5 Fast Estates You Can Buy On Any Budget

If you want something that's both powerful and very quick, here are some suggestions arranged in price order. Which tempts you the most?
5 Fast Estates You Can Buy On Any Budget

Under £2500: BMW E46 330i

5 Fast Estates You Can Buy On Any Budget

When it comes to cheap, sporting estates, the E46 3-series is king. The 325i and 328i are both quick and easily attainable at this price bracket, but we’d be tempted to push towards the top end - and potentially a little beyond - to get a 330i. The M54 straight-six is a cracker of an engine, married to an excellent rear-drive chassis.

The only issue is, with 330s getting on a bit, they are known to produce some surprisingly painful bills: our man Gabor had to replace the rocker cover gasket, lower control arm bushings, rear bushings, lambda sensors and several other parts in quick succession on his E46 330ci. And if you look at other 330 owner experiences knocking around and speak to a few specialists, you’ll find this isn’t an isolated case.

So, it’s worth factoring this in before taking the plunge, and it’ll cut costs significantly if you’ve got enough mechanical nous to replace items like these yourself.

Also consider: BMW E39 530i, Volvo V70 T5, Jaguar X-Type 3.0 (the only X-Type we’d consider buying, but you’d need to up the budget a bit first).

Under £5000: Subaru Legacy 3.0R Spec B

5 Fast Estates You Can Buy On Any Budget

Here it is: the most sensible car here. In this estate body you’ll find four-wheel drive security, excellent build quality and reliability. But there is a little spice to go with it, in the form a delectable 3.0-litre, naturally-aspirated flat-six that’s good for 241bhp.

Want a little more bite, and/or can’t cope with the idea of getting a Subaru that doesn’t have a boxer-four? Try jumping back a generation and going for a GT-B, powered by a more potent 276bhp twin-turbo flat-four.

Also consider: Nissan Stagea (if you can find one), BMW E91 330i, Audi S4 B5 Avant.

Under £10,000: Mercedes C55 AMG

Image source: Autotrader
Image source: Autotrader

There’s little on the outside of this Affalterbach wagon to give it away as anything other than a standard W203 C-Class. But a boggo W203 it most certainly isn’t. It’s blessed with AMG’s 5.4-litre V8, which sends its 367bhp rearwards and allows for a 0-62mph time of just 5.4 seconds.

£10,000 is enough to pick up a very tidy example, although it’s worth bearing in mind you’re picking up a car which was £50,000 when new, so you’ll have service bills in line with a £50k car to contend with. Oh, and that V8 does gulp unleaded at a relatively alarming rate.

It’s not all bad news, though, as the M113 AMG engine is a reliable unit, and doesn’t have the complication of pricey supercharger bits to replace every now and then, as you’ll find with the C55’s predecessor, the C32.

Also consider: Audi S4 Avant (B6), Volvo V70 R.

Under £20,000: Audi RS2

5 Fast Estates You Can Buy On Any Budget

As we slide the budget up a notch, it’s tempting to plump for something much faster, angrier and newer than the C55. But we haven’t. Instead, we’re going older and slower, but stick with us, as buying something like this will pay off in the long run.

The car we’re looking at is the Audi RS2, which - thanks to its 311bhp, 2.2-litre turbo five-pot engine - is still quick even by today’s standards. It’s also the result of a curious tie-up between Audi and Porsche, meaning it’s littered with parts from Stuttgart’s sports car experts, particularly focused around the suspension and brakes.

All sounds promising on paper, but the real reason you should buy one of these over something like an E60 M5 Touring is values: RS2s are rare these days, and they’ll only go up in price. So, buy one now, and those pesky high running costs will be offset - and then some - by appreciation. The downside? That rarity means your hunt might take a while - at the time of writing there isn’t a single example for sale in the UK.

Also consider: BMW E60 M5 Touring, Mercedes E55 AMG.

Under £40,000: Audi RS6 Avant

5 Fast Estates You Can Buy On Any Budget

Yep, it’s another Audi, but in our defence, few manufacturers do the whole weapons-grade estate thing quite as well. Which is why if we had £40,000 burning a hole in our back pocket, we’d be looking at an RS6. Specifically, the C6.

What’s so special about this particular RS6 is that it arrived around about the peak time for massive cylinder counts and displacement figures in these kinds of cars. The M5 was powered by 5.0-litre N/A V10, but would eventually be replaced with a 4.4-litre V8 with a turbocharger. The same fate befell the Mercedes E63 AMG, with its stonking 6.2-litre V8 switched for a downsized turbo unit, and of course, the outrageous 5.0-litre, twin-turbo V10 lump in the RS6 made way for a 4.0-litre V8 in its successor.

Thanks to a heady 571bhp output, the C6 RS6 remained Audi’s most powerful production car long after its discontinuation, surpassed only recently by the new 602bhp R8 Plus. And if 571bhp isn’t enough for you, it’s worth noting that these are very tunable cars: get yourself a remap, and you’re looking at 700bhp. Fit beefier turbos and make a few other changes, and you’ll be approaching 900bhp.

As you’d expect though, running an RS6 like this ain’t cheap. While reliability is known to be good, servicing costs will hit your wallet very, very hard. Oh, and if the original owner decided to tick the carbon ceramic brake option, you can expect to pay £5000 to replace each disc.

Also consider: BMW E60 M5 Touring (again), Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake (once they’ve depreciated a little more).


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