Audi A8

There's never been a better time to buy a high-mileage luxobarge

Audi A8

We’ve all gazed longingly at those bargain basement luxobarges in the classifieds, put off only by the intergalactic miles on the clock and the threat of impending financial doom.

But according to Glass’s, there’s never been a better time to buy one of those prestige cars that have covered ‘starship mileages’ of 150,000 or more. In fact, 150,000 miles could be the new 100,000 miles.

In a blog post on the Glass’s website, head of valuations Rupert Pontin, said: “A high-level Mercedes, BMW, Audi or Jaguar that has covered 100,000-150,000 miles at five to eight years old is probably worth at least 10% less than identical models that have only done an average of 10,000 miles per year.

“However, if it has been properly maintained, the starship car probably looks every bit as good and, thanks to good build quality, is probably not much less reliable or more expensive to run. It’s a cost effective way of getting behind the wheel of a nice car that will impress the neighbours.”

He has a point. Whereas once upon a time, a car would be considered over the hill at 100k, modern vehicles are capable of reaching 150k, 200k and even 250k without breaking sweat.

Of course, proper maintenance is essential and an S-Class or 7 Series won’t be as cheap to run as sub 100g/km CO2 supermini, but at least you’ll be travelling in style.

‘These vehicles can make an excellent buy’

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

And just think how smug you’ll feel knowing that somebody else was responsible for the catastrophic depreciation. This truly is a win-win situation, assuming you don’t buy a lemon. As Pontin says: “If you make the basic checks on condition and ensure that they have a comprehensive service history, these vehicles can make an excellent buy.

“They are potentially no more than half way through their lives. What tends to eventually kill older cars of this type is not the fact they were no longer viable vehicles, but that the repairs needed to keep them on the road are no longer economically sustainable.”

But this needn’t be the case. The UK lost far too many perfectly serviceable cars during the scrappage scheme of 2010 and we live in a society where vehicles are seen as disposable items. A new family hatchback will probably be cheaper to run, but will it offer the grace, space and pace of a luxobarge? Certainly not.

Remember, the interior of a prestige car will last longer than that of a volume model, while a larger engine will have enjoyed a relatively stress-free existence. And the UK has a network independent specialists to lavish care and attention on your luxobarge for much less cash than a main dealer.

The market is finally catching on to the appeal of these bargain prestige motors. Approach a deal with your eyes wide open and you could be driving home in something that, only half a dozen years ago, would have been the preserve of a UK captain of industry.

Have you been tempted by a bargain-basement executive express? Did you live to tell the tale? Let us know.

I’ve bought a Toyota RAV4: is it a future classic?

I’ve bought a Toyota RAV4: is it a future classic?

I’ve bought a Toyota RAV4: is it a future classic?

Saturday afternoon. A layby in Bedfordshire. It’s hailing, and I’m sat in the car browsing eBay on my phone, desperately trying to find something that’s reliable yet quirky, cheap but also cheerful.

I’d been to see a K-series Rover 400 (the second-generation model that preceded the 45). I was convinced it was the one – it was in good condition, well cared for by its elderly owner. But then I revved it, and clouds of white smoke appeared. Condensation, perhaps, but the seller seemed very keen to get rid of it. So I walked away – something that I’d already done with several other Rovers on this car hunt.

So back to eBay. Amongst the sea of dull Mondeos and dodgy BMWs was this bright green RAV4. It was a private sale – a good thing, I hate buying cars from dealers at this price level. I dropped them a note and had a quick response, with a viewing arranged for later that day.

It was one of those sickly ‘love at first sight’ moments, I’m afraid. I loved the colour (I hate that our roads are clogged with dull black, grey and silver cars). I loved that it was so of its time – the first crossover SUV, you could argue – and I loved that it was a Toyota so showed very few signs that it had covered 160,000 miles.

I acted cool. I offered £500. The seller said no, and I walked away. Of course, I broke first, phoning the second I got home to up my offer to £600 and arrange collection for the following day.

I’ve bought a Toyota RAV4: is it a future classic?

The drive home

The drive home in a newly-bought car is always a weird mixture of excitement and nerves. That was escalated in this case as I hadn’t even test driven the car and had convinced myself overnight that the clutch must be on its way out – an expensive job, apparently. And, to top it all off, the fuel light was on – and my route home turned out not to pass a single petrol station.

Despite all this, it went brilliantly. Powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 129hp, the RAV4 isn’t as horrendously slow as you’d expect. In the 90s, that’s the sort of power hot hatches such as the Golf GTi and Proton Satria GTi (phwoar…) were producing, although the RAV’s 4×4 system does somewhat hamper its 0-60mph sprint (officially 11.6 seconds, although Autocar road testers at the time managed it in 8.8 seconds).

I get a great deal of fun out of making progress in cars that aren’t typically your enthusiastic drivers’ car. The Suzuki Celerio we had on test recently is the perfect example of this, as was the Nova we borrowed from Vauxhall’s heritage fleet, and my own 1983 Austin Metro. Still, in 1994, the RAV4 was described by Autocar’s Gavin Conway as ‘the best-handling off-roader I’ve ever driven’. And even by today’s standards, it’s not a bad handler. The steering is light, however, and it rolls in a way that even the most jelly-like of new cars don’t.

I think what I like most about the original RAV4 is that it’s a happy car. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sure, it might have been a fashion-statement in its day, but it’s very definitely out of fashion now. And that appeals to me.

The only thing that’s stopping the first-generation RAV4 becoming a classic, in my opinion? Like the original MX-5: its popularity, and unwillingness to die.

Jaguar Land Rover

Are Brits proud enough of Jaguar Land Rover?

Juergen StackmannDuring an enlightening round table with Volkswagen brand CEO Juergen Stackmann at the Geneva Motor Show, he made an interesting observation: the turnaround of Jaguar Land Rover over recent years has been remarkable, with the firm becoming a genuine premium market player with world-class products in just a single model cycle – an outstanding performance.

“You must be very proud, no?”

It struck me: are we? Do we really appreciate just what the home brand has achieved following the unshackling from Ford into a standalone group, which happened just as the 2008 recession struck?

Maybe with Land Rover, the profitable side of the group, we do – although few could have expected the smash-hit Range Rover Evoque, the margin-rich continuation of the Range Rover Sport and the sheer brilliance of the latest Range Rover. But then, Land Rover’s always done well: in a world now besotted by SUVs, it would almost be a surprise if it wasn’t thriving.

Jaguar, though – there’s the real story. Back in 2008, it was making the elderly XJ, the low volume XK and had just launched the breakout XF – a car that, for all its wonderful style and beautiful interior (arguably more beautiful than today’s cabins), was still derived from Ford-sourced S-Type underpinnings.

The XF was Jaguar’s only volume car and even this was hardly high volume. Lacking a serious sales alternative to the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, it really was a minnow in the premium sector. The Germans simply didn’t consider it a serious rival.

Jaguar Land Rover

Now look at it: there’s a brand-new XE made from an all-Jaguar, aluminium-intensive platform, winning plaudits and leaping straight into the position of driver’s car alternative to the 3 Series. There’s an all-new XF, again heavily using aluminium, that on paper makes as much rational, tax-friendly sense to business users as the smaller XE does.

The svelte XJ has been tweaked and the F-Type continues to get ever-faster and more lairy, neither car not really registering on saes charts but providing useful image-boost assets for the firm.

And soon, there’ll be the F-Pace. Jaguar’s first SUV. A great-looking machine that’s chasing the Porsche Macan and, by all accounts, is just as good to drive. Unlike the so-so XE and XF interiors, its cabin is also bang on the money, while both pricing and CO2 are double-take competitive.

The F-Pace, along with the XE, are going to transform Jaguar. Its sales are, relative to previous years, going to skyrocket and it may finally be able to stand on its own two feet rather than being propped up by the financial might of Land Rover.

And if Jaguar’s able to do this in a generation, what else could it do once the momentum really starts to flow?

Stackmann is right to ask us if we’re proud of Jaguar Land Rover. Perhaps we should ask ourselves that. Put the usual British cynicism to one side for a moment: even in the boardrooms of giant German car brands, JLR’s achievements are being recognised. Maybe it’s time we started shouting about them too.

Blog: Can a turbocharged Porsche 911 Carrera S be fun… driven slowly?

Blog: can a turbocharged Porsche 911 Carrera S be fun… driven slowly?

Blog: Can a turbocharged Porsche 911 Carrera S be fun… driven slowly?

We’ve had one of those new-fangled turbocharged 911s in on test for the last week. It’s a car that just had to happen, but that didn’t stop purists showing their disapproval when it was announced in September. It was the Cayenne all over again – or, even worse, switching from air- to water-cooling.

I knew that Porsche wouldn’t mess it up. I don’t make a habit of gushing over manufacturers, but it’s true that Porsche – in recent years, especially – consistently gets things so right. The Macan? So much more than a rebodied Audi Q5. The 918 Spyder? Arguably the most technically advanced of the hypercar trio. The 718 Boxster? We’ll see, but my hopes are high.

When the first drive reports started to come in, it was clear that turbocharging the entry-level 911s hadn’t diluted them in any way. They could hit 62mph 0.2 seconds quicker than before, with the Carrera S being the first entry-level 911 to reach 62mph in less than 4.0 seconds.

Our own Richard Aucock concluded that, “The engine, despite our worries, still delivers 911 character and sounds more charismatic than we expected.” It would have been ruinous for Porsche to mess up the 911, and it’s clear that they haven’t.

Blog: Can a turbocharged Porsche 911 Carrera S be fun… driven slowly?

Driving the new turbo 911 Carrera S on UK roads confirmed that. To my ears, the flat-six engine sounds just as delightful as before, while the extra performance makes me want to kneel down and praise the lord of turbocharged engines.

There has to be a ‘but’, though. And it’s not something that’s new to the latest 911. It’s something that’s plagued every 911 I’ve driven – a gripe that, should I flex my right foot for more than a few tenths of a second, my licence could be taken from me. A concern that the average British B-road just isn’t wide enough for a 911, plus a tractor that’s suddenly appeared coming in the opposite direction. A nag that, actually, I’d be having more fun in a Cayman.

Last night, I finished work and decided to go for a drive. The 911 was being taken away first thing this morning, so it would have been rude not to. But I live in the South East, where roads are busier than Beijing. And Storm Imogen was giving the UK a bashing, so it was wet, trees were falling and other motorists were tip-toeing around as if exceeding 40mph could result in a fiery death.

This would normally be annoying. But I wasn’t in the mood for blatting around like a demented dog on heat. Instead, I tuned into 6Music and went with the flow. To nowhere in particular.

Most of the time I was well below the speed limit. Sure, if the road opened up, I’d accelerate up towards 60mph with slightly more gusto than Mr Rep would manage in a diesel Audi, but it wasn’t anywhere near pushing the Porsche’s abilities. Yet it was enjoyable.

I’m usually a PDK convert (that’s a whole different blog post), but working through the seven-speed manual ’box of ‘our’ 911 was not only a pleasingly analogue experience (even at low speeds), but also one that I fear I’ll be telling my kids about in years to come.

With the Sport button engaged it blips the throttle on downshifts, while the engine is just ridiculously tractable. Can’t be bothered dropping down from fifth to accelerate out of that 30mph limit? No problem, the 911 will do it, with torque spread flat from 1,700rpm. And it’ll sound good – especially if you press the button to open the flaps in the sports exhaust.

I’d argue that feeling special at lower speeds is actually something at which Porsche excels. Part of it comes from the interior – you sit low, with Porsche crest proudly sitting on the wheel in front of you, and the 3.0-litre flat-six burbling behind you. As great as something like a BMW M5 is, a 911 has a feel-good factor that hot versions of mainstream cars can’t match.

Am I convinced that the 911 makes more sense than a smaller, cheaper Cayman if you’re out for a blat on UK roads? No. But do you have to be on the Autobahn to have fun in a turbocharged 911? It helps, but perhaps not…