WE MIGHT BE in a recession (still), but that doesn’t mean you can’t afford the finer things in life…
Yesterday we showed you that you can get some pretty serious performance cars for under £5,000, but if that’s not really your thing take a look at our top ten luxury cars for the same budget.
The big Alfa is perhaps not an obvious choice, but there aren’t many in the UK so it scores highly on the exclusivity front. Its odd droopy nose might not be the most attractive feature but Alfa’s always have that certain something. Engine choices range from 2.0 litre to 3.0 litre V6. Reliability isn’t as bad as Alfas of old but make sure the electrics are in working order. Prices start under £1000 but we’d spend a bit more and go for a lower mileage car.
The S-Type was ridiculed when it first came out because of it’s “O” facial expression but, like an awkward teenager, it’s grown into its looks quite nicely. There’s a choice of petrol engines but the 2.7 litre diesel is the pick of the bunch. Automatics gearboxes outnumber manuals by about seven to one so if you want one you’ll have to hunt harder. Jaguar frequently comes top in customer satisfaction surveys so it should hold together pretty well. Prices start as low as £700 but they’re not the finest examples at that end of the market.
Land Rover invented the premium 4×4, or SUV if you’re American, when it launched the Range Rover back in the 70’s. Early cars are now highly sought after so it’s the second-gen Range Rover we’re looking at here. The commanding driving position, comfort and luxury are still big temptations but running costs won’t be cheap and a full service history is a must. £1,600 will get you into a early 4.0 litre or 4.6 litre. The vast majority have never seen a muddy field in their lives but check for underbody damage just in case.
If you want the security of four-wheel-drive but not the conspicuousness of the ‘Rangey’ then the Audi A8 could be the car for you. Quite bland to look at but very refined and with plenty of space inside, the A8 will let you drive along in anonymous serenity. A Quattro will command a premium over a comparative two-wheel-drive model, the prices of which start around £1,500. As long as it’s serviced regularly it shouldn’t cause you many problems at all.
How many other Bond cars can you buy for £800? Not many. We reckon the 7-Series is actually pretty cool and can provide extremely high levels of refinement and plenty of gadgets too (you’ll have to speak to Q Division if you want missiles in the sunroof though). Of course, being a BMW it’s good to drive too. It’s no M3 but it hides its size and weight well to provide a good driving experience. Don’t be put off by high mileages, the 7-Series was built to cruise and as long as it’s been looked after it should be very strong.
The CL provides luxury but in a more stylish body. It’s just about as big as most of the other cars on this list but its rakish coupe shape makes it seem a little less stodgy. 5.0 litres is your only choice of engine size so there’ll be plenty of grunt but fuel bills are going to be big and as a certain Mr Clarkson proved, if something goes bang it will cost you. You can get a previous generation car for a little less but £4000 for the newer model (pictured) seems like even more of a bargain, especially given that most would have cost well north of £70,000 when new.
This was the very first Lexus, and parent company Toyota were keen to make a very strong first impression. As a result they over-engineered everything and the LS is virtually bombproof. The LS not only set benchmarks in terms of build quality and reliability but in refinement and ride as well. Even by today’s standards it is incredibly quiet and comfortable, it wasn’t nicknamed the Japanese Rolls-Royce nothing. All of this makes it even more remarkable that you can buy one today for as little as £800. Your only engine and gearbox choice is a 4.0 litre petrol and automatic though, so it’s not the most frugal car. Speaking of frugal…
The Audi A2 was about 10 years ahead of it’s time. It was small and economical at a time when people wanted their luxury cars big and brash. Now that we’re in a recession and petrol is nearing £1.4o a litre a car like this makes sense and makers are falling over themselves to make exactly this kind of car. It’s aluminium construction and efficient engines mean it’s very cheap to run and it has the usual Audi build quality and reliability too. It might not be as quiet or comfortable as the other cars but it’s remarkable for its size and with prices starting around £1,500 you really can’t go wrong.
Everyone who bought one new will tell you “It’s a Bentley underneath, you know” but you shouldn’t have to justify why you bought it, it’s an excellent car. Yes, it does have the underpinnings from the Bentley Continental but it borrows mechanicals from the Audi parts bin too. Its lack of premium image meant that depreciation was crippling and you can now pick one up, fully loaded for £5,000. It is a simply remarkable bargain.
There was only ever going to be one car at the top of this list, the car that has pretty much defined the ‘luxo-barge’ segment for 40 years. The Mercedes S-Class. Class leading in just about every area and always at least one step ahead of the rest when it comes to gadgets and technology. The S-Class isn’t the most reliable Merc but it should still be pretty tough. Prices begin around £2,300 so as long as you can afford the running costs you’ll be on to a real winner.