Looking for something fast yet usable? We’ve got you covered
Big boot, back seats, brawny motor – it’s an enduringly enticing package to the modern car enthusiast with limited parking facilities. Here are 10 bona fide sports cars you could drive to the Nürburgring – via the tip…
Ford Focus ST 170 Estate
£1250-£2500: Damn hard to find but worth the effort, and inexpensive. The ST170 always played understudy to the wild Ford 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
Audi RS6 Avant, 2004-2004
£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
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, £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-Benz 500E, 1991-1994
£20,000-£25,000: 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 500E was 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: Mercedes-Benz 500E, 151k miles, £33,995
Alpine A610 Turbo, 1991-1995
£20,000-£45,000: The brilliance of the Alpine A110 has fired this French name back into focus, bringing renewed interest in the brand’s back catalogue. We’d consider the sixcylinder, 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
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake, 2014-2015
£29,000-£45,000: Jaguar’s first (and, cruelly, last) stab at a fire-breathing V8 estate is a rare but worthy alternative to the Mercedes-Benz E63s and Audi 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
Alpina B10 Bi-Turbo, 1989-1994
£30,000-£50,000: Any E34-gen BMW 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, early-1990s 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: Alpina B10 manual 4dr, 115k miles, £31,500
Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, 2005-2009
£65,000-£130,000: Billed as an ugly duckling at launch (as was the Ferrari 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, 20in wheels, 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 but the tail has deco elegance.
One we found: 2008 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti GTS, 13k miles, £88,995