THE lure of the SUV may have seduced many buyers away from conventionally shaped saloons but the executive sector has survived and come out fighting.
For some drivers there's just no substitute for four-doors, a big boot and an elegant shape. And after all, very few motorists ever make use the all-paw traction afforded by a bulky SUV.
One of the leading contenders in the large executive saloon sector is the Mercedes E-Class, which has recently had a top-to-bottom redraw in an effort to put it ahead of rivals such as the Jaguar XF, BMW 5 Series and Audi A6.
Luxury, performance and space are more or less taken for granted in this Â£30,000-plus category but few buyers would expect to squeeze upwards of 50mpg out of a hefty prestige saloon. But that's exactly what I achieved driving the latest E 220d.
Its new body mirrors the successful C-Class but with a longer wheelbase the proportions are even more elegant and the cabin space, particularly for rear seat passengers, is much improved.
The boot is big enough for a couple of sets of golf clubs and a tad larger than closest rivals. In the cabin, there's no shortage of cubbies, lockers or cupholders making it practical family transport.
The simplified, corporate nose and grille is instantly recognisable and dominated by a huge three-pointed star.
Gone are the sharp lines and razor edging, to be replaced by an altogether more graceful presence which befits its role as an executive business express.
The E 220d in AMG Line trim comes with plenty of tasty treats for its £38,430. This includes twin zone climate control, heated front seats, electric seat adjustment, 64 ambient lighting settings, reversing camera, sat-nav and digital radio.
Nineteen-inch alloys are standard, but this car came with an optional 20-inch set at £595.
Personally, I would forsake the low profile rubber with something more capable of absorbing the shocks from Britain's pock marked pot-holed roads.
Despite the relatively small 1,950cc, four cylinder turbo diesel engine, performance is remarkably sprightly with 62mph coming up in less than eight seconds.
Top speed is given at 149mph. The new engine is noticeably more harmonious than most diesels and pulls strongly through the gears.
The nine-speed automatic gearbox controlled by a stalk on the steering wheel is an absolute treat and never fails to find the right ratio for the conditions.
Changes are slick and almost imperceptible and the power delivery is creamy smooth, making the 220d a deceptively fast and relaxed cross country transport. Low noise levels within the comfortable passenger compartment further enhance the experience.
AMG Line equipment focuses on the Merc's sporty nature without marring its level of comfort. In keeping with this driver appeal the steering system gives greater feedback than you might expect with a large, luxurious saloon. This quality complements the rear-drive design resulting in a good compromise between dynamic handling and easy-going ride comfort.