Currently reading: Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 7 February
Tastefully conservative looks and a toasty interior are two reasons to plumb for a second-hand Volvo S60 R. A £5750 asking price is another

The understated performance saloon and estate are intriguing concepts and we’ve assembled a few here, starting with the S60 R. It was launched in 2003, powered by a 296bhp five-cylinder 2.5-litre engine driving all four wheels using a Haldex coupling. Most have a Geartronic automatic gearbox that restricts the engine’s torque output in first and second gears. The later six-speed manual is the one to have – if you can find one.

An unyielding ride and an outright shortfall in performance blunted the S60 R’s appeal when new. However, performance enthusiasts regard the model more fondly today, delighting in its rarity, charismatic engine note and comfortable, feature-rich cabin.

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Inevitably, there are a few things to look out for. The four-wheel drive system can become two-wheel drive without you realising. (If you can rotate the propshaft without the rear wheels turning, it’s disconnected.) The electronically controlled dampers can fail, too, but much worse is the possibility of the cylinder liners being cracked, although tuned cars are most prone.

Scrutinise all workshop receipts to establish who did what and when. The R is a special beast that requires regular, expert attention. Even simple things like the spark plugs have to be just so.

There are a handful of S60 Rs for sale, ranging from around £2500 to £7000, with safe bets somewhere around £5000. Our find is a 2003-reg auto with one previous owner and full Volvo service history. Immaculate and fully loaded, it has done only 83,000 miles. It’s a rust-free, right-hand-drive import.

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Car review

Volvo attempts to combine the super-saloon and PHEV with its flagship S60 - but is it more a rival for the Mercedes-AMG C43 or the hardcore BMW M3?

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Lexus IS F, £17,985: This plain-looking BMW M3 chaser is powered by a 5.0-litre V8 producing 417bhp and 372lb ft of torque. Drive goes to the rear wheels via a clever eight-speed auto and 0-62mph takes 4.8sec. Our find is a 2010-reg with 69,000 miles and full Lexus history.

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Skoda Superb 3.6 Elegance DSG 4x4 estate, £6495: Powered by a detuned version of the VW Passat R36’s V6 engine (256bhp here, for 0-62mph in 6.5sec), this Superb is essentially the same car under the skin but with more space. It’s also better value. This one is a 2010-reg with 60,000 miles.

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Volkswagen Passat 3.6 R36 DSG 4Motion estate, £10,995: And you thought the Passat was as exciting as an office water dispenser. In fact, this R36 version is good for 0-62mph in 5.8sec thanks to its 296bhp V6 engine and four-wheel drive. Our example is a 2008-reg estate with 84,000 miles.

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Vauxhall Vectra 3.2i V6 24v GSi auto 5dr, £1189: Vauxhall has form with quick repmobiles. Remember the Cavalier 2.5 V6? This later Vectra 3.2i V6 has 210bhp for 0-62mph in 7.0sec. It’s a front-driver but the chassis is well sorted and it steers well. Just over £1k buys a 2003 car with 113k miles.

Auction watch

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Porsche 944 Turbo: Everyone likes a Porsche Turbo. Cayennes are cheapest, with prices starting at around £5000, but you can pick up 924 Turbos from £8000. Then there’s the 996-generation 911 Turbo, prices for which start at around £23,000. In between is the 944 Turbo, priced from £10,000, although at this money you need to be very cautious. For £5000 more, you could be in a one-owner 1987-reg 944 Turbo with 95,000 miles, a car we saw advertised (but with no mention of service history). Alternatively, how about an immaculate 82,000-mile 1991-reg example with full Porsche and specialist service history that went under the hammer recently for £21,400?

Future classic

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Nissan 370Z Nismo, £18,500: We may not regard modern-day Zeds in the same light as the Datsun 240Z and 260Z but, then again, a generation raised on Need for Speed may think differently. Indeed, in 2008, Nissan and PlayStation launched the GT Academy to find two gamers to race a real 350Z. Since then, the model has been superseded by the 370Z. The Nismo version, launched in 2013 and powered by a 339bhp 3.7-litre V6, is our pick for a gamer’s classic. New, it costs £40,370, but we found a 2016-reg car with 46,000 miles for less than half that.

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: Find me a soul-stirring Alfa for £5000.

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Alfa Romeo Brera 3.2 V6, £5000

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Alfa Romeo GTV 3.0 V6, £4000

Mark Pearson: Some time back, just before the Black Death, I bought my first car, an Alfasud, and I liked it so much that I went on to buy the Sprint version next. Other Alfas followed, as did inevitable bankruptcy, but nothing can replace the thrill those old cars brought. This awesome GTV captures that Alfa magic entirely: it’s great to drive, wonderful to look at and deliciously quirky, and this beautifully kept 1999-reg 3.0 V6 is in perfect nick, with a full history and a low mileage. What you got, Max?

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Max Adams: That was a wonderful trip down memory lane, but it doesn’t change the fact that my newer Brera (2006 and also with a stout V6) is by far the better choice. It has had fewer owners for starters and an extensive engine overhaul by a well-regarded Alfa specialist, plus it has four-wheel drive so it won’t obliterate its front tyres like your GTV will.

MP: I think you’ll find you’ve picked the one Alfa nobody likes, other than the Arna.

MA: I think you’ll find the Brera is an Alfa through and through, unlike that ghastly rebadged Nissan. I can’t believe you’d compare my beautiful choice to that!

MP: I’m afraid only one of these two was called a mini-Ferrari, and only one is a future classic…

Verdict: A tough choice but the GTV wins by a nose – a very pretty nose.


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typos1 7 February 2020

"Vauxhall has form with quick

"Vauxhall has form with quick repmobiles. Remember the Cavalier 2.5 V6?"


Yes but I d rather not !


"This later Vectra 3.2i V6 has 210bhp for 0-62mph in 7.0sec. It’s a front-driver but the chassis is well sorted and it steers well"


Since when has a FWD Vauxhall had a "well sorted" chassis ?! Or "steered well" ?!!


typos1 7 February 2020

MA - the Brera is not "an

MA - the Brera is not "an Alfa through and through" - it uses a GM/Saab engineered platform with a GM engine (albeit with alfa heads), so sadly its not really an Alfa at all, even though it does look quite good. At least the diesels had Italian engines and what a great one that 5 cylinder was.

WallMeerkat 7 February 2020

£4k for a GTV! They've really

£4k for a GTV! They've really risen in price!

Bought one 10 years ago for £500. Ran it for a while, but they're high maintenance and you need to know a good auto electrician. Engine was flawless and silky smooth though (albeit make sure the timing belt is done on the button). Unfortunately I couldn't afford to properly run and maintain it at the time, but sold for what I paid for it.

Wish I'd been able to garage it up.

The Brera and related 159 were the best Saabs that Saab never built...

typos1 7 February 2020

WallMeerkat wrote:

WallMeerkat wrote:

£4k for a GTV! They've really risen in price!

BThe Brera and related 159 were the best Saabs that Saab never built...

Lol, zactly.