Luxury petrol sedan for Rs 90 lakh: Volvo S90, Merc E200 or BMW 630i

Luxury petrol sedan for Rs 90 lakh: Volvo S90, Merc E200 or BMW 630i

08/22/2022

Plan to keep the car for a good 10 years, mostly chauffeur driven and used for frequent inter-city trips.

BHPian Bong Chennai recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Good morning, everyone.

I stay in Chennai and am currently in the market for buying a new vehicle at sub Rs 90 Lakh OTR.

My initial thought was to proceed with Volvo S90 without checking any other model.

However, once I started speaking to Volvo dealers in different cities (details being shared In the later part of this post), I started looking at other models including German ones which were never on my radar in the first place.

Now I am equally confused and seek input and suggestions from others within the group.

So far, my interactions with all the car dealers in Chennai are fantastic (BMW, Merc, Lexus, Volvo, Audi, Toyota). Each one of them had brought the car to my place more than once as I separately wanted to take my daughter and wife on a test drive to seek their opinion.

Some initial pointers:

  • Mostly chauffeur-driven
  • Sedate driving style
  • Badge’ does not count at all (could have considered ‘Genesis’ if they were available)
  • The overall feeling should be ‘luxurious’
  • The family consisting of 3 of us (including our child) and other cars are there
  • Will be used on highways and inter-city trips frequently; however, I do not anticipate taking this car to too narrow roads regularly
  • Average usage over 5 years will be ~80K to 100K km
  • I usually prefer to keep my car for ~10 years
  • Will surely opt for an extended warranty and service package provided (I am not a savvy technician to understand different technical issues modern cars face and that’s why prefer not to go to FNV and use ASS rather)

Regarding my requirements and expectations (happy to hear if I am expecting too much):

Mandatory ones:

  • Only sedan (never thought of buying an SUV so far); considering a 5-seater (even if it is sort of a 4-seater, no issue)
  • Only petrol / petrol+hybrid (no diesel at all)
  • Good (at least decent) ground clearance along with air suspension is a pre-requisite (although looking at options available, may need to change my expectations)
  • Availability of ADAS
  • Impact of road undulations needs to be less
  • Noise insulation should be best in this class (with decent cushioning)
  • Good rear legroom although rear seats will not be used frequently (apart from the driver seat, the front passenger seat will be used 90%-95% of the time. Back seats will possibly be used maybe once a month)
    body-roll needs to be minimal
  • Must have good boot space for those occasional family trips
  • Want that “big car” feeling
  • A 360-degree camera is needed
  • Service-focused ASS (as I am ready to pay separately for their service package and continue with them even after the expiry period, I am looking for a customer-centric dealership)

Good to have:

  • Considering that I prefer to keep my car for ~10 years, the durability of the car and the expected medium-term presence of the car OEM in India is a requirement (I understand no one can predict this, however happy to hear from others)
  • Automated parking assistance (if ADAS is available, mostly this will also be available)
  • Massager
  • Ventilated seats with cooling options in front and back seats
  • Leather seats (I know some of you may wonder why I am including this considering our climate in the South, but I prefer leather to artificial leather)
  • Cars test drove and decided not to continue the discussion

Lexus ES300H

  • In my word, it’s a “Stunner”
  • Now Chennai is having own Lexus service centre
  • Fantastic noise insulation, the suspension is decent
  • Having a full spare tyre in this category also helps
  • Too low GC
  • Legroom is too less compared to what we need
  • Too “plasticky”, the interior looks dated for sure
  • Music system is decent in the ‘Luxury’ variant
  • The boot is too small compared to my requirements
  • Only reverse camera available
  • If my requirements were to look for a car which I will use primarily intra-city, would have looked no further than ES300H; unfortunately, I need an ‘allrounder’!
  • I am still contemplating whether I should re-consider ES300H because of the long-term dependability of Toyota (heard that, Lexus in India has improved their service quality in the last few years)

Toyota Camry

  • Definitely value for money, however, did not tick most of my “mandatory” and “good to have” boxes!
  • Interior-wise not at par with other models I had considered
  • Not happy with their suspension
  • Noises were picked up both at high / low speed
  • Other issues pointed above for ES300H are also applicable for Camry (though boot space is better music system is nothing much to be talked about, in this category)

Audi A6

  • With due respect to A6 owners, this is not for me.
  • Chennai Sales Advisor was extremely helpful and given me a chance, I would have recruited him in our company!!

Jaguar XF

  • Now it is a CBU product and hence did not consider
  • This left me with only 3 other models which I could seriously consider, and I have booked one amongst them. Although I may still go with one of the remaining two!

Volvo S90

  • Ticks most of the boxes that I consider “mandatory” and “good to have” (the only sad part is the lack of features in rear seats and non-availability of automated parking assist) including having massagers and ventilated seats in the front
  • However, the dealers are the slowest to communicate and interact with. I had spoken to dealers in multiple cities (to check BH availability) and the scenario is not different at all.
  • Professionally (without getting into any details) I am connected to them. Even then, things were no different.
  • So my worry is if I go ahead with them and they stop selling the car in India (and consequently stop servicing too) + do not provide timely services or provide parts (there are enough horror stories) + a lot of their dealers in metro cities are new (old
  • ones who are no longer part of the brand, do not have anything positive to say about the OEM) + China connection (could there be some issues due to our relationship with that country, who knows!) + some of the dealers apparently even charged customers for keeping the cars in ASS pending parts availability (old news), I will lose my sleep.
  • By now you know I am happy with the car but extremely worried about the brand and its dealers.
  • As MY23 model is launched, MY22 vehicles are being offered with a discount. cheapest amongst 3 (E200 Exclusive is 3L extra and 630i is 5L extra; if it is 630i+Jahre – then another 3L extra)

Mercedes E200 Exclusive

  • The preferred one by Indians in this category and surely there will be enough reasons (look-wise fantastic)
  • You get that “large car feeling”
  • Out of 3 German OEMs, my experience with them at the different stages is the best irrespective of the cities
  • No 360 degree camera, no air suspension, noise insulation is poor compared to other 2 vehicles we are talking about, boot space is too less, no leather seats, no massager, no ventilated Seats, did not like the ride quality compared to others, can’t even close the boot from inside the car (big hindrance in shopping malls)
  • My personal equation with some dealers is good; know some of them at the professional level as well.
  • So my question is because they are responsive and the car gives a fabulous interior, would I leave everything else and opt for it even though this car may not be providing me with many features that are extremely important to me (at least now)? Is anyone here in my shoes? I prefer factory-fitted accessories.

BMW 630i-Jahre Edition

  • Before someone points out that it is not exactly an apple-to-apple comparison, let me add that I am not looking for a 5-series at all. 6-series provides most of what I am looking at.
  • But, it comes at a price. 8L more from S90 and 5L more from E200 Exclusive. I may get some more discount (maybe another lac), but still, the differential is big.
  • While it ticks most of my “mandatory” boxes, still it does not have a 360-degree camera, massager, or ventilated seats.
  • Ride quality at low speed was not good.
  • Plus, I am equally apprehensive about BMW service packages, where the vehicle can change service periodicity at any point of time because one has gone on an out-station trip (as an example) and in BMW dealership language “because the driving style was aggressive, so service periodicity could be changed”). I had read multiple such incidents in this group as well. To Note, this car will be driven by a chauffeur.
  • Although this car is >5mtr, is there anyone else apart from me who had felt that E200 has a much better road presence?

In a nutshell:

Considering that I will opt for an extended warranty and service package (5 or 6 years), maybe overall incremental expenditure for maintaining the car will be minimal irrespective of the model chosen (630i could be an exception due to their system-driven service periodicity mechanism)

Thanks again for going through this note.

Look forward to receiving your input, suggestions and advice.

Here’s what BHPian lamborghini had to say on the matter:

Honestly, the 6GT is the one that meets most of your requirements.

I would skip the Jahre edition with the 19″ alloys and get the regular variant with higher profile tyres which would improve ride quality & be that much better to maintain (620D luxury Line: do take a test drive, you can always get the 630i & downsize if the ride quality is better and you want petrol).

Around 18 months ago, we were in a similar dilemma: the E Class was first to be voted out as despite an amazing sales team and quality interiors; I wasn’t impressed with the ride quality, performance, features, etc. on offer.
Yes – the interiors were great, but given you’re mainly driven – you would prefer a silent creak-free cabin, supportive rear seats, and good ride quality and that is where the E Class loses out in my opinion. Didn’t help that when I drove it, I felt like a chauffeur.

As for road presence – yes, it does have the presence but it is just so common!!

The 6GT was one that was on top of the list. A beautiful car, and if it were self-driven more often – would’ve been parked in the garage. The 5L difference is easy to justify, and if you pick up the regular trim – the difference would be much lesser for the added kit on offer. Plus BMW has some excellent warranty and service plans in place – most users in Mumbai at least are VERY happy with their plans, but maybe local Chennai owners can chip in on this.

However, this too was let down by its road presence & specific to our case the interiors, which were good quality, but after owning 2 BMWs it didn’t feel as fresh as I would have liked it to be.

Logically, this would be on the top of my list.

We ended up with the Lexus, but as a chauffeur-driven city car – it is a gem. Not so great on the highways & poor GC doesn’t help either.

The S90 is a nice car, but I found the rear seating and ground clearance to be deal breakers for me, but at this price point – the heart has to really have the say in the transaction so if your heart yearns for the S90 and it is able to overcome your reservations – it is the one to go for.

The car, over the next 10 years, will definitely be discontinued and replaced with a new model – but I don’t see Volvo leaving the Indian car market.

Dealership support again is something best addressed by Volvo owners close to you.

On parts availability – unfortunately, it is the bane of this segment and something every Manufacturer struggles with – even Lexus, etc. Mercedes is the best on this front, however, and ease of sourcing parts really boils down to the order of vehicle sales – higher selling will have more parts available, and lower selling models will take time as they may even have to import certain parts.

I know you are averse to SUVs, but I would still go and have a look at the Q7, Q8, GLE, XC60, and NX350H as well. The gap between the sedans and SUVs in this segment is much narrower in terms of performance, ride & handling, etc. and the better ground clearance and presence could be a boon for you.

Here’s what BHPian Turbanator had to say on the matter:

I won’t look anywhere else except Lexus. Please revisit them and check out the car. The best will be to go to their showroom, and they may have a couple of cars in the showroom/ workshop. Interior colour makes a difference so check in person. No other manufacturer will come close to the Lexus as far as ownership experience is concerned for 10 Years.

E class is nice to sit in the rear, but I won’t trust them for 10 Years. Spare apart from the regular takes 5-6 days most of the time, and after the warranties are over, these can pinch. Extended warranties and service packs are usually more expensive than BMW, but the standard Mercedes warranty is 3 Years.

I will rule out six series because you will sit in the rear. Never been a Volvo fan, so I can’t suggest it. Maybe their priorities are now electric, which may explain the response you got from the dealers.

On Lexus, you don’t need to worry about service; it is super cheap, and parts outside the warranty won’t hurt. List the shortcomings of Lexus and E-Class and take a call. If you are open to around five years of ownership, go with E, but if you must use it for the full 10 years, Lexus

Here’s what BHPian IshaanIan had to say on the matter:

I would say go with the S90 simply because it is their flagship product and even if they do not hold the same place in consumers’ hearts as German brands, they certainly never quit trying to attain that badge value so there’s no way they are going to discontinue the S90 even when they had the S80 they did not mind keeping it on sale for the longest time even though it never sold as well as their German rivals. A company does a little extra when it is their flagship model and since you will not find an S-Class, LS, A8 or 7 series for the same price, there is no point comparing it to cars like the ES, E-Class, A6 and 5 series the Volvo S90 is obviously superior to all of those cars unless reliability is a major factor in which case the ES becomes your only option. Also, I have observed a lot of people with similar requirements as yours; luxury, features, comfort and sensibility, go for the Volvo S90 or XC90.

Here’s what BHPian androdev had to say on the matter:

I think Lexus might serve you the best given your intention to keep it for long-term and chauffeur-driven usage. For slow-moving urban traffic, ES300h would be amazing and IMHO it is far better than any car on your list. For highway driving, it doesn’t do as a great job as other cars but as long as your driver is maintaining modest speeds like 80-110 km/h and gentle acceleration, the difference is an acceptable compromise. It also looks exclusive on the roads due to its rarity.

Having said that, I would say go with the car that impresses you the most. All the talk about reliability and cost of maintenance boils down to small margins. I have no reason to believe that 6 series and E class won’t serve you well for 10 years if serviced regularly – there are many examples of BMW/MB/Volvo cars on this forum with trouble-free long terms ownership. As a customer with a 90L budget, I am guessing you would not mind a 10% increase in the cost of ownership compared to Lexus during the course of 10 years of ownership. I really doubt you would be required to spend more than 10L extra to maintain these cars compared to Lexus. To a large extent, people don’t like things breaking down but I think it is a fair compromise to deal with one or two breakdowns during a period of 10 years in exchange for owning a car that gives that special feeling. For the amount of money we are talking about, the car must make you feel special above all else.

Few things to keep in mind which may be helpful to you:

  1. Mercedes Benz has the most mature and consistent after-sales service in the luxury segment. The manufacturer has tight control of dealer experience, supply chain, etc. They are not cheap but nobody is cheap in this segment (except Lexus)
  2. Artificial leather of Mercedes is very good, easy to maintain and remains in good shape for many years. Napa leather of Volvo will wear out in two years with heavy usage.
  3. Mercedes model changes are too dramatic and each new release makes the older model look very dated. This is not the case with BMW/Audi. Good for people to change cars with each new update but may not be such a good thing for buyers wishing to keep the car for long.
  4. Consider Air Suspension as a maintenance item – it is not likely to last for 10 years. So if you are shortlisting cars with Air suspension, keep this in mind.
  5. An often overlooked fact, pay close attention to the tire profile. Prefer variants without lower profile tires. Anything above 18″ would spoil the ride comfort and carries the risk of tire damage/breakdowns.
  6. 360 deg camera is not such a must-have. It’s useful only if you have tight parking spaces with inexperienced drivers.
  7. Try to do “back-to-back” test drives on the typical routes you are likely to travel – highways and poorly maintained city roads are the two types of roads that expose the true character of the ride.
  8. BMW requiring service every now and then is not such a big issue. IMHO, it’s a great feature of the car. The service reminder comes well in advance giving you adequate time to book an appointment. The only drawback is that your chauffeur must be trained to read these service reminders (or you could check it weekly once after a drive).

Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear winner to recommend 🙂 Mercedes E class would have been ideal if the car was sold with plenty of features but sadly MB is in a position to get away with cars that are not generously spec’ed. BMW 6 series (and BMWs in general) are not the best if you have a lot of urban usages – they are not just as smooth and soft compared to Lexus/MB. Volvo is the best when it comes to interior material quality and (recently) stunning looks – but they are pretty average when it comes to drivetrains and of course, their after-sales are not that strong. Lexus suspension will surely remind you that you compromised in favour of reliability and ownership costs.

Hope I have not confused you more instead of being helpful. If I were in your place, I would go with the car that appeals to my heart and live with the shortcomings. After all, with this budget, all cars are very competent and margins are very small. Please do share your test drive experiences and decision-making process as it would help other members immensely.

Good luck.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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