Prices for new cars are soaring for a number of reasons.
Rising material and energy costs, supply chain restrictions and increased equipment levels among them – and on top of that, most buyers are having to wait months between placing an order and taking delivery due to heavily delayed production schedules. The second-hand car market can provide welcome respite.
In this feature we’re looking at the fast cars you should consider if you’re in the market for a machine to add some zip to your life. We start with Supercars, chosen by Matt Saunders.
FERRARI 360 MODENA 1999-2004 - £55,000-£95,000
Ferrari hit the supercar big time when it launched the 360 Modena, which is still one of the most temptingly attainable modern supercars. There are plenty about, which makes tracking one down in just the right colour and spec possible and keeps values sensible, too. The 360 M was Ferrari’s first supercar with an aluminium chassis, so it was both lighter and stiffer than the 355. It looked like a car for a new era: it didn’t have Ferrari’s old flip-up headlights or its edgy, strakey bodystyling.
It was a bold, curvy, clear-eyed step forward. But it’s also still old enough that you can buy a manual instead of an ‘F1’ paddle shift. The aluminium construction makes 360s more corrosion-resistant than earlier Ferraris, but look out for paint bubbling in the bodywork in any case – and be ready
to pay stiff maintenance prices. For a typical car, expect annual routine service and upkeep to cost around £2500.
ONE WE FOUND: 1999 FERRARI 360 MODENA, 34K MILES, £61,450
This super-Merc was a £165,000 car when it was new just over a decade ago, and to think that most are still commanding similar prices is quite a compliment to how well designed and positioned it was. The gullwing doors always meet with an ovation, and the woofling atmo V8 engine sounds phenomenal.
ONE WE FOUND: 2010 MERCEDES-BENZ SLS AMG, 48K MILES, £147,475
NISSAN GT-R 2008-2022 - £40,000-£150,000
More of a supercar slayer than a proper exotic itself, but well worth considering if you want naked aggression and lots of real-world, four-wheel-drive performance. It’s mechanically complicated, though, especially in the driveline. Avoid heavily tuned examples, pay a premium for a car with a good service history and consider an inspection by a specialist.
ONE WE FOUND: 2011 NISSAN GT-R, 50K MILES, £49,995
HONDA NSX 1990-2005 - £45,000-£90,000
It’s becoming increasingly hard to find original examples of Honda’s mould-breaking NSX, which upturned expectations for reliability, usability and ease of operation when it arrived in 1990. They’re delicate and understated cars but lovely, tactile and sonorous to drive; not overpowered with only a 3.0 V6, but massive on ’90s charm. Expect to pay more for a coupé than a Targa-style model. Avoid the auto at all costs.
ONE WE FOUND: 1991 HONDA NSX 31K MILES, £79,990
ASTON MARTIN V12 VANQUISH 2001-2005 - £65,000-£80,000
It took Aston Martin a long time to make a better-looking grand tourer than the 2001 V12 Vanquish. Some say that the wait still goes on. Very few Aston Martins sound better than this to boot, thanks to the baleful howl of an atmospheric Cologne V12 bellowing through very little exhaust muffling. If you like your supercars traditional, front-engined, noisy and so gorgeous as to turn heads absolutely wherever you take it, the original Vanquish ought to appeal like little else. While this car’s V12-engined contemporaries from Italy and Germany have mushroomed in value to almost £200k in many cases, the Vanquish remains relatively attainable, and has long passed the likelihood of further depreciation.
The transmission problems of early cars are easy enough to avoid now, too, with plenty of cars having had their troublesome automated manual transmissions swapped out for a manual. Ownership of any V12 Aston Martin isn’t for the faint of wallet. With this one, examine the service history carefully for evidence that the 5.9-litre engine has had plugs and coils recently; the gearbox position sensor has been replaced, if necessary; and the suspension bushes have been changed.
ONE WE FOUND: 2004 ASTON MARTIN V12 VANQUISH MANUAL, 28K MILES, £74,950
AUDI R8 V10 SPYDER 2010-2014 - £50,000-£95,000
In drop-top, 10-cylinder form, this is roundly acknowledged to be one of the best driver’s cars that Audi has ever built (even if the coupé edges it for rigidity and sharpness). The folding roof gives easy aural access to that guttural motor, which doesn’t take too much looking after, and there’s a satisfyingly snickety six-speed manual on offer, too.
ONE WE FOUND: 2014 AUDI R8 V10 SPYDER QUATTRO MANUAL, 26K MILES, £59,991
LAMBORGHINI GALLARDO 2003-2013 - £65,000-£190,000
This was the Audi R8’s Italian opposite number. The wedgier-looking, always V10-engined Gallardo was the first ‘baby Lambo’ of its kind and fuelled big growth for its parent company. Most are four-wheel drive, but we spotted a rarer rear-driven one. If you can find an LP 550 manual coupé, buy it, keep it forever and listen to it often.
ONE WE FOUND: 2013 LAMBORGHINI GALLARDO LP 550-2, 5K MILES, £94,999
NOBLE M12 2000-2008 - £38,000-£55,000
The Noble M12 is the kind of supercar the world no longer has house room for. It’s light, compact, grippy, nimble, surprisingly sophisticated with its body control, and epic on boost with its power delivery – not for the faint of heart, but hilarious for those who are up for the challenge. Get a higher-spec car if you can and watch out for evidence of worn suspension joints and steering bushes.
ONE WE FOUND: 2004 NOBLE M12 GTO-3R, 24K MILES, £48,999
Jaw-dropping good looks do tend to cost a few quid. The Alfa 8C certainly delivered somewhen it arrived on the scene in 2007, first in Competizione spec coupé form, and later as a spider. Built by Maserati, based on a Maserati chassis and with a wonderfully loud 4.7-litre V8, this is a rare beast and will stop the traffic all right. For a price.
ONE WE FOUND: 2010 ALFA ROMEO8C, 10K MILES, £239,990
McLAREN MP4-12C 2011-2014 - £80,000-£120,000
It’s an interesting time to consider owning an early McLaren. The paint defects the cars are prone to, covered by the company’s 10-year warranty, have begun to become an owner’s cost to sort – and that’s sure to affect values. Spot a very early 12Cwith good paint, though, or one still under warranty, and you’ll get an awful lot for your money.
ONE WE FOUND: 2011 McLAREN MP4-12C COUPE, 17K MILES, £89,950
Next up, we’ll look at everyday fast cars, courtesy of Richard Lane
FERRARI 612 SCAGLIETTI 2005-2009 - £65,000-£130,000
Billed as an ugly duckling at launch (as was the 550 Maranello, so what does anybody know anyway?), the 5.7-litre Scag is now ageing gracefully and is an opportunity to get your hands on a manual, post-millennium V12 Ferrari GT without bankrupting yourself. Admittedly, three-pedal cars are harder to unearth than their automated-manual counterparts (we could find only one for sale, at £129,000 with 21,000 miles on the clock), but either would be fine and you might actually be better off with the paddle-shift model.
That’s because a 2008 update brought about numerous small improvements that together enhanced this four-seat Ferrari’s immense transcontinental appeal but at the same time did away with the open-gate gearbox. Find one with the HGTS pack –with sports exhaust, 20inwheels, revised damper rates and thicker anti-roll bars – and you’ve got a gem of an old-school Ferrari on your hands. As for the looks, the front still seems surprised to see you butthe tail has deco elegance.
ONE WE FOUND: 2008 FERRARI 612 SCAGLIETTI GTS, 13K MILES, £88,995
MITSUBISHI EVO VIII FQ-300 2004-2005 - £15,000-£25,000
The quickest Evo VIII officially brought to British shores, the FQ-300 toted 305bhp and not very much mass, so there was never any doubt what the initials unofficially stood for. These cars are mighty in terms of traction and cross-country pace, but they’re also surprisingly deft once you’re dialled into the centre diff’s behaviour. Future classic status surely awaits.
ONE WE FOUND: 2004 MITSUBISHI EVO VIII FQ-300, 32K MILES, £23,750
PORSCHE 911 CARRERA 4S 2001-2004 - £16,500-£40,000
With 996-era 911s, the temptation is now to find a good Turbo because prices have concertinaed for this generation and the ballistic flagship is not that much more expensive than certain lesser models. However, the naturally aspirated 4S sounds racier and it doesn’t advertise its performance quite so obviously. An enviable, usable all-round proposition.
ONE WE FOUND: 2004 PORSCHE 911 CARRERA 4S, 72K MILES, £27,950
MERCEDES 500E 1991-1994 - £20,000-£35,000
In 1988, Mercedes commissioned Porsche to help develop and construct an uber-E-class with the 5.0-litre V8 from the SL shoehorned into its nose. The very rare, very fine and thuggishly understated 500Ewas the result, and production was ludicrously indulgent by modern standards. Body parts flowed first from Sindelfingen to Zuffenhausen, where the car was assembled. It then headed back to Sindelfingen for painting, before finally returning to Zuffenhausen for final assembly and engine installation. The process took nearly three weeks for each car.
Sitting 56mm wider and 23mm lower than the donor E-Class, the 500E “catches the eye only at the second glance”, said one of the engineers on the project, and Porsche’s work on the chassis gave it both handling panache and an outstanding autobahn gait. The perfect super-saloon? Possibly, although it lacks a middle rear seat due to the size of the beastly differential housing.
ONE WE FOUND: 1993 MERCEDES-BENZ 500E, 151K MILES, £33,995
ALPINA B10 BI-TURBO 1989-1994 - £30,000-£50,000
Any E34-gen M5 – 3.4 or 3.8 – is an enchanting device and you can also find these cars in Touring form, but Alpina’s take on the ultra-quick, early1990s 5 Series is perhaps even better. Turbocharging made the 360bhp B10 Bi-Turbo the most powerful 5 of its time and the chassis revisions, we said then, made the car “immensely satisfying to drive hard”. High pricing held the B10 back at the time but around £40k looks fair money at the moment.
ONE WE FOUND: 1994 ALPINA B10 MANUAL 4DR, 115K MILES, £31,500
Jaguar’s first (and, cruelly, last) stab at a fire breathing V8 estate is a rare but worthy alternative to the E63s and RS6s of the world. It could only be had in range-topping XFR-S guise, which meant 542bhp and 502lb ft from a supercharged 5.0-litre petrol-guzzling behemoth, for 0-62mph in 4.6sec and a 186mph top speed. Prices aren’t horrendous, but Jaguar only ever planned to sell around 100 examples, so it’s finding one that’s the trouble.
ONE WE FOUND: 2015 JAGUAR XFR-S SPORTBRAKE, 12K MILES, £44,000
BMW M3 CS 2005-2006 - £29,950-£40,000
An E46-gen M3? How predictable. But for very good reason. The archetypal sports coupé is the right size, weight and shape, and it has one of the all-time great road car engines under the bonnet in the naturally aspirated 3.2-litre S54 straight-six, plus effortless handling balance. Oh, the handling. Go for the CS. It borrowed the (today eye-wateringly expensive) CSL’s brakes, quicker steering rack, coil springs and the styling for the wheels. However, unlike the SMG only CSL, the CS came in manual guise.
ONE WE FOUND: 2005 BMW M3 CS MANUAL, 80K MILES, £39,995
FORD FOCUS ST170 ESTATE 2002-2004 - £1250-£2500
Damn hard to find but worth the effort, and inexpensive. The ST170 always played understudy to the wild Focus RS but in many ways it is the sweeter steer, lacklustre 171bhp engine notwithstanding. It’s the chassis that shines, with a balance and suppleness that was unheard of at the time for this kind of car, and plenty of precision in the steering. The interior dates it heavily, but the exterior remains sharp. True under-the-radar appeal.
ONE WE FOUND: 2003 FORD FOCUS ST170 ESTATE, 150K MILES, £1500
ALPINE A610 TURBO1991-1995 - £20,000-£45,000
The brilliance of the A110 has fired the Alpine name back into focus, bringing renewed interest in the brand’s back catalogue. We’d consider the six-cylinder, four-seat A610, which was Alpine’s answer to the 964-generation Porsche 911 Carrera but had defter handling along with lovelier cruising manners. Fabulous steering, too, despite the power assistance.
ONE WE FOUND: 1995 ALPINE A610 TURBO, 68K MILES, £24,000
AUDI RS6 AVANT 2002-2004 - £11,000-£18,000
The first RS6 is evolving into something of a cult car and the only reason why you can get good ones from low five-figure sums is because they are potentially ruinous to run. The Quattro driveline is sophisticated enough, but then so is the hydraulic damping system, not to mention the 444bhp twin-turbo 4.2 V8, which was developed with Cosworth. Plenty to go wrong. However, these are handsome, fast, multi-faceted cars.
ONE WE FOUND: 2003 AUDI RS6 AVANT, 100K MILES, £14,895