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Best of the Lot

Rich, retired and ready for a luxury sedan recommendation Add to ...

I expect to buy a new car this year, trading in my '06 Mercedes-Benz E500 wagon. My criteria this time around will be: very quiet and comfortable ride especially on the interstates; good-size trunk; most or all of the toys (excluding rear seat video). The majority of our driving is back and forth to Florida each year and up to the cottage; city driving is minimal. Since I am 65, I figure I might as well buy what I want now.

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I have narrowed my search to three vehicles: Mercedes S550, Porsche Panamera 4S and the Lexus 460L. My wife was impressed by the Panamera (but not sure she would be comfortable driving a "sports car") and is leaning to the Mercedes. My preference is the Panamera. My concern with the Mercedes is that the S-Class is due for a makeover with the new version coming next summer with more technology and I wouldn't be surprised if the price was actually lower. Lexus was my original choice, but all the reviews characterize the car as "boring," though it still seems like a fine vehicle.

Raymond in Toronto

Cato: Freedom 65 and living the dream. And if Raymond is dreaming about a big, expensive luxury sedan, he has no end of options.

Vaughan: Ray obviously has too much time on his hands already - look at the length of that letter, and we cut out chunks of it. It's like one of your interminable articles.

Cato: Ray is not the superficial type, such as you, my short-attention-span friend. The rest of Ray's letter was pretty useful for whittling down his options.

He eliminated the BMW 750 because the wife doesn't like the front end and his son has complaints about his BMW dealer's service department. He set aside the delicious Jaguar XJ; the trunk is too small. And past experience with Audi leave him cold to the A8.

All of that is useful stuff for us, even if the facts leave you a fidgeting fussbudget.

2011 Mercedes-Benz S550

Vaughan: Well, if I'm driving back and forth to Florida, I'd say the Merc S ($123,500) is about perfect - as long as you're happy pouring gas into the thing all day.

As for your wife's concerns about comfort in a "sports car" car, Ray, you're both right and wrong. I'd say you're wrong about the Panamera being a sports car. It's a four-door hatchback/sedan that is designed to look like a sports car and I don't have to tell you which one. However, you are right about it being uncomfortable for the "interstates."

Cato: I am thinking the next time you drive to Florida, you should stay longer. Really. Think about it. Because here, with Ray, you are wrong and wrong and you are driving away what few readers we have.

Look, the Panamera ($108,900) is as close to a full-on sporty car as you'll find in this $100,000-plus class of car. Like the Merc, we're talking all-wheel-drive, too, so great year-round traction. That said, the Porsche's highway ride is perfectly calm and pleasant - even at 250 km/h, which I've done in Germany.

If the ride and handling are top of mind, Ray, the Porsche is right for you - even if that styling is all about "love-it-or-hate-it" and the cockpit array of airplane-like controls is utterly confusing overkill.

Vaughan: The Lexus 460L is the exact opposite. Sure, it's bulletproof from a quality standpoint, the resale value is out of sight, the ride is quiet and there are plenty of gadgets even if the design is several years old. But Ray, you'll love this Lexus only if you think an exciting afternoon is one watching lawn bowling.

Cato: Agreed. Ray, to save you from yourself, we're striking it off the list, even if at $91,100 with the long wheelbase and AWD, it's a flat-out steal in this class.

Vaughan: Thank you for that. And Ray, I must contradict you again. The trunk of the Jag XJ -$133,500 for the XJL Supersport, rear-drive only - is not too small; it's huge, XXX like Cato, to be exact. Ray can carry half a winter's worth of firewood up to the cottage in that.

The XJ has to go back on Ray's list. It's a great-looking car inside and out. And although it's bigger and more comfortable than the Panamera, it drives very responsively - sporty. They've done great things with the lightweight aluminum uni-body.

Ray, this car is also the most distinctive of the bunch. I bet all your pals are driving Mercs and Lexus models - here's your chance to go out and get something special.

Cato: The Jag is everything you say, but as usual you're not paying attention. Ray has moved past the Jag. That means he should get the Panamera - the most entertaining of the bunch to drive and that design certainly stands out, for better or worse.

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE



2011 Mercedes-Benz S550 4MATIC AWD

2011 Jaguar XJL Supersport

2011 Porsche Panamera 4S

Wheelbase (mm)

3,165

3,157

2,920

Length (mm)

5,206

5,247

4,970

Width (mm)

1,871

1,894

1,931

Height (mm)

1,473

1,448

1,418

Engine

5.5-litre v-8

5.0-litre V-8, supercharged

4.8-litre V-8

Output (horsepower/torque)

382/391 lb-ft

510/461 lb-ft

400/369 lb-ft

Drive system

all-wheel drive

rear-wheel drive

all-wheel drive

Transmission

Seven-speed automatic

Six-speed automatic

Seven-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

2,095

1,961

1,860

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

14.9 city/9.3 highway

14.1 city/9.3 highway

12.9 city/8.3 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$123,500

$133,500

$108,900

Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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