Life Motoring

Monday 22 September 2014

Making those executive decisions: the posh cars you can get for €30,000

* Here are three options we think you should consider if your in the market for an up-market motor

Aidan Timmons and Eddie Cunningham

Published 18/06/2014 | 02:30

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Audi A6 2.0
BMW520
Mercedes E 200

This week Aidan Timmons teams up with Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham to help you make a better decision when buying a used premium brand executive car. Aidan visits dealers all over the country, each year, to produce a monthly guidebook on the values of used cars. He is co-editor of Motor Trade Publishers, who supply a car-valuing service to the motor trade, insurance companies and finance houses.

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Eddie: This week it is the executive end of the market where there has been a lot of activity.

Aidan: There are some really good cars out there.

BMW 520 DIESEL SE AUTO

Background: When the VRT system changed in 2008, the 5-Series was the first executive saloon to get its house in order. Because of its low CO2 the retail price dropped from €57,000 in 2008 to just €44,000 in 2010. The good news is that €30,000 will now buy you a three-year-old model where before you would have had to settle for an older car.

Engines: The 520d diesel uses the same 2-litre engine found throughout the BMW range. There are lots of opinions and experiences about its reliability but many qualms are traceable to poor maintenance. If you don't mind paying €570 tax a year, go for the 6cyl 530d; it's rare but it feels right in a car this size.

Residual values: Values are starting to lose their edge ever so slightly. This is a fresh development which is partly due to imports. However, I passionately advocate not going to the import route. It can bite you in the backside. BMW's Premium Select offering means that their dealers provide two years' warranty on all used BMWs. You can't put a price on peace of mind.

Cabin: Admittedly, I find the interior of the 5-Series to be quite bland; you might not. However, I like the iDrive system which operates radio, Bluetooth and many other functions. The SE trim comes with leather seats, a multifunction steering wheel and all the other accoutrements you would expect in an executive car. M Sports are far nicer but carry a premium of around €2,500 so are out of budget.

Choice: You shouldn't have any issue finding a 2011 520d for this money. Don't be surprised to see large variations in asking prices. Cars with lower mileage and extras are entitled to achieve a premium. Make sure you are comparing like with like.

Watch out for: I should qualify the earlier remark about how 5-Series are losing their edge in terms of values. This does not mean they are plummeting. They simply held really strong for a long time and are now beginning to take normal monthly falls. Avoid high-mileage models that aren't sold with warranty.

Eddie's TIP!

This all about the quality of the cabin. It can look drab enough in lower spec. Worth paying the few euro extra for a decent bit of kit. Repairs can be really costly so make sure there's a good warranty. Can't emphasise that enough.

AUDI A6 2.0 TDI SE

Background: While BMW and Mercedes were busy going at each others throats, Audi managed to leapfrog their competitors to the top spot in the premium brand market. What's more; they're holding on to the position with huge investments in showrooms and broadening their range.

Engines: Forget about seeing anything other than the 2.0 TDi for sale on these shores. Some 3.0 TDi models were sold but they are so rare that they barely merit mentioning. Shame really, as the 3.0 TDi is a beautiful engine when combined with the Audi automatic gearbox. Bizarrely, the 2.0 TDi sold well with manual transmission despite its competitors almost always selling as autos.

Residual values: Before the new model arrived in April 2011, the A6's residual values couldn't quite keep pace with its German rivals. Now though, values are strong and holding well in a market that is starting to bulge a little from having performed so well for so long. However, you're not at a massive advantage here as the cost to change in the executive segment is roughly similar for the top sellers.

Cabin: Just like the 5-Series, there is a marked difference in the luxury offered by the higher spec model, in this case known as S Line. But with harder suspension and bigger alloys, the ride is ever so slightly less placid. The SE comes with leather, cruise control, parking sensors and an intuitive infotainment system.

Choice: I could copy and paste what I wrote for the BMW as the story is much the same. However, if you do choose a manual A6 SE with 177bhp you could sneak into a 2012 model. And just like BMWs Premium Select offering, Audi have an 'Approved Plus' package which allows you to access low finance rates from Volkswagen Bank.

Watch out for: The model considered here was released in April 2011 but there are lots of old models around. The two can be differentiated by the front end. The newer models headlights taper or squint as they near the front grille. Don't pay 'new model money' for an old shape.

Eddie's TIP!

I would rule out the older look. You may get more bling but you are setting yourself back further in time than you need to and will pay the price when you come to trade in.

MERCEDES E200 DIESEL ELEGANCE AUTO

Background: It seemed like the twin round headlight shape E-Class was around forever so when a new model arrived in 2009 it did so to what should have been an eagerly anticipating audience. However, the new E Class couldn't have come at a worse time. The country was broke, car sales nosedived; and the stigma attached to buying a new Merc was too much. Fast forward to today, and the E-Class is far less plentiful than its rivals but that might just be a very strong selling point.

Engines: Mercedes have been mass producing diesel engines in-house since the 260D back in 1936; so it's safe to say they know a thing or two. The E Class differs from the 5-Series and A6 in that it has 2.2 litres. Despite this, it doesn't offer any more performance but it is a wonderful motorway cruiser.

Residual values: The E-Class is priced a little higher than the 5-series – this premium erodes over time but not to an extent that it should cause alarm. It certainly shouldn't be a deal breaker for you if you prefer the drive and feel of the car. With low volume sales of the E-Class in recent years, numbers are not as abundant as its rivals and so it shouldn't suffer from oversupply.

Cabin: The cabin has a mature design. Don't expect racy switchgear or edgy instrument dials. The seats are supportive but not figure hugging. They are extraordinarily comfortable and the leather used by Mercedes is very hard-wearing. Aesthetically, the exterior isn't greatly more adventurous.

Choice: At this price you should find your way into a 2011 E200 CDi Elegance with automatic transmission with perhaps the need for some haggling. The E220 Cdi has the same engine as the E200 but has more power. It costs €2,500 more than the E200 but only retains circa €1,000 of this for a three-year-old car.

Watch out for: Just like BMW's Premium Select and Audi's Approved Plus packages, Mercedes dealers can offer a Star Select product with their used cars. This is more like the Audi offering as it has 12 months unlimited mileage warranty.

Eddie's TIP!

This vintage has dated quite quickly, especially since they seriously overhauled the range early last year. You need all the comfort bits and pieces (leather, etc) to give this a lift. Big car, but not as good a driver as the Audi or Beemer.

PLEASE NOTE

The values quoted should be used as a guide only. They refer to the selling price of a vehicle in proper mechanical condition and with average mileage from a dealership. Mileage, availability, exact specification, trade-in allowances and the condition of particular vehicles can result in higher or lower values being sought by a dealer.

Second Hand Corner

Queries to: ecunningham@independent.ie

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