Top Gear episode 5 review: bargain used sports cars

Top Gear episode 5

James May reviewed the Ferrari La Ferrari for Top Gear episode 5. The snag? It costs more than £1 million – unlike our used alternatives (Picture © Ferrari)

For Top Gear episode 5, we saw the Top Gear boys mucking around in a Ferrari La Ferrari, Porsche Cayman, Chevrolet Corvette and a bunch of tired Peugeots. This may have given viewers the impression that it’s nice work if you can get it. But we were left wondering how on earth it would be possible to own similar cars (except perhaps the Peugeots) for a fraction of the price.

The La Ferrari cost more than £1 million when new, a Corvette is £65,510 and a Porsche Cayman GTS is a shade over £55,300, which is let’s admit it, more than most of us have stashed down the sofa. So we’ve looked at the second hand alternatives to the cars that Clarkson, Hammond and May waxed lyrical over. The results are well worth five minutes of your time… 

Ferrari 456 GTA: buy one for £30,000

Top Gear episode 5

Can a four-seat Ferrari be fun? With a V12 engine under the bonnet it can (Picture © Ferrari)

James May suggested that the strangely named Ferrari La Ferrari is the best car in the world. Perhaps it is, if you’ve got more than £1 million to spend. But what if – like most of us – you can’t afford that much money? Let’s turn to the classifieds for a cut-price Ferrari experience: the 456 GTA.

Four-seat Ferrari doesn’t sound terribly exciting but they used to be popular in the 1960s with models such as the 250 GTE, a V12-powered four-seater, rubbing wing mirrors with exotic models such as the 250 GTO and GT California.

The 456 took its inspiration from the 250 GTE. It may not have been conventionally handsome in the sense that seeing a Ferrari can make people swoon and want to loosen their clothing. But with its long bonnet and short tail, there was no mistaking it for anything other than a red-blooded sports car.

It was styled by Pininfarina, the same styling house that has fashioned most Ferraris since the 1950s, and the aluminium body clothed a four-seat interior.

Sure enough, in the back are two small seats and the boot’s not a bad size, making this one Ferrari that can cope with the school run. But it’s up front where you want to be, and there sits the signature, chromed gear lever. Not for this generation of Ferrari a flappy-paddle, F1-style transmission; the six gears have to be manhandled to get the best from the big, 5.5-litre V12. And what an engine it is. It’s so powerful that Jeremy Clarkson declared the 456 GTA to be the “fastest four-seater in the world” when he reviewed it for Top Gear way back when he had lots of hair and none of it was grey.

It had bite: with 442bhp, it could reach 186mph and the engine delivered the sort of operatic sound that only a Ferrari V12 could. There were electronic dampers to help the body-control and the front-engined, rear-wheel drive layout meant the handling was more forgiving and fun than a mid-engined Ferrari.

However, collectors have always viewed four-seat Ferraris with all the enthusiasm of an arachnopobe faced with a spider. Consequently, the cars’ values go flat which is good news. Looking at the classifieds, a 28,000 mile 456 GTA with a full service history could be yours for less than £30,000.  Admittedly, it’s an automatic model and you’ll need a slush fund to keep it in tip top condition, but that’s whole lotta’ car for the cash.

Porsche Cayman S: buy one for £20,000

Top Gear episode 5

The mid-engined Cayman S is great fun for sensible money (Picture © Porsche)

Richard Hammond rather liked the Cayman GTS that he reviewed for Top Gear episode 5, singing its praises for delivering a precise and pure driving experience. But do you know what? That’s nothing new.

Porsche snobs called the Cayman the “poor man’s Porsche” when it was launched in 2006. What did they know? Turned out the Cayman was jolly good to drive – better, even, than a 911 – and far better value for money.

Today, a budget of £20,000 will buy a 2007 model from a Porsche-approved dealer, so you’ll enjoy a two-year warranty that has the backing of the manufacturer. You can pay less (from £14,000) but they’ll be tatty, high mileage models with no warranty.

Like the today’s GTS, an older Cayman is seriously exciting to drive, with a better balance through bends than a 911 (which has the engine mounted further back) but the same distinctive sound from the flat-six cylinder engine that’s a joy to rev to the red line.

The 3.4-litre ‘S’ version is that bit more powerful than a 2.7-litre Cayman (295bhp versus 245bhp) but you’ll find that either is available for £20,000, mainly because the standard model will be lower mileage. If push came to shove, we’d pick the S as it has the edge for performance.

Chevrolet Corvette: buy one for £12,000

Top Gear episode 5

Snap up America’s favourite muscle car, for just £12,000 (Picture © Chevrolet)

No, it doesn’t come with a pair of Colt pistols and a leather gun belt. But putting your foot down in a Corvette will have you yelling “Yehaw” for the hell of it.  A search of the classifieds turned up a very tidy-looking, 1994 little red Corvette coupe which had covered just 32,000 miles.

The car in question began life in America before being exported to Germany, then imported to the UK. Its 5.6-litre V8 engine has muscle – about 300bhp if old age hasn’t dulled its responses – but the chassis is a tad wobbly on these generation ‘Vettes. On a winding road, it wouldn’t see which way Richard Hammond’s seventh generation car went.

But who cares? A Corvette is about cruising as much as cornering. And the beautifully prepared example we found will turn heads wherever it goes.

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