It’s nice to unearth a bargain, and I think I’ve found one in the R231-generation Mercedes SL. The demand for enormous two-seat convertibles seems to have shrunk, which is probably why you can get a Ford Fiesta’s worth of discount off a new SL. And all this discounting has played havoc with used prices, so now it’s not hard to find a once-£70k SL for less than £20k.
When this generation of SL arrived in 2012, much was made of its diet through the use of aluminium construction and a magnesium roof. However, it was still a big Mercedes with numb steering, a leisurely automatic and mushy brake pedal feel, so it was never going to be a match in the driving stakes for the equivalent Porsche 911 rag-top. Nor, too, would the much-vaunted increase in efficiency be anywhere near good enough to equal the fuel economy and immense touring range of a BMW 640d, so you can perhaps understand why the R231 never set any sales records.
But Mercedes’ (and first owners’) loss could be your gain. The SL is still a mighty fine way to cruise around and even the entry-level 3.5-litre V6 is a peach. It’s beautifully smooth and 30mpg-plus is easily achieved.
When buying a used one, ensure the roof works and seals properly by taking it through a car wash (with the roof up, obviously). We’d also suggest you avoid one with the optional Active Body Control (ABC) suspension, because parts are horrendously expensive when they fail on older Mercedes. If you had such issues with this one, all of a sudden your luxury roadster wouldn’t be such a bargain any more.
BMW Z4 3.0i sDrive, £9750
Mark Pearson: TVRs, once they lost the charm of the early 1960s models and the pseudo-E-Type appeal of the M-series roadsters, have nearly all been an embarrassment, so it’s no surprise this subtle little Matra would beat them all into a cocked hat. What this deliciously wide and low three-seat, mid-engined Murena lacked in speed, it made up for in sensual gratification. Cornering was hugely impressive, unlike in TVRs, with little pitch or roll. It even rode well. Here’s a really well-looked-after 1983 one for way under our budget. What you got, Max?
Max Adams: Sadly, I’m not old enough to have known what a 1960s TVR was like. I’m a child of the 1990s and a TVR to me is a brutish GT car that makes a loud noise, so I’ve gone for a 3.0-litre BMW Z4. Complete with a six-speed manual gearbox and 258bhp engine, it offers similar performance to a 4.0-litre Chimaera, and this 2009 one has an interior full of wood and leather, just like all the best TVRs.
MP: Will it spend most of its life by the side of the road, like most TVRs, or in a ditch, waiting for help? I hope not. Nice, your Beemer, but a bit boring.
MA: It’s an older BMW with a complicated folding metal roof, so I reckon it’ll throw a wobbler every now and then. But at least mine will have the option of tail-out antics. What’s your’s powered by? The motor from a strimmer?
MP: Mine is a baby McLaren, Max. For £7000. It moves in beauty, like the night.
Verdict: The oddball, effete Murena. I even went and looked at the advert for far too long.