2013 Mercedes-Benz G550

Ever since about March or so when the American passport suddenly became worthless, people who usually travel by plane to vacation spots suddenly were packing up and driving to where ever wasn’t their house. That meant normally pleasant national parks and camping spots looked like Disney World in July. That’s not a good thing. Good luck even finding a parking spot at an outdoor venue and suddenly the sleepy little resort towns in the Midwest are overrun with tourists. To combat that, people had to go even further away into some true expedition exploring, but mom’s Honda Odyssey minivan wasn’t the ideal vehicle for the job. Enter the overland rig.

The overlanding community has always been strong, but never in your face about it. You could usually tell if you saw a roof-top tent or some serious suspension and wheel/tire combo, but that was about it. Jeeps and Land Cruisers are the preferred vehicle of choice, but you’d get your Tacoma and other trucks as well. What you usually don’t see, are $100,000+ luxury SUVs, even as capable as they might be. Taking a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen into the woods and putting trail damage on one is a bad idea unless you plan on being buried in it, but it looks like this 2013 up for sale in West Virginia of all places is exactly ready for that. Notice I said “ready” and didn’t used any past tense language on that one. Let me explain.

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2000 Mercedes-Benz E430

I think the days of V8s in mid-size sedans are numbered. With emissions regulations and fuel economy standards becoming more stringent as the years go on, you’ll be seeing smaller and smaller displacement engines along with hybrid systems becoming the norm in almost every car except the ultra-high performance models. Look right now, the current Mercedes-Benz E-Class lineup lacks a V8 until you get to the top of the range E63 AMG, which starts at $110,000. Even ten years ago, you could get your E500 with a 5.0 V8 and call it a day. Not anymore, two 2.0L inline-fours and an 3.0L inline-six are what awaits your down payment. Buyers don’t really care, as long as the car looks good and the lease numbers and performance are good, sign ’em up.

So rewind 20 years and head back to the new Millennium where the E-Class lineup was simple. There was the 3.2L V6 E320, 4.3L V8 E430, and 5.4L V8 E55 AMG. Done. The buyers for E320s and E55s were very different people, as the E320 was $47,000, while the E55 was a significant amount more at $72,000. Turns out its not cheap to pay a bunch of Germans in a small town to hand-assemble a car. So what about the E430? $53,000. Suddenly that extra six grand seems like a worthwhile upgrade over the E320. You had more than respectable numbers at the time with 275 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft of torque. Still, every time you saw an E55, which lets be honest probably never because of the extremely low production numbers, you wanted those 18″ Monoblocks and special body kit. Now that is 20 years later, does it still make sense to buy an E430? I think so, especially this one.

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2003 BMW M3 Convertible

The M3 Convertible isn’t a car I spend a lot of time on. However, the recipe is hard to argue with; you get the beautiful lines of the E46 mated to the sonorous S54 with limitless sky over your head at the touch of a button. When this car was new, it was the fastest production 4-seat convertible available, though at nearly $60,000 it was hardly cheap. Fast forward to today, and it’s generally become the cheapest way to experience BMW’s gem of a motor in the ultimate development of the naturally aspirated inline-6.

Though I don’t write of them often, I do keep my eye on them from time to time. And today’s particular 2003 is a very special package. Presented in Oxford Green Metallic over Cinnamon leather, visually this car is quite a looker. Inside you’ll find a 6-speed manual, too, and a few choice options and modifications have this one looking impressive. Is it the one to buy?

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2006 Mercedes-Benz E350 Estate

Your dollar doesn’t go very far if you want a Mercedes-Benz station wagon. I’ve expanded on the value of the wagons in the past, and that seems to be holding true in almost every example. However, if you really want a long body with a three-pointed star, you can find a good buy if you search hard enough or adjust your standards low enough. This 2006 E350 Wagon up for sale Tennessee is a little bit of both.

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2000 Audi A6 4.2 quattro

The success of the Audi A4 really opened the U.S. market to a whole lineup of cars we might otherwise not have been privy to. Undoubtedly the best way to consider that is by looking at the C5 A6 lineup. But first you need to remember that prior to its 1998 launch, the C4 reigned in 1996 at the top of the Audi sales ladder for the U.S.. However, the number of configurations you could get was shockingly small. You had the choice between front-wheel drive and quattro, and again between sedan and Avant. That’s it. Following the drop of the 2.2 liter turbocharged S6 for our market in 1995 and the 5-speed manual from the A6 lineup for 1996, your only “choice” if you wanted a mid-sized Audi was to begrudgingly select the rather stale 2.8 liter V6 rated at 172 horsepower and mated solely to a 4-speed automatic. It was competent, but boring. Actually, that sentence sums up the end of the C4 run here pretty well – and the market recognized that, snapping up only around 10,000 of the models each year.

Turn your attention to the C5 lineup and you suddenly see the array of options opened by sales success. First to launch was the heavily revised sedan for 1998. Now with the 30 valve V6, horsepower was up to a more respectable 200 and the transmission gained a gear, though it was still automatic-only. The Avant carried over from the C4 lineup unchanged for ’98, but the new sedan was enough to double sales of the A6. ’99 launched the new Avant and with it, again a surge in sales by 50%. That allowed Audi to bring over some more exciting options – the 2.7T, the Allroad, the S6 Avant, and this car – the 4.2 quattro:

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2010 Porsche Cayenne GTS

It certainly seems like the first-generation Cayenne GTS is here to stay as a desirable vehicle. That is rather evident seeing the prices compared to the standard Cayenne and Cayenne S of the same years and things really start getting crazy when talking about a nice GTS with a 6-speed gearbox. The automatics certainly always trade less, but still not what what would I would call “cheap.” Still, if you could buy an SUV around $20,000 and not lose anything in depreciation, would you?

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1995 Porsche 911 Turbo

Wow. That is all I can say about this one. This of course being a 1995 Porsche 911 Turbo finished in Violet Blue Metallic over a Florence Gray leather interior. It is bold both inside and out as you can see, and for some, an ultimate 911. The 993 Turbo has held steady around the $100,000 for the nice examples with some miles, but this one up in Belgium has just under 27,000 miles. Needless to say, this car is not around $100,000. Not even close.

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1991 Audi V8 quattro 5-Speed

Back to big Audis! The early 1990s were, as I’ve described in previous posts, a period of change for the Ingolstadt firm as they closed down production on the Type 44 to introduce its new replacement, the C4. That led to a dizzying assortment of models from the one chassis. There was the aforementioned 100 and 100 quattro. You could move up to two turbocharged models, too – the 200 Turbo gave you 165 horsepower through the front wheels, and the new-and-only-for-91 in the U.S. was 200 20V quattro. Europe and the rest of the world got even more options; production lasted right up through 2006 in parts of China, where they even made a crazy long-wheel base 4-door convertible version of the Hongqi.

But the top of the heap for the U.S. market was a derivative of the Type 44, the D11 chassis. Of course, that was Audi’s foray into the top-tier luxury market with its new all-aluminum 32 valve double-overhead cam V8. Body revisions to the front and rear along with flared fenders made the V8 quattro seem like a completely different car to the slab-sided 100. V8s had, and have, serious presence. Big news, too, was that for the first time Audi was able to match its all-wheel drive quattro setup with a new 4-speed automatic transmission.

For die-hard Audi faithful, though, for a short while you could still opt to row-your-own with the 240 horsepower 3.6 liter V8 singing to your right foot. These manual V8 quattros are legendary because of their rarity and that they are the only car Audi brought to market with twin Torsen differentials. The combination of a more rearward weight bias, big and instant torque from the V8 and those clever diffs made for one of the best driving experiences in a classic big sedan from Audi, and they’re exceedingly rare to find:

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2007 BMW Z4 M Coupe

The E86 Z4 was a fairly radical departure from the E36/8 that it replaced. In many ways, the Z3 was born out of a series of spare parts and in some ways almost seemed an afterthought. It wasn’t as innovated as the Z1 and while the original M Coupe has become a fan favorite, the Z3 just overall seemed the odd-man out in the BMW lineup. On top of that, the design just overall hasn’t aged particularly well in my mind. But in 2002, the redesigned Anders Warming penned E85 Z4 roadster launched. It was bigger in every dimension, with cutting edge new styling that managed to incorporate both round and angular designs into one fluid package that somehow worked well. Over a decade on, it still looks quite new to me – one of the best tests of the staying power of a design. Also one of the best tests is that it was somewhat controversial at the time, but by 2006 and the launch of the M models most critics were convinced that it was a nice package. The addition of the stellar S54 powertrain certainly didn’t hurt, and with just 1,800 examples of the new Coupe design in the U.S., it was guaranteed classic status.

Despite the limited production numbers, neat looks, and legendary power plant, getting into a Z4 M Coupe won’t break the bank today. And if you’re willing to accept a less-than-perfect example, you can have one for a relative song:

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1995.5 Audi S6

Like the C3 chassis that predated it, the C4 went through numerous changes seemingly every year – giving each individual model year something special for fans to covet. 1994 to 1995 saw some major changes for the C4; the most obvious being the model designation change from S4 (1991-1994) to S6 (1995-1997). European models had some additional drivetrain options that weren’t available in the U.S., and indeed the Avant had previously been available in S4 form, but the 2.2 liter turbocharged inline-5 carried over largely unchanged into 1995 for the US. The big news was the addition of the Avant to the US lineup; at the time, as expensive as an Audi got here. There was also the obvious external refresh; smooth body-colored bumpers and wider side trims eliminated the rubberized black moldings. The hood and lights were lightly re-sculpted too, along with the change (rolling, for some models) from the Fuchs-made 5-spoke alloys to the Speedline-made 6-spoke Avus wheels which would be the signature S-wheel for the next decade.

Gone were two staples of the Audi lineup from the 1980s; Procon 10, the seatbelt pre-tensioning safety system Audi highly marketed in the late 1990s disappeared with little fanfare, but also, perhaps more strikingly, S cars would no longer be branded with ‘quattro’ badges – a change that would carry on nearly until today’s models, where models like the RS7 re-introduced it in the grill. Inside minor changes were introduced; a revised dashboard, shift knob, along with the introduction of the most notable item (once again, rolling) with a 3-spoke sport steering wheel. It was a tremendous amount of minor fiddling that in sum resulted in a slightly different feel for the S6; slightly more polished and grown up, carrying the new design language for Audi that would remain for the next decade.

Audi wasn’t done, though, because in ‘1995.5’ Audi once again altered several items on the then-still-new S6. This included a major switch moving forward – the elimination of driver control of the rear differential, a hallmark of Audis since the introduction of the original Quattro. Audi opted for an ‘electronic differential lock’, which in reality was a system which utilized the ABS system to detect wheelspin and apply the brakes. This major change resulted in some minor interior tweaks, such as moving the cigarette lighter, and there were additional revisions to the radio. The transmission’s traditional weak first gear was also addressed, as well as swapping infrared locking for radio frequency and some other minor trim. All of these changes – some of them running – give the limited production S6s a bit of a bespoke feel. With numbers produced only in the hundreds, these are special and coveted cars that are very capable and highly sought:

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