Cheaper by the dozen | Six of the Best

Ferrari's latest V12 is as epic as it is expensive; here's what 10 per cent (or less) of a Purosangue buys

By PH Staff / Saturday, 11 March 2023 / Loading comments

Audi A8 W12, 2006, 51k, £11,999

Nothing quite screamed – or rather, whispered – mid-2000’s executive excess like the second-generation Audi A8. As well as retaining expensive lightweight aluminium construction from the first car, it also pioneered tech like Audi’s MMI infotainment and adaptive bi-xenon lights. But nothing quite so gloriously dates the A8 like its engine lineup: V6 and V8 diesels, then V6, V8, V10 and W12 petrol options. Nobody wanted for choice with a D3 A8. The fact that a car like this, the 6.0-litre W12, sat above the 5.2-litre, V10 model with the S8 badge, sort of said it all: back then, there was the top of the range… and then a 6.0-litre one. An old saloon with a big engine will always be fraught with risk, but that’s all part of the bargain barge fun. This one has covered just 50k, and is said to boast a full service history as well…

Jaguar XJS TWR, 1986, 36k, £22,995

Talking about cars that are of their time, what could be more 1986 than a bright red Jaguar XJS V12 with Tom Walkinshaw Racing upgrades? There’s the wildly retro bodykit, TWR wheels, an actual radio cassette (imagine explaining that to the kids) and that infamously chaotic V12 under the bonnet. Presumably, the Filofax and braces are in the boot somewhere. The TWR options catalogue (available up until 1988 when JaguarSport was formed) was comprehensive, from engine to chassis and interior to styling, so it’d be interesting to see exactly what this one came equipped with. Even if it is just the bodykit and wheels, this is a lovely XJS, with really low miles, two owners and tonnes of history. There are cars around for less than the £22k asked for this one, sure, but plenty that are pricier as well – it’s a bonafide classic now, and never has the big Jag looked better.

Aston Martin DB7 Vantage, 2002, 53k, £26,000

We’re all familiar with temptingly cheap cars at less salubrious dealerships – the gamble is all part of the fun, right? – but here’s an Aston Martin that bucks the trend somewhat. It might not be the cheapest out there, though it is a legendary V12 for the price of an i20 N. Furthermore, this DB7 Vantage is for sale at Aston Martin Newcastle, there in the stocklist alongside nearly new DB11s, Vantages and DBXs. So it must be good enough. There are certainly a lot of encouraging signs, from a classy spec to a mere 53,000 miles, and the promise of a comprehensive history as well as a 12-month Aston Heritage warranty. Plus a recent hefty bill you won’t have to think about. It’ll have to be auto now instead of the manual to nab one for less than £30k, but this remains one of Aston’s greatest engines in one of its prettiest ever cars – £26k very well spent, surely.

Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, 1999, 89k, £29,995

Yes, yes, the Phantom is the epitome of 21st-century Rolls-Royce cool, and the Silver Seraph looks decided old hat despite being built just a few years earlier. But good luck finding a Phantom for less than £40k, or even £50k, let alone the £30k this costs. It’s a heck of a lot of hand-built V12 opulence for £29,995, a 5.4-litre drawing room of soft leathers and expensive veneers on four wheels. Furthermore, while the look was familiar, the Seraph was notable in Rolls Royce history for reintroducing 12 cylinders, a configuration not seen since the 1939 Phantom. And imagine Rolls Royce today without a V12 – unconscionable. At the end of the 20th century, this would have cost £155k, or more than £270,000 in 2023; now, with 90,000 miles under those giant doughnuts of tyres, the price really does begin with a ‘2’. An Audi was never going to be the best 12-cylinder saloon out there…

Mercedes SL600, 1996, 61k, £33,995

Once upon a time, a V12 Mercedes really was the best of the best. The 6.0-litre ‘M120’ was Merc’s first production V12, debuting in the 1991 W140 S-Class. It would go on to live an incredible life, evolving to power everything from the Pagani Zonda to some wild 7.3-litre AMG specials. Here it’s in an R129 SL, a car that’s now fully being appreciated as a revolutionary convertible given it was launched in 1989. The V12 came in 1992, with almost 400hp and lots of lovely, laid-back torque. Sure, the V8 might have offered a more stirring soundtrack out of the box and the V6 a lot less weight, but nothing said money quite like a 6.0-litre SL. As all R129s have risen in value, so the flagship has as well, but this 1996 car – with a recent service, exemplary condition and just 60,000 miles – can still be bought for £33k. And that’s less than an M120-engined Pagani.

Ferrari 456, 1997, 38k, £43,998

For those that long for the days of elegant, understated, discreet 2+2 Ferrari V12s (i.e., not the Purosangue), look away now. The 456 was launched more than 30 years ago, replacing the largely unloved 400 and 412, yet remains as cool and classy as it did in the early 1990s. Obviously, it’s not going to thrill like a mid-engined V8 or charge quite as hard as you’d think a 5.5-litre V12 Ferrari might (thank the four-speed auto for that), but it’s a 456 for little more than £40k; there’s nothing at this money that will look so good, feel so right and sound so suave. There is the possibility, however, that a vaguely affordable Ferrari V12 might make the rest of this lot seem affordable to run. Expect MPG in the low teens even when making careful use of 442hp, and that’s before thinking about replacing anything. But then looking this good never did come truly cheap…

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