You needn’t read the room so much as furtively glance around it for an indication of how dramatically attitudes towards cars of this ilk have shifted. The Range Rover name has long traded on its intrinsic link with lavishness and excess, but pull up outside Harrods in a leather-laden, V8-powered SUV today and you’re more likely to be met with tuts and frowns than a collective nod of approval from passers-by.
But all that is by the by, because such cars are rapidly being phased out of existence, with their modern-day equivalents ushering in faux leather, recycled wood trim, downsized engines and even hybrid powertrains, so you needn’t feel so guilty at indulging in a spot of old-school decadence – especially if you steer clear of low-emissions zones.
Let’s go all out with a top-rung version of the current Range Rover, which is due to be replaced later this year by an electric-capable successor. Just £42,000 picks up a prestigious Autobiography model (down from more than £100,000 in 2014), complete with the herculean supercharged 5.0 Jaguar V8 pumping its 503bhp to both axles and a cabin plush enough to rival a Bentley.
It also packs so much equipment that we would run the printers dry listing it all here. Electric tailgate? Obviously. Reverse cross-traffic detection? But of course. Trailer stability assist? Well, we wouldn’t want the ponies getting queasy now…
Options always depreciate faster than the car they’re fitted to, which is fantastic news for buyers of lightly used luxury motors. Take the two 10.0in digital screens for your rear passengers as an example: on this used car, they’re a welcome bonus with minimal effect on the value, but you would pay £2700 to add them on a factory-ordered example today.
Happily, even though it has been on sale since 2012, the Mk4 Range Rover’s styling has evolved only very slightly, so if you roll up with private plates, few will be able to tell it apart from a new car. And because it was finished to such a high standard, our example wears its 52,000 miles well.
A word of warning, however: expensive electrical or drivetrain faults aren’t unheard of and can quickly negate the considerable saving you make at point of purchase, so go in with your wits about you. And save some money for fuel, as 20mpg is about as good as it gets.
Mini Cooper S, £1850
Max Adams: We can never trust the weather in Britain, so a car with a sunroof is the most desirable kind of summer car. You know what’s also desirable? An Audi, and the A2 is one of the smartest four-ringed cars yet made. Best of all, you probably won’t lose money on one, because interest in this thing is rising.
Felix Page: The cult appeal is strong with the A2, no doubt. But most interesting doesn’t always mean best, does it? I’ve gone for a car that has always been popular and lends itself far better to sunny B-road blasts than your wobbly Audi. This Mini Cooper S has every option in the book and looks like an absolute gem.
MA: It’s what lies beneath the surface that’s the issue with the R53-generation Mini. I have two friends who have bought a Cooper S, and their maintenance expenses make me wince.
FP: Two friends more than you would have driving that pint-sized Routemaster bus. This Cooper S has enough stamps in the service book to inspire confidence, and a lengthy test drive would lay to rest any concerns that its cylinder head or steering pump is on its way out.
MA: The MOT history flags a noisy exhaust, though, and I know that’s both a heck of a job to fix and a pricey one, no matter whether you go OEM or aftermarket.
FP: The seller is just trying to be as transparent as the car’s expansive sunroof. At £1850, there’s wiggle room for an exhaust replacement (or, more likely, a patching job), plus the bonus that any body damage will be far easier to rectify than on your aluminium Audi.
Verdict: That A2 is A1 in my book.