Audi A6 Allroad, 2014, 76k, £15,495
Okay, before we indulge in some PH-style silliness, let’s kick off with the car that actually fits the affordable, practical, fast and cruiser-comfy brief like a custom-made gum shield. The A6 Allroad of C7 vintage is one of those cars that has attained something like legendary status and yet still somehow manages to fly under the radar. To an SUV-obsessed punter in 2023, it probably comes across like the pitcher in Moneyball: i.e. funny-looking, and underpowered. But the combination of height-adjustable air suspension, Audi-finessed interior and 313hp bi-turbo diesel was a match made in mile-crushing heaven. For around £15k, it is terrific value - even with 76k on the clock. A genuine, spine-coddling all-rounder.
Mercedes S65, 2008, 39k, £37,940
But if that all seems a bit too sensible, why not buy a 6.0-litre bi-turbo V12 with an S-Class wrapped around it? It’s fair to say the AMG-fettled S65 made precious little sense even back when it was socially acceptable to burn a barrel of oil every few miles, but if you like the idea of getting to the other side of the continent with all the bells and whistles, then there really is not much else like it. You get 612hp from a pre-facelift W221, but 738lb ft is the figure that everyone remembers because it translates into 1,000nm of torque - or ‘ample’ as we used to say. Certainly not at the basement end of the bargain criteria at £38k, but this embassy special retailed at £155k when new, and the S65 was always vanishingly rare - these days it is probably close to extinct. A perfect shock and awe story for the grandkids, in other words.
Porsche Cayenne Diesel S, 2015, 99k, £23,991
If you’re one of those people who insist that a very long journey is better attempted from a lofty vantage point, we'd still recommend you compensate for the brick-like aerodynamics with an oil burner - and distant memory of the Cayenne’s 4.1-litre V8 continues to burn bright. Unsurprisingly, the pay-off here is measured in torque output, too - 626lb ft of the stuff was considered mind-bending at the time, and still looks pretty healthy now. True, you can buy a V8-powered Range Rover Sport of similar vintage for similar money, and there would be no diminishment of comfort or capability - but with autobahn work in mind, we've opted for the home turf choice. And for less than £25k, the Cayenne is still an awful lot of old-school, compression-ignition SUV for the money.
Bentley Flying Spur, 2007, 74k, £16,490
Of course, it isn’t only the Germans who know a thing or two about mastery of the fast lane. Bentley was nipping over to the continent and triumphing at Le Mans nearly 100 years ago - and there are still few finer ways of travelling far and fast than with a winged ‘B’ on the bonnet. Traditionally at this point, we’d tell you that an early W12-powered Continental GT can be bought for some old buttons, but we’ve chosen to focus on the four-door version this time on the basis that a) you can get many more people and things into one, and b) it can potentially be bought for even fewer old buttons. This one, which looks lovely in very dark green, has only covered 74k and is yours for less than £17k. Just pray nothing significant or substantial goes wrong.
Skoda Superb 280, 2017, 83k, £14,944
If running costs are a concern - or if you’re disinclined to lavish your hard-earned money on something 16 years old and with 6.0 litres of cylinder capacity to fill - then you could do a lot worse than the outgoing Skoda Superb in its flagship format. From personal experience, we can tell you that the softly sprung Czech cruiser inhales long journeys, and while 280hp isn’t sufficient to set your hair on fire, it is plenty enough to keep you blithely nailed to the outside lane, indicator on. Granted, there are no wagons available at the cheapest end of the market (they are rightly considered the more desirable choice) but if you can live with the three-box hatchback, then £15k evidently buys you one with 84k on the clock.
Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, 2006, 49k, £69,985
Let’s round things off with a different sort of big-mile bargain - one from the bonafide Grand Tourer selection box. Granted, you can find something with a honking big engine and only two doors for a lot less than £70k - but it won’t be as stylish or as imposing as the 612 Scaglietti. Sure, it’s not the prettiest front-engined Ferrari ever made, but there’s a lot to be said for its understatedness in this day and age - especially in black with a black interior. And underneath it all, like a Beretta shotgun beneath a trench coat, you get 5.7 litres of F133 V12 pumping out 540hp, sufficient for the 612 to nudge 200mph. And if you must have a manual, here’s a private one with a retrofitted ‘box for only £1,500 more. You’re welcome.
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