Jaguar X-Type 3.0
Subaru Legacy 3.0R Spec-B
Mazda 6 MPS
Volkswagen Passat 3.2 R36
Volvo S60 R
Choosing the perfect winter saloon can be full of peril - but choosing one with all-wheel drive will give you extra security through the colder months.
1 - Jaguar X-Type 3.0 (2001-2009)
Although firmly in the pocket-money price bracket today, the X-Type was well regarded when new. The flagship model, launched with a 3.0-litre V6 and four-wheel drive as standard, was well received, despite a cramped cabin and styling that was dated from the off.
The engine - based on Ford’s Duratec unit - produced 231bhp and gave impressive pace, but all models are distinctly discreet. There are no bucket seats, rubber band tyres or overt bodykits, even on Sport models. If this understatement appeals, you don’t need to spend a fortune on a serviceable example. Walk away from cars with engine or gearbox issues and be fussy.
Exceptional, low-mileage cars (of which there are many) creep beyond £6k, but £2000 should find you something that works with average miles and some service history.
2 - Subaru Legacy 3.0R Spec-B (2006-2010)
The 243bhp Legacy 3.0R is a true sleeper saloon. Inside or out, there’s little to suggest that this a 150mph car capable of 6.5sec 0-60mph sprints. Equipment levels are good and, running costs aside, they are easy to live with.
Prices are hard to gauge. Enthusiasts value them, but you might be able to dig out a bargain at a dealer struggling to sell something so specialist. You’ll find them for sale from around £3500, but bear in mind that repairs and servicing are expensive. Pay more for one with a traceable service history.
3 - Mazda 6 MPS (2005-2007)
As far as image and appearances are concerned, the Mazda 6 MPS is subtlety made metal. Aside from the chunky twin exhausts and modest MPS badging, there’s little to betray that this is anything more than a regular mid-2000s saloon. It was pretty short-lived, only being on sale for a couple of years, but the 256bhp saloon was good for 150mph and could hit 60mph from rest in less than seven seconds.
Check that your target car has had its pricey timing belt service and that the dashboard is free of warning lights. Expect to find the best cars at around £5000; be wary of anything sub-£3000.
4 - Volkswagen Passat 3.2 R36 (2008-2010)
When launched, the Passat R36 was claimed to be the fastest VW ever made, and with 296bhp on tap, the hot version of this most conservative of family saloons was genuinely impressive.
They weren’t sold in massive numbers, presumably because buyers spending £30k-plus on a fast saloon would rather have an Audi badge leading the way than the more prosaic VW one. All models for sale will have loads of kit, but given the relative youth of the cars available and the performance on offer, starting prices of £9k seem pretty sensible.
5 - Volvo S60 R (2003-2007)
Another understated choice, but the Volvo S60 R is a fast car, with 296bhp delivered from its 2.5-litre turbo five-pot. The harsh ride may shock if you have back trouble, but otherwise it’s standard fast Volvo fare. It’s a big car and not the most cultured chassis you’ll ever sample, but it’s a formidable motorway missile.When it comes to pricing, fast Volvos, particularly in saloon form, don’t have a great deal of cachet, so there’s no need to overpay.
That said, they are pretty rare. Problems with the four-wheel drive system and the highly strung engine are not unheard of, though. Prices for the S60 R start at around £3500.
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