Despite my love for high-end Italian grand touring cars and eccentric autos from the UK — anyone else dying to own a Morgan Aeromax? — it is the brutes from Germany that tend to end up in my garage. They are simply more accessible and easier to live with on a day-to-day basis.
Deutschland has been building quality, fun cars for decades. There are many worthy candidates worthy of highlighting, but I want to take a moment to point out three more modern models that I think are important to watch in the current market.
Modern in this case is any model produced in the era of OBDII — so let’s say 1996 and later.
2003-2006 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG
Pro: Torque and horsepower for days
Con: Repair bills can quickly add up to more than the car is worth
Price: Sub-$30k (Examples with over 100k miles closer to $15k)
Full disclosure, I may be a bit biased towards the E55 as I owned one for five years. And even though my car nearly caught fire in a parking lot when the wiring harness nuked itself, I still miss it.
The thing about the E55 is when on the road, they are a beast that eats up pavement like any good super sedan should. The ride was rough and steering feel was not quite on par with an E39 BMW M5, but man, that supercharged V8 made up for any shortcomings the E55 had. Instant torque, 469 horsepower and a hypnotizing supercharger whine made it impossible not to slam the pedal to the floor.
Prices are low as these are not considered collectible cars, and that’s part of the reason to snatch one up. They offer a ton of power and fun for the money. Ownership is not for the faint of heart, however, as repair and maintenance bills can add up quickly. You can’t take this to just any shop — you’ll have to find a place with experience in European imports.
When searching for one, seek the cleanest and lowest mileage example you can. At the very least, aim for a car that has had thoughtful owners that kept up on the maintenance needed.
The harder to find and more expensive wagon version might be the more enticing for anybody seeking more of a collectable car.
2006-2012 Porsche Cayman
Pro: A well-balanced, asphalt-carving machine
Con: Not the fastest Porsche on the block
Price: $25k-$35k (2006-2008); $35k-$50k (2009-2012)
There is no real slouch when it comes to Porsche’s car range, but some grab more attention than others. On the cheaper end of the price spectrum, attention tends to lands on the Boxster. Buyers are attracted to the open-air motoring the Stuttgart bargain can offer.
I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. It rains nine months out of the year here, so convertibles have never appealed to me. For me, the real bargain has always been the closed Porsche Cayman coupe.
Retaining the compact size of the Boxster while providing comfort in all weather conditions, the little coupe is balanced to perfection and cuts through the corners like a hot knife through butter. The driving experience is further enhanced with the iconic flat-six wail reverberating behind you.
To no one’s surprise, the cars from the first few years of production are cheaper, landing in the mid $20k range and up. Later examples — prior to the updated version in 2014 — are not eye-wateringly expensive either. They will nudge the price up closer to $40k or more, but that is reasonable for a Porsche that works just as well as a daily driver as it does a weekend cruiser. We are talking Porsche, not Toyota, after all.
If you are in market for one of these compact coupes, spend the extra money and search out a Cayman S over the base version. The extra horsepower is worth it. And consider an example with the manual transmission instead of the Tiptronic or PDK. That is a subjective choice, but for me, nothing beats rowing through the gears.
2007-2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series
Pro: Aggressive styling that remains attractive to this day
Con: A “cheap” entry into a Black Series Mercedes, but still not cheap
Price: $105k-$125k (Pricing is fluid, plenty have sold for more and several for less)
Most people have forgotten about the Mercedes CLK-class. The name died a decade ago with the German brand going instead to C-and E-class coupes. That said, the outdated model name is no reason to forget about the meanest of the CLK variants, the 63 AMG Black Series.
Powered by the great M156 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine producing 500 horsepower, this CLK is a serious machine, especially back in its day. The engine provided plenty of torque and was quick revving with a thunderous V8 exhaust note.
The CLK63 Black Series was no sleeper. The exterior styling matched the performance bona fides of the engine. It has fat fender flares and chunky lower body sills to make up for the wider track than the standard CLK63 AMG. The aggressive front splitter and rear diffuser both have carbon fiber pieces designed into them and match the carbon fiber lip spoiler on the trunk lid.
All of this comes at a price, and those prices have been increasing the past couple of years. Back in 2018, many of these sold in the $70k to $90k range. Today, the majority seem to sell above $100k. To date, the highest sale on Bring a Trailer is a 2008 Mars Red example with 6k miles that sold for $180k. Still much less than a SL65 or SLS AMG Black Series.
Even at this cheaper price point, you will still be getting a beast from Affalterbach with performance worthy of the AMG label and the looks to go with it. Just don’t expect to take the kids with you. The rear seats have been removed in the name of speed.