We help choose the ideal car for your needs and your budget...

Age: 45
Budget: R350 000
Status: Company manager
Vehicle type: Sports sedan


Our client wants to purchase a performance sedan, but does not fancy the heavy depreciation of new cars, so they are prepared to buy something around 10 years old (for half the price) and put some cash aside every month for the anticipated maintenance.

The vehicle

Prices of these super sedans were just under R700 000 in 2008. Now they can be purchased for half that. Bearing in mind the cost of spares and repairs, it is a gamble, but it’s one that many are willing to take to own a head-turner.

Our choice: BMW M3 Sedan

0 to 100 km/h: 5,22 sec
Top speed: 250 km/h
Power: 309 kW
Torque: 400 N.m
CO2: 347 g/km
CAR fuel index: 14,88 L/100 km

The first M3 hit the roads in 1986. A high-performance version of the E30, it produced 147 kW from a 2,3-litre in-line four. Thereafter, the more exciting straight-sixes in 3,0- and 3,2-litre capacities took over, and that was the first M3 variant BMW introduced in South Africa.

Ever-increasing demand for more power in subsequent models saw the introduction of a screaming 4,0-litre, naturally aspirated V8 (as fitted to this E90 version) before returning to a straight-six, signalling the start of the turbocharged era.

The V8 engine uses d-o-h-c per 90-degree bank with variable valve timing. The power output is 309 kW, with 400 N.m of torque. BMW managed to make the new engine 15 kg lighter than the previous six, too.

The one we tested had a six-speed manual gearbox. This is a bonus for purists, but BMW manual gearboxes of the time are quite heavy to operate and may annoy in dense traffic situations. Therefore, the seven-speed DCT may be the preferred transmission. You can choose between two or four doors, and the interior layout is straightforward and the materials of a high quality. The rear seat does not fold flat, so there is no utility space figure.

These M3s appear to suffer con-rod failures due to less-than-adequate lubrication. Listen for noises, check the oil pressure and keep the oil clean and synthetic to avoid a costly overhaul. Apart from some coil spring breakages, there is little else of which to be overly wary.

Space: 5 seats, 312 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, DSC
Cost of 4 tyres: R18 144
Road test: June 2008

Option 2: Audi RS4 Sedan Quattro

0 to 100 km/h: 4,99 sec
Top speed: 250 km/h
Power: 309 kW
Torque: 430 N.m
CO2: 377 g/km
CAR fuel index: 16,20 L/100 km

The RS4 was developed to challenge the M3 and was very successful thanks to Audi’s vast experience with four-wheel drive and a wonderfully characterful V8 engine.

Understated in looks, the RS4 stands out to petrolheads and makes the right sounds. The acceleration is the quickest here thanks to the well-sorted Quattro system, which allows limpet launch grip. The RS4 has the benefit of a big boot of 400 litres, while folding the rear seats down increases the volume to more than 1 000 litres.

We noticed that some of the mileages of the cars on sale were quite low, so presumably most owners keep these powerhouses for weekend use. That said, the dynamic ride control system could leak from the strut seals, so look out for signs of that. Inlet-manifold swirl flaps can clog up, so check if this has been done. If not, phone round for quotes. Also check the condition of the brakes and wheels. The timing chain is at the rear of the engine and replacement may be necessary between 100 000 and 160 000 km (and this is an expensive job).

Perhaps the biggest downside is a rather thirsty powertrain that consumes more than 16,2 L/100 km in mixed use. Don’t forget to add this to your budget.

Space: 5 seats, 400/1 072 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ESP
Cost of 4 tyres: R20 796
Road test: June 2008

Option 3: Mercedes-Benz Sedan C63 AMG

0 to 100 km/h: 5,78 sec
Top speed: 250 km/h
Power: 336 kW
Torque: 600 N.m
CO2: 343 g/km
CAR fuel index: 14,74 L/100 km

The AMG division of Mercedes-Benz has always impressed with its hardcore performance versions of usually staid models. The C63 is no exception, with a massive 600 N.m and 336 kW of get-up-and-go punch. The problem is that there is often too much power for the rear axle to handle, making it a challenge to drive smoothly (but that can be viewed as a fun aspect). The rear tyres take a beating, so budget for tyre replacement. Thankfully, the tyres should be cheaper than those of the other two because the Benz rides on an inch-smaller wheels.

The automatic transmission doesn’t always help, either. It tends to override your inputs if the ECU isn’t happy with throttle and engine-speed combinations. It has seven ratios with three modes: comfort, sport and manual. The difficulty in getting off the mark without wheelspin means that the sprint times are slower than with the other two. That said, the 6,2-litre engine is a wondrous thing, sounding glorious as it extends to the redline.

Cylinder-head bolts can corrode and break, resulting in water loss and then head-gasket failure. It might be wise to conduct a cylinder-compression test before purchase. Engine oil consumption is also a possibility; regularly check the oil level and top it up when needed. Cam-lobe wear and inlet-manifold air leaks resulting in rough idling are other issues of which to be aware.

Space: 5 seats, 288/888 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ESP
Cost of 4 tyres: R9 468
Road test: June 2008

Author: Peter Palm

Second hand cars for sale