Ultimate luxury doesn't have to cost the world, as these bargain barges prove.
1. Volkswagen Phaeton (2002-present)
Introduced as a flagship model in 2002, the Phaeton dwarfed even the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Engine options included a 3.2-litre V6 and 6.0-litre W12, although a V8 petrol and V10 diesel were added in 2004.
A 3.0-litre V6 diesel arrived in 2010 and became by far the most popular model. Steep depreciation has made the Phaeton a luxury bargain, with examples available from around £4000 online. They’re loaded with equipment, too, so you won’t be lost for toys to play with inside. Sadly it's now been axed in the UK, but that means used bargains should be plentiful.
For Generally reliable with few mechanical issues to worry about
Against Most people will think you’re just driving a posh Passat
2. Lexus LS400 (1998-2000)
Arguably the safest bet if long-term reliability is your primary concern. Search for common LS400 problems online and you’ll find remarkably few of them. Indeed, the only recurring fault with the model relates to its complicated air suspension, which can be expensive to fix if it goes wrong. Fortunately, very few models came with the option.
Today you can pick up the big Lexus for as little as £700, although the best used ones tend to be the second-generation, facelifted version manufactured between 1998 and 2000. Be sure to check the cambelt has been replaced at the scheduled interval.