Here Are Six Luxury Super Sedans From The 2000s That You Can Own For $20k Today
There’s a unique satisfaction attendant to driving a car with four doors that can spank those with two. The concept of a sleeper sedan—a Q-car that blends into the carpool lane but can keep up with left lane Autobahn traffic—was established long before we hit the 21st century, but the 2000s arguably gave us the best recipes from the most manufacturers when the horsepower wars were waged on leathered grounds the world over. Better still is the fact that today these cars are dirt cheap relative to their MSRPs.
Yes, if you pick a bad apple it will bite you in maintenance costs, and there are sound economics behind the fact that you can find 400-horsepower sedans for the price of new but ho-hum hatchbacks. So if you’re already foaming at the keyboard, ready to relate horror stories of how much it’s going to cost to fix the headlight levelers or some other expensive gizmo, please, save it. We all know. However, if you’re in the market for something that can rip a 911 a new one while carting your kids around in the backseat, and don’t mind a little roll of the dice, the seven sedans below might be worth checking out. Who knows, maybe you’ll luck into the one-owner country club commuter sold by someone who couldn’t care less about recouping the cost.
BMW E39 M5
The M5 wasn’t the first four-door with a big motor, but it’s become all but the de facto benchmark. The first two big bad Bavarians were powered by BMW straight-sixes and are duly beloved by the Bimmer purists who believe that a row of six pistons and rear-wheel drive is the end-all be-all, though you’ll hardly hear any of them slighting the E39 and its 4.9L V8.
It’s a teutonic muscle car if there ever was one, and the combination of handsome and understated styling, a motor that rocks the car on stoplight throttle taps, and performance that bested of its contemporaries from Ingolstadt and Stuttgart makes it an iconic German sports sedan. Prices have been moving steadily upwards these last few years, but you can still find some in the high-teens if you’re patient.
After the first Frua-bodied car to wear the Quattroporte name, the next three generations of Maserati’s flagship sedan were some rather homely slabs. You don’t really see any of them for pretty good reason. The fifth generation gave the car some curves again, and as long as you keep the headlight lenses polished the styling has held up exceptionally well for a car with a nearly decade-long lifespan.
It is a graceful shape, clearly Italian but significantly understated in comparison to the Ferraris of its day that the Quattroporte’s engine is derived from. How many mass-produced sedans can you name with dry-sump V8s under the hood? Over the car’s production run the motor was tweaked as different appearance trim levels were released to freshen the car, and there is a relative abundance of Quattroportes for sale at any given time. Swap a six-speed into one, perhaps?
When Cadillac launched its first generation of “V” cars in the mid-2000s, everyone seemed pretty smitten with the rebodied (basically) Corvette called the XLR. The STS-V was never destined to fly off dealer lots because who buys a full-size Caddy with a blinged-up grille and a huge engine when the base model carries golf clubs just as easily with more comfort? The CTS-V was the perfect recipe though, and its proportions were pretty spot-on. It was powered by barely-detuned versions of the Corvette’s LS6 and later LS2 V8, and it only came with a six-speed Tremec—in other words, a 400hp and 395ft-lb bald eagle with five seats.
A lot of them have since been “murdered out” by wannabe thugs, but find a clean silver one with the OEM look retained and you’ll still surprise people stoplight to stoplight in 2019. These are very overlooked cars, and besides the fantastic wagon version that came in the second generation, the best-looking of the V cars (though the interior is a bit more than bland…)
Bentley Arnage Red Label
Buying a Bentley on a budget isn’t a sound financial decision, but expounding on the virtues of your new Civic doesn’t hold the same cachet as a big round B on your keyring, and the Arnage is the classic picture of a sedan built in Crewe. The Red Labels are the cheap ones that can be had for $20,000 or less, and while they don’t have the styling updates and mechanical fixes that the later versions enjoyed, they came with a mongo 6.75L turbo’d V8 that Bentley and Cosworth put together to produce the torquiest sedan of its time—615ft-lbs’ worth.
Hopefully one isn’t buying a 20-year-old full-size Bentley for its track day competence, because as far as stately fast-paced luxo-cruising goes, none of the others in this list compare. The Arnage has already proven itself to age better than its replacement, the Mulsanne, in terms of overall styling, too.
Pontiac G8 GXP
The G8 GXP was the most powerful Pontiac ever produced, and a fitting swan song of the now-defunct GM brand. To most, they look very much like any other crappy sun-faded base G8 in a depressingly dated rental car fleet, but the GXP was mean, mean, mean.
They didn’t even make 2,000 of them before the company called it quits, so it might even be considered an investment today, just ten years on from its new-car status. But with a nice matchy-matchy 415 figure for both the horsepower and foot-pounds of torque available from the LS3 V8, it would be a crime not to tear up at least one strip mall parking lot before you tuck one away to preserve it. They usually sell in the mid-to-high-20s, but you can certainly have one for less if you look a bit longer and don’t mind a slightly more abused example. Some even came with three pedals.
Jaguar X308 XJR
If you want a fast British sedan with a forced-induction V8 but don’t want to feel like Mr. Big every time you drive it, the X308-generation Jaguar XJR might be a sensible alternative to the Bentley above. It’s certainly a tauter, tighter machine in nearly every regard. Plus, bonus points for being the first V8-powered XJ—doubtful that that will mean much of anything in monetary terms for would-be collectors, but still a neat little factoid for a beloved line of automobiles.
The supercharged 4.0L helped the big cat more or less keep pace with its contemporary German super sedans, and where it fell behind in terms of outright performance it made up for it in classic looks, general plush-ness—plus, it came out a few years before the M5 and E55 of its day. Apart from the interior, the design has proven to hold up, and today it presents as a well-balanced point between classic and modern Jaguar sensibilities.
Disclaimer: I’ve only spent extensive time with one of the above cars, so please don’t sue me if you buy a dud and the check engine light pings on the drive home.
Photos courtesy of the respective manufacturers.