What is a flagship model?
A flagship model in the automotive sense is the best, largest and the most important model in the fleet that's designed to showcase the very best that a manufacturer can do. They are designed to be the pinnacle and a moving advertisement for all other models in the range. They aren't always the biggest or the most expensive as sometimes they could just be the most expensive. Quite often, they may be performance models to boot.
Often, manufacturers do not directly state which of their models is the flagship so it can be subject to a personal opinion based on size, prestige and cost.
We've compiled a list of all the flagship models (in our opinion) below:
Abarth - 695
Although the Abarth 124 Spider can be the most expensive, the flagship Abarth which is currently in production is the pocket rocket 695. It houses a 1.4 turbocharged engine which can achieve a 0-62 time of 6.9 seconds and has 180 horsepower which is enormous considering it shares the same chassis as a Fiat 500.
Alfa Romeo - Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Although it could be argued that the Giulia could also be the Italian car makers flagship model, Stelvio gets the title with it being bigger and is being pushed more by the brand. The Stelvio's Quadrifoglio model has a 0-62 time of 3.8 seconds and 510 horsepower which is simply astonishing.
Aston Martin - DBS
You could say that all Aston Martins are flagship models but none of them are quite as racy as the incredible DBS superleggera.
Bentley - Mulsanne
Bentley has plenty of cars that would easily be the flagship model for any other manufacturer but the cream of the crop is the Mulsanne Saloon. The Mulsanne is the most powerful four door car in the world - their words not ours.
BMW - M8
The fantastic M8 is a brand new entry as BMW's flagship model and is BMW's 'priciest vehicle ever'. With a 4.4 litre twin-turbo powerhouse it can blitz 0-62 in just 3.2 seconds and has 625 brake horsepower. This car is some serious fun.
Dacia - Duster
The Duster crossover has long been the brand's flagship model and with its 2018 refresh bridging the gap between style, practicality and affordability has made it a popular choice for many a driver. There is no performance or special edition model of the Duster so you'd need to look at the range topping 4x4 Prestige or Techroad models to find the true Dacia flagship.
Ferrari - SF90 Stradale
It's tricky to pick just one flagship Ferrari but through our own opinions and the opinions of motoring journalists, it's decided it's the SF90 Stradale. An absolute peach of a (super) car which can get from 0-100 kmh in 2.5 seconds from a V8 hybrid engine combining old school power with modern technology for those lucky enough to be able to not just afford it but handle it.
Honda - NSX
This is a tough one to call. Technically, the NSX is the pinnacle of Honda's engineering and performance divisions but in terms of what Honda are most known for in the UK then it would have to be the Civic Type R. This one really comes down to your own personal definition of "flagship". In terms of performance and cost, there is no competition between the NSX's 3.5 V6 hybrid monstrosity and £150k price tag versus the Civic Type R's 2.0 VTEC and modest £31k price tag.
Hyundai - NEXO
The flagship Hyundai is probably a car no one has ever heard of, let alone seen. The NEXO is a hydrogen fuelled car that apparently purifies as it drives which makes it MORE than carbon neutral. Not only is the NEXO leading the way for Hyundai but it could be argued that this is the future of green cars in general.
Infiniti - Q50 Saloon
The Infiniti range isn't a large one any more but what sits right at the top is the Q50 saloon. There was a time it was the entry level model would you believe. The Q50 is a hybrid luxury powerhouse from Nissan so expect modern engines and the latest tech.
Jaguar - XJ
Jaguar's lineup has never looked as refreshed as vibrant as it does right now - but none of these fancy crossovers and electric cars has made anything other than the whopping XJ saloon the flagship model. It is the pinnacle of executive saloons and it's a massive car to boot.
Take the XJ to the next level with the long wheelbase version and the XJ50 trim to really stand out and dominate the roads.
Jeep - Grand Cherokee
The flagship Jeep is a no-brainer - it's the all-American Grand Cherokee. And what's the flagship Grand Cherokee? Well, it's the 6.2 V8 supercharged Trackhawk of course! This whopper of an SUV can hit 0-62 in 3.7s and has a 710 bhp power plant. Wow.
Kia - Stinger GTS
Picking the flagship Kia was a struggle as the Sorento is the biggest and the e-Niro is the most expensive. However, when considering the top of the line 3.3T Stinger it became clear that this was the flagship model in the current Kia range. This is likely to change very soon with a full size SUV (Telluride) and a large executive saloon (K900) on the way. Watch this space!
Land Rover - Range Rover
The Range Rover has long been the flagship Land Rover and it's unlikely to ever change even with the introduction of the Velar and the Evoque. However, it remains to be said that not all Range Rovers are created equal and the undisputed king of them all is the 5.0 V8 S/C 565 SVautobiography LWB model.
Lotus - Evija
The Evija sounds like a car that is just made up. It houses 2000 PS under the bonnet, a top speed of more than 200 mph and it's a hybrid. The Evija is ready to redefine what it means to be a hypercar and head and shoulders above the rest of the Lotus range and the clear flagship model.
Maserati - Granturismo
The Maserati Granturismo is the peak model available from the Italian car makers. Boasting a powerful V8 engine and 560 break horsepower the Granturismo is the exact definition of what a GT is meant to be.
Mazda - CX-5
Currently, Mazda doesn't have a standout luxury or performance model in their fleet leaving the title of the flagship with the popular crossover the CX-5. Now most notably with the GT Sport trim. The CX-5 is an impressive, large SUV and deserving of this title even if it's not at all "showy".
Mercedes-Benz - AMG GT
The AMG GT has long been the flagship model. Now Mercedes has made the 2 door coupe a 4 door sportback which heightens the car's position as the undisputed Mercedes-Benz flagship model. For even more presence, the AMG GT 63 S is the cream of the crop with a 0-62 of 3.2 seconds and 639 brake horsepower under the bonnet.
MG - GS
The MG GS is the largest and most expensive vehicle in the MG range. It wasn't always like that in the past with MG but with their return they've tried to limit their range to cater for the mainstream only.
Mini - Countryman
The flagship model is the Countryman as it's the largest, most expensive and best equipped. But, an honourable mention should be made to the John Cooper Works models, particularly the original Mini hatchback as it does carry with it a rich history that the Countryman simply doesn't have.
Mitsubishi - Outlander PHEV
The Outlander PHEV set the bar when it was the first launch and still to this stay is one of the best hybrids on the road. It seems like an odd choice for a flagship model but Mitsubishi appears to be committed to crossovers and SUVs and not interested in performance models or even hatchbacks for that matter.
Nissan - GT-R
What else could possibly be the flagship Nissan other than the beast from east Nissan GT-R. A timeless classic that still to this day makes most hot hatches quiver in fear. The modern GT-R is fuelled by a 3.8 V6 570 bhp power plant with a top speed of just under 200 mph and a 0-62 of 2.7s.
Peugeot - 508
It's a close one between this and the 5008 but with the 508 being the executive fastback and historically the flagship before the crossover invasion we think it's the best choice. There are no performance GTi models right now but watch this space...
Porsche - 911
The Porsche 911 is not only Porsche's flagship model but one of the greatest cars ever made. This car continues to redefine what it means to be a 2+2 performance coupe and sets the precedent with each generation. The Porsche 911 GT3 RS is the ultimate version which offers a 0-62 time of 3.2s and a top speed of 193 mph, making it one of the fastest road worthy cars on the planet.
Renault - Megane RS
At first, we thought it would be the Koleos that would be the flagship because it's the biggest but the more we thought about it the more we felt that the Megane R.S does more for the French brand than any other vehicle by showcasing the Renault style and their performance capabilities.
SMART - Forfour
SMART doesn't really do flagship models or performance ones either. However, the ForFour is the biggest and most expensive so it's the only viable choice really.
SsangYong - Rexton
The Rexton is an enormous vehicle and easily the flagship model of the little known Korean brand. It is based on the old M-Class (now the GLC/E) and boasts a high level of luxury and excellent performance.
Subaru - WRX STi
Despite the Levorg being larger and slightly more expensive car, it is the world-famous WRX STi that carries the Subaru flag forward. Permanent all-wheel drive, 0-62 in 5.2s, 300 brake horsepower, a top speed of 159 mph and of course a rich history in motorsport makes this the clear flag bearer for the Japanese brand.
Tesla - Roadster
You could argue that all Tesla models are flagships such is the popularity of them and how much the owners themselves rave about it. However, we feel the absolute cream of the crop is the stunning Tesla roadster with its ludicrous performance and incredible looks.
Vauxhall - Insignia
In the past, the flagship Vauxhall vehicle would have been the VXR8 but that is no longer in production. Therefore we would say the Insignia is the new flagship model just above the new Grandland. Specifically, the Insignia bi-turbo 4x4 GSi model. Perhaps one day they will make another VXR insignia alongside the Astra VXR.
Volkswagen - Touareg
The poster boy Volkswagen has long been the Golf and specifically the Golf GTi/R tribe. However, the biggest and most expensive Volkswagen is by far the Touareg. This flagship model has recently had a massive overhaul as well so it's unlikely to lose this position for a long, long time.