Currently reading: Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 23 July
Mercedes expected big things of the R-Class, promising “a wholly new motoring experience”. It didn't quite deliver at the time, but now looks tempting in the classifieds

Mercedes-Benz expected big things of the R-Class, promising that it would provide “a wholly new motoring experience” as it attempted to combine saloon stylishness, estate practicality and 4x4 ruggedness.

This proved too high a bar for it to clear, but what it could do was act as a private jet for the road, with its luxurious accommodation for six or seven people, while standard four-wheel drive and a long-wheelbase option won it valuable utility marks.

Its unique design and versatility meant that it had few direct rivals to compete with, and its road-oriented performance made it an attractive proposition over the more cumbersome SUVs of the early 2010s.

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The R280 (later renamed the R300) and R320 (later the R350) CDI diesel models were equipped with two differently tuned versions of the same 3.0-litre V6, producing 190bhp and 265bhp respectively. The R350 petrol featured a 272bhp 3.0-litre V6, while the top-of-the-range, AMG-fettled R500 offered sports car performance, being capable of 0-62mph in just 6.9sec thanks to a 306bhp 5.0-litre V8.

9 Rclass

All models were offered with Mercedes’ appropriately silky seven-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox. Unlike with some people carriers, the R-Class’s third-row seats are able to accommodate adults. And to ensure that they don’t feel relegated to the back, tri-zone climate control, Bluetooth and heated seats emulate the premium ambience of the front. Each rear seat has its own cupholder, too: now, that’s pure glamour.

The R-Class isn’t all champagne and caviar, however: it also has one of the biggest boots you will find in anything short of a Luton van, with short-wheelbase models built after 2009 offering 869 litres of space, increasing to a staggering 1048 litres if you opt for a long-wheelbase one.

This is, then, despite its objective appeal, quite a confused car, which is perhaps why prices have dipped of late, meaning you can pick up an entry-level R320 for as little as £3500.

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Long-wheelbase models naturally command a premium. We found an R320L CDI with 99,000 miles on the clock advertised for £5999.

The R500 is rare, but if you can find one, expect to shell out around £7000. Just keep an eye on those astronomical tax and fuel bills.

8 Rover

Rover P5B, £16,000: The current owner of this 1972 saloon has sunk their money into the project, so you don’t have to. It has been given a brand-new interior and a fresh coat of suitably stately red paint, plus it’s corrosion-free and can boast a clean bill of mechanical health.

7 Arteon

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Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TSI R Line, £16,390: This stylish cruiser wants just half of its original price after 70,000 miles. It’s in range-topping sporty R Line trim, employs a punchy 2.0-litre turbo petrol four and has a healthy kit list including Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit and tri-zone climate control.

6 Jag

Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8 S’charged Supersport, £19,995: With a supercharged V8 under its bonnet, this angry-looking big cat gives a good blend of performance and comfort. It has done only 65,000 miles and has all sorts of kit, including heated massage seats, a premium stereo and rear-seat entertainment.

5 Rolls

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Rolls-Royce Ghost EWB, £89,999: This stretched saloon from 2014 has covered 90,000 miles at the hands of its one owner (or their driver) and comes with a full service history. Its 6.6-litre V12 isn’t known for frugality, but then you don’t buy a £90,000 limousine to go hypermiling, do you?

Auction watch

4 Nissan patrol

Nissan Patrol: Large SUVs are far from a rarity in the UK nowadays, but some lesser-spotted gems still appear at auction from time to time. Registered in 1994, this one-familyowned time capsule of a Nissan Patrol has driven just 14,000 miles and looks completely unmarked, which is why it went for a strong £21,250. It’s said to be one of only 13 left on the road in the UK and is even fitted with its original Dunlop Grandtrek tyres from 1994 (they’re probably due a change). There’s no chassis damage, which is rare on large off-roaders of this age, and it was sold along with its original owner’s manual, factory-fitted spotlights and purposeful roof bars and bull bars.

Future classic

3 Subaru

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Subaru Impreza WRX STi, £16,000: We all know about the Subaru Impreza WRX as a World Rally Championship supremo, but it also held its own as a bona fide sports car for the road. This 2003 example came with sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE070 tyres, Brembo performance brakes and a lairy, motorsport-style aerodynamic package for optimal handling. Subaru’s burbling 262bhp boxer engine shot it from 0-62mph in just 5.3sec. Of course, it won’t be for everyone, but the blue-and-gold colour scheme immediately marks it out as a rally refugee, plus there’s a pleasing absence of ill-advised aftermarket add-ons. Added incentives include a mileage below 80,000, two keys and showroom-fresh bodywork.

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: I have £5000 for a capacious and cool van to take to the Le Mans campsite.

2 Clash

Bedford Midi 1.8, £3500

1 Clash4

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Volkswagen Transporter 2.5 TDI, £4500

Felix Page: Jinkies, it’s the Mystery Machine! Wait, hang on… no, it’s not. Scooby-Doo and the gang didn’t actually ride around in a Bedford Midi, although I can’t imagine you would get any stick from the superfans for this comical tribute. Mechanically and cosmetically, it sounds like a peach, so neither you nor your kids will need to do any meddling before the trip.

Jack Warrick: My T4 Transporter provides all the practicality you need without that barmy livery. Its 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine gives plenty of grunt and there’s more comfort and space in the back than the average penthouse (maybe). There’s a bed, stove, guitar, surfboard and even a picnic basket so you don’t have to spend your life savings on La Sarthe sustenance.

FP: A surfboard? I didn’t know the swell was so gnarly on the Arnage Straight in August. Also, it’s a bit tatty, isn’t it? I don’t think James would make many friends at the campsite in that.

JW: One man’s tatty is another man’s well-travelled and cosy. Besides, nobody needs to see the inside apart from James after a hard day of spectating, whereas others have no choice but to be blinded by your Bedford’s bright blue-and-green combo.

FP: Well, don’t come crying to me when there’s a toilet-roll thief at large on the campsite and nobody can guess which van is home to a cunning sleuth.

JW: Ruh-roh! Will your sky-scraping high-top even make it into the Eurotunnel train…?

Verdict: That T4 looks a bit scrappy. I’ll take the Midi.


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