The Phaeton was VW showing us what it could do. It was large, luxurious and exquisitely made. It had four-wheel drive and a beautiful cabin with exceptionally comfortable seats, and there was even a long-wheelbase version for oligarchs to stretch out in the back of. It was subtle, classy, soft riding and, with the W12 engine from the Bentley Continental to power it, impressively refined and fast.
With this gravelly 306bhp 5.0-litre V10 twin-turbo diesel, though, it turns a little rough. It has enormous shove - 553lb ft - but on the road it never feels quick. Its brakes feel a little disconcerting and its official economy is a woeful 24.9mpg.
Problems are few, however, and such luxury can be yours from as little as £6k.
3 - Audi RS6 (2008-2010)
It may look like a beefed-up version of the car your solicitor drives, but underneath beats a 571bhp 5.0-litre V10 related to the unit found in a Lamborghini Gallardo.
The RS6 goes like stink; 0-62mph takes 4.6sec and it’ll top 170mph if you derestrict it. It has massive tyres and four-wheel drive to cope with its thuggish power. You can even drift it around a track all day, and, if you buy the Avant version, you can take the dog, too.
Alas, on the road the ride is so stiff that it can make grown men weep, the steering is a bit peculiar and the throttle and brakes are too sharp.
Pick one up now for £25,000, or try its precursor, the milder 429bhp V10-powered S6, with prices from £12,000.
4 - Lexus LFA (2010-2012)
A fire-breathing carbonfibre supercar isn’t what you associate with Lexus, purveyor of beautifully made but essentially rather dull eco-luxury cars.
In fact, the only thing the LFA has in common with a regular Lexus is its superb build quality. It’s wide and low, unfettered by hybrid activity and packing a 552bhp 4.8-litre V10 under its bonnet. It can dispatch 0-62mph in 3.7sec and hit 202mph. And it does all this with utter suaveness, emitting the most glorious noise as it goes. The roadholding is exemplary, the handling superb, the ride amazing and the interior a work of art.
Only 500 were made, costing £336,000 new; now you’re looking at £400,000. Worth every penny.
5 - BMW M5 (2005-2010)
The iron fist in the velvet glove of this Bangle-designed BMW is a ferocious and utterly amazing 507bhp 5.0-litre V10.
Drive is transmitted to the rear wheels through a seven-speed SMG paddle-shift transmission. This tech-fest can see off 0-62mph in around four seconds and 0-100mph in less than 10. Top speed is a limited 155mph, but once derestricted the car can fly up to 205mph.
Most impressively, it responds with utter alacrity to every command. Throttle and steering responses are top notch and the brakes sublime. Here is a car that is happy to potter around town and delighted to drift around a circuit.
There’s plenty to go wrong, however, and many will have been used hard, so check the condition carefully. Prices start from £12,000.
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