I think it was when I saw the £73,040 price of the new BMW M5 that I started to think I had lost touch with the cost of new cars. I kinda had it in my head that big fast four-doors should cost about £60,000‚ rather than getting on for £80,000 with options. But here we are.

The Mercedes-Benz E63 estate is £76,020. The £60k range is instead being approached by the £55,565 C63 AMG, which I always thought of, like the BMW M3, as a sub-£50k motor. When did this happen? This isn't very scientific, but I plucked a to-hand copy of Autocar, from November 2009, to see if these price hikes were indeed hikes or just a failure of my memory.

 Back then a C63 was £50,407, an M5 (previous-gen) £65,325 and the E63 Wagon £68,408. Then, a Jaguar XFR was £59,900 and is now £65,350. An Audi R8 was £79,825 and is £87,935. In short, those prices are all up by around 10 per cent, give or take. Which, given inflation has been running at about five per cent for the past two years, doesn't sound unreasonable, especially if you note that a 2012 Nissan GT-R, thanks to some upgrades you never knew you needed, costs 27 per cent more than in 2009.

Ferrari used the introduction of the 458 Italia to make it 28 per cent more now than the F430 it replaced. That's that then, I figured. My bad. Or was it? I wasn't sure un-prestige car prices had risen by so much. That's because it turns out they haven't. Similarly unscientifically, I picked some ordinary cooking metal, like a Peugeot 308 SE (up just 3.3 per cent since November 2009), a Renault Clio 1.2 Dynamique (up 5.9 per cent), a VW Golf GT TDI (up 9.5 per cent, admittedly) and a Ford Fiesta Zetec (down by 3.4 per cent, because there was a time Fords needed some readjustment).

So that's that then: in this most unscientific of tests, it seems prestige and performance car prices are up by more than inexpensive ones. In these difficult, straitened times, it looks like those who can afford it are paying a bigger burden than those who can't. Somehow seems appropriate, doesn't it? But I still have trouble accepting that an M5 costs closer to £80,000 than £60,000.