2002 BMW 540i Sport

The E39 540i will probably go down as one of the great from the company; combining good looks, potent performance, a luxurious cabin, and acceptable – but not too advanced – technology into a clean package. Dynamically, they’re great to drive, they make really good noises, and yet they still manage to fly under the radar more than an M5 does. They’re certainly one of the few have-your-cake-type cars out there. And despite being all of these things, they generally manage to be a lot cheaper than you might expect for a decent example; that is, outside of the 2003 M-Sport models. However, if you’re willing to step back just a year and get ever so slightly less M DNA in your E39, you can still find good examples of the breed for reasonable rates. Today I ran across a very nice 2002 to consider:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 BMW 540i Sport on eBay

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2011 Audi A4 2.0T quattro 6-Speed

While it feel like most modern Audis have swapped to automatic-only configuration, there were some bright spots. The R8 and TT soldiered on for some time with manual options, as did the A3 and A4. The B8 A4 we see here comes from the year before the model’s refresh, but it carries some desirable options. By the time of the B8, engine options had diminished to the 2.0T rated at 211 horsepower, but you could have FrontTrak, quattro, or quattro Avant options in that time. The Avant couldn’t be had with a manual, but the sedan could, and there were several trim packages that dress up the appearance of the A4 as well. Today’s example has the 18″ Sport Package, which gave you (wait for it) 18″ wheels, sport suspension, and front sport seats, and it’s got the manual transmission option ticked.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2011 Audi A4 2.0T quattro on eBay

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2010 Audi R8 5.2 V10 quattro Coupe

A counterpoint to the Porsche 911 Turbo is the Audi R8. Unlike most Audis, these have retained fairly reasonable residual value. In fact, something interesting has happened with one specific model – the one we see here. The combination of the R8 coupe, a 5.2-liter V10, and a six-speed manual transaxle is a fairly rare combination as we’ve previously discussed, and just a little over a week ago a really nice one hammered on BaT for $142,000 – in the grand scheme, not far off of its sticker price some ten years ago. What other Audi has achieved that? None that I can think of, anyway.

Today’s R8 is one of a claimed 208 six-speeds brought in for the 2010 model year, and one of just 31 finished in Ibis White. It also has less than half the miles of the ’11 that sold on BaT. What does that do for the price tag?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2010 Audi R8 5.2 V10 quattro Coupe on eBay

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2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

Last week’s Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 was about as close as you can get for an instant classic. I highly doubt any of them ever traded under sticker and probably never will. Is that typical? No, not even for 911s. They are simply too many of them and people always want new things. However, this is a newer 911 that while maybe won’t double in price, they sure don’t seem to be straying too far from sticker price. Hello, GT3 Touring.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring on eBay

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2008 BMW M5 6-Speed

There were a lot of haters when the E60 series debuted, and it remains a polarizing design today. While the prior three revisions of the 5-Series had been evolutionary, there was little to identify connections to the previous generation beginning in 2004. But the M5 didn’t just break with tradition with the exterior styling.

Leaps in horsepower had been impressive, but not outrageous in the prior three generations. From the Euro-specification 286 horsepower M88/3 in the E28 came 315 horsepower in the 3.6 E34, then 340 in the last 3.8s. The world seemed shocked when the E39 announced a 394 horsepower V8 under the hood, but in all reality it was essentially as much of a jump from the E28 to the last E34. But the E60. That was a jump. Replacing the 4.9 liter V8 in the E39 was now a 5.0-liter S85 V10, and it was made to scream. It sported a forged crankshaft, lightweight pistons and valves, 10 individual throttle bodies, hollow cams, 12:1 compression, semi-dry sump lubrication, and double VANOS variable valve timing. The result? 500 horsepower and a shrieking exhaust note that is simply unforgettable.

Are these cars collector worthy? They certainly have a strong following and there is no denying that condition being equal, they are currently the the one of the cheapest M5s you can buy. And the one to get, it would seem, would be a 6-speed manual:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 BMW M5 on eBay

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1980 Mercedes-Benz 280SLC

The US-spec C107 Mercedes-Benz SLC probably isn’t going to win any beauty contests. Mercedes had their hands tied with bumper and headlight regulations and probably knew people were going to buy their cars regardless, so they put a band aid on it and that is what we live with. In countries who didn’t have to live with antiquated regulations, things were much better. Slim chrome bumpers and flat headlights plus some engine and transmission choices that made everything just a little bit more exciting. Luck would have it, this is what we have today.

This is a 1980 280SLC that was sold new in Germany and imported to California some time ago. It has the M110 2.8 liter inline-6 paired with a 4-speed manual gearbox, a combo that is rare to say the least. This seems like a far cry from the lumpy V8 and sluggish automatic that was offered to the US buyers when new. Is this a Porsche 911 or E30 BMW M3? Of course not. It’s a car that wasn’t very attractive nor fun to drive and is now slight less of that. Right?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Mercedes-Benz 280SLC on eBay

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1993 Volkswagen Caravelle syncro Diesel

Update 12/3/19: This Caravelle syncro sold for $11,600

It’s hard to fit into the regular lineup all of the various neat German vehicles from diverse brands, so admittedly I end up focusing on ones that really spark my interest. That leaves big gaps in coverage, and one such gaffe is certainly the Volkswagen T-series. The first three generations were based upon the Type 2 platform and rear-engine configuration, which left plenty of space for a slab-sided apartment on wheels. But Volkswagen continued the feat with the T4. The engine moved to the front and was water-cooled, transverse and in most applications driving the front wheels. But like the T3, the T4 was also available in syncro configuration with all-wheel drive.

However, while the T3’s viscous coupling sent power forward with twin locking differentials for each axle, the T4’s front-drive transverse layout meant that it needed to employ a system similar to the Golf platform. That meant a viscous coupling to transfer power rearward when slip was detected, with some T4s also having a manually locking rear differential to assist in really sticky situations. While not the go-anywhere mountain goat the T3 could be, it was a neat configuration not offered in the States. Further, you could get a plethora of engine choices at the same time the EuroVan was solely offered with the 2.5 inline-5 gas motor. Case in point is today’s 2.4 liter AAB. While not more powerful than the 2.5 gas motor, the 10 valve inline-5 diesel was a lot less thirsty and offered 77 horsepower and 121 lb.ft of torque at low revs. Here it’s hooked to a manual transmission and already imported to the U.S.:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Volkswagen Caravelle syncro on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Passat GLX TDi 4Motion Variant 6-speed

Earlier this week I just about broke my neck to catch a second glimpse at a car which probably went unnoticed by nearly every other driver out there. It was a new what appeared to be a B8 Passat Variant, and you don’t have to know a lot about Volkswagens to know you haven’t seen one recently – or, probably ever – on these shores since VW dropped the large wagon from its lineup after 2010. Is this an indication they’re coming here? Unlikely, at least according to VW. With the Atlas and Tiguan relatively fresh and still selling like proverbial hotcakes, along with the many iterations of the Golf Sportwagon available, there just is no need. More likely than not, the car I saw was part of a VW testing program which makes sense since I live very close to one of the importation ports.

So that leaves fans of the larger VW wagon to clamor over older examples. So back we go fifteen years to a B5.5 again! This one, like the last, is a silver example from 2004. Also just like the last, it’s a manual and all-wheel drive. But unlike that rare factory 1.8T 4Motion manual, this one is a home brew, mating a 1.9 TDi out of a Jetta, a 6-speed manual from Europe, and a GLX 4Motion chassis into a neat and thrifty all-wheel drive combo that was never offered here:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Passat GLX TDi 4Motion 6-speed on eBay

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2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

Guards Red is one of those Porsche colors you can recite without thinking about. It was immensely popular on the G-body cars and naturally carried on to the 964, 993, 996, 997, and now the 991. I don’t think you’ll hear anyone argue it didn’t look good on those early cars, but now that the 991 is roughly twice the size as an original long hood car, you end up looking at a lot of paint. This seems to be true with the 991 with its extra wide hips and overall really big stature when it comes to what are suppose to be light, nimble sports cars. So when I saw this GT3 Touring come up for sale, I had to take a look. I think I’m still on the fence about it.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring on eBay

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2003 Audi RS6 6-speed

Update 7/27/19: The asking price of this RS6 6-speed is down to $20,000 today from the $28,500 original price.

From the C3 chassis we looked at the other day to the launch of the C5 was just a scant 7 years. The styling was evolutionary and instantly recognizable, but the C5 really broadened Audi’s offerings in the U.S. market. Building on the success of the A4, Audi launched not only the normal sedan and wagon offerings, but the return of the S6 and introduction of new 2.7T performance models, along with the Volvo-challenging Allroad.

The pinnacle of the C5 was, of course, the twin-turbocharged all-wheel drive version you see here built by Audi’s skunkworks, quattro GmbH. With assistance from VAG-owned Cosworth Engineering, the resulting BCY motor cranked out a peak 444 horsepower at 5,700 rpms and an impressive 415 lb.ft of torque between 1,950 rpms and 5,600 revs. The body, brakes, wheels and suspension were all upgraded by quattro GmbH too, with plenty of technology incorporated to transfer the power to the ground and keep the RS6 planted. Though it was saddled with an automatic transmission only and tipped the scales at a massive 4,050 lbs, the tenacious all-wheel drive, computer programming and massive power resulted in a 4.4 second 0-60 sprint, besting both the contemporary M5 and E55 AMG. The RS6 had 14.4″ front brakes, dynamic ride control, and meaty 255-section Pirelli P-Zeros to control that speed. Lowered ride height, flared sills and fenders and giant gaping intakes and exhaust along with signature honeycomb grills set the stage for how these cars have looked since.

The first RS model imported to the U.S., Audi expected to sell 860 at nearly $80,000 a pop. But they didn’t. They sold more, such was the demand, with an estimated 1,200 making the journey to North America. But as with basically all complicated, fast older German cars, they’re not worth what they were new, making them very tempting in the used marketplace. And there are a lot of used RS6s out there to choose from at any given time – currently, there are 10 available just on eBay. The thing is, you should avoid most of them. But not this one:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Audi RS6 on eBay

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