This month we’re looking at some automotive heavy weaponry, served up with a hearty dose of practicality and comfort. It’s an enticing trait of the supersaloon genre – albeit traumatic for the original purchaser – that these cars invariably suffer savage depreciation in their early lives. Sadly, there are plenty of potential pitfalls for the used buyer. It’s the usual conundrum: they may now be attainable for the price of a new family hatchback, yet, in the main, parts prices are still those of an £80,000-100,000 car. It is therefore imperative not to buy one that has fallen into the wrong hands; skimping on servicing invariably comes home to roost.
Let’s start with everyone’s favourite supersaloon institution: the BMW M5. You can’t reach supersaloon nirvana unless you’ve experienced the E60 M5’s F1-inspired 500bhp V10 close in on 8500rpm, just as your complexion will never have been so pallid as when the ‘red cog of death’ warning flashes up on the dash, indicating that there’s a problem with the SMG transmission.
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Dan Norris of Munich Legends (munichlegends.co.uk) is well aware of the potential pitfalls but summarises thus: ‘There’s nothing else like it in a four-door family car. Flat-out, all the complaints fall away.’ Bottom of the market is now £15,000, but decent ones can be had for under £20,000. Check out issue 185 for our buying guide.
A slightly safer option, if a little less dynamic, is the W211-series Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. As with any Merc that features the 6.2-litre M156, the thumping naturally aspirated V8 – here with 507bhp – takes centre stage. It’s a tough engine, too, although early ones suffered from snapped head bolts and you should listen out for tappet noise, according to Olly Stoner at Prestige Car Service (prestigecarservice.co.uk). See issue 207 for a full buying guide. Scott Chappell at Simon Light Ltd (simonlight.co.uk) reckons the market for reasonable examples starts at £17,000, but £20,000 gets a low-mileage 2007 car. Top cars are £25,000, where the later W212 (with the ‘square’ headlights) takes over.
If you’re after brutal all-weather ability, then consider a ludicrously over-engined Audi. Emissions, engine downsizing and fuel prices all make seeing anything quite like the 572bhp V10-engined ‘C6’ RS6 ever again a very remote possibility. Ben Watkins at MRC Tuning (mrctuning.com) highlights just two key faults for used buyers to look for. Firstly, there’s the oil leak: ‘All of them do it! It’s from the PAS pump shaft that runs through the oil pump, and an engine-out job to fix at approximately £3500.’ The other main issue is the coolant pipes that run through the back of the offside front wheelarch: check them for corrosion, because if they burst it’s another engine-out job, at around £2500.
The market for RS6s is fairly static. ‘The nice examples are holding their value,’ says Sunny Panikker at Buckinghamshire High Performance (bhpmsport.com). ‘But the difference is widening between the good and bad. Decent cars are £27,000 upwards, with corkers into the £40,000 bracket. At under 50,000 miles we’d definitely hold them in stock with our own money. There’s nothing that freaks me out about them.’
The idea of a used Maserati might make the M5 seem like running a Micra, but the Quattroporte ‘5’ (2004-2012) is not only relatively hardy but surely also the prettiest saloon in recent memory. There are fundamentally two different versions: the earlier cars with the single-clutch automated DuoSelect gearbox, dry-sump V8 and transaxle, and the later cars with the six-speed ZF torque converter, directly attached to a wet-sump V8. Power ranges from 394bhp in the original 4.2-litre cars, up to 425bhp in some facelifted cars with 4.7 litres. For an idea of what goes wrong, see the ‘Expert View’ below, but an early, low-mileage car at £20,000 is a tempting proposition.
The Porsche Panamera is another, more recent oddball, but if you can get past the looks this is a versatile four-seater with plenty of Porsche DNA in the way it drives. ‘They’re holding their value better than their rivals,’ says Arthur Little at Number One Prestige (numberoneprestige.co.uk). Only high-mileage V8s dip below £40,000, but good Turbos command from £60,000. See the buying guide in evo 214 for the low-down on what to be aware of.
Finally, placing more emphasis on luxury brings the Bentley Continental Flying Spur onto the radar. These 552bhp W12-engined limos are temptingly cheap, with the market for decent early (2005) cars currently dipping south of £30,000. ‘It’s a complicated car that needs proper maintenance – a service history is paramount,’ says Stuart Worthington at Phantom Motor Cars Ltd (pmcuk.com). ‘The engine and ’box are bulletproof, but front suspension arms wear, although they’re not expensive. Discs and pads all done will be £1600, and check the drain holes for blockages. Buy the best you can afford.’
Imagine a graph, with luxury to sportiness on the X-axis, and running costs on the Y; plotting our contenders would neatly illustrate where they lie relative to each other. At one end of the spectrum is the E60 BMW M5. Drive one and, gearbox aside, it’s hard to resist, and so are the keen prices. But it’s a purchase that carries a major potential health-warning sticker. The opposing definition of a supersaloon is the Bentley Flying Spur – literally, a lot of car for the cash – with our other choices falling somewhere between the two. Practicality and performance rarely looked so appealing.