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Performance and Luxury Cars: Going Grand on a Budget

October 2, 2014

If you’re lucky enough to be in the market for a luxury or performance car, whether it’s an executive saloon or a sporty coupe, there are certain considerations which apply specifically to buying this type of vehicle.

The UK and much of Europe’s executive car market is dominated by ‘the big three’, consisting of legendary German automakers Mercedes, BMW and Audi. It’s not without reason that these three industry giants dominate the market, with the German auto market renowned for its quality engineering, elegant design and cutting edge innovations. However, there are also major players in the game, with Range Rover and Jaguars refreshed line-up offering bags of style and a little more personality than their German badged rivals.
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Compact executives

There has been a recent increase in demand for compact executive cars, offering the same levels of luxury, refinement and performance as their larger counterparts – but in a smaller, often two-door package. This compromise offers drivers a more practical car that’s easier to drive, park and manoeuvre. Compact executives are also cheaper and more efficient in general – making them an ideal choice if you’re already at the top end of your budget.

Here’s our pick of the top 3 compact execs on the market today:

  • Mercedes C-Class Saloon – With prices starting well below £30k, the C-Class offers some of the best value for money on the market when it comes to luxury per pound. Highlights include its unparalleled plush interior and a range of super-frugal diesel engines, sure to keep running costs to a minimum.
  • Jaguar XF Saloon – If style is high on your priority list, the Jaguar is the exec to go for. Its stunning design combined with sporty handling make the XF ideal for those who want the looks and performance of a sports car in a more practical package.
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon – The legendary three series is one of the strongest all-rounders in its category. With a huge range of trim levels, specifications and engines, there really is something for everyone with a wide range of price points. Basic entry level models are sub £25k – making the 3 series one of the most popular compact execs on the market.

With high quality cars come high quality parts, meaning that servicing and repairs are generally much more expensive. Make sure you factor additional running costs into your overall budget before committing to what could potentially be a major financial drain.

Image source: Ben

Image source: Ben

Featured Expert: We asked the motoring experts at CarThrottle.com what their top picks would be on a sub £50k budget. Car Throttle editor, Alex Kersten, shares his favourite performance and luxury cars on a budget.

Performance cars up to £50k

There are two cars that stand out. First is the Nissan GT-R, a vehicle that’s widely regarded as the best value-for-money supercar currently on sale. Prices for a new 2014 GT-R start from around £78,000 and for that you get 542bhp, 0-62mph in 3.0sec (quicker than a £200,000 Ferrari 458) and a top speed of 196mph. Buy used (2009) and you can pick up a second-hand GT-R for around £37,000. It’s slightly down on power (478bhp vs 542bhp), but still astonishingly fast – 0-62mph takes 3.5sec and it’s good for 193mph. Thanks to AWD, the GT-R handles impeccably and flatters any driver into looking like a professional racer.

The second performance car which represents great value is the Porsche Cayman. It’s arguably the best model in the entire Porsche range thanks to its 911-rivalling dynamics, mid-engined layout and responsive engines. The best of the bunch is the new GTS model which, while costing £55k, is the closest you’ll get to driving perfection. Thanks to a 3.4-litre naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engine with 336bhp, you’ll see 177mph after launching to 62mph in just 4.6 seconds. With a budget of £12-14k, you bag yourself a 2005 Cayman 3.4 S  with 295bhp and a top speed of 171mph; there aren’t many other cars in this price range that offer the same levels of performance, comfort and kudos.

Luxury cars up to £50k

Mercedes-Benz is, and probably always will be a pioneer in the luxury car market. The S-class is a car that’s synonymous with cutting-edge technology and incredible refinement, a slice of which can be purchased on the used car market for as little as £3000. A 2003 S350, for example, offers a smooth and relaxing ride, plus creature comforts such as heated seats, Bluetooth, sat-nav and cruise control. A 2002-2003 Volkswagen Phaeton is another way to cruise in comfort and can be bought for around £3000 also.

For the last word in class and comfort, Jaguar’s latest XJ is worth mentioning. Prices for a 2011 3.0D V6 start  from £25k, which represents favourable depreciation from for savvy buyers. Expect the finest leather, the latest gadgets and reasonable running costs, not to mention the ability to waft like A-list celebrities.

High performance cars

Whether you’re looking for a second car to use at the weekends, or your lifestyle allows you to use a two-seater as your primary mode of transport, no one can deny the exhilaration that being behind the wheel of a performance car can bring.

If you’re in the market for a sports or even super-car, practicality should be fairly low down on your list. There are plenty of great hot hatches and powerful saloons which can offer up a great compromise if you can’t quite fit your life into the passenger seat of a Porsche.

If you’re one of the lucky few to have the funds and lifestyle suited to driving in its rawest form, we’ve got some top tips to consider when starting your sports car search.

  • Although the appeal of a convertible may be strong, beware that convertibles are often fraught with mechanical issues surrounding their mechanism – which can be expensive to repair. Convertibles also suffer from reduced boot space which the roof occupies when down, further reducing already premium storage space. Convertibles also suffer from increased road noise, lowering refinement levels in the cabin.
  • Although there are a few exceptions to the rule, for the most part, performance cars are uneconomical and expensive to run – MPG and tax rates could vastly impact your decision when comparing vehicles.
  • High performance cars are only suitable for competent drivers. Their precision steering, stronger acceleration and braking power can take some getting used to and can be dangerous in inexperienced hands. If you’re adamant about going for a powerful model, it may be worth brushing up on your driving skills beforehand.
  • The majority of low to mid-price range sports cars follow a front engine, rear-wheel-drive format as opposed to the most common front-wheel-drive setup seen on the majority of cars in the UK. This gives sports cars entirely different handling characteristics – and although not always the case, it often reduces the practicality of the car. With so little weight over the powered rear wheels, cars with this set-up can be very difficult to drive in icy or snowy conditions – making them a summertime only affair.

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About The Author

Jon Le Roux is co-founder and company director of The Car Loan Warehouse. Being a mad engineering and motorsport enthusiast, I spend more hours than is healthy, watching, reading or talking about cars, boats, motorbikes…..basically anything with an engine.