Half-price M3 makeweights | Buy Hard

New M3 too pricey? Giulia too outlandish? There is another way…

By PH Staff / Saturday, March 13, 2021 / Loading comments

Perhaps it's a British thing, but it seems we enjoy nothing more as car enthusiasts than focusing on a car's weak spots than celebrating its strengths. The new BMW M3 is a perfect case in point; never mind how much better it is to drive, or how much faster, or how much more lavishly equipped than before, goes the consensus, because won't you just look at it. And then there's the cost…

Still, the opprobrium directed BMW's way for an £75k M3 with a face only a mother could love ensures the perfect environment for a little classifieds-based distraction. The eagle eyed will have noticed in first drive spec sheet that the Brooklyn Grey test car came in at £84,445; however good the M3 is (it is precociously talented) and however much inflation skews our perspective, that looks a lot of money for a badge we always sort of assume is just £50k. Like a Golf GTI is about £25k – time may change, but expectations not so much.

Anyway, an as-tested price almost £10k more than list opens up an ever greater pool of talent for this week's Buy Hard. Half of that OTR price means £42k to play with; given the rate at which supersaloons can depreciate, temptation shouldn't lurk too far away. All we're after is four doors, four seats, loads of horsepower and a drive that's a lot closer to parity with the BMW than the list price is. Can it be done? Yippee ki-yay.

Lexus GS F, 2016, 26k, £36,990

Forgotten about the GS F? Sadly, it isn’t too hard to see why. Launched back in 2016, the Lexus was lacking power against obvious rivals, and the image still left a bit to be desired in the UK – BMW had been building M5s since before Lexus was created.  

Which was a real shame, all told, because the GS F was a great supersaloon; a few years after launch it looks the perfect riposte to those who think cars like the M3 have got a bit overpowered, way too complex and really very expensive as well. Because, yes, 471hp wasn’t much against M5s and E63s, but when have you ever really needed more than that? Furthermore, the Lexus was initially offered only with passive suspension, though its nicely struck ride-handling balance proved what a gimmick modes can be. Oh, and it can came crammed full of equipment, meaning you couldn’t add a third to the list price in optional extras. In an increasingly complex fast car landscape, the Lexus was a refreshingly simple – and very good – take on the established formula.

Yet still the GS F struggled in our badge-obsessed market. That meant some scandalous deals early on – one PHer bought a 300-mile, eight-month-old car for £20k off list – as well as a rarity that now means values have shored up. By the end of 2017 there were F’s at £40k; just over three years later this 26,000-mile car is offered at £36,990. A shame for those who thought they might continue to plummet, but reassuring to some extent for those who took a chance on the underdog. And if you never sell, then depreciation doesn’t matter anyway. A supersaloon for life? Nothing better than a Lexus, surely… MB

Mercedes-AMG C63, 2016, 37k, £32,991

Rather predictably, I’ve gone with a Mercedes-AMG C63. A 2016 car to be exact, with only 37k on the clock and two-grand change from our budget. The more I think about it, though, that’s a stonking deal, not least because it buys you two additional cylinders over the M3 and the rumbling soundtrack to back it. No synthesising here.

AMG’s twin-turbo 4.0-litre might not be hailed with the same legendary status as the preceding 6.2, but it’s a mighty unit, nonetheless. My love affair with the engine came from a stint in a C63 S Coupe, one particular drive in which still ranks near the top of my overall list from this job. The car here might not have the S motor, but 476hp at 5,500rpm is lively enough, while 479lb ft of torque certainly ensures throttle ‘adjustability’ from pretty much any starting point. Handily, that torque figure is identical to the G80 M3 Comp’s, but it arrives earlier at 1,750rpm. Real world performance is therefore neck and neck.

That said, BMW’s decision to offer the G80 with all-wheel drive does mean there's access to a traction advantage a rear-drive C63 could never make up for. But I can’t help but think that a supersaloon is supposed to go through rear tyres like Pringles, so the old C63’s lack of a front driven axle is a win in my books. Plus, with its successor expected to use a hybrid four-cylinder powerplant, the W205 brute is the last of a line, which might just ensure long term values are stronger than the class average. When everything’s electric, will it be a synthesised M3 or an old school (relatively speaking) AMG we yearn for? SS

Porsche Panamera GTS, 2014, 26k, £39,990

If you want a luxury four-door with a big engine, then by all means go for a Mercedes or a Lexus. But if you want something genuinely sporty, in whatever sector there's one on offer, you buy a Porsche – don't you?

Perhaps that's a little disingenuous, as both GS F and C63 are fine cars, but to have a car of the Panamera's calibre for what now amounts to hot hatch cash is impossible to ignore. This one's a GTS, too, the best of a very good bunch when it actually comes to driving; as a 2014 car this one is blessed with the 4.8-litre, too, rorty and mellifluous and vastly preferable to the turbo V6 that followed. While 440hp and 383lb ft can't match the AMG, they're still sufficient for almost 180mph – without having to pay extra, either, as BMW very cheekily asks for. And there's the dual-clutch transmission denied to all others.

Dare it be said, too, in light of what BMW has done to the M3, that the Panamera's design doesn't seem anywhere near as egregious as it once did? True, it's flawed, and made to seem doubly so by the follow-up, but perhaps familiarity has negated contempt for once. And the touchscreen averse will be in paradise among those buttons. So while it's not the prettiest nor the most collectible Porsche ever; those wanting a V8 sports saloon with real panache could do an awful lot worse than a Panamera. NC

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