We love the E38 7-series. There’s something incredibly mean about the way it carries itself, and we’d have a V8-powered 740i in a heartbeat. But, its 12-cylinder 750i cousin is also pretty damn tempting, with a 5.0-litre 300bhp engine under the hood. It’s BMW’s ‘M73’ V12, an evolution of which - the S70/2 - powered the mighty McLaren F1.
750i prices start at about £3000.
Want that same V12 in a more stylish package? Take a look at the 850i (later badged 850ci). Arguably one of the prettiest BMWs ever built, it’s more of a brisk GT than out-and-out sports car, but we still would. Oh, and it has pop-up headlights. Prices start at around £4000, or if you want to go for the 375bhp 850CSI - an M Car in all but name - you’ll need well over £15,000.
All of the cars on this list carry quite a bit of financial risk with them, but none more so than the W220 Mercedes. It’s from an era in which Mercs weren’t really famed for reliability, and on an S-Class there’s a hell of a lot to go wrong. But, it might just be worth it for that engine. It’s the 5.8-litre, 367bhp M137 unit, a replacement for the M120. And what was the M120 used in? None other than the original C12 Pagani Zonda. And with a shoutier exhaust including unequal length headers, it’s possible to make these Merc V12s shriek just like a Zonda. We don’t know about you, but we’d find quite a bit of perverse pleasure in making this restrained-looking saloon sound like a bonkers Italian supercar.
Want one? You’ll need at least £6000. Plus a sizeable contingency budget…
Want your M137 with a couple less doors? As with the BMW 7-series, there’s a coupe for the S-Class option in the form of the CL-Class. It has the same 367bhp 5.8-litre unit as found in the W220 S, and will also set you back upwards of £5000. And potentially more when something goes wrong…
The gorgeous E-Type - still regarded as one of the prettiest cars ever built - was a bloody tough act to follow for the poor XJS. When it was released the comparatively boxy XJS was unfavourably compared to the curvy car it succeeded, but time has been kind to that distinctive shape with its chunky rear buttresses, and these Jaguar coupes are looking mighty tempting these days.
A straight-six example would be the more sensible choice, but the epic 5.3-litre V12 (later replaced with a 6.0-litre) - carried over from the old E-Type - is the one we really want. It’s good for around 300bhp, but be warned, while it’s a magnificent engine it’s also shockingly expensive to have rebuilt and unbelievably thirsty - even for a V12. We’ve seen some for under £3000, but budgeting well over £5k would be sensible.
We should at least stick something relatively sensible in this list, so here’s a nice, understated Audi A8. Before you start shouting at us, yes we know it’s actually a W12 rather than a V engine, but it’s worth looking into. Despite not looking much on the outside, this version of the second-generation A8 kicks out 443bhp to all four wheels, making 0-62mph possible in just over five seconds. That’ll do nicely.
You’ll need upwards of £8000 to score yourself one.
Yep, thanks to the relative short supply of V12s in the world, an Aston Martin DB7 really is one of the cheapest 12-pot cars out there. The 5.9-litre unit - good for 420bhp in the DB7 - was essentially made by grafting two Ford V6s together, but don’t let those humble origins put you off: it sounds the business and is still in service in Astons today. You’ll need around £25,000 or more for a DB7 Vantage, however if you’re serious about a V12 Aston, we’d recommend spending a little more for an early DB9: these cars represent a huge improvement over the old Jaguar-based ‘7.