Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
You can't go wrong with a V8 muscle car, and these bargains will cost you less than a sensible family crossover.
1 - Lexus IS-F (2008-2012)
You wouldn’t bet on a Lexus IS to get your heart racing, but the IS-F is certainly worth a flutter.
For starters, its 414bhp 5.0-litre V8 engine is a thing of refined brutishness. It takes the IS-F from 0-62mph in just 4.8sec and on to a top speed of 168mph. An eight-speed automatic gearbox makes it all seem easy, and accurate steering and an excellent chassis balance mean corners can be attacked with gusto. It is hugely enjoyable and highly exploitable.
It isn’t quite a BMW M3 killer — it isn’t as sharp and the ride is too fidgety — but it is a pretty good effort. It’s also excellent value now. The fun starts from £17k, and it’s a Lexus so it won’t let you down.
2 - BMW M3 (2007-2013)
Fast and surprisingly sophisticated, this fourth-generation M3 packs a mighty 414bhp 4.0-litre V8 under its bonnet.
Red-lined at a screaming 8300rpm, it sends its power through a six-speed manual or seven-speed M-DCT dual clutch automatic gearbox to the rear wheels via its clever M differential. Performance is colossal, with 0-62mph in just 4.7sec. On road and track, it is fast and forgiving, with a wonderful chassis and exceptional balance. You can potter to the shops with the family or drift it for hours round a circuit with its pants on fire.
There are plenty around to choose from, too. Good ones start at £18k. Check for accident damage and insist on a full service history.
3 - Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG (2008-2014)
Big, butch and bold, the C63 AMG roars into battle against the M3 with all the subtlety of a punch in the face.
It has a V8, too — a whopping 6.2-litre one pumping out 451bhp and 442lb ft. Drive to the rear is via a swift seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox. The 0-62mph dash is over in just 4.5sec and 0-100mph takes a mere 10.3sec.
Add in responsive steering and entertaining handling and the C63 is a hoot. It’s loud, brutish and fun, if not quite as polished as its rivals. There were Performance Pack options when new, too, which added composite brakes and a locking rear differential into the mix.
You can find one for £20k, but expect to spend a fortune on tyres and petrol.
4 - Vauxhall VXR8 (2007-current)
The gloriously uncouth VXR8 comes from Down Under, where it began life as a Holden. Up front is a 412bhp 6.0-litre V8 that pumps its power through a six-speed manual gearbox (or a six-speed auto) to the rear wheels.
Performance is phenomenal, with 0-62mph in 4.8sec and a top speed of more than 170mph. It is large, uncomplicated and blisteringly quick. It can be punted like a hooligan all day around a track. Yet it is also docile in town, spacious inside and reasonably comfortable. It even has a huge boot.
New, it cost half the price of a BMW M5 and offered similar performance. Buy one now from £15k, but put aside money for the fuel bills.
5 - Jaguar XFR (2009-current)
It might not look as though it can eat BMW M5s for breakfast, but one drive in the XFR will convince you that it can.
It packs a supercharged 503bhp 5.0-litre V8, with drive sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed ZF automatic ’box. There’s power in magnificent abundance. It’ll accelerate from zero to 62mph in just 4.7sec and, more impressive, go from 50mph to 70mph in just 1.9sec.
A heavily tweaked chassis and an electronically controlled rear diff endow the XFR with quick steering, massive grip and composed but pleasingly chuckable handling. On top of that, it is cheaper, quieter and more comfortable than the M5, with a surprisingly supple ride. If that ‘R’ is for ‘Racing’, the ‘F’ must be for ‘Finesse’. Good ones can now be had from £20k.
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