Currently reading: Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 14 August
This Mercedes-Benz SL 350 was £70k new. Now? Less than 20 grand will net you a fine used example

It’s nice to unearth a bargain, and I think I’ve found one in the R231-generation Mercedes SL. The demand for enormous two-seat convertibles seems to have shrunk, which is probably why you can get a Ford Fiesta’s worth of discount off a new SL. And all this discounting has played havoc with used prices, so now it’s not hard to find a once-£70k SL for less than £20k.

When this generation of SL arrived in 2012, much was made of its diet through the use of aluminium construction and a magnesium roof. However, it was still a big Mercedes with numb steering, a leisurely automatic and mushy brake pedal feel, so it was never going to be a match in the driving stakes for the equivalent Porsche 911 rag-top. Nor, too, would the much-vaunted increase in efficiency be anywhere near good enough to equal the fuel economy and immense touring range of a BMW 640d, so you can perhaps understand why the R231 never set any sales records.

But Mercedes’ (and first owners’) loss could be your gain. The SL is still a mighty fine way to cruise around and even the entry-level 3.5-litre V6 is a peach. It’s beautifully smooth and 30mpg-plus is easily achieved.

9 Mercedes benz sl 350

When buying a used one, ensure the roof works and seals properly by taking it through a car wash (with the roof up, obviously). We’d also suggest you avoid one with the optional Active Body Control (ABC) suspension, because parts are horrendously expensive when they fail on older Mercedes. If you had such issues with this one, all of a sudden your luxury roadster wouldn’t be such a bargain any more.

8 Vauxhall omega

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Vauxhall Omega 3.2 V6, £4690: Sadly, it’ll probably be a case of ‘go find another’ if you baulk at the price of this low-mileage (75k), one-owner Omega. But this 3.2 V6 estate appears to be in immaculate condition and its kit roster includes heated electric leather seats.

7 Ford mondeo

Ford Mondeo V6, £997: This V6 Mondeo poses a problem. It isn’t the mileage, at 115k, because it has a full history, and nor is it the MOT history. Rather, it’s the fact that the annual road tax bill is 57% of the asking price, because it was registered after 23 March 2006. Nice car, though.

6 Audi a3

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Audi A3 3.2 V6, £3450: Do you remember when you could get ridiculously big engines in small cars? Well, this A3 is peak ‘quart in a pint pot’, because it has a 3.2-litre V6 under its bonnet. Most have been well used – like this 108k-mile car – but its full service history is good news.

5 Volkswagen passat

Volkswagen Passat W8, £3990: We know it has a bigger motor than the others here, but we couldn’t resist it, because its W8 engine fits into the space where a V6 might sit. We’ll not see its like again, so we should enjoy examples like this full-service-history UK (not import) W8 while we can.

What we almost bought this week

1 Jaguar x type

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Jaguar X-TypeScoff all you want about this being a tarted-up Ford, but the fact is that the X-Type was and is a very good car – especially if you ignore the diesels, which often seem to spew out loads of black smoke under acceleration. This lovely 3.0 V6 manual has just had a new clutch and flywheel, has done only 58,000 miles and could be yours for £1490.

Auction watch

4 Nissan patrol

Nissan Patrol 2.8 3dr: Blimey, £11,070 is an awful lot of money for a 1998 Nissan Patrol. Then again, if you want an equivalent Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon, you’ll need at least the same again for something with less than 100k miles, and this Patrol is barely out of its plastic wrapping, with only 30,000 on the clock. Finding any Patrol for sale is good going – especially a short-wheelbase three-door one – because most have been worked into the ground by the people who bought them new. This example is a real rarity since it has never been used for towing and has spent most of its life on Jersey, which explains the low mileage and high selling price.

Future classic

3 Aston martin vantage

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Aston Martin V8 Aston Martin Vantage: It always makes for good headlines to say you can get an Aston Martin for around £25k, but you really can find an early V8 Vantage at this price point without too much searching. Obviously, condition and evidence of maintenance are key, but you have to wonder if this is where they’re bottoming out in value. Buy one now and you could probably sell it for what you paid a year later. Or hang onto it for a bit to see if it appreciates.

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: Find me a TVR rival for £10,000.

2 Matra murena

Matra Murena, £7500

1 Bmw z4

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BMW Z4 3.0i sDrive, £9750

Mark Pearson: TVRs, once they lost the charm of the early 1960s models and the pseudo-E-Type appeal of the M-series roadsters, have nearly all been an embarrassment, so it’s no surprise this subtle little Matra would beat them all into a cocked hat. What this deliciously wide and low three-seat, mid-engined Murena lacked in speed, it made up for in sensual gratification. Cornering was hugely impressive, unlike in TVRs, with little pitch or roll. It even rode well. Here’s a really well-looked-after 1983 one for way under our budget. What you got, Max?

Max Adams: Sadly, I’m not old enough to have known what a 1960s TVR was like. I’m a child of the 1990s and a TVR to me is a brutish GT car that makes a loud noise, so I’ve gone for a 3.0-litre BMW Z4. Complete with a six-speed manual gearbox and 258bhp engine, it offers similar performance to a 4.0-litre Chimaera, and this 2009 one has an interior full of wood and leather, just like all the best TVRs.

MP: Will it spend most of its life by the side of the road, like most TVRs, or in a ditch, waiting for help? I hope not. Nice, your Beemer, but a bit boring.

MA: It’s an older BMW with a complicated folding metal roof, so I reckon it’ll throw a wobbler every now and then. But at least mine will have the option of tail-out antics. What’s your’s powered by? The motor from a strimmer?

MP: Mine is a baby McLaren, Max. For £7000. It moves in beauty, like the night.

Verdict: The oddball, effete Murena. I even went and looked at the advert for far too long.


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Beastie_Boy 14 August 2020

Where’s are these cars advertised?

Much want for that Z4!