There are more than a handful of contenders in this segment, but the two that stand out this year happen to be saloons
ST-Torque Best Buys of 2014 - Luxury Audi A8L 4.0TFSI quattro ($524,000, above). -- PHOTO: ST FILE

There are more than a handful of contenders in this segment, but the two that stand out this year happen to be saloons: the Mercedes-Benz S500L ($586,888) and Audi A8L 4.0TFSI quattro ($524,000).

The S500L maintains Mercedes' pole position in this segment with an incredible blend of performance, technology and silkened luxury. Think of a car that offers rear seats that recline like those on an airliner ($4,500 extra) and hands-free driving in slow traffic. Packaged in a cushy, cavernous cabin riding on air suspension and moved along by a 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8.

No A8 gets as close to the S-class as the current range, which has just been given a mid-life facelift. The best variant is the 4.0TFSI, powered by a 4-litre twin-turbo V8 driving all four wheels. It pips the S500L in the century sprint by 0.2 seconds, accomplishing the task in 4.6 seconds. An all-wheel drive with such performance is usually quite thirsty, but the A8 has a cylinder cut-off, which shuts down four of its eight cylinders in light-load conditions to increase efficiency.

The A8 is clearly more of a driver's car than the S-class, but its cabin is a shade less pampering than the Merc's.