Jaguar XJR front exterior

X308 Jaguar XJR | Alternative Classics

X308 Jaguar XJR | Alternative Classics

If you’re on the hunt for a modern-classic sports saloon, but you’re not interested in going for the obvious choice that is E39 BMW M5, there are plenty of other considerations you can make, including this: the X308 Jaguar XJR.

Launched in 1997, the X308 XJR didn’t just have the BMW to worry about, it also had to deal with the W210 Mercedes E55 and later the all-wheel-drive C5 Audi RS6.

But while its rivals focussed on providing Teutonic performance, the XJR was arguably the better motor vehicle for everyday living, courtesy of its butter-smooth ride and the easy, big-lunged performance of its supercharged V8.

While the X308 looks almost identical to the six-cylinder X300 it replaced, the car’s interior made vast leaps both in terms of quality and design, but also practicality, with a usable back seat and a boot that isn’t pitifully small. Having said that, you still get the old-world charm you would expect of a Jag, with leather and thick slabs of wood coming at you from every angle.

It was replaced by the X350 in 2004, but the earlier car’s sleeker looks – much more in keeping with the brand – make it the more desirable of the two, yet it kept the old-school charm absent from the now-defunct X351.

X308 Jaguar XJR: why buy one?

While it’s easy to understand why performance car fans looking for something practical were whipped into a frenzy by the arrival of the E39 BMW M5 – with its naturally aspirated V8 and superb chassis – it does mean the X308 Jaguar XJR tends to be overlooked.

It shouldn’t be. What the XJR lacked in headline numbers and rapid lap time figures, it more than made up for with its generous portion of everyday usability.

Its 4.0-litre V8 was key to this. Thanks to the important addition of a supercharger the XJR had low down grunt – 525Nm (387lb ft) from 3,600rpm – that made short work of problematic overtakes. It wasn’t slow on paper, either, 0-62mph took 5.6 seconds on the way to a 155mph top speed.

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

But while the Jaguar could happily chew through country roads at pace, it was equally comfortable pampering you with its oily smooth ride and light steering.

This more relaxed manner could explain why the XJR isn’t the most popular of used sports saloons – buyers of these types of cars want real-deal drivers’ machines. But, their loss could be your gain because it means usable XJRs can be found for less than £5,000.

X308 Jaguar XJR: what to look out for?

Unfortunately, if you’re running an old and complex car like the XJR for any length of time, you’re likely to encounter problems.

One of the most common on the XJR is failed timing chain tensioners (Jaguar, in its infinite wisdom, made them from plastic) that could cause the valve gear to ‘lunch’ itself if not caught. The tensioners were upgraded for part-metal items in 2001, which were later swapped out again for tensioners made entirely from metal.

Pre-2000 X308s can also suffer from failed water pumps and​ bore liner wear – both of which can cause total engine failure. Like any heavy saloon, XJRs can also chew through brake and suspension components so it’s worth checking both are tip-top.

Unlike its aluminium-bodied replacement, the steel-bodied X308 can suffer from rust. Problem areas include the wheel arches and the bottom of the rear windscreen, but it’s worth carefully inspecting the entire body. Sagging headliners are the bane of the interior, so check the mole-fur material is stuck down as it should be.

X308 Jaguar XJR: how much to pay?

One of the XJR’s most attractive features is its price – while you’ll pay £15,000 for a shabby BMW E39 M5, you’ll need less than a third of that to get your hands on the cheapest X308 XJR. Expect such a machine to suffer from corrosion on the outside, a noisy engine and a tired interior.

Spending more is recommended as a result. A £10,000 budget will get you a smart XJR with less than 100,000 miles on the clock, while £15,000 secures you the available – one in mint condition and with closer to 50,000 miles on its odometer.

Looking for a collector’s piece? Then a budget of more than £15,000 puts the XJR 100 within reach. Celebrating Jaguar’s centenary year, it got the R1 performance pack fitted as standard, adding beefy Brembo brakes, revised suspension and 19-inch multi-piece BBS alloy wheels. Just 500 were sold worldwide.

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Vauxhall VX220 dynamic exterior

Vauxhall VX220 | Alternative Classics

Vauxhall VX220 | Alternative Classics

The Lotus Elise carved itself a niche as a lightweight British sportscar the committed driver could use every day, but in 2003, there was an even better option; surprisingly, it was a Vauxhall – the VX220 Turbo.

The standard Vauxhall VX220 had been on sale for a couple of years before the Turbo landed – a convenient collaboration that was apparently sparked by Lotus’ need for development in safety and GM’s need for development in ‘sexy’.  It was an excellent idea, but with a USP, the Vauxhall could have made a more significant dent in the sales of the better-looking, sweeter-handling and more appealingly badged Elise.

The Turbo’s introduction brought the defining character the VX220 craved. Offering significantly more performance than the standard model, the Turbo was, surprisingly, billed as the softer of the two, with more cosseting suspension and an easily accessible mid-range. That was the theory, at least, but it didn’t entirely live up to the microscope of the car’s launch where journalists – keen to sample the Turbo’s so-called-docile nature – crashed six of them.

They should have known better. With no stability control, a short wheelbase and a mid-engine layout, the standard VX wasn’t immune to stepping out, and the Turbo merely added power oversteer to the mix.  But it was indeed quick. Not only did the Turbo have the measure of the S2 Lotus Elise 111S – the fastest sold then – it also dished out beatings to the likes of the Porsche Boxster S and Honda S2000. One (evidently quite brave) Evo correspondent reckoned the Turbo could match a 996 GT3 in the right hands.

While that’s up for debate, what can’t be argued is that VX220 Turbos can now be had for the same price as a basic Lotus Elise, with close to half the horsepower, and it’s this value that remains the Vauxhall’s biggest attraction.

Rarity could be another pull because only around 4500 Turbos were built, with the car’s life coming to an end in style in the form of the mildly tuned VXR220 run of 65 cars, which landed a year before the Vauxhall went out of production in 2004.

Vauxhall VX220: why buy one?

The Vauxhall VX220 Turbo was a performance bargain when new, and the passing of time has enhanced its value.

Key to this boast was its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. Its 200PS (147kW) sounds modest by modern standards, but in a car weighing 930kg – or about half the weight of a current BMW M3 – it proved to be plenty, getting the Turbo from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds, 0-100mph in 13 seconds and onto a respectable top speed of 151mph.

What explains the Vauxhall’s character even better is that its 250Nm (184lb ft) of torque arrived at just 1,950rpm – compare that to a Lotus Elise 111S with just 174Nm (128lb ft) delivered at a peaky 4,500rpm, and it’s clear where the differences lie.

Vauxhall claimed the VX220 shared just ten per cent of its parts with its Hethel-based brother, but one of those parts was the famous aluminium bonded tub that made the Lotus light and strong.

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

Vauxhall then increased the VX220’s wheelbase by 30mm, the car’s rear track by 20mm and added ABS brakes, adjustments that aimed to tame the Lotus’ at-times-challenging on-the-limit handling, with an airbag thrown in case the company’s efforts proved unsuccessful. 

Designed to be even easier to live with than the standard car, the Turbo had a softer suspension setup that allowed it to breathe with bumps rather than crash over them; plus, you got a gear-shift-indicator light and a revised instrument cluster.

Touring Pack-optioned cars brought untold luxury in the form of a proper fuel gauge (in place of the annoyingly inaccurate digital readout), extra sound deadening and carpets that make the Turbo more tolerable on long drives.

Even so, it’s hard to argue the VX220 Turbo is practical. A talented gymnast would have trouble elegantly clearing the car’s sills on entry. While taking the roof off helps with access, it’s not easy, taking around a minute to navigate the soft top’s combination of slider, catches and struts before snugly squeezing it into its roof bag.

You do at least get a 206-litre boot with plenty of room for a couple of soft bags, and fuel economy of 33mpg officially – high 20s in reality – is tolerable given the performance.

Vauxhall VX200: Problems to look out for?

The reliability issues that blighted early VX220 Turbos were less forgivable, with reports of suspension problems and engine covers that allowed water to leak into the spark plugs – Vauxhall released a new engine cover to sort out the latter. Seats are also known to work loose from their mountings.

Age brings new problems that previous owners may have yet to iron out. The Vauxhall fibre-glass body is easy to damage, and even a tiny knock requires an entire new clamshell, which will be hard to source. The same goes for head and tail light clusters.

Another prominent weak spot is the roof, never the most watertight; wear and tear means leaks are likely, and a replacement will cost around £1,000, although an aftermarket hardtop will cost roughly half that.

Servicing cost should be reasonably affordable, ranging from £300-750, and the Lotus lightweight means tyres, brake pads and discs will withstand plenty of abuse before needing replacing.

Vauxhall VX220: How much to pay?

Today, you can pick up a used Vauxhall VX220 Turbo for roughly half the price of a well-specified Mazda MX-5, which is impressive considering the gulf in pedigree and performance.

Crash-damaged cars start from less than £12,000 and could be a sensible option for thrashing on track. Adding £6,000 to your budget gives you several low mileage/owner cars to choose from, and as most (if not all) have been modified, it makes sense to pick the vehicle with mods that best suits your tastes. Over £20,000 buys you a mint, bonestock example with a verifiable history that stretches back to when the car’s tyres first hit Tarmac.

Limited-run VXR220s are the most prized of the lot and will set you back £25,000. Arguably, their five-spoke Speedline alloy wheels are with the price hike alone, but they also get more power and torque – up to 219PS (161kW) and 300Nm (221lb ft), respectively – for 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds and a 155mph top speed. Ohlin dampers and smaller wheels – down from 17 to 16-inch – also make these the sweetest handling of the lot. 

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Porsche 928 front exterior

Porsche 928 | Alternative Classics

Porsche 928 | Alternative Classics

If you’re in the market for a classic Porsche, the list of models you’re looking for likely begins and ends with the 911.

Its iconic looks and unique rear-engine handling have made it an all-time classic, with residuals to match, but it wasn’t always like this; back in the ‘70s, its dated design and widowmaker reputation had Porsche eyeing a replacement.

It was called the Porsche 928, and as a front-engined V8 hatchback with electric pop-up headlights, it couldn’t have been more different to its famous sibling. History, of course, tells us the 928 wasn’t the replacement Porsche intended it to be, but its less-than-iconic status means it’s at least affordable for mere mortals and, as the Nardone Automotive resto-mod proves, there is still a lot of love for the big V8.

And you don’t need to do too much digging to understand why. Its lusty V8 engine and aerodynamic shape were enough to bag the 928 the car of the year acolade in 1978 – a rare honour for a GT – and even now it’s hard to believe it comes from the same era as a late Jaguar E-Type.

Even direct rivals like the Mercedes SEC, E24 BMW 6 Series and Jaguar XJS look dated in the 928’s presence thanks to its integrated bumpers (which could withstand 5mph impacts undamaged) and teardrop hatchback boot.

Porsche wasn’t happy leaving the 928 as it was, and there were steady improvements throughout its life. The 928 S joined the standard V8 in 1979, while the S2 came on stream in 1983, replaced by the 5.0-litre quad-cam S4 in 1986.

GT and GTS models followed, in 1989 and 1991, respectively, the latter packing a 350PS (257kW) 5.4-litre V8 that feels quick to this day. This constant evolution means the earliest 928s compared to later versions are chalk and cheese.

Porsche 928: Why buy one?

The Porsche 928 combines the long legs of a GT car with the balance and forgiving handling of a rear-wheel-drive transaxle sportscar with a bonnet, doors and wings made from aluminium. It’s a balance few cars get right, as a browse through most of Aston Martin’s recent back catalogue proves.

Even the original 928 with a 4.5-litre V8 hunting out a modest-by-modern standards 240PS (177kW) demonstrates remarkable flexibility. At the same time, performance of 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 142mph means it can show a clean pair of heels to something more modern like the Toyota GT86.

Even these early cars have excellent traction and, although ABS wasn’t offered on the 928 until 1983, becoming standard with the S4 onwards, ventilated brake discs all around translate to modern stoppings. The three-speed, Mercedes-derived automatic gearbox meanwhile is best avoided.

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

The original model laid a solid foundation that the 928S could build on. With 288PS (212kW) from its 4.7-litre V8, it was a giant leap forward by the standards of the time, bearing in mind a Mercedes SL500 wheezed out 104PS less from its larger 5.0-litre displacement. With 0-62mph coming up in 6.7 seconds on its way to an impressive 154mph top speed, the 4.7 gave the 928 the power its chassis deserved. Then there’s the 409Nm (302lb ft) of torque available from just 2,700rpm, which more accurately defines the 928 – it’s not a classic that’ll easily fall victim to the turbocharged youths of the 21st century.

The 928S was rebranded the S2 in 1984 when a higher compression ratio, Bosch electronic fuel injection and an EZF dual distributor brought power up to 310PS (228kW). The S4 replaced it in 1986, which brought a facelift and an extra 10PS to the table. In turn, it bowed out to the 330PS GT in 1989 before the 5.4-litre GTS launched in 1992 with a punchy 350PS (257kW) on tap. It has the performance to beat the current crop of ludicrously fast hot hatches, with 0-62mph coming up in 5.6 seconds and a 171mph top speed.

Porsche 928: Problems to look out for?

Before buying any 928, a documented service history is a must, as is a professional inspection by a mechanic familiar with the model.

While the 928’s V8 engine is one of its defining features, it can also be a significant source of problems and oil consumption of a litre every 500 miles is not uncommon. Experts reckon the big lump’s top end needs a rebuild every 120,000 miles – oil fumes on start-up indicate this could be an issue – and the bottom end needs looked at every 150K.

Head gasket failure is a risk on all models, but S4s built between 1986-1989 are most susceptible. Early GTS models, meanwhile, suffered from problems with their cylinder liners.

The cambelt and water pump should be changed every 60,000 miles, although the 4.5-litre founding model has a noninterference engine, which means valves and pistons will never collide.

Misfires caused by the fuelling and ignition problems can be hard to diagnose and costly to fix, but a Porsche specialist should be able to supercharge the diagnosis process. Lumpy vibrations could be down to worn engine mounts, which are relatively cheap to replace.

The cooling system is another weak spot; the aluminium radiator is expensive to replace and needs new fluid every four years.

The 928 has the powerful brakes you would expect of a Porsche, but discs, pads, and ABS sensors are also characteristically expensive. Another Porsche foible not unique to the 928 is the fuse box hidden in the passenger footwell, which is susceptible to moisture with disastrous results.

Porsche 928: How much to pay?

Just 20 per cent of 928s had a manual gearbox that made the most of Porsche’s flexible V8 and made it significantly quicker.

At the time of writing, there are just a handful of manual cars available. The low end starts from around £6,900 for an early 1979 4.5-litre car in need of recommissioning and with 130,000 miles on the clock. Raise the budget significantly to anywhere from £23,000 to £70,000 for a rare 1984 Strosek modified S2 complete with boxed wheel arches and NACA ducts.

Automatic models are cheaper, give you more options and are better than you might think if you avoid the three-speed, replaced with a four-speed in 1983.

A 1984 4.7-litre S with just over 45,000 miles on the clock caught our eye – owned by its current keeper for the past 14 years, it was garaged in the winter months and had a fetching blue interior. The best automatic on offer was a £69,950 928 GTS from 1992 that had clocked up just 16,000 miles.

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Jaguar XKR front exterior

Jaguar XKR | Alternative Classics

Jaguar XKR | Alternative Classics

The X150 Jaguar XKR went on sale in 2007 to replace the old X100 XKR model that competed with cars like the Mercedes SL and Porsche 911.

Big news at the time came in the form of its aluminium body that weighed 91kg less than the steel body on the old model and made up for the fact that its engine was carried over, almost unchanged, from the old version.

In truth, the XKR’s engine didn’t need to change. As a large V8 boasting the added muscle of a supercharger, the XKR already had all the overtaking power required and the ability to suck the horizon into the Jaguar’s windscreen like the recoil on a bungee cord.

Handling was also impressive, allowing the Jaguar to occupy the middle ground between the Mercedes SL and serious sportscars like the Porsche 911. It had sharper steering and better body control than the Mercedes but with a more comfortable ride and lazier power delivery than the Porsche.

Available in coupe and convertible body shapes, the XKR was updated in 2009 when Jaguar swapped the 4.2-litre engine for a 5.0-litre version, but the company also offered various special editions, including the Speed, with a loosened speed limiter allowing for a 174mph top speed, and the XKR 75 with more power.

The XKR-S released in 2011 represented the pinnacle of XKR ownership, with more power, bespoke suspension, uprated brakes and a 186mph top speed.

The XKR would be sold alongside the smaller F-Type before it went off sale in 2014 after 60,000 XKs sold worldwide, less than half of which were XKRs.

Jaguar XKR X150: Why buy one?

The X150 Jaguar XKR gives you many of the same sensations – and in some respects was better – than an Aston Martin, but costs a fraction of the price to buy and maintain.

Like an Aston, the XKR’s looks are as big a lure as any. The X150 didn’t require you to make excuses for its appearance in the same way you might have had to with the X100, which suffered from a pastiche E-Type face and a large rear end needed to accommodate two sets of golf clubs.

By contrast, Ian Callum, also responsible for the Aston Martin DB7 and Vanquish, penned the X150, which combined the flowing lines of the former with the bold aggression of the latter.

It shouldn’t be a surprise the XKR still looks fantastic today, and you can choose between the subtle looks of the standard car or the lurid paint job and imposing body kit of the XKR-S model.

The XKR looked like it drove – a sporty GT with a driving experience dominated by its supercharged engine. From launch, the XKR had a 4.2-litre V8 squeezed under its bonnet, good for 400PS (294kW) – 20PS (15kW) more than the old XKR courtesy of variable valve timing – at 6,250rpm and 560Nm (413lb ft) of torque at 4,000rpm.

The result was 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds (half a second quicker than before) and stonking mid-range that made it ideal for overtaking. Top speed was limited to 155mph.

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

The XKR never felt agile, but it struck a good compromise between comfort and fun that belied its relatively portly 1,665kg kerb weight. It had the steering feel and grip that inspired you to hustle the XKR in a way you wouldn’t drive the standard XK, but its stiffer suspension settings didn’t harm the car’s excellent ride.

The XKR was facelifted in 2009 with sharper (some may say less pure) looks, and the famous J-Gate swapped for a gear selector that rose from the centre console like in the Jaguar XF. The new 5.0-litre engine produced 510PS (375kW) at 6,000rpm and 625Nm (461lb ft) from just 2,500rpm, which made it feel significantly faster in everyday driving. It got from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds.

The most extreme version came in the form of the XKR–S that, with 542PS (399kW), was the fastest of the lot with 0-62mph taking 4.2 seconds, 0-100mph coming up in 8.7 as it hurtled towards a top speed of 186mph.

Wider tyres, a revised electronically controlled limited-slip differential and a new aluminium steering knuckle, made the XKR-S an alternative to the 911 GT3. However, the Porsche was the clear winner as a driver’s tool. For this reason, the standard XKR might be the better choice for most.

The XKR excels as a long-legged GT car you can still enjoy when you reach some challenging roads. Its interior design might be bland – and its infotainment horribly dated – but it is pretty practical as GT cars go, with back seats and a 330-litre boot with a huge opening that makes it easy to load.

Jaguar XKR X150: Problems to look out for?

The X150 XKR solved many of the reliability issues suffered by the old X100, including fragile plastic cambelt tensioners and rust.

Rust is something the X150’s aluminium body won’t suffer from. Having said that, if the paint is damaged – stone chips or trim pieces rubbing on the paintwork – it can cause oxidation that can spread if not addressed. A known problem area is the back edge of the roof at the tailgate.

Galvanic corrosion can also be a problem where steel fittings – found in the bumpers and wheel well linings – come into contact with the aluminium body. Finally, it’s worth remembering that aluminium-bodied cars are trickier and more expensive to fix than steel-bodied cars.

Components like the subframes are made from painted steel and can corrode. A Waxoyl treatment will stop rust dead in its tracks and is worth considering on any car you buy.

Mechanically, the X150 is considered pretty tough, not suffering from the brittle plastic timing chain sensors and dodgy water pumps that were a problem for X100 owners.

Nevertheless, a complete service history using the correct oil is highly desirable: 5W 30 or fully synthetic (4.2-litre) or 5W 20 for the 5.0-litre model. Both models can also suffer from dodgy thermostats, although, on the upside, replacing them on the XKR is an easier job than on the standard XK.

Rattling variable valve timing could indicate a hydraulic problem, and we’d recommend changing the oil in the ‘maintenance-free’ gearbox every 60,000 miles.

Finally, watch for electrical gremlins caused by a weak battery producing a low voltage – owners recommend changing the battery at least every four years. Owners also recommend driving your XKR for at least 30 minutes daily, although hooking it up to a trickle charger will be more convenient for most or, if you don’t have a garage, a solar charger.

Jaguar XKR X150: How much to pay?

When writing, the cheapest Jaguar XKR available was a tired, five-owner 4.2-litre 2007 coupe with more than 150,000 miles on the clock, advertised for less than £8,000. It’s a tempting price if you’re handy with a spanner and enjoy returning a well-used modern classic to as-new condition, or you just don’t mind gambling that it’ll last long enough to feel like you’ve got your money’s worth.

Most would prefer to pay the extra £1,500 needed to buy a car in much better condition. We saw a two-owner 2007 car with 110,000-mile mileage, finished in deep metallic blue with a mushroom leather interior, advertised for £9,490.

However, £15,000 buys you a car in much better condition. That’s enough to get you a late 4.2-litre model built in 2009 in a desirable colour combination and with plenty of life left in the tank, with a mileage of less than 60,000 miles. You’ll pay over £20,000 for the best 4.2-litre coupes available. Convertible models tend to carry a slight premium and have a lower mileage than coupes of the same age; prices for the rag tops range from £12,000 – 22,000.

For the best performance, you’ll want a 5.0-litre model. Prices start from around £13,000, but a budget of around £16,000 gets you a three-owner car with less than 80,000 miles. Built to celebrate Jaguar’s 75th anniversary, closer to £20,000 buys you an XKR 75 with a stiffer chassis and more power. The car we saw had covered 60,000 miles and had six owners on its logbook.

XKR-S versions, capable of 200mph (if they weren’t limited to 186), are the priciest XKs of the lot. Prices start from £39,000 for a 2011 car with less than 80,000 miles on the clock, rising to £62,000 for a 2014 car that’s barely run-in with a mileage of less than 10,000 miles.

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Audi R8

Audi R8 | Alternative Classics

Audi R8 | Alternative Classics

In the early 2000s, Audi had a well-won reputation for building fast family cars (the RS2 and RS6, to name but two), but the company had yet to offer a genuine sports car alternative to the Porsche 911.

That would change in 2003 with the reveal of the Le Mans concept, which would ultimately spawn the Type 42 R8 three years later.

The R8’s mainstream badge (and matching price tag) meant it competed with cars like the E92 BMW M3 and 997 Porsche 911 but also genuine supercar royalty like the Lamborghini Gallardo and Ferrari F430. Any worries it would feel out of its depth in such an esteemed company quickly dissolved when people saw (and drove) it.

Short and squat – and with contrasting side blade body panels – the R8 looked the part, and it had the specs to back up its appearance. Not only was it mid-engined, but said engine was an eight-cylinder tractable masterpiece with rumbling low-down torque, precluding the earthy howl it produced at high engine speeds.

That the R8 would have Quattro four-wheel drive was another worry for motoring journos raised on a diet of understeering performance Audis, but the R8 offered an altogether different flavour of four-wheel traction. It felt rear-wheel drive right up until the point when you needed the front wheels to pull you out of impending catastrophe, which they duly did with unerring controllability.

Factor in Audi’s gated manual gearbox, and here – finally – was a car that could face and beat the Porsche 911 at its own game of being a sorted sportscar that is also easy to live with.

Unsurprisingly, the supercar-buying public loved the R8, and a V10 version soon followed in 2009 – giving the R8 the firepower it needed to compete with high-ranking competitors. By 2010, the Spyder model came on stream with a roof that dropped electrically at speeds of up to 31mph, while 2011 brought the more powerful R8 V10 GT and limited-run GTR.

The following year’s facelift included numerous revisions – most notably the DSG automatic that replaced the terrible automated manual – and by 2013, the Plus brought more power and a stiffer setup.

Signalling the end of the Type 42’s production was the laser-light-equipped LMX, which was revealed at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2014. Production finished in August the following year after just under 29,000 R8s had been built.

Audi R8: why buy one?

There are many good reasons to buy an Audi R8 – it’s a generation-defining supercar, for one – but perhaps its strongest selling point is its incredible value. Prices start from £30,000 compared to the nearly £60,000 you’ll need for a (mechanically very similar) Lamborghini Gallardo.

But don’t let its value make you question whether the R8 is real. Under its sleek lines, you’ll find an aluminium space frame chassis with aluminium double wishbone suspension front and rear. As a result, a manual V8 tipped the scales at 1,560kg.

It launched with a 4.2-litre V8 engine – the same unit fitted to the B7 RS4 Avant – which produced 420PS (309kW) at 7,800rpm, getting the R8 from 0-62mph in four seconds and onto a top speed of 187mph.

By comparison, a base level 997 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 had 325PS (239kW), got from 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds and was all out of puff at 177mph. Perhaps as important, the R8’s rumbling V8 produced a hard-edged roar that was every bit as intoxicating as the flat-six howl of a Porsche.

The V8’s charisma makes it the purist’s choice next to the later 1,620kg V10, but the ten-cylinder model isn’t going to leave you disappointed – it has 525PS (386kW), gets from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and has a 196mph top speed. You’ll be lucky to get 20mpg fuel economy from the V8 or the V10.

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

Handling is an R8 speciality, though. Its Quattro four-wheel drive split power 30:70 between the front and back wheels, meaning it almost always felt rear-wheel drive. But, if your slide angle got too wide for comfort, stamping on the throttle brought the front wheels into play to drag you out of danger.

The R8 was incredibly benign on the limit, and its hydraulic power steering had much to do with that. It offered broadband communication next to the dial-up you get from the current R8’s electric setup, giving you the confidence to explore – and exceed – the R8’s limits.

Braking was arguably the R8’s weakest point. Both the V8 and the V10 came as standard with ventilated disc brakes – 365mm at the front, 356mm at the rear – but it’s worth considering the optional carbon ceramics (standard on the V10 Plus) that shaved 3kg per corner.

The R8 reveals another side to its character when you are not in the mood to have fun. Despite its low ride and rubber band tyres, the R8 rides surprisingly well, so much so that the Magnetic Ride Control (optional on the V8, standard fit with the V10) with its Normal and firmer Sport settings isn’t needed. Factor in a quiet cabin and excellent visibility, and this exotic is as happy trundling to the shops as it is setting laps times.

Much of this is down to the R8’s cabin; it gets a solid construction and expensive plastics that expose the chocolate-box fragility you’ll find in a Ferrari’s cabin. Huge adjustments for the steering wheel and front seats make it easy to get comfortable in the driver’s seat, and while you don’t get a 911’s back seats, you get a ledge that can handle overspill from the 100-litre boot under the bonnet. 

Audi R8: problems to look out for?

You can expect the Audi R8 to be tough for a car of its ilk, but there are a few problems to look out for.

V8 models can suffer from bottom-end-bearing failures – dodgy noises from deep within the internals are a sign of trouble – but even a healthy person can swallow oil at the rate of one litre every 1,000 miles. That’s worth watching, given that the R8 can stretch up to 20,000 miles between services.

Another known problem is the Magnetic Control Ride. It works by passing an electric charge through a metalised fluid; clever, but it’s expensive to fix, which means you may be better off going for the standard setup.

Finally, look for clutch wear on R Tronic models – they can chew through a clutch in less than 25,000 miles. The clutch on manual models should last nearly double that, and the dual-clutch DSG is incredibly robust.

A major service will likely cost you around £1,000, with a minor service coming in at £500. Good quality tyres, meanwhile, start from around £200 up front or £400 at the rear.

Audi R8: How much to pay?

Entry to R8 life starts from as little as £25,000; your money buys you an early 100,000-mile V8 with the R Tronic gearbox that’s clunky shifts suck a lot of fun out of the R8 driving experience.

Spend another £5,000, and you could have a far more desirable V8 manual, although it will likely have had many owners and over 70,000 miles on the clock. It’s worth having any R8 professionally inspected, but particularly important in a well-used car.

Sensible R8s start from about £35,000. That’ll buy you an early car with around 30,000 miles showing on its odometer. A V10 in similar condition will cost closer to £50,000.

The best cars command £80,000 price tags. A healthy budget like this means you can pick from models like a 2013 550PS (405kW) V10 Plus or a 2011 V10 GT R – both with less than 20,000 miles under their wheels. As one of just 35 cars brought to the UK, the GT R could prove a particularly wise buy.  

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Aston Martin DB9 rear exterior

Aston Martin DB9 | Alternative Classics

Aston Martin DB9 | Alternative Classics

If you’re looking for a long-nosed GT car with jaw-dropping looks, V12 power and an ability to chew through miles quicker than a competitive eater swallows pizza, a Ferrari would be the obvious choice.

But what if we said you could have all the looks and most of the performance from a homegrown effort? Let’s take a look at the Aston Martin DB9.

The DB9 put the DB7 out of its misery in 2004 and immediately felt like a car from a new generation. Out went the DB7’s ancient steel construction, and in came a bonded aluminium body backed up by vast swathes of composites.

To say the DB7 was out of its depth was an understatement. It had faced off with cars like the Bentley Continental GT and Mercedes CL, models backed by German giants that made victory for even the DB9 a tall order. And that’s before we mention the Ferrari 575M Maranello and GTB Fiorano, cars that very much resided at the sportier end of the GT spectrum.

But while the DB9 struggled to match the dynamic qualities of the Italian competition, it took a clear win in one crucial area – looks. The Aston effortlessly blended its svelte lines with subtle hints of aggression in a way Aston’s current crop of GTs hasn’t been able to match. They’re arguably the single reason for buying a DB9, which is saying something because there’s plenty else to like.

Such as its V12 engine; in a time when even a basic Fiesta is turbocharged, the surging, turbine-smooth power delivery of the Aston’s 12-pot is a delight to experience, giving in-gear flexibility that makes even a modern boosted motor feel like an on-off switch. You’ll need a manual-equipped Aston to experience this character at its best, which is a shame because they’re scarce since most buyers opted to fit an automatic from new.

A decision which will be more understandable when you drive the DB9. It’s a GT in the classical sense, an iron fist in a velvet glove that cossets its occupants rather than pulverising their internals in the name of lap times like one of Ferrari’s scalpel-sharp offerings. Armed with this knowledge, it’s not a huge surprise to learn many DB9s are Volante dropheads.

The DB9 is a far sportier proposition than the Bentley or Mercedes, and Aston’s constant evolution meant the DB9 avoided obsoletion. Now a modern classic, the DB9’s blunt dynamics are much less of an issue, and with prices kicking off at around £30,000, it’s easy to see why this relatively rare GT’s charms seduce many.

On sale until 2016, Aston shifted around 16,500 DB9s before the DB11 replaced it. By contrast, Bentley has sold, on average, 5,000 Continental GTs in each generation since it first went on sale in 2002.

Aston Martin DB9: why buy one?

There’s no shortage of good reasons to buy an Aston Martin DB9, but chief among them is its stunningly good looks. So it might be a surprise to learn the DB9 differs from what it initially intended. The DB9’s AM305 design concept was a mid-engined V8 until CEO Ulrich Bez came along in 2000, proclaiming all Astons needed to be front-engined. Clearly, he felt the range-topper should only have V12 power, too.

As a result, the DB9’s acre-long bonnet was almost a prerequisite, but every other part of its design was also beautifully judged. The chrome grille and wing vents hark back to the DB4 and DB5, the wide arches give a flavour of the old V8 Coupe and original Vanquish, and the sleek rear end owes much to the still-pretty DB7. Given all these influences, the result was amazingly cohesive in a way the Ferrari 575 (or current Astons) have yet to manage entirely.

The DB9 can make another bold claim, too – its 5.9-litre V12 engine is unique to Aston, not a mildly retuned Mercedes lump as found in the current range.

From launch, it punched out 455PS (335kW) at 6,000rpm and 570Nm (420lb ft) of torque from 5,000rpm which, in a manually equipped car, was good for 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds and a 186mph top whack. Hardly slow, even by modern standards, and with no turbochargers to muffle the noise the V12 produced a throaty bark that was pure Aston Martin. Fuel economy of no better than 20mpg was less appealing.

The engine was revised in 2009 with a new head and a higher compression, increasing power to 477PS (351kW) and 600Nm (443lb ft) – that knocked a tenth of the 0-60mph time and brought the top speed up to 190mph. Major fettling followed in 2013, with everything from the block, head, throttle bodies, manifold and fuel pump revised, and variable valve timing. Power upped to 517PS (380kW) with a corresponding increase in performance.

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

This evolution didn’t pass the Aston’s chassis by, but whichever iteration you’re considering, remember the DB9 was designed to be a grand tourer first and foremost.

Its cosseting ride makes it exceptionally long-legged, and its slow, muted steering doesn’t exhaust your hands with chatter. If you turn the stability control off, the long wheelbase is surprisingly balanced and forgiving. However, if you expect a driving experience hardwired to your soul, you will be disappointed.

The optional Sports Pack introduced in 2006 tightened things up considerably. Spring rates were increased by more than 50 per cent, shocks and roll bars were stiffened, and the car dropped 6mm. The pack’s five-spoke 19-inch wheels were the same size as standard but shed 1.5kg per wheel, and Aston replaced the composite undertray with an aluminium panel that served as a structural member of the car.

The 2009 facelift brought suspension upgrades that improved refinement and ride quality – a subtle hint to the DB9’s underlying purpose – while 2013 added adjustable dampers with three settings that included a ‘Track’ mode that was best avoided.

Remarkably little of the DB9’s interior changed over its 12-year life. In truth, it was always dated, but in a world awash with giant infotainment screens, the Aston’s jewel-like dials are delightfully analogue, and you can’t fault the quality of the leather that covers almost every interior surface.

What you can fault is the Aston’s tight cabin – a vast coupe like this should comfortably accommodate tall adults, but, depending on your body shape, that’s not always the case in the DB9. It’s less surprising that the back seat is cramped for anyone bar small children; it’s best used to supplement the 138-litre boot. If you’re after a roomy GT that the entire family can enjoy, you’ll be better off with the Mercedes CL.

Aston Martin DB9: problems to look out for?

Running an Aston Martin was never going to be cheap, and even a basic 10,000-mile service will cost around £1,200, covering oil and filter changes and new spark plugs.

Although generally considered tough, anecdotally, we’ve heard of more than one engine failure, which could be uneconomical to repair on older examples. Likewise, oil leaks and electrical faults are not unheard of.

A failed heater ECU can cause the front seats to smoulder – carrying a fire extinguisher is never a bad idea in a car like this – and the air-conditioning system is also known to cause issues, although it’s relatively easy to fix. Accelerator arms are also known to break, while a rattle from the front of the car suggests worn bushes, they can be replaced without buying a new subframe and anti-roll bars, though.

If you’re buying a Volante, check the roof mechanism works; it should rise and drop in 17 seconds. The multi-layer roof is also likely to show wear, and an aftermarket replacement will cost around £5,000.

How much to pay?

The potential for big bills does at least mean one thing – the DB9 is surprisingly affordable. The cheapest examples will set you back just £25,000 for an early 2004 car with less than 50,000 on the clock but more than five owners on the logbook. A car like this will likely have a patchy service history that will put many off.

A budget closer to £40,000 offers a far more attractive ownership proposition. We saw a one-owner car with less than 25,000 miles on the clock and in a fetching green finish going for £38,000.

Their rarity means you’ll pay closer to £50,000 for a manual car in similar condition. The best examples of the DB9 – late 2015 cars with a handful of miles and main-dealer warranty – will tip the scales at more than £100,000.

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Nissan 350Z | Alternative Classics

Nissan 350Z | Alternative Classics

If you’re hunting for a sportscar that serves up plenty of thrills on a budget that won’t hammer your wallet, Porsche’s sublime 987 Cayman is the go-to choice. But what if we told you you could have a quicker, more robust alternative for less?

It’s called the Nissan 350Z, and it was launched in the UK in 2003 as the first Z car since the demise of the 300ZX in 1996. It parachuted into battle with cars like the Audi TT, BMW Z4 Coupe and Mazda RX-8 before the Cayman appeared on the scene two years later.

The 350Z was as unique as any of its rivals. Its styling featured a mixture of angles and curves, which we’d never seen before, while the car’s powerful 291PS (214kW) 3.5-litre V6 made it a performance bargain. The considerable firepower under the bonnet made up for the fact that it couldn’t rival the nimble handling of cars like the RX-8 and Cayman.

Sure, woolly steering and a notchy gearbox meant the Nissan lacked finesse, but the torquey motor, combined with a standard limited-slip differential, meant you could still have fun.

The 350Z Roadster offered joy of a different kind when it dropped into the range in 2005, and Nissan also offered a five-speed automatic gearbox instead of the manual six-speeder.

Constant evolution meant the 350Z stayed popular throughout its life. In 2005, the 300PS (221kW) 350Z GT4 was revealed and available to drive on Gran Turismo 4 – only 176 cars came to the UK, and each came complete with a console and a copy of the game.

By 2006, the GT4’s engine was rolled out across the range, while the following year, power increased to 317PS (223kW) – these high-revving engines are considered the pick of the bunch. Nissan sold more than 23,000 350Zs in Europe before it bowed out to the 370Z in 2008.

Nissan 350Z: Why buy one?

Ford took half a century to bring a right-hand drive Mustang to the UK, but, in its absence, the Nissan 350Z played a similar role – providing considerable power in a relatively simple and affordable package.

The numbers spoke for themselves. The Nissan blew rivals like the Mazda RX-8 (231PS (170kW)) and Audi TT V6 (250PS (184kW)) out of the water; even the far pricier 280PS (206kW) 3.2-litre Porsche Cayman S couldn’t match the Nissan’s shove. And, while the 343PS (252kW) BMW Z4 M had more firepower, it cost almost twice as much.

The Nissan 350Z’s straight-line performance was as impressive as you’d expect. Getting from 0-60mph took 5.6 seconds, and it had a 155mph top speed. A brawny 352Nm (260lb ft) of torque gave the car a muscular mid-range that set it apart from small-lunged rivals. What it lacked, however, was the sort of frenetic power delivery that made you want to squeeze every last horsepower from its 6,200rpm rev limit. The synthetic exhaust note didn’t help.

The handling also confirmed the 350Z as a car best enjoyed at its own pace. At brisk speeds, the Nissan’s weighty steering felt positive; its heavy gear shift had an old-school mechanical feel. Plus, with plenty of torque and a limited-slip differential fitted as standard, it was capable of easily controlled slides. Up the ante, though, and it felt woolly and imprecise, with suspension that struggled to command the car’s substantial 1,545kg kerb weight. 

On the other hand, the Nissan was an ideal daily driver. Overtakes could be completed quickly without strangling the car to within an inch of its life, and it was a quiet cruiser. GT Pack cars (a £2,500 option when new) are worth hunting out because they add cruise control, a leather interior, electrically adjustable seats and a Bose stereo. A subwoofer in the rear bulkhead between the front seats is a dead giveaway.

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

Nissan 350Z: What problems to look out for?

While the internet is awash with Porsche IMS bearing horror stories, the Nissan 350Z is pleasingly robust.

Engines are known to use oil – up to two litres every 1,000 miles, according to Nissan – so it pays to check for smoke and pull the dipstick, but that’s about the extent of the worries. A timing chain means there are no cam belt changes to worry about.

Gearboxes are more of an issue. An unwillingness to slot between cogs – usually first and second – and an accompanying crunch could be a sign of trouble ahead.

A relatively weighty machine like the 350Z can be heavy on suspension; knocks and clunks suggest attention is needed. It’s also worth checking the underside for corrosion; the rear cross member is prone to rust. Corrosion on the bodywork is a sure sign of accident damage and a car you should avoid.

Nissan 350Z: How much to pay?

Roadsters are your cheapest route to 350Z ownership. Sure, they don’t handle quite as well as the coupe, but they’re not the floppy mess you might expect, either – £4,500 buys you a 2007 example that’s just ticked past 100,000 miles. Pay £6,000 for a coupe in similar condition.

Having said that, £10,000 is a more sensible budget. The extra cash buys you a well-maintained car with an odometer showing closer to 50,000 miles. It should have years of service left to give.

Mint examples of the 350Z are becoming rare, so you’ll pay a premium to get your hands on one. A budget of around £20,000 means you can pick between late ’08 cars that have covered around 20,000 miles or hunt out a rare ’05 GT4 in similar condition.

One thing that should be aware of is the 350Z’s high-running costs. It’ll struggle to return 25mpg, and post-march ’06 cars cost a not-inconsiderable £505 a year to tax.

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Fiat Barchetta exterior front three quarters

Fiat Barchetta | Alternative Classics

Fiat Barchetta | Alternative Classics

As the popular forum saying goes: ‘The answer is always Miata’, but if you’re after a small, stylish and cheap-to-run sportscar, is the MX-5 the go-to choice? We think not, and we have a Fiat Barchetta-shaped reason why.

Launched in 1995, the Fiat Barchetta joined a roadster heyday that included the Mazda MX-5, Toyota MR2, MG F and premium alternatives like the BMW Z3, Mercedes SLK and 986 Porsche Boxster. Meaning ‘little boat’ in Italian, the Barchetta had the effortless style of a Venetian gondola, and the shortened underpinnings of a Fiat Punto.

Inside, body-coloured panels gave it the feel of a 1950s roadster, while under the bonnet lurked a growling 131PS (96kW) 1.8-litre twin-cam engine that may as well have been custom-made for powering an Italian drop-top.

The front-wheel drive setup was less ideal. It meant the Fiat couldn’t match the cheeky handling of its rivals. However, a much bigger issue – and the reason they’re such a rare sight on UK roads – is that the Barchetta was only built in left-hand drive.

In 2000, the Fiat got a third brake light, while a comprehensive facelift followed in 2003 – the awkward styling of these later cars makes them less desirable today.

Fiat Barchetta: Why buy one?

The Barchetta’s effortlessly cool design remains one of the biggest reasons for buying one. You get the same long-bonnet, stumpy-rear-end look as the MX-5, but with details like delicate pop-out chrome door handles, an achingly cool style line, curved hunches, and individual tail lights elevate it to a plain the MX-5 can’t reach.  Sadly, the Barchetta’s 2003 facelift spoiled the look. It got a brash grille that was at odds with the delicacy of the rest of the design, while the raised centre brake light made the back of the car look fussy.

At least the engine didn’t change. All Barchettas come fitted with a 131PS 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine that’s good for 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds and a 124mph top speed. While performance was adequate, the engine’s enthusiastic induction growl – as it chased its 6,400rpm redline – provided the perfect soundtrack for an open-topped sportscar.

The handling was a little less than perfect, mind. Where an MX-5 would progressively hang its tail out of corners, the front-wheel-drive, spindly wheeled Fiat tended to push straight through them in a cloud of scrabbling tyre smoke. Stay within its limits, however, and quick steering (2.5 turns lock-to-lock) and a 1,056kg kerb weight meant the Fiat felt nimble and alert. But while rivals handle better, the Fiat has one selling point that its direct rivals can’t match – its rarity. Less than 60,000 were built and – with less than 400 left on UK roads – you’re unlikely to see another.

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

Fiat Barchetta: What problems to look out for?

The Fiat Barchetta might be a simple sportscar, but it isn’t without its problems. Valve trains in pre-1999 Barchettas are prone to seizing –  caused by a coked-up variator that makes the car sound like a diesel. Replacing the variator with every cambelt change should solve the issue.

A galvanised body means the Barchetta resists tin worm better than most, but check the wheel arches, chassis rails and jacking points for corrosion. Earlier, pre-2002 cars built by Italian coachbuilder, Maggiora, (which hand-finished the body for paint) are thought to be more solid than later Fiat-built cars. It’s worth noting that replacement body panels can be hard to come by.

Finally, check the roof. Its mechanism snagged the hood fabric, causing leaks, although any original roof will likely need to be replaced by now.

Fiat Barchetta: How much to pay?

The Fiat Barchetta undercut all its rivals on price when new – you could pick one up for a mere £12,000 when the car first went on sale – but rarity means you’ll now pay a premium to access its effortless good looks.

Pre-facelift cars in perfect condition cost the most. You can expect to pay more than £15,000 for a mint example with a modest mileage, although prices drop below £5,000 for well-used offerings with more than 100,000 miles. Bright colours like ‘Broom Yellow’, ‘Metallic Sea Blue’ and the wonderfully forthright ‘Orange’ add value and suit the car.

Less-desirable later models tend to be cheaper. A budget of around £7,000 will get you a clean car with around 70,000 miles under its tyres.

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