In most cases, you can have either a big engine, a big name or big luxury, but not all three. Not so with these bruisers, all of which cost £10,000 or less.
1 - Mercedes-Benz SL500 (1989-2008)Mercedes’ perennial sports cruiser has come in many guises over six generations and 61 years, but when big value is key, two generations stand out: the R129 (1989-2002) and the R230 (2003-2008).
Power and performance are a given thanks to the SL500’s 5.0-litre V8, although lesser- engined models are available. Still,the V8s have great reputations for reliability and functioning smoothly with their automatic transmission. They’re heavy cars, fairly softly suspended and the steering isn’t quick. But there’s lots of rubber on the road and the centre of gravity is low, so even early SLs can press on.
Look for leggy R129s from £2500 and R230s this side of £8500.
2 - BMW M5 (1998-2003)
How extraordinary to be able to buy such a performance icon for just £5k. We like the E39 M5 for value, with its 4.9-litre, 394bhp V8. Performance is close to supercar levels, with 0-60mph in 5.0sec and torque that slingshots you to three- figure speeds without appearing to try.
Find a nice one and you’re onto a winner, but bear in mind that many M5shave had a hard life, so look for worn tyres, brakes, clutches and steering, along with crash damage. Insurance costs will be high, too, especially if you live in a loaded area.
Still, even a 16-year- old M5 is something of a mobile miracle — a car with towering performance allied to all the practicalities and most of the luxury of an executive saloon.
3 - Jaguar S-Type R (2002-2007)
From unpromising beginnings, the S-Type became the car that pioneered some brilliant late-model driver’s Jags. It appeared in 1999, styled in the old Jaguar way and half-cooked in the old British motor industry way. But it was soon revised when comparison tests decided it fell far behind BMW’s 5 Series.
The 400bhp (later 420bhp) 4.2-litre,auto-only supercharged V8 R model was in showrooms from late 2002. It helped rescue the car’s reputation because its performance — a governed 155mph and 0-60mph in 5.6sec — was matched by terrific, Mike Cross-developed handling.
Search carefully and you’ll find full- history cars for less than £5000. For a really quick Jag, that’s value.
4 - Mercedes-Benz CL600 (2003-2005)
These big Merc coupés come in various shapes and sizes, but the ones we prefer are the 1999-2006 C215 models, with a particular eye on the 493bhp twin-turbo V12-powered cars from 2003. To our eye this coupé looks even smarter than the much pricier model that followed.
That monster engine also made its way into the W220 S-Class saloon for a while, presenting you with a nice choice, because saloons and coupés are about equal in price, that being £5k-£10k, depending on mileage, condition and your bargaining power.
Savour the stats: 590lb ft, 0-60mph in 4.8sec and 155mph. And if you ever see more than 4000rpm on the tacho, you’re going too fast. Wafting hits new heights.
5 - Audi S4 Cabriolet (2004-2007)
There’s a confusion of Audi S4 cabrios on the market, but we reckon the best is the third-generation B6. It was built on a new platform from 2004 and powered by Audi’s ubiquitous 4.2-litre V8 engine, whose 339bhp flows through a standard quattro four-wheel drive system.