Currently reading: Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 5 July
With SLR-inspired styling and a metal folding roof, the R171-gen Mercedes SLK is a stylish and affordable summer cruiser

With looks inspired by the Vision SLR concept unveiled at the 1999 Detroit motor show and a galvanised body guaranteed to prevent the rust that corroded Mercedes’ reputation throughout the 1990s, an SLK R171 is a great second-hand buy.

Mercedes-Benz SLK 200, £7450: It was launched in 2004, facelifted in 2008 and expired in 2010 – long enough, then, to generate a fair quantity of motors ranging in price from around £2500 for an early SLK 200 to £11,000 for a late-plate 300. Feeling flush? Tidy – and potent – SLK 55s start at around £12,500 and go to £20,000 for a 2009-reg. 

Our choice would be a 2008 facelifted model (it gained a new nose and rear end plus more than 650 other new parts, including a new instrument cluster). Given the SLK isn’t the last word in performance and handling, we’d save our money for something undemanding such as the SLK 200 auto we found. Registered in 2008 and with 63,000 miles, it has a full history, black leather trim, silver paint and the essential Airscarf neck warmer. 

Merc slk 0

All good so far, but we’d be keen to check the timing chain is quiet from cold and that the auto ’box shifts smoothly, especially into reverse. A quick spin around the block should tell us how the front and rear antiroll bars are behaving (the bushes are a weak spot), while a poke about underneath will give us a chance to check no springs are broken. While there, we’ll check the rear subframe for corrosion. 

Finally, to the SLK’s party trick: its folding roof. It’s sure to work but lack of use can allow dust to clog the microswitches. Now you wouldn't want that, would you?

Peugeot 405

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Peugeot 405 1.8 GLX, £995: One of our number still pines after the 405 2.0 GLX he once had. This 1995-registered 1.8 has a year’s MOT and only 60,000 miles. The 405 was a classy repmobile that was also fun to drive. A casualty of its success was the larger and similar-looking 605.

Audi coupe

Audi Coupé 2.3E, £2450: A B3 Coupé is still a handsome beast worthy of inspection. This 2.3-litre example has just 134bhp, but marvel at the rust-free galvanised body and the overall impression of solidity after 90,000 miles – and wonder how you’ll see over that sky-high belt line.

Reliant ss1

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Reliant SS1 T1, £2450: Not the prettiest thing, but the SS1, launched in 1984, deserved to do better. There are a few naturally aspirated 1.6s around, but we found a tidy 1988 1.8 turbo (it’s a Nissan Silvia engine) with 43,000 miles. It’s a daily driver, too, apparently.

Focus 1

Ford Focus 1.6T S Zetec, £7790: Here’s an interesting Q-car – a sort of Focus GT launched in 2011 whose 179bhp 1.6 turbo motor would find its way into the Fiesta ST two years later. We’ll let you have first dibs on this 2012-reg, 90,000-mile alternative take on the Focus. 

Auction watch

Lotus excelv2

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Lotus Excel: ‘A bargain basement entry into Lotus ownership,’ gushes the sales catalogue for this 1990 Lotus Excel. It could have added ‘tough and reliable’, given that some major parts came from Toyota, at the time a shareholder in Lotus. The Excel also had a galvanised steel backbone chassis to complement its glassfibre body panels. Corrosion and breakdowns were licked, then, while performance was covered by a 160bhp 2.2-litre engine good for 0-60mph in 7.1sec. Handling and ride came courtesy of Lotus’s expertise. At £5265, it’s a bargain.

Get it while you can

Jag xj

Jaguar XJ 3.0 V6 diesel (300PS) Portfolio SWB auto, price new - £79,294, price now - £43,400: News that the current XJ is no more will have bargain hunters flocking to see what pre-reg pickings can be snaffled. We found a 2019/19-reg 3.0 diesel Portfolio with 100 miles on the clock. The ad says it’s a dealer demo, but it can't have been busy… Still, it’s specced to the eyeballs, taking the OTR price from £72,620 to £79,924 with options. To get it off their hands, the dealer is now offering it for £43,400 – a discount of almost £36,000.

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: Find me a comfortable car for £12k.


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Lexus LS 600h, £12,000: The original, wonderfully iconoclastic LS 400 took the luxury limo world by storm, and all of its good qualities were carried over to the 600h hybrid version. It was magnificently comfortable, with a pillow-soft ride and a sybaritic interior that could teach Britain’s luxury car makers a thing or two. Immense build quality, too. This one is Presidential spec with a rear comfort pack, below-average miles and a full Lexus history. It’ll be cheap to tax, and if you get tired of wafting it’ll lift up its skirts and sprint from 0-60mph in just six seconds. Mark Pearson


Mercedes-Benz S600 L, £7995: I admire Mark going down the ‘self-charging hybrid’ route, and it’s true that silent motoring is pretty relaxing. But so too is a super-smooth and virtually silent V12, which is what you’ll find stuffed under the bonnet of my S-Class. Okay, it’s not a Zonda engine, but there’s still 367bhp to play with, and because it has only covered 45,000 miles, it’s barely run in. What’s more, the S-Class has a better image and a nicer cabin to relax in, with electrically reclining rear seats – just like the LS. The only difference here is that they do so for around £4000 less than the price of Mark’s Lexus. Bargain. Max Evans

Verdict: The Mercedes is so tempting, but the LS’s Presidential spec will be a perfect match for my oval office. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
jason_recliner 5 July 2019

Love an LS

The Benz is not even close!
xxxx 5 July 2019


Audi all day long, could provide another 90,000 miles rust free miles. Plus, you can probably get few more ponies from that large'ish 2.3 what with all the Audi tuning parts out there.