V12 bargains our best £5k-40k buys. Serene or brutal , effortless or intense, the romance of these V12s is impossible to ignore. Five cars and 60-cylinders. It’s V12 o’clock. Time for our 60-cylindered showdown to choose the best V12 from £5k: Ferrari 400i, Jaguar XJ-S, BMW 850 E31, Mercedes-Benz SL600 R129 or Aston-Martin DB7? Is it time to submit to overendulgence and buy a V12 coupé? Just £5000 buys a 12-cylinder GT with power and panache, but is it wise to spend so little and expect so much? Words Andrew Noakes. Photography Jonathan Jacobs.
From the moment when the starter spins with that unwavering hum, as though it’s not connected to an engine at all, romance comes as standard with a V12. Serene or brutal, effortless or intense, these are engines that are impossible to ignore.
But does that mean they must also be impossible to afford? It doesn’t, and the five fine GTs we’ve assembled here are the proof. Variants of these cars start from under £5000, which is ridiculously little to pay for so many cylinders and so much class. But just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s good value, so we’ve also talked to owners and specialists to find out the pleasures and the pitfalls of running these upper-crust coupés – and we’ve driven them all to see if the experience really matches up to the promise.
Our five chosen cars span more than three decades. The Jaguar XJ-S and Ferrari 400i are both products of the Seventies that were developed over many years of production. The BMW 8 Series and R129-generation Mercedes-Benz SL were born in the Eighties, and Aston Martin’s DB7 Vantage arrived in the Nineties. Which stacks up best as a V12 that delivers on the road without breaking the bank?
Ferrari 400i vs. Jaguar XJ-S V12, BMW 850CSi E31, Mercedes-Benz SL600 R129 and Aston-Martin DB7 road test