PH Service History: One size fits all

A quick blast in a Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo 4S the other day reminded me of the joy that comes with finding a car that does it all; the sort of thing you get out of saying "I can't see why you'd need anything else".

For me, the long-roof Panamera represents exactly that: properly fast and astonishingly capable in bendy bits, given its weight; yet also comfortable, spacious enough for the family to come along with you, and with an estate-ish tail and folding seats that mean you can carry longer loads from time to time. It even closed in on 30mpg on the motorway.

Of course, the 4S starts at £93,979 - and the one I was driving was fitted with a welter of options lifting its value considerably clear of that figure. That puts it out of reach of all but the privileged few. But as ever, the used car market is full to brimming with cut-price options that are considerably more accessible, and which I've spent most of the morning alternately drooling over and convincing myself not to buy.

I don't know about you, but my first thought when someone mentions the do-it-all performance car is of the Audi RS6. For three generations, it's been the go-to hyper estate - and while cars like the BMW M5 Touring and AMG E-Class estates have challenged its supremacy, the RS6 got there first and still rules the roost. I'm sorely tempted by the first-generation car; you can get daggy ones for less, but £12,000 is the going rate for a tidy, low mileage example with a whopping history like this one. The advert hits all the right notes, the discreet colour scheme is resale-friendly, and the price is right - almost a tenth of the cost of the Sport Turismo.

Off-roading a part of your jack-of-all-trades' requirements? No problem. For the same price as that RS6, how about this Range Rover Sport? Granted, it's not quite as quick as the RS6, but the supercharged V8 means it'll still get a shift on; it's done just shy of 60,000 miles, too, and there's a glut of service history which will help minimise the risk of it breaking down. Relatively speaking, of course. I rather like the Cairns Blue paintwork, and a whopping spec list means you'll have all the toys you could possibly wish for. On road, you'll get comfort and class; off road, you'll get to where you need to be.

"But the fuel!," you're crying out. And you're right - both of those are terrific all-rounders if you don't need to do big miles. So what if you do? Well, may I submit for your consideration this rather tasty-looking BMW 530d M Sport? It's big enough to carry all manner of stuff in the back, yet efficient enough to be affordable on the daily grind. Then there's the superb eight-speed auto box, and this one's particularly good because it comes with adaptive dampers, which rather transform the F11 into something really quite special - able to cosset you on the motorway but sharpen up when you want to press on a bit. And when that move takes you, the 258hp and 398lb ft of torque should help you along. If you've got £25k to spend on one car that does it all, I can think of little better.

Not everybody has, of course. Happily, though, there's now a car that proves the ultimate do-it-all for just £5,000, or even less, in many cases. The Mk2 Skoda Octavia vRS is, essentially, a Mk5 Golf GTI under the skin - another car that performs well in a jack-of-all-trades role. But the Octavia's a better buy as it's cheaper and even more practical, especially if you happen upon the estate version. This one isn't - but the hatch's boot is so vast it'll suffice for most people, and it's cheaper to buy, too. How does £3,650 sound for a car with a low mileage, full year's MOT and a full history?

Granted, the cambelt and water pump will need doing on this one, but spend some of your change on that and rest safe in the knowledge it won't need doing again for another four years. And better that than the timing chain, complete with iffy tensioners, used on the post-facelift versions. Throw in an easy 40mpg on a motorway run and I'm struggling to think why you wouldn't. Few cars do so much for so little money. It's so good, in fact, I think I'd spend my lottery win all-rounder cash on this instead - and save the rest of the £90k for a time when I'd got a bigger driveway.



P.H. O'meter

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