundreds of thousands of dollars greater than rivals like the Bentley Flying Spur or the Mercedes-Maybach S-class. We can attest that stepping behind the wheel of the Phantom—or, better yet, into its back seat through its rear-hinged coach doors—will make you feel like a member of the one-tenth of one-percent.
To its credit, the Phantom is undoubtedly the most comfortable luxury car on the planet. It floats along the road, oblivious to road irregularities, while lavishing its occupants with opulent interior materials. Meanwhile, behind the Phantom’s long hood, its massive V-12 engine hums almost softly, producing smooth power. The factory also appears to provide an infinite number of customization options. The only item lacking from the choice list is a chauffeur, which is available separately.
When Genesis previewed the release of the new G90 in the autumn of 2021, it was evident that it would have a significant influence on the luxury sedan class. For the previous four years, the up-and-coming Korean luxury company has been cranking out success after success, and with its 2023 facelift, the G90 has changed from an almost Cadillac Brougham-like traditionalist to the most attractive car in the class. The G90 is a sleek, muscular, and extroverted sedan that is unburdened by the traditions of previous models and free to be as characterful as a luxurious sedan can be.
The new G90, like previous recent Genesis models, is a good bargain, albeit it doesn’t undercut its immediate competitors as much as the smaller Genesis vehicles. It begins at $90,100, but that includes concierge services, a complete and extensive suite of active-safety technologies, and the automaker’s best-in-class warranty coverage, in addition to all of the car’s intrinsic merits.
Of course, style is at the top of the list. It looks beautiful both inside and out, and its infotainment system and controls are simpler to use than those found in a BMW or Mercedes-Benz. Even if the handling is more boulevardier than a sports sedan, there are two V6s with 365 or 409 horsepower and enough power. It’s also quite comfortable. However, the G90 has certain flaws. The rear seat is the shortest in this class, and it consumes more gas than other large sedans. Having said that, this distinctive vehicle can certainly compete with the Germans.
The grand touring, two-door Bentley Continental GT 2023 is available in coupe and convertible body variants, both of which feature upper-class aesthetics and exquisite amenities befitting of its six-figure price. The Conti hustles, and its handling neatly crosses the line between comfort and cornering poise, with either the strong V-8 or W-12 engine under the hood—both are twin-turbocharged. The interior is lined with all of Bentley’s best materials, including scented leather, rich wood, and textured metal trim, and is filled with luxury amenities designed to make the ride both comfortable and speedy. And if you want a one-of-a-kind GT, Bentley’s Mulliner coachbuilding section can do that as well.
Customers got what they wanted: a more athletic, sporty, quick, and competent Continental GT. The new one outperforms the previous one in the areas that owners apparently care about the most: performance and handling. The 48-volt electronics, larger wheelbase, and air suspension have improved the dynamics and allowed the car to handle the massive boost in straight-line performance beautifully.
Comfort and relaxation may have decreased by 5%, while dynamism has increased by 50%. Most significantly, that skill and behavior are ideally suited to the Bentley Continental GT. It has a dozen (or more) competitors in the unusually crowded £150–200k coupe segment. But none of them do it with the wonderful swagger of a Bentley, even at full throttle on the GT Speed.
Technically, the Volvo S90 is a stretched version of a best midsize luxury sedan, and in terms of pricing, it competes with vehicles such as the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, and Genesis G80. However, Volvo discontinued the regular-wheelbase variant in 2018 and has not looked back since. This vehicle boasts a bigger back seat than the Genesis G90, is the only plug-in hybrid choice in the lineup, and has its own distinct, elegant styling. It’s also not for nothing that it’s a steal. Two base-model S90s may be purchased for the price of a Mercedes-Benz S 500.
The S90 is smaller than all of the other vehicles on this list except the Porsche Panamera, but it doesn’t seem or feel like it. It’s quite big and elegant inside, with more than 40 inches of rear legroom designed for the best chauffeur-driven Chinese consumers. Though it isn’t as renowned as the BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class, it doesn’t skimp on amenities or appearance, giving certain items as standard (like its extensive suite of active safety technologies) that BMW charges extra for.
Of course, the highest trim is required to match the speed of the other luxury vehicles in this collection. The most common powertrain is a 295-horsepower mild hybrid-assist turbocharged four, but the best and quickest variant is the Recharge PHEV. This engine produces 455 horsepower and propels the S90 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. It handles more like a Genesis than a BMW, but it still has real speed. It will also have a fully electric range of 38 miles, which no other car in this class can match.
The Lexus ES mid-size luxury sedan excels in comfort and has a lower starting price than competitors such as the Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-class. That’s because it’s essentially a Toyota Camry with a sharper design and more upscale appointments. Its performance and driving behavior were judged to be lacking in testing drives, but critics gave it a backhanded compliment for the way it shields its driver and passengers from the shocks, thumps, and unpleasant noises of the outside world.
The cabin of the ES is one of the most luxurious on the market, the powertrains are velvety and quiet, and the ride is soothingly smooth. It’s just not a vehicle for those who enjoy driving. However, it may be a car for folks who want to save money on gas: the 300h hybrid variant earned 45 mpg on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test. It has a lot to offer, including a number of basic tech features, a smooth ride, an upmarket and quiet interior, a fuel-efficient base engine, and a powerful optional V6 engine. However, its base engine may benefit from extra power for faster speeds.
The Audi A8 has long been the most modest, and hence underappreciated, luxury vehicle in this class. The automaker’s progressive design method mines aesthetic elements dating back to the 1960s, and even after a substantial overhaul, the A8 never appears to alter much. That happened in 2019, but Audi refreshed the A8 and its sportier S8 sibling in 2022. Whether that was enough to distinguish it from prior models is up to the individual, but the recipe basically stays unchanged.
The A8 and S8 are only available in long-wheelbase configuration in the United States, and they boast the longest back seat (by measurement) in this enormous class, with a mammoth 44 inches of rear legroom. It’s also a quiet cabin, and the inside is as conservative as the outside. It seems opulent without being self-conscious or gimmicky, yet some consumers who wish to stand out may find it too subtle (inside and out). From a distance, the A8 might be difficult to distinguish from its smaller A6 sister.
Audi does not scrimp on amenities, although adaptive headlamps and other of the newer, nicer things seen on the 7 Series and S-Class are absent, and certain driver-assist equipment (such as adaptive cruise control) is optional. Although the A8’s regular 335-horsepower V6 isn’t as strong as some other base engines, both alternative powertrains are smooth and delicious. The S8, on the other hand, is a roaring good time wrapped in a work suit. The styling of the A8 must suit your tastes, yet it is enjoyable to drive or be driven in.
The Bentayga is a more practical everyday car and can accommodate a family. It is available with a plug-in hybrid engine for those required commutes when gas costs are at their highest, but it can also be ordered with a twin-turbo V-8 or a powerful twin-turbo W-12. The luxury feel in the Bentayga is similar to that of the Conti or Flying Spur sedans, with lush leathers, beautiful wood and metal detailing, and plenty of tech features throughout the interior. If you’re not a brand loyalist, this six-figure class of ultra-luxe SUVs also includes the Mercedes-Maybach GLS600 and the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, both of which would make excellent sidekicks to a luxury grand touring vehicle.
In regular driving, the engine delivers smooth performance, making the vehicle seem speedy even when the throttle is barely pushed halfway. If all of that is too much for you, you might always go for one of the (petrol or diesel) V8 variants, which are just as speedy and quiet in regular use. They’ll also be less expensive to acquire and operate than the really terrifying W12. It may be configured to serve whatever purpose you choose (luxury four-seat chauffeur vehicle or leather-clad family hauler), and Bentley’s brand values are ideally matched to the SUV. It is not attempting to defy physics but rather to be a high-rise luxury SUV. That’s what it does really nicely. Whether you’re sitting in the front or rear seats,
The Porsche Panamera is an outlier in many respects. It is not only the best sports luxury sedan in a class full of wannabe limousines, but it also has the most configuration and personalization options of any car on our list. The Panamera sedan is the smallest car on this list, but Porsche also sells a long-wheelbase variant with a substantially bigger backseat for luxury-conscious consumers. Furthermore, it produces the Panamera Sport Turismo, a hatchback-like station wagon with a substantially larger luggage room and a much more appealing appearance.
Of course, practical factors take a back seat in any Porsche, and what this car excels at is performance. Lower-end V6 variants can have 335 or 443 horsepower, rear- or all-wheel drive, and different levels of tuning. There are also two V8s with 473 and 620 horsepower. The E-Hybrid V6 (455 horsepower) and E-Hybrid V8 (690 horsepower) are at the top, with the latter capable of hitting 60 mph in 2.9 seconds. These are supersedans, and they drive and have a sporty look and luxurious interiors with luxury 4 door cars.
Porsches are, of course, pricey, and a Porsche Panamera Turbo S Executive with all options would set you back more than $200,000. The lower-end variants, on the other hand, start at a price comparable to other cars in this class, but with less space and fewer features. Unfortunately, the long-wheelbase Executive configuration is not available on the Sport Turismo, and Porsche charges extra for a variety of options. Nonetheless, this is undoubtedly the most enjoyable big sedan to drive quickly, and it stands out in all the right ways.