Flash for not much cash: The best used luxury cars
11 May 2021 - autocar
We've pored through the classifieds so you don't have to
If you don’t have £170,000 in change rattling around your pocket but dream of piloting a Bentley Flying Spur or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, you can do so at a fraction of the price on the used market.
Being ferried about in a luxo-barge can be achieved for as £3000 (not including the price of a chauffeur, anyway), and the classifieds have plenty of choice. We've picked out some highlights below.
Is the Panamera the best-handling luxury car of the lot? Quite possibly. Although it has never quite lived up to its billing as a four-door 911, the way it drives is sublime. The interior is exquisite, too, with sporty styling that hints at its performance. Diesels were introduced in 2011 and are your best bet for a bargain: the 3.0-litre turbo V6 produces 247bhp and uses an eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox. These can now be had for just £18,000 – less than you would pay for a new Smart EQ Fortwo.
One we found: 2011 3.0 V6 S, 97,000 miles, £17,999
Stick a VW badge on a luxury car and what do you get? Horrific resale values. At least that was the result of the Phaeton experiment, which began in 2003 and ended in 2016. VW’s halo car was kitted out supremely well, and a 2009 facelift added new instruments and a touchscreen to a package that already had cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors and heated front seats. While not the most exciting steer, passengers have loads of room and the huge boot is ideal for trips away. It’s thirsty, mind: even diesels won’t break 30mpg.
One we found: 2009 3.0 V6, 74,000 miles, £3250
Bentley Flying Spur
Called the Bentley Continental Flying Spur when it first arrived in 2005, this four-door version of the Continental GT was originally priced at £133,200. Today? We found one with 42,000 miles for just £26,000. That buys you a 6.0-litre W12 engine capable of laying down 553bhp and 479lb ft, blasting through 0-62mph in 4.9sec on your way to 190mph. Anything less than full throttle results in extremely quiet progress and the ride is so good, you’ll barely notice the road. Just be prepared for running costs almost as enormous as the car itself.
One we found: 2008 6.0 W12, 42,000 miles, £26,000
BMW 5 Series
There are few all-rounders that possess as many talents as the BMW 5 Series and, given the car’s popularity, there’s never any shortage of choice on the second-hand market. A four-year-old 520d diesel can cost you less than £12,000 these days, mixing above-average fuel economy with excellent performance when you put your foot down. Stay away from anything with wheels larger than 18in and look for cars with the optional adaptive dampers to extract the best ride comfort. The 520-litre boot is plenty for suitcases and such and, while the cabin is no palace, the design does enough to make you feel indulged.
One we found: 2017 2.0 520d, 70,000 miles, £11,995
Ask anyone what springs to mind on hearing the words ‘Maserati Quattroporte’ and the answer will almost always be ‘character’. The Italian saloon’s soul is inspired by a V8 soundtrack, with 394bhp at 7000rpm music to everyone’s ears. Rear-wheel drive and 0-62mph in 5.2sec won’t cease to entertain, but the Duoselect auto ’box can be jerky: look out for ZF autos from 2007 for a vast improvement. We found one for a fraction of the original price, but you’ll need to look after it well to guard against expensive replacement parts bills.
One we found: 2007 4.2 Sport GT, 75,000 miles, £12,500
If you want to know what gadgets will appear on everyday cars in 10 years’ time, look at the S-Class. The Mercedes’ reputation for cutting-edge tech is unparalleled, and when you consider it also has a supremely comfortable ride, a classy interior, incredible refinement and reasonable running costs, it’s incredibly hard to fault. It’s perhaps not the most dynamic car in its class, but then you don’t buy a limo for hooning down a B-road. The S350d is a common pick, with its 254bhp 3.0-litre V6, and long-wheelbase models don’t add much to the price.
One we found: 2016 3.0 V6 SE Line, 57,000 miles, £19,000
Who knows what the future holds for the XJ: production stopped in 2019 and the planned electric replacement has been cancelled. It’s a shame, as the latest model was a charming alternative to the contenders from Germany, showcasing strong performance, agile handling and undeniable style. Reliability was a concern initially but that improved with time, so later, high-mileage models are probably the most sensible choices. The XJ’s options list was extensive, so read the fine print before you buy. Leather seats and a panoramic roof are standard, so you shouldn’t feel short-changed.
One we found: 2013 3.0d V6 Luxury, 70,000 miles, £12,000
The third-generation A8 made way for the current car in 2017, and many of the earlier examples can now be bought for four-figure sums. Yes, insurance and maintenance costs will be uncomfortably high, but the A8 offers plenty to reward your investment. The 3.0-litre V6 diesel is the most popular choice, thanks to its mix of performance and economy, while 18in alloys, adaptive air suspension, sat-nav and an infotainment system are all standard. The interior is awash with premium materials, but for the full chauffeur experience get a long-wheelbase version with maximum leg room, heated rear seats and a sunroof.
One we found: 2009 3.0 V6, 74,000 miles, £3250
Aston Martin Rapide
Aston Martin struggled to sell the Rapide saloon when it was launched in 2010, and it wasn’t until a change in the way that the car was marketed that sales began to pick up. Whether you think it was underappreciated or not is by-the-by; as a used purchase, it’s terrific. The 5.9-litre V12 makes a glorious noise and performance in the corners is surprisingly good, given that it tips the scales at two tonnes. If the relative lack of space in the back is an issue you can overlook, you won’t be disappointed.
One we found: 2012 5.9 V12, 55,000 miles, £37,999
The Phantom VII, sold between 2003 and 2016, harnessed one of the smoothest engines in production: a 6.75-litre V12 delivering 453bhp and 531lb ft for unrivalled wafting ability. It has a ‘they-don’t-make-them-like-this-any more’ interior, as you will see as soon as you enter through the rear-hinged doors. The Series 2 model arrived in 2012, adding LED headlights, an eight-speed automatic gearbox and improved infotainment. Prices vary massively depending on options, but early versions of the S2 still attract six-figure sums.
One we found: 2012 6.75 V12, 20,000 miles, £109,000