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6 BEST USED SUPER SALOON BARGAINS

6 BEST USED SUPER SALOON BARGAINS

Posted by Glenn Rowswell on 29th January 2018

Big engines, big power and big depreciation. For huge performance in a monster package, look no further than of these best used super saloon.

For those who like a hefty slice of performance motoring, big saloons often aren’t on the radar. With all that bulk, the leather trim and creature comforts, it’s difficult to believe they can still give an Impreza a run for its money to 60mph. But thanks to huge fuel-guzzling engines, you could be wafting to 60mph in under 6sec before you’ve even adjusted your heated seat.

The best bit about some of these super saloons, though, is that second-hand buyers are so scared of the running costs, they can often be picked up for a bargain price. We’ve taken a closer look at six big old school saloons that not only pack a punch, but some of which can be bought for well under £8k!

AUDI S6 QUATTRO 1999-2004 BUYERS GUIDE

When you’ve got the money, the RS6 version of Audi’s A6 range is the one to go for, boasting 443bhp and 0-60mph in 4.5sec. Unfortunately, the chances of finding one cheap are remote, so you’re better off finding its little brother, the S6 that runs basically the same engine minus the twin turbos.

The S6 is potentially the most functional car in this guide, available in saloon or estate form with the Torsen-based Quattro permanent 4WD system for all-weather driving. As an everyday car then, the S6 comes up trumps, if you don’t mind regular trips to the petrol station.

The subtle styling is also appealing, with small touches, such as the flared arches, making it one of those cars that will have people staring without realising why. On top of all that, you have Audi’s traditional reliability as well as a ready-made tuning and enthusiast scene to get involved in, with performance and styling upgrades more readily available than for other models mentioned here.

It may not be the most hardcore car, or the quickest, but in the real world the S6 is a brilliant choice that’s also sure to hold its value well due to its status among enthusiasts.

BEST USED SUPER SALOON BARGAINS

LOOK OUT FOR
No major issues, although there was a recall concerning an area of the dash that can catch the driver’s knee, causing an electrical short. Make sure the electronics all work properly, though, and you should be fine.

BASIC TUNING
The compliant and comfy ride could be hardened up a bit for a sportier feel, so a set of decent coilovers should be on the list. A remap and full exhaust system should see over 350bhp.

For: It’s versatile with Quattro 4WD
Against: You’ll always know it’s not an RS6!

AUDI S6 QUATTRO 1999-2004 TECH SPEC
Engine: 4172cc V8
Power: 335bhp
Torque: 310 lb/ft
Mpg: 19mpg
0-60: 6.5sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Price new: £48,452
Price now: £6,000+

MERCEDES-BENZ E55 AMG 1997-2002 BUYERS GUIDE

There’s something about a Mercedes that always makes them feel ‘too expensive’. Looking at new prices, you can happily put owning one out of your mind until you hit the lottery jackpot or your long-lost rich uncle dies. But scour the internet and you’ll soon be finding ten-year-old AMG models well within the realms of affordability.

The E55 AMG (AMG standing for Aufrecht Melcher Grossaspach, a builder of bespoke high performance cars that Mercedes now owns) is the perfect example, its whopping 5.4ltr hand-built V8 engine producing over 350bhp and now readily available at well under £5k. Fitted with automatic gearboxes only, they’re a cheap, hassle-free route towards tearing up motorways, although the running costs shouldn’t be forgotten.

Touted as a rival to the more iconic BMW M5, the E55 AMG’s engine, tuned suspension, race-spec brakes and 18in rims with low-profile tyres make it a fine contender. It may not make you want to take to the track, but despite its 1,642kg weight it’s still an agile car.

It would certainly make a fun drive to the ’Ring and, with that sort of power through the rear wheels, it won’t exactly be boring around it. One other major plus point about these Mercs is that their engines are pretty bombproof, so picking up a cheap E55 AMG with 100,000 miles on the clock shouldn’t be a major concern.

BEST USED SUPER SALOON BARGAINS

LOOK OUT FOR
Rust can be an issue, so check the doors, roof, wheel arches and sills carefully to avoid a dose of costly welding. Water pipes can also become blocked, which can cause some over-heating.

BASIC TUNING
AMG have already done plenty to the E55, so changing too much may be a little pointless. However, it would definitely be worth installing a decent exhaust system, just to get things breathing even better and make the most of that V8 burble.

For: Reliability, prestige, and performance
Against: The auto-only ’box

MERCEDES-BENZ E55 AMG 1997-2002 TECH SPEC
Engine: 5439cc V8
Power: 354bhp
Torque: 390 lb/ft
Mpg: 21mpg
0-60: 5.7sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Price new: £60,420
Price now: £4,000+

BMW E39 M5 1999-2003 BUYERS GUIDE

If all the big saloons, the BMW M5 is the one that needs no introduction. It’s the car that’s set the benchmark for luxury 5-doors and does so in every new evolution. The E39 model was in production around the turn of the millennium and was actually quicker than contemporary Porsche 911 Carreras in a straight line. While the M3 tends to attract attention in the tuning world, the M5 actually looks a better buy, so long as you can handle the size and surplus of doors.

Not only does it have more power, a sweet sounding V8 engine and acceleration to challenge the smaller BMW, the M5 is also incredible through the bends and, most interestingly, generally cheaper. Image may be one reason for this – the E39 M5’s styling is incredibly similar to lower spec cars, as BMW put the same valances and spoilers on all E39 5-series with ‘sports packs’, whereas an M3 is certainly going to attract more admiring looks.

But for those in the know, an E39 M5 for as little as £8k could be the performance bargain of the moment and will put more expensive cars to shame on both motorways and B-roads. Like all of the cars in this guide though, running costs have to be taken into account, and with expensive parts and a combined economy of around 19mpg, make sure you can afford to run it once you’ve bought it!

BEST USED SUPER SALOON BARGAINS

LOOK OUT FOR
Some owners reported excessive oil consumption in earlier models and older cars have also had problems with the vanos units, though these issues should have been sorted in the first few years of the M5’s life. The clutch is also said to be weak point.

BASIC TUNING
An uprated clutch could be a good bet if you’re planning on driving the M5 hard. Power-wise you shouldn’t need much more, but an exhaust and remap will certainly help optimise what you’ve got.

For: Driving dynamics, understated looks
Against: Can be expensive to run

BMW E39 M5 1999-2003 TECH SPEC
Engine: 4941cc V8
Power: 400bhp
Torque: 369 lb/ft
Mpg: 19mpg 0-60: 5.1sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Price new: £52,092
Price now: £8,000

LEXUS GS430 4.3 SPORT 1998-2004 BUYERS GUIDE

Lexus often get treated like the poor relatives of other saloon models. Apparently they don’t have the ‘pedigree’ of their European rivals which, quite frankly, is fine by us. It doesn’t make them bad cars, but means you can’t brag about owning one as much as you can with a Mercedes or BMW.

Though this also means they tend to depreciate nicely into the realms of affordability. The GS430 Sport, for example, cost around £40k when new – pretty reasonable when placed against its rivals of the time – but now you can pick one up for a tenth of the price.

Running a 4.3ltr V8 engine that powers 279bhp through the rear wheels, it’s no slouch, yet the focus on ‘luxury’ somewhat compromises the raw driving appeal. Many reviews claim the 430 Sport is ‘boring’, despite being perfectly capable through the bends and in a straight line, but that’s where tuning comes in.

A stiffer suspension set-up, bigger brakes and a full exhaust system will surely liven things up a bit. Considering the low prices they can be bought for now and their potentially tough-looking shape, the GS430 could prove to be an excellent base for a project car. It just needs kicking into life a bit.

BEST USED SUPER SALOON BARGAINS

LOOK OUT FOR
The air conditioning can pack in, along with the external temperature readout. If it returns to normal when the ignition is switched off and on, the air-con’s ECU needs replacing. Oil consumption can increase if the cylinder heads are allowed to clog up with sludge.

BASIC TUNING
The V8 engine noise is totally suppressed, so an induction kit and exhaust system should help make some racket! Stiffer suspension and decent tyres will help you make for a bit more commitment through the twisty stuff.

For: Comfort, reliability, equipment
Against: Quiet and a little too refined

LEXUS 4.3 SPORT 1998-2004 TECH SPEC
Engine: 4293cc V8
Power: 279bhp
Torque: 308 lb/ft
Mpg: 23mpg
0-62: 6.1sec
Top speed: 155mph
Price new: £ £39,983
Price now: £3,600

JAGUAR XJR V8 1997-2003 BUYERS GUIDE
Believe it or not, you can pick up a Jag XJR for under £3k. That’s a supercharged V8 for the price of an average second-hand hatchback, so it begs the question – why haven’t we seen more tuned versions? A big part of the problem is image, an XJ-series Jaguar of any kind suggests you’re either a wannabe gangster or an old duffer who needs something to get them to the golf club.

If, however, you can get over these small hurdles and the 22mpg economy, then you’ll experience the type of pace that has owners raving and leaves many standard offerings for dead at the traffic lights. The dash to 60mph is just over 5sec and that supercharger keeps forcing air in until you hit 155mph, the transition to which will all be taken care of by the automatic gearbox (the same ’box found in the Merc AMG E55!).

XJRs have a bit more of a following in the US, presumably because they can afford to put the petrol into them, but this means there are forums with plenty of info. While Jaguar don’t have the same reputation for reliability as Mercedes or BMW, the XJR has proven to be a pretty high standard. If you’re after something a little different that can chew up the miles nicely then maybe this should be on your shopping list.

BEST USED SUPER SALOON BARGAINS

The New S-TYPE 2004 MY.

LOOK OUT FOR
Make sure you’re buying an XJR, as it’s easy to get confused with Jaguar models, especially as there’s a 4.0ltr supercharged model in the line-up too. Pre-2000 engines also had Nikasil coating on the aluminium bores that’s prone to degradation, so compression test the car if you can.

BASIS TUNING
A smaller pulley on the supercharger combined with a remap, exhaust and induction kit gives well over 400bhp and 400 lb/ft, as well as an awesome noise.

For: V8 and a supercharger
Against: Poor image and it’s only got an auto-’box

JAGUAR XJR V8 1997-2003 TECH SPEC
Engine: 3996cc V8 supercharged
Power: 370bhp
Torque: 387 lb/ft
Mpg: 22mpg
0-60: 5.3sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Price new: £51,950
Price now: £2,800

VW PHAETON 2003 – 2006 BUYERS GUIDE

While the 6.0ltr W12 Phaeton is the beast we’d probably all like, it’s the depreciation on the 3.2itr V6 Phaeton that forced us to include it in this guide. When the Phaeton was launched, the techno-laden barges received good press, apart from the fact that spending out £45k+ on a VW was just too much to stomach.

Fortunately, some people did shell out and now they’ve come a cropper as we’ve seen the V6 models going for less than £3k. One advert describes that the car “drives like a Bentley, priced like a Mondeo”. That’s the other thing you’ve hopefully noticed; another VW with a 3.2ltr V6 engine – sound familiar?

That’s right, it’s the same engine as found in the Golf R32 and, while it may struggle a little to get the massive bulk of Phaeton moving, we all know that there are tuning options available for this V6, including supercharging. Unfortunately, the early models were only FWD, rather than 4WD like the later 4MOTION versions, which may mean driving pleasure is slightly hampered, even if you do manage to find some more power from the engine.

Yet despite this, and the fact that the 3.2 Phaeton is a little out of its depth in this guide, the fact it has so much in common with the R32 and can be had for relatively little money makes it a viable option. After all, how many other tuned Phaetons have you seen. There are massive ‘scene’ points available for VW fans with a Phaeton.

BEST USED SUPER SALOON BARGAINS

LOOK OUT FOR
The Phaeton is incredibly well built so there aren’t any real problems to look out for. It’s bundled with technology though, so who knows how that will fare into the future.

BASIC TUNING
Honestly speaking, you’d probably want to whack a set of decent rims on it before anything else, as they look totally underwheeled. Usual R32 engine mods such as an exhaust system and remap will boost power a little, but a supercharger option is just what the Phaeton needs.

For: Rarity, VW parts bin and there are loads of extras
Against: Very under-powered

VW PHAETON 2003 – 2006
Engine: 3189cc V6
Power: 237bhp
Torque: 232 lb/ft
Mpg: 23
0-60: 8.8sec
Top speed: 150mph
Price new: £48,360
Price now: £2,800