PH Service History: Finding Door-y


I remember when the first four-door coupes came out. The Mercedes CLS and Passat CC were met with bemusement at first. But not from me; I hated the things. I thought that the Merc looked like an over-ripe banana, and that the Passat had been left next to the fire for too long.

I'm happy to admit now, with the benefit of familiarity and hindsight, that I was entirely wrong. For today, to my eyes, not only do the first-gen CLS and CC look rather good, but the variety of imitators they spawned look even better.

Arguably the prettiest of the lot is the Aston Martin Rapide which, if you were paying attention, you'll have read about earlier this week. But it isn't the only car of its type worth knowing about; in fact, one of the best-kept secrets of the used car market is that four-door coupes, especially the ones with monster engines, tend to go for rather less than their five-door saloon - or indeed, two-door coupe - brethren. And that makes them worthy of our attention.


Consider, if you will, this second-generation Mercedes CLS63 AMG. It's for sale at a main dealer, admittedly with mileage a touch above what you'd expect for the age, but nothing terrifying. It's also finished in deeply menacing black over black. The price? A shade over £20,000.

Let's not forget that this is a pukka performance saloon that looks terrific and is just six years old. And of course, it comes with that ululating blown 525hp 5.5-litre V8, capable of turning mountains to rubble with its exhaust note - maybe - and surging the CLS to 62mph in no more than 4.4 seconds. To get into an E63 of the same age and mileage, you'll need upwards of £25,000.

But this is not a phenomenon restricted to Mercedes. Have a look at this BMW M6 Gran Coupe. I reckon it's one of the best-looking four-doors - coupe or saloon - money can buy, and all the more so in this striking metallic blue. With this one, you get 560hp and 4.2 seconds to 62mph - it's even quicker than the Merc, in other words - and while the interior's arguably a touch less special, it could hardly be called pov-spec. This example's a four-year-old car that's done just 19,000 miles, yet it's on for £37,000. OK, that's a bit more than an M5 with the same mileage, but the M6 is so much more svelte - and a two-door version of the same car will cost you at least a couple of grand more.


Now here's a four-door coupe whose looks I've never really been able to get behind: the first-gen Porsche Panamera, or 970 to the aficionados. But judge this book by its cover at your peril, because the Panamera has loads to offer if you can get past that slightly unfortunate rear three-quarter view. This 4S is powered by a throbbing 4.8-litre V8 of 400hp - no, it isn't as fast as our previous two contenders, but as it doesn't have a turbo strapped to it, it's also more naturally sonorous. And let's face it: when was anyone ever disappointed by a 400hp V8?

These Panameras were terrific to drive, too, disguising their immense girth and weight to a remarkably degree and delivering the sort of feedback you'd hope for from a Porsche. Inside is where the Panamera plays its trump card, though, because the interior is a delight. Just pause a sec to gaze at that long, sweeping centre console, raised high so that the driver feels cocooned. And if you're in the back, enjoy the space to stretch out and the swaddling rear seats.

The one we found is yours for £27,925, with a very reasonable mileage and a full history. Compare that to £45,000 for a 911 Carrera 4S of similar provenance. Yes, the 911 has the badge everyone wants - but the Panamera's so much cheaper you could buy it and bag a Boxster with a change.


There's one last car that's caught my attention this week, but it's a bit of a cheat, because it isn't a four-door coupe. But it's about as close as Ferrari have come to producing one in recent years: the FF. I hadn't noticed how fast these have been depreciating - no, you can't buy one for twenty grand, but compared with contemporary 458 Italias, FFs have plummeted, meaning one of them now makes a savvy buy if you're willing to take your Ferrari in V12 grand tourer form, instead of V8 sports car.

This one, for example, looks decent value. Now, I know it's a very different proposition to a 458, but I'd argue that the FF actually gives you more - more space, more all-round ability, more performance, more cylinders. It certainly cost more when it was new, too, which is why the fact this £129,990 example is around £10,000 less than a 458 seems too good to be true (and indeed, around £100,000 less than it would have cost when new). No, it'll never get down a B-road in quite the same way - but you can take it places and do things with it you never could with its smaller stablemate. And let's not forget, it's still a V12 Ferrari - and one of the good ones, too.

Of course, a humble motoring journalist's salary means an FF is a pipe dream for me. But maybe, just maybe, I can convince Mrs R that the CLS is a better bet as a family hack than that Golf Estate she's been eyeing up. Wish me luck.

P.H. O'meter

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