If you’ve got a long commute, here’s what we’d recommend
If you cover thousands of miles per month, you might well be wary of swapping into a potentially unreliable older car. But buy properly and you can have a comfy, quick and capacious ’bahn stormer for supermini cash.
Saab 9-5, 2007-2010
£500-£3000: The 9-5 never felt overly competitive when new, but it excelled as a long-distance cruiser, helped by superbly comfortable seats. Time (and Saab’s demise) has turned it into a very stylish banger and a well-chosen example should still be a very relaxing companion. Avoid the crude diesels.
One we found: 2007 Saab 9-5 2.3 Vector, 132k miles, £1895
Volkswagen Passat, 2005-2009
£1300-£20,000: The Mk6 Passat is a hidden gem for those in search of cruising refinement at modest cost. There are lots of well-maintained privately owned ones out there and high-spec examples have the kit to shame a modern alternative. The 2.0-litre TDI can muster 54.3mpg, but if you prefer fast to frugal, seek out the V6 R36.
One we found: 2008 Volkswagen Passat R36, 63k miles, £12,500
Mercedes-Benz E350 CDI, 2009-2015
£4000-£22,000: The W212-gen Mercedes-Benz E-Class has proved much more reliable than the earlier W211 and the muscular six-cylinder diesel versions are the pick of the range, later cars even managing ULEZ compliance. Choose from saloon, estate, coupé and cabriolet versions: all take mileage well. Highspec ones are well worth seeking out.
One we found: 2010 E350 CDI AMG Line, 68k miles, £8495
Audi A8 4.2 TDi, 2005-2009
£5000-£12,000: Once nominated as the ‘Best car in the real world’ by Autocar – the exact judging criteria for which have been lost in the mists of time – the brawnier D3-generation A8 TDI remains a hugely capable way of covering distance. Lesser A8 diesels use a 3.0-litre V6, which feels slightly strained under rapid progress, but the larger V8 never breaks sweat. Launched as a 4.0-litre engine, it was upgraded in 2005 to the more muscular 4.2, which combines 322bhp, 479lb ft, 39.2mpg and a 5.9sec 0-62mph time.
While this era produced plenty of brawny diesels, the V8 TDI’s standard Quattro drivetrain makes it superbly capable in slippery conditions. There are few better ways to tackle a wet motorway at speed and in comfort, even if the lack of ULEZ compliance is likely to make urban use expensive. Enjoy them while you can.
One we found: 2007 Audi A8 4.2 TDi, 116k miles, £6395
Range Rover V8 Supercharged, 2005-2011
£5000-£25,000: Even with petrol pushing £2 per litre, it’s hard not to love a Range Rover, especially a late V8 supercharged one, which offers stonking value if you can stomach the running costs.
One we found: 2006 Range Rover V8 Supercharged Vouge SE, 80k miles, £9999
Lexus LS 600H, 2006-2017
£8000-£20,000: Lexus’s hybrid luxury saloon triggered a rush of virtue-signalling company directors when it arrived in 2006. And although it no longer feels very electric by modern standards, it remains a superb cruiser; very near silent when running gently in EV mode, yet little louder once the 5.0-litre V8 fires.
It incorporates such tech as active ride, an eye-tracking attention monitor and one of the first applications of self-parking. Being a Lexus means there is an excellent chance everything still works, with the 600h having proved itself capable of racking up huge mileages.
One we found: 2008 Lexus LS 600G, 132k miles, £10,950
Volvo XC90 D5, 2015-now
£21,000-£50,000: Big Volvos have long been relaxed cruisers and the roomy, well-equipped current XC90 is one of the very best. Although the hybrid versions are cleanest and greenest, the older-school D5 diesel feels more relaxed at speed. Early ones are getting attractively affordable, too.
One we found: 2015 Volvo XC90 D5 Momentum, 74k miles, £24,250
Jaguar XJR, 2010-2019
£23,000-£45,000: We’re still mourning the XJ’s demise, but at least prices of the last, X351 generation are falling into very attractive territory. The supercharged XJR was always the pick of the range in terms of effortless performance and also delivers impressive refinement.
One we found: 2013 Jaguar XJR, 79k miles, £24,900
Tesla Model S, 2012-now
£30,000-£95,000: Tesla got the drop on the rest of the car industry when it came to popularising EVs and that’s equally true in the used market. There are lots of early cars to choose from, all of which offer relaxed cruising, and many early cars still have free use of the Supercharger network.
One we found: 2015 Tesla Model S E85, 110k miles, £30,000
Rolls-Royce Phantom, 2003-2017
£55,00-£150,000: The first all-new BMW-era Rolls-Royce has aged spectacularly well. Values are much sturdier than those of previous Rollers and depreciation is gentle enough to take the sting out of still-sizeable running costs.
One we found: 2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom, 109k miles, £59,990