V12 engined cars are a rarity these days, even before the downsizing trend they really only ever appeared in the most luxuries and expensive models around. Not a lot of manufacturers go to the trouble of developing V12s either, the costs involved are more often than not outweighed by the relatively small sales numbers.
Still, there have been some gloriously smooth and decadent V12s from manufacturers like Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW, that, thanks to the ravages of depreciation, have gradually dropped in price until you are faced with a simple choice: Should you buy a brand new, logical, economical and practical Ford Fiesta, or a used V12 luxury limo? For us the answer is an easy one, we would go with the big fuel-guzzling V12 every time.
Sure, you may be faced with a horrendous repair bill down the road but what a lovely trip it would have been. Even if you daren’t drive it for fear of something expensive breaking, the look on your neighbour’s face as he clambers out of his budget hatchback just as you are polishing your V12 Mercedes for the fifth time will be priceless.
Ford Fiesta Style
The most basic Fiesta you can buy will set you back £13,695. This gets you a 70-bhp 1.1-litre engine, 3-doors, 5-gears and the peace of mind that comes with buying a new car.
But who wants that though when you can have a second-hand luxury limo V12 with one careful owner and definitely no oil leaks in your driveway instead?
Daimler Double Six
The Double Six offered exactly what it said on the box, two times six-cylinders, which meant a total of 12 and the right to look down your nose at all those inferior six-cylinder Daimler drivers.
The Daimler was essentially a slightly posher Jaguar XJ although both rusted with the same level of enthusiasm. Still, for our £13,695 limit a decent 1992 model can be yours and even rusty ones drive smoothly.
The XJS may not have captured the publics’ imagination quite like the iconic E-Type had before it but this somewhat misunderstood (and sometimes badly put together) GT still had one of the very best V12s in the business.
Its 280-bhp 5.3-litre V12 is a paragon of smoothness and early ‘90s models (which were much better built) are just waiting for you.
The low point in 7-series design is generally accepted as the Bangle-era E65 models. There is no denying that they can be a bit taxing on the old eyeballs but the engineering underneath is pretty solid (well maybe some of the electronics can get glitchy) and the 445-bhp 6.0-litre V12 will make you forget about any visual atrocities it commits as you waft along with imperious ease.
Face-lifted post-2005 cars are much prettier and you can definitely find some for well under £13,000. Try to avoid the cheapest ones, they can cost you more in the long run, you don’t want to home school your kids for lack of funds now do you?
Mercedes-Benz has long been producing catastrophically depreciation V12 range-toppers and the best time to buy one is long after they have been discarded by the original diplomat/ceo/president owner. These cars last decades as long as you service them properly and the previous generation S-Class is both good to look at and eminently affordable to buy.
12-year old extended-wheelbase 517-bhp S600L can be yours for under £10,000 which leaves you enough over for that first service.
Ford Fiesta Vignale
The Fiesta Style is all about cheap and cheerful transport but did you know that this little nipper can also be had with the luxurious ‘Vignale’ trim too? No, well then, this little guy is sure to be of interest. For example, you may be interested to hear that the base price jumps to just over £20,000 and once you get ticking on the options list you will soon be looking at a £25,000 Fiesta.
You do get some advanced driver aids, a 120-bhp turbodiesel engine, exclusive ruby red paintwork and full LED head lamps though. But for £25k we have found a few alternatives that may just be able to improve on that equipment list. Just a little bit.
BMW 7-Series – the nice ones
So, the Bangle-butt 7-series is a bit grim, but now that our budget has almost doubled we can look at the recently discontinued F01 versions. These are much nicer to look at and you now get 544-bhp from the 6.0-litre V12.
You can find a decent 7-year-old example with good mileage for our budget, although as with all our V12 choices, don’t forget to leave some money aside for servicing.
The SL has always been a desirable car and given enough time, good ones tend to go up in value. Average ones however can be quite affordable and these are the ones we are looking for.
A 2003 SL600 comes packed with a smooth and powerful V12 and every convenience feature you can think of. Just make sure your one has a full service history.
Bentley Continental GT
The Continental GT started production in 2003 and despite a new model having arrived in 2011, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the first and last cars that rolled off the production line.
Good news for us then as you will need to look at one of the earlier first-generation cars for our budget. The 552-bhp 6.0-litre W12 (three four cylinder blocks next to each other) is robust and the electrics should also be mostly ok thanks to the VW Group influence.
Bentley Flying Spur
If you are set on the idea of a 12-cylinder Bentley but need a set of extra doors then the Flying Spur is your car. It offers the same W12 engine as you get in the Conti and was once the world’s fastest four-door saloon.
They may have cost well over £100,000 when new but now a 2008 model year car falls well within our budget, don’t get a ratty one though. That will not end well.
Jaguar XJS -again
Why have we gone back to the XJS you ask? Well they are finally being recognised as the desirable classics they should always have been. So, while you can get an average one for Fiesta Style money, the really good ones are now pushing Fiesta Vignale numbers.
The later model XJSs righted the wrongs of the early cars and specialists are now restoring them to very high levels. This one may actually be a savvy investment too.