Editors’ pick

Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 1 February


V6-powered coupé features stylish design and tight handling, but beware timing chain woes

Nearly £14,000 is a lot for a 10-year-old Alfa coupé, but a raunchy 3.2-litre V6 and Prodrive-engineered chassis could sweeten the deal

Alfa Romeo Brera 3.2 JTS V6 S, £13,750: Yes, that price does look a little strong, but this is the limited-edition S version of Alfa’s gorgeous coupé, so we’ll make allowances. Our example is the 3.2 V6 petrol model but there was another based around the 2.2 four-pot. 

, Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 1 February

The S was created in 2008 in response to criticisms of the Brera’s woolly handling. Prodrive’s engineers were put on the case and wasted no time applying chassis tweaks. They lowered the car 10mm, tickled the steering, gave it 50% stiffer Eibach springs and a set of Bilstein dampers and swapped the standard brakes for more powerful Brembos. Then they raided the parts bin for sexier, arch-filling 19in alloy wheels laced up with Pirelli P Zeros. 

Our tester was impressed, finding the S’s steering sharper and better weighted and body roll much reduced. The trade-off, however, was a firmer and noisier ride, and because the engine was unchanged, performance felt below par. The Brembo brakes also faded quickly, at least after a few track sessions… 

, Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 1 February

But back to our example. It’s a 2009/59-reg V6 with 58,000 miles and full service history. It has new front wishbones, discs and pads. The wishbones are a common replacement but at around 70,000 miles. Check the state of the rear tyres since premature wear can be caused by failing rear lower hub bushes. The big news with the 3.2 lump is that the chains, all three of them, need changing at 100,000 miles. That’s still some way off, but listen carefully for a diesel-like noise suggesting the tensioners are easing up. Finally, check the rear subframe for rust and ensure the rear windows work (they may need to be reset).

Renault Scenic RX4, £1290: Perhaps if Renault gave the current Scenic an off-roader look to compete with the Kadjar, as it did the original, it might sell more. We found this 2001 example of the rare, fourwheel-drive MPV with 140,000 miles under its wheels. 

, Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 1 February

Seat Leon Cupra R, £3000: Seat’s habit of giving parent company Volkswagen a fright with its hot hatches goes right back to this, the 221bhp Cupra Turbo of 2003-05. We found a cherished 2004 example with 111k miles and an unbelievably full service history for £3000. 

, Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 1 February

Audi A3 Cabriolet, £6885: Most A3 cabrios of this vintage are diesels but here’s a rare 2.0 TFSI petrol Sport. It’s a 2012/12-reg car with a high-ish 80k miles that’s reflected in the price. It has full service history and is described by the seller as “immaculate”.

, Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 1 February

Bugatti Veyron, £1,195,000: We’ve got a good feeling about next weekend’s Lotto. A Veyron would be nice and there are a few around, including a 2008 car with 12k miles. Most cars like it tend to stay put in heated garages but it must be a more usable proposition than we thought.

, Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 1 February

Auction watch

MG ZR 160: Seems only last week that MG ZRs were taking the first bus to the scrapper and now here’s one making £6380 at auction. Naturally, it’s no ordinary ZR but a hot 1.8 VVC 160 (0-62mph in 7.4 sec) in tip-top condition with just 8600 miles and one previous female owner.

, Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 1 February

However, cooler heads may have reflected on the fact that tidy ZR 160s with good service histories and 50,000 miles can be bought for around £3000 and, crucially where the VVC system is concerned, test driven beforehand. If the engine feels lifeless, the VVC actuator module is probably to blame.

Get it while you can

, Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 1 February

Porsche 911 Carrera T coupé: price new – £85,576, price now – £82,990: The new 911 turns a deal-conscious mind to its forebear. How about something interesting and late-plate such as the 700-mile 2018/18-reg T coupé we saw? It’s in Racing Yellow and has the optional manual gearbox, likely to be sought after later down the line. The 365bhp T cost almost £8000 more than the basic coupé but has a few goodies as standard, including a limited-slip differential, the S’s lower final drive ratio, a sports exhaust and a lowered chassis. It’s a bit lighter, too.

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: Find me a forever car that’s economical and practical and will see me out for under £10,000.

, Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 1 February

Mercedes-Benz E250 CDi Avantgarde SE Estate, £9995: Obvious it may be, but that’s only because the E-Class Estate is the ultimate car. A gargantuan boot is a given, but you can also expect parsimonious economy thanks to its relatively small four-cylinder diesel engine. It still packs a punch, mind, with 201bhp and 368lb ft. The 2010 Avantgarde SE we found has only 70k miles on the clock and comes with plenty of luxuries such as heated leather seats and an electric tailgate. Max Adams

, Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 1 February

Porsche Boxster 2.7, £9995: So there you are, newly retired, looking for a car that’ll impress the neighbours and keep your pecker up as old age approaches. This 2005 Boxster makes perfect sense. You want a car to see you out? This one will last at least 25 more years. It’s economical, reliable and comfortable, and with only two seats, you won’t have to run the grandchildren around. And, Porsche residuals being what they are, when the time finally comes to shuffle off, you’ll leave a nice little nest egg for your family. Mark Pearson

Verdict: Electric tailgate for when I’m too weak to reach up? Heated seats when all I can feel is the cold? It has to be the Merc. Once in that Boxster, my back won’t let me get out.

Read more

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