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Our roads may be rough, but there are cars that can defeat them with peerless ride comfort. We pick six that won’t break the bank

Potholes and untreated surfaces are the bane of Britain's roads, but these cars will let you glide over any surface with ease.

1 - Jaguar XJ (2003-2009)

Jaguar XJs have been around since 1968, but here we’re discussing the models codenamed X350 and X358, Jaguar’s first all-aluminium cars.

The X350 looks a lot like XJs of yore, mainly because unhelpful quizzing of US buyers encouraged the company not to change anything, with the result that despite the fact that it was yards better than any predecessor, the market was disappointed that it looked the same and failed to buy it in the predicted droves.

The short-lived X358 was an attempt to spruce the X350 up. Pick of the engines are the 2.7-litre V6 diesel (loads about for £5000) or the supercharged 4.2-litre V8, for which you’ll pay £1000-£1500 more. 

2 - Citroën C6 (2005-2012)

The C6 is Citroën’s most recent attempt at a big, luxurious saloon, and although it’s more durable and better built than predecessors such as the XM and CX, its prices have sunk almost as quickly.

You can buy a healthy low-miler for £6000, yet it’s a beautiful-looking car that comes with Citroën’s unique gas-over-oil Hydractive self-levelling suspension system as standard.

You’ll find the car rides so flat that you’d swear the wheelbase was twice as long as it is. Buy a top-spec Exclusive with the 201bhp 2.7-litre diesel V6 (by far the most common engine) or, if you can find one, the later and more powerful 237bhp 3.0-litre V6. Avoid low-spec models, which will be hard to sell on.

3 - Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph (1980-1999)

You can buy The Best Car In The World for £12,000, provided you’re happy with a Seraph. It’s an improved version of the Silver Shadow, Rolls’s first model with an all-independent monocoque body.

It comes from an era when Rolls was strangled for investment, so it’s best to go for the latest car you can afford - certainly from 1989 or later, when the car was given automatic ride control, or ideally post-1991, when a four-speed auto superseded the ancient GM three-speeder.

If you can run to £20k, the post-1993 light-pressure turbo job will be more frugal (16mpg versus 14mpg). Buy carefully; there are Rolls-trained specialists around the country who can both assess a car and keep it running.

4 - Mercedes-Benz S500 (2005-2013)

S500s come in all shapes and eras, but our pick is an early W221, launched in 2005. There’s a huge array of engines, including some frugal diesels, but we like the S500 for its effortless performance (the 5.5-litre V8 gives 0-60mph in 5.4sec) and still-decent economy.


Read our review

Car review

The Jaguar XJ is a thoroughly modern luxury saloon, and a brilliantly capable one

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You’ll find lots to choose from, with prices starting at around £10k for the S500, but watch out for the ‘airport limo’ thing. S-Classes tolerate mileages well, but a proper inspection makes sense.

5 - Lexus LS430 (2000-2006)

Some would call the LS430 the least desirable big Lexus, caught between two generations of earlier LS400 and the rarer late-model LS460. But we see it as the bargain, modern enough to have corrected the 400’s faults (saggy suspension, uncommunicative steering) but available in decent numbers.

With £5k-£6k to spend, you’ll find a fine array of cars. They’re soft-riding, durable and roomy. Service costs are low and the dealers are excellent.

6 - Range Rover (2002-2012

BMW stopped being Land Rover’s owner a couple of years before its 2002 launch, but this incarnation of Range Rover was engineered and developed on the German firm’s watch. BMW worked extremely hard making this model better than its Rover-engined P38A predecessor, which was a pleasant car with a terrible record for reliability.

At £8000 for an early 80,000-miler, this version is still a fine vehicle that’s comfortable and refined, with an especially appealing interior design.

All versions are broadly okay, although if buying a diesel (as most people tend to do) we’d opt to pay £12,000-ish for the 277bhp TDV8 oil-burner that popped up to replace the original 177bhp BMW-engined model. Original petrol cars used BMW’s then-ubiquitous 4.4-litre V8, but in 2006 the Range Rover switched to JLR’s own supercharged 4.2-litre V8, which is the better buying option.

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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Add a comment…
AHA1 15 September 2015

Feeling lucky punk?

Also, it will help greatly if you have a well-equipped garage business in the family as well. If you can pay trade money for parts and get the labour free, you'll be fine. Otherwise, you might want to factor in for a very decent warranty scheme. Or buy another car. These articles are all well and good - and I'm going this route on my next car purchase as it happens - but in fairness you ought to suggest an appropriate annual 'rolling restoration' maintenance budget just to complete the picture.
Herald 15 September 2015

Rolls Royce ...

... bit of a hotch-potch there: assume you're referring to the Silver Spirit/Spur.
Daniel Joseph 15 September 2015

Future classics?

The X350 has future classic written all over it, IMHO. New(er) tech and a classic Jaguar shape, in aluminium: what's not to like? The X358 is a munter though, a misguided attempt to modernise the classic shape which left it looking like an accident at Halfords. The C6 is, ironically, closer in spirit to the original DS than anything carrying that devalued badge today. Very limited numbers of RHD models should make good low mileage examples worth looking after.