Jon Arnell is setting up his own business and is handing back his company BMW 535d Sport.

He is looking for something second-hand, no earlier than 2001, with less than 60,000 miles on the clock, and is prepared to spend between £15,000 and £20,000. He would like something quicker and more agile than the 535. Occasionally Jon has to accommodate his twin 18-year-olds, so the back seats are a potential issue. He wants to be classy and not flash.

A car for the head

As someone who has been self-employed for more years than I care to remember, I would be inclined to take the maximum amount of that budget and plough it into my business even if that means having a Mondeo for a bit. Indeed, a tidy 2005 Mondie for £5,000 could be the best approach in the short term. But to many people, a Mondeo is common rather than classy, so let's look elsewhere. Mercedes may sell in the mass market but their three-pointed star still has cachet and the C-Class could be the answer. A 2002 C200K saloon with 62,000 miles on the clock and all the options, including automatic gearbox, would be perfect at £4,995. For more economy a C220 CDI is also worth considering at the same price, with a slightly higher mileage.

A car for the heart

Now lets imagine that Jon's small business has become a lot bigger and he can afford to treat himself. I would love to recommend the BMW 6 Series, which is very affordable now, as a 2004 645Ci costs around £10,000. It may be a bit too flash and may not have enough legroom in the back. In that case the obvious choice would be the BMW M5. It's the younger, madder brother of the 535d, but just as subtle. Here is one of the most significant performance saloons of the last decade. Jon will have to consider the fuel consumption, which plunges from around 40mpg, to 19.1mpg for the M5. It does provide a combination of fairly comfortable driving manners with astounding grip and general supercar behaviour. Obviously the huge V8 engine helps, and there is no shortage of standard equipment. This is not a cheap car to run and it does need looking after, so Jon must have a generous budget available for garage visits. He can buy a 2005 example from a car dealer for £17,995.

James Ruppert's new book The German Car Industry: My Part in Its Victory, is out now (Foresight Publications) and is also available via at £12.99 including p&p

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.

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