Q. I drive 6,000 miles a year at most but take the odd long trip. The idea of owning an older but luxurious car to soak up those motorway miles is appealing but my budget is just £5,000. Will that simply buy me a whole heap of trouble?
A. You’d be surprised at the choice of luxury cars for £5,000, and since fuel prices have tumbled, filling up isn’t quite the eye-watering experience it used to be — for now at least. To lessen the risk of large-scale mechanical malfunctions buy a car with a petrol engine as they don’t have complex direct fuel injection systems or particulate filters to go wrong, and choose an automatic gearbox, as it will not have worked the engine as hard as a manual.
Check that all electric items work correctly as they will be expensive to repair or replace. High-mileage cars used mainly on motorways rather than in town are preferable because the brakes, suspension, engine and gearbox should have been subject to less wear and tear.
Start with the Mercedes S-class. The S 500 with a 5-litre V8 engine would be my pick. Driven kindly it will return around 24mpg, and is loaded with toys such as self-closing doors, climate control with individual settings for driver and passenger and electric seats. Your budget will get a 2003-4 car with about 120,000 miles on the clock.
For the most comfortable cruiser this side of a Rolls-Royce, try the Jaguar XJ. A 2003-4 4.2-litre V8 model delivers a great mix of refinement and performance and is within budget.
Officially it returns 26mpg — but remember, the object of this exercise is luxury rather than economy — and while it lacks the interior space of the Mercedes, it doesn’t skimp on the gadgets and gizmos. It even features computer-controlled suspension that adjusts according to the conditions. The XJ is also surprisingly good fun to drive at speed.
I also rate the Lexus LS. The big saloon represents the very best engineering and build quality offered by any Japanese car maker. I recently tried a 2005-registered car with 165,000 miles and it looked and felt immaculate — and was priced at just under £5,000.
The interior features an exhaustive amount of standard equipment, plus one of these cars with a full service history should be good for another 100,000 miles of cruising.
For Peerless ride quality; distinctive looks; smooth automatic gearbox
Against Limited rear legroom; cabin feels old-school compared with the Mercedes
Browse the used Jaguar XJs for sale on driving.co.uk
For Powerful 5-litre V8 engine; spacious cabin; generous equipment levels
Against Older, more affordable, model starting to look tired
Browse the used Mercedes S-class for sale on driving.co.uk
For Virtually silent on the move; reputation for reliability
Against You’ll either love or hate the bland styling
Browse the used Lexus LS for sale on driving.co.uk