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Metal for your money: 10 big-car bargains you didn't know you could afford

Metal for your money - 10 big-car bargains

You can pick up yesterday’s luxury barge for under £1000, including BMWs, Mercs and Audis – that's a lot of metal for your money! Here are 10 of the best.

01 BMW 7 Series (E38)

There are not many cars used by James Bond that you can pick up in the classifieds for under a grand, but the E38 7 Series is one. You won't find Nokia phone-controlled remote driving capabilities, but while it is not literally bullet-proof it is metaphorically so.

Available with engines ranging from BMW's sweet straight-six through woofling V8s to the turbine-like V12, you can take your pick.

Available from £900

02 Mercedes S Class (W220)

You can't buy an S Class for under £1000 (not one that we'd stake our reputation on, anyway), but these giant barges, conceived during an era of excess, are perhaps the epitome of metal-for-money on the current second-hand market.

As usual, the W220 was brim-full with cutting-edge tech for the time, including Airmatic air suspension and Active Ventilated Seats.

They were even slightly lighter and more nimble than previous models of S Class – although that is relative – but they don't have the feeling of invincibility of the old model, which may be why the W220's values are much lower than previous-gen W140.

Available from £1000

03 Audi A8 (D2)

Audi's all-aluminium trailblazer didn't set the sales charts on fire (perhaps because of its similarity to the smaller models in the range) but it has a subtlety and charm of its own – and don't feel too sorry for it, because it comes packing quattro all-wheel-drive hardware and some stonking engines, including the 300bhp quad-cam 4.2 V8.

This complexity mean you should very carefully check your A8 over before buying, but its alloy build will mean no rust.

Available from £1200

04 Lexus LS400 (XF20)

Toyota shook up the cosy European and US luxury car club in 1990 with its first Lexus, the hugely accomplished V8 LS400. The follow-up, codenamed XF20, took everything that Toyota had learned from its predecessor and ramped it up a considerable notch, and now these serene, smooth and powerful beasts are available to you at a scarcely believable price.

Nothing will go wrong with them if they've been looked after, and while you won't exactly make a statement in one you will always feel good about yourself.

Available from £1000

05 Range Rover (P38)

If the Lexus LS400 is a sensible buy, the Range Rover P38 model is nothing short of a massive gamble. The allure of the brand is strong, and it is a very capable off-roader that will give you that high vantage point and go-anywhere hardware in leather-clad, air conditioned "luxury" (for the time).

But Rangeys of this era are hugely unreliable and unbelievable thirsty (although many fit LPG to these), so ensure you buy the Haynes manual and that you're handy with a spanner – if you are, and you chance upon a good 'un, you'll be the king of the highways and green lanes.

Available from £1000

06 Vauxhall Signum

You may not think that a Vauxhall fits the luxury brief but it depends how you define luxury. Forget the badge; the Signum gives you that feeling of space, comfort from its armchair-like seats, security, and a huge equipment list – and if that doesn't define a luxurious driving experience, then we're not sure what does.

Its people carrier dimensions also mean limo-esque rear-seat space, and Vauxhall parts and servicing costs will be some of the lowest on this page.

Available from £400

07 Audi A6 (C5)

Another Audi, and we couldn't leave the A6 out of this list. The C5 version was positively avant-garde (for Audi), with Bauhaus-influenced looks, looping window line, and lovely shutline shapes to draw the eye.

And that dome-like glasshouse means a large interior with enough space to host an exhibition of mid-20th century teutonic art, while the VAG family engines are long-in-the-tooth enough for easy spares and repairs.

Available from £400

08 Jaguar XJ (X300)

This old-school Brit bruiser isn't without its problems but like a charming period home you cope with these for the overall aesthetic. The exterior-size-to-interior-space ratio is not kind to occupants as this XJ ignored its rivals upscaled interiors and stuck with an ethos of grace over space, but for the money it is a vast, sumptuous empire for you to survey.

Although you'd be advised to hook up with an oil baron as the fuel consumption can be measured on fingers and (if you're lucky) toes. But that's not what this list is about!

Available from £800

09 Rover 75

Rover created the 75 with help from BMW and with the purpose of providing a cut-price Bentley for the masses. That meant a traditional wood-n-leather interior and plenty of chromework on the swoopy, droopy body.

However its British audience was embarking on a love affair with Germanic power and aggression at this time, which was the beginning of Rover's demise but now means that you can pick up a somewhat regal Rover 75 for buttons.

Available from £300

10 Renault Vel Satis

We've saved the best till last. In the 1990s, Renault decided to build an executive car based on the hugely popular, epoch-making, genre-defining people-carrier, the Espace.

They kitted it out with a 3-litre V6, first-class cabin style hide-clad captain's chairs up front and a leather sofa in the aircraft hangar rear. It is HUGE inside yet surprisingly compact out (especially compared to modern full-sized SUVs), and it is well equipped, smooth, relatively frugal (if you plump for the diesel), quirky and pleasing. And all for the price of a nice suit.

Available from £500