help me buy a car

Hi all,

I am going to buying a car soon and need some help to choose…

Im looking at spending 4-8k

Cars im considering include:

350z, BMW 350i, BMW 645i/650i, Merc SLK350, WRX

I am wanting a decent power increase so looking around the 300bhp mark and -6s 0-60 , a bit more comfort and luxury.

Do you have any advice on the cars listed or think of any alternatives?


Not really the same type of cars as an MX-5, maybe better answers on Pistonheads where a broader selection of makes are represented.

I brought a 2004 Jaguar Xj8 3.6 Sport as a foil to the MX5. I’m really liking it as a drive. It has a split personality; you can waft around town like Lord Snooty, then on the back roads, the active suspension makes the big car surprisingly nimble on the twists. I like details like the suspension dropping it self by 20-30mm on the motorways for better efficiency. Or the whole start up sequance; when you pipe the keye in, the seats, wheel and pedal box all automatically adjust. Averages 26mpg, I can average 38mpg on a motorway run, so about the same as my Mk1. Its not the full fat XJR, with the supercharged V8, but it has the same interior, and suspension set up. Cost me £4500.

The drawback, which will also affect the BMW 600s and possibly that SLK, are that repair costs are high. Parts prices are outrageous, but then, in 2004, my Jag invoiced for nearly £50k. Mercedes use a lot of the same parts across their range, so some parts are ok on price (same bits as a Bonn taxi). They are all heavy cars so will eat through bushes. All of these cars have terrifically complicated electrics, that will be problematic on a 10-15 year old car. I read that BMWs, once they hit 100k, the chassis loosens up, and they feel terrible. I had a E46 before, but wasn’t impressed by that; I think the 3 series is little more than a disposable car. My sister had a 330 coupe, later shape. It needed a new engine at 100k, and she ditched it for a Mini. Borrowed a WRX once (bug eye version); the interior was horrendous, and not a nice place to be. You have these grippy rally seats, which are not comfortable, and then just acres of grey plastic, I think the one I had even had fake stitching. Its just a jumped up economy car with a 4WD gimmick.

My Jag is about 260hp, the 4.2 NA is 300hp, and the 4.2 SC is 400hp. They all cost about the same; £4-6k will get a decent one with history. I was put off a XJR (did look at a 1 owner example) by the valley hose; a £20 hose hidden under the charger. Takes a day to extricate it.

I like it enough that I fancy a XK8 next (its just me that drives it, back seats never get used).

350z passed me by; its a car that never really left a lasting impression.

Miataforum gives fairer feedback on different cars than Pistonheads, which can get a bit tribal. Obviously, Miataforum can only really reflect cars sold in the US, but the ones you are contemplating are all sold there.

Obviously you know the kind of vehicle required but unfortunately it is completely opposed to the ethos of the MX5 for the majority of owners. 

I would advise visiting the relevant owners club forums for the individual vehicles of interest and looking at old threads where the merits of the vehicles are discussed by owners.

Nothing wrong with owning contrasting vehicles but the main attaction of the MX5 is ease of ownership. I don’t see any of the vehicles you mention being at all easy to own. 

I appreciate the responses guys.

I was just thinking some of you have heard things or owned some of the cars. 

Unfortunately I can’t afford to insure 2 cars and will miss my 5 dearly however I feel it’s time for a change. I have only owned the 1 car so I want to try and make an educated decision on my next purchase

@saz9961 - I have thought about the XK8 as I think k it is a beautiful car! Just a bit put off by the wooden interior…

saz9961, I remember admiring your Jag when you first bought it and posted some details. A stunning pair of cars you have there and the garden is beautiful too.

TeaWrecks, If the wood (or wood effect) is the only thing putting you off then why not wrap the trim. A bit of body colour, satin silver or carbon fibre wouldn’t go amiss.


They can be had with aluminium finish. I like the grey maple in mine.


Here is a MX5 forum that doesn’t mind talking about other cars:


Visiting one make car forums isn’t great, as you don’t get honest feedback. Everyone just says how brilliant the cars are, and glosses over drawbacks. Ignore cantankerous types who tell you to go away, and stop spoiling “their” forum. Post away. This section is expressly aimed at these sort of non-MX5 questions. Don’t be intimidated by others.


Not my garden; I’m no gardener.


Think the wood in mine is rather restrained, compared to the more usual walnut



They can be had with an aluminium finish, but this is quite rare




The top of the line Super V8 Portfolio had a more Swedish take on the wood trim



XKR Interior




In other words, whatever rocks your boat.


Some Merc interior combos were quite horrendous, with lots of, not always complimentary, two tone finishes being options. Ditto on BMW. The 6-series is rare enough that you ought to ignore the horrendus looking interior in order to get one that is not a mechanical dud.

Like you say it’s personal preference on the wood trim bit like marmite! I have heard the larger engined bmw have some issues and I bet there’s some rotten ones out there but I suppose you could say the same about all cars. I do not required utility from the car, no kids no dogs no baggage so having another impractical car would be fine. The 350z seems a logical step although it may be nice to have back seats…

I know it’s “down market” to the makes you’ve listed but don’t ignore the Honda Accord.

At least you didn’t say a Civic Wink


Ah! But I’ve had two Civic Type R’s and they were more bang for the buck that their European counterparts!  Don’t let old fashioned brand snobbery cloud your judgement.


Lets throw in a Kia, and, I don’t know, Renault, for good measure.


In the context of thee cars under discussion, the only applicable Honda is the run out Legend model; a handful were sold, with a suspect V6.


A left field suggestion is the Lexus GS430h; I briefly looked at this. In this car, the Hydrid drive is used to boost the performance of the 3.5 V6, giving it V8 performance with V6 economy. the draw back is a significantly reduced boot size, to the extent I don’t think I could get a folded wheelchair in there. On a 10-15 year old model, there is always the worry about the batteries, though the aftermarket has responded with a cell-replacement programme. The “battery” is a set of interconnected cells, and its one or two of these that fails, sending the car into a panic mode. Aftermarket replaces these with salvaged cells. This is how Honda does it. If you put yopur Honda hybrid in for a replacement cell, they’ll fit a secondhand one, albeit rested and warrantied.


Boot aside, the car was also ruled out because once again, it was an example of how the Japanese generally can’t design interiors. Nor exteriors really. Toyota used a bright red cherry wood as the centre piece in the console.


These high end cars have a sliding scale of how well they have been looked after, by the time they get into our budgets. I was lucky; my Jag was owned by the Director of a College for Mechanics in Sheffield, and it looks like he did all the work himself on it, before the college went belly up, and it was auctioned off as an asset. So the brakes are new, all the fluids are crystal clear, tyres match, wheels chip free (well, they were). I suspect if I wrote to him, he’d even say the sealed for life gearbox was unsealed and serviced… Not at all like other used car lot Jags I looked at, which were at various stages from a meeting with the scrapyard.


I’m in the same boat; no kids, no dogs. Just a requirement to carry a wheelchair bound passenger occasionally.


The size of the Millstone does diminish when you head to the cheaper end of the market.


Vauxhall Monaros are now appearing in the £4-6k range. A bit dull to look at though. Bullet proof mechanics, comfy seats, placky dash. I wouldn’t fancy a manual though; for some reason, most of them are manual, not auto.


Jaguar S-Type Rs; size wise, I liked these, but they just dissolve under the tupperware. And you can’t unsee the interior of an XJ in comparison.


XFs; some V8s are coming into the price range, but they interiors look a bit worn. The XF is basically a rebodied S-Type.

You are absolutely correct, it is pot luck buying a used car of that age. When you factor in a car with performance over 10years old the likelihood is it’s had a hard life and not looked after. At least if I can choose a car i can do my best to find the cleanest most looked after one. I have spotted the occasional Monaro also but it’s nice to take your pick not take the only one available.  


Hi Saz,

So my theory that you had moved house to sort out your driveway issues was wrong then 



Nothing wrong with Kia.

In 2012 I bought a new Sportage (model 3), after 18 months of ownership, I was so impressed with the car that we bought a Rio for my wife.

After 5 years of absolute trouble free motoring with the Sportage, I traded it in … for another Sportage.

6 years of happy Kia ownership, and 4 years with the Rio.


I’ve had tons of cars (iv’e lost count), I was a company car driver for 20 years, with maybe 3 different cars per year either leased or loaned in one form or another.


Of all the cars I’ve had, I’d say the Sportage is up there with the best of them.



In answer to the OP’s original question SLK350 for me.


My sister, the ex-E90 owner, prior to that had a pair of E46 M3s, one manual (a nice car, that she found randomly, moving from a VW Polo (some change for a school teacher)), and the other flappy paddle auto. The manual was a great car, but as I expected, as it basically has race car grade mechanics, it needs properly looking after. One MOT, it was announced all the ball joints need replacing (big money, but not a surprise for a car that has an engine, that periodically needs the cam lob clearances checking). She opted to buy another M3 rather than repair the good one… The second one was a dud; superficially nice (black, blood red interior), but peel back the carpet in the boot, and wads of filler holding the rear lights in… Still, a drunk driver wrote that car off.


There is a higher than likely prospect that a £4k super saloon needs a very careful check.Whereas with a £4k Focus, whats the worse that can happen (besides catching fire).