First-class cars without the thirst

20 May 2014

I’ve been lucky enough to test a few prestige green cars over the past few years, many of which are no longer quite so new as they once were. Here’s a roundup of my favourite upmarket motors that are now readily available secondhand, offering a champagne experience for cava costs.

Mercedes-Benz E300 Hybrid

Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTec Hybrid

Available as both a saloon and an estate, the E300 BlueTec Hybrid achieved a combined cycle score of 68.9mpg and as little as 109g/km of CO2, and yet can still flit to 62mph in a tidy 7.5 seconds.

The hybrid E300 employs a 27bhp (20kW) electric motor to supplement its 204hp, 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel. Torque is never in short supply, with a road-rippling 500Nm available from the engine plus another 250Nm from the motor.

The motor slots neatly between the engine and the seven-speed automatic gearbox, separated by a computer-operated clutch. This arrangement allows the motor to propel the car unaided while the engine sleeps, for example when setting off from a standstill or when cruising at a modest steady speed.

Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTec Hybrid interior

The car’s 0.8kWh lithium-ion battery fits without bother under the E-Class’s long bonnet, meaning no encroachment on luggage volume or reduction in practicality.

The hybrid E-Class arrived in autumn 2012, and the entire E-Class range was facelifted the following April, offering slightly sleeker styling, a tweaked interior and improved equipment levels.

New prices start from £39,880 for the saloon and £41,670 for the estate. I found a very presentable post-facelift saloon via with under 5,000 miles for £29,900 – a saving of almost £10,000 before considering options. A nearly-new hybrid estate with under 4,000 miles was also available on the same site for £33,995.

BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics

BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics

Like the E-Class hybrid, BMW’s most economical 3-Series offers a surprising combination of shift plus thrift. The 320d Efficient Dynamics saloon can hit 62mph in eight seconds and still score 68.9mpg and 109g/km in its official exams. A Touring or estate car variant is almost as frugal, rated at 65.7mpg and 112g/km.

Either style of car is powered by a 2-litre four-cylinder diesel that has been mildly tweaked to boost economy, dropping 21bhp compared with the standard 320d to give a still reasonable 163bhp, plus 380Nm of torque. The gearing has also been lengthened, the suspension lowered, and low-resistance tyres fitted to the 16-inch alloy wheels.

BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics interior

Today, you’ll pay from £28,775 for the ED saloon and £30,075 for the Touring, before options. Rummaging among the nearly-new selection at suggests a budget of £22,000 should be ample for a year-old, low-mileage four-door car. Add at least another £1,000 for the less numerous estate.

Lexus GS 450h

Lexus GS 450h F-Sport

With a vague resemblance to a 5-Series BMW, the 2012-model GS 450h brought a real sense of presence to the third generation of Lexus’s mid-size saloon. It also brought guts: under the bonnet a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine delivering 288bhp and 352Nm of torque is joined by an electric motor offering another 197bhp (147kW) and 275Nm. Both send their power to the rear wheels, in isolation or together according to demand, offering a combined peak of 341bhp.

Given full beans, the GS 450h will reach 62mph in just 5.9 seconds. For the pace on offer, economy of up to 46.3mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 141g/km are not too shabby. And if you can manage without the full-pelt package a slower, less powerful GS 300h joined the family in autumn 2013.

Lexus GS 450h F-Sport interior

The GS 300h provides a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine rated at 178bhp and 221Nm, together with a 105kW (141bhp) electric motor with a sizeable 300Nm slug of torque. The sprint to 62mph can be dusted 9.2 seconds, while CO2 figures drop as low as 109g/km.

Today, a new GS 450h will cost at least £45,495 while the 300h starts from £31,495. With the youngest 300h examples still under six months old you may struggle to find a sizeable saving, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find a lightly used, year-old 450h with a saving of £12,000 or more over the list price, especially when options have been totted up. I found a promising example with under 6,000 miles in F-Sport trim, worth at least £51,495 when new, for £35,950.

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