Got lots of stuff to take somewhere quickly and can’t bring yourself to buy an SUV? We consider a selection of £5000 V8 estate cars

Mercedes E-Class (W210)

The 1994-2001 W210 series was offered to UK buyers in both E420 and E430 trim with V8 power and as an estate too, but sadly they’re all but extinct here now, which means your best bet if you’re in the market for a V8-engined Mercedes estate is the W211 series from 2001 which packed the 5-litre V8 borrowed from the contemporary S-Class rated at 302bhp and 340lb ft.

Badged as E500, it was a whole lot more low-key than the AMG-badged V8 models and in estate form was even more practical than the Audi. It was also exceptionally subtle, with little to distinguish it externally from a mid-spec diesel but packed a formidable punch with a 62mph sprint in 6.3 seconds and the usual 155mph limited top end, figures which were reduced to six seconds dead with the optional 4Matic all-wheel drive.

In 2006 the V8 was enlarged to 5.5 litres, in which form the E500 now boasted 382bhp and sprinted to 60mph in just 5.3 seconds, reduced to 4.8 seconds in 4Matic form.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, while Audi buyers overwhelmingly went for the S and RS models, Mercedes sold a whole lot more of the regular E500 estate and there’s generally a reasonable selection for sale at any given time. In early 2024 we watched a lovely-looking metallic blue 2004 example sell at auction for just £1700. Never mind the 180,000 miles, since by the era of the W211 Mercedes had shrugged off its much-publicised quality dip and was back on form. Oh and it’s ULEZ-exempt too.

Audi A6 (C5)

Think V8-engined Audis and the image which floats to mind is generally that of a wide-arched RS model a couple of inches off your rear bumper, its 4D gel plates barely visible through the thick fog.

With the second-generation C5 model in 1997 though, Audi quietly made the 4.2-litre V8 available without all the S and RS baggage as the simply named A6 Avant 4.2. With black plastic lower bumpers and just the 17-inch wheels and a discreet ‘4.2’ badge on the tailgate, it was a masterpiece of stealth making for a real weapon.

Packing 300bhp, the 40-valve V8 was could be ordered only in conjunction with the Quattro four-wheel drive and was good for 0-62mpg in just 6.9 seconds with a limited 155mph top end. Meanwhile, its 295lb.ft torque made light work of anything you cared to hang off the tow bar.

Unsurprisingly, the 4.2 V8 was never a huge seller in the UK and they’re rare today. They do exist though and searching in early 2024 we found a couple of presentable examples at just under £4000.

MG ZT-T 260

There are two ways of looking at the twilight days of MG Rover and the very existence of the ZT 260 polarises opinion. On the one hand, what were they thinking messing about re-engineering the Rover 75 to take a Ford Mustang V8… but on the other, knowing the writing was on the wall, can you blame them for having a bit of  fun?

And fun is certainly on the menu with the ZT-260, which despite an unlikely genesis is actually a surprisingly credible performer and a tidy handler too, making it an enjoyable package. And what’s more, MG did actually make the 260 available in ‘ZT-T’ estate form.

It’s a rare beast for sure, but not as rare as you might think: DVLA records show over 50 cars still registered, even if a big proportion of them are on SORN.

The reworking of the vanilla Rover 75 to take the American V8 involved revised bulkhead and front floors to accommodate the longitudinal powertrain, although the insistence of parent company BMW on bodyshell rigidity had blessed it with a central tunnel large enough for a propshaft. A multi-link rear end was installed complete with a curious single vertical damper to tame axle tramp and all told the mods added some 100kg to the weight. With 260PS (257bhp) from its 4.6 litres and 302lb.ft, the MG’s power to weight ratio was broadly on a par with the BMW 330i, giving it a 0-60mph time of 6.2 seconds.

These late model MG Rover curiosities are sought-after in enthusiast circles, so don’t come to market often but if you do stumble across one, budget on around £8000 and be prepared to travel – oddly enough, there are quite a few in the Netherlands and Belgium.

BMW 540i (E39)

Despite its engineering excellence, BMW was hampered as it gained in prestige in the 1980s by lacking a V8 engine to compete with arch-rival Mercedes. Despite dramatically leapfrogging Mercedes by unveiling a V12 in 1987, the brand needed a V8 and it finally arrived in 1992 in the 740i and 840i. Naturally, the V8 appeared in the 5 Series the following year, which was at that time was the E34 generation and conveniently enough was offered in Touring form as the 530i and 540i.

Naturally, most of the cars were self-shifters with the Holy Grail of the range being the rare six-speed manual 540i. And when we say rare, you can count the survivors on the fingers of one hand. Values? Well we’ve seen mint 540i’s advertised at an optimistic £29,000 but you should be able to find a 530i auto for around £5000.

Far more accessible though is the later E39 generation, a car which is often regarded as being the pinnacle of BMW design and which still feels really very modern to drive. The E39 was offered as the 3.5-litre 535i rated at 241bhp and the 4.4-litre, 282bhp 540i and both are crushingly capable long-distance load luggers, complete with self-levelling air suspension on the rear end.

Yes, the 530d makes more sense but the six-speed manual 540i (the 535i made do with just five gears) is as close as you’ll come to a manual M5 and you may well even manage to bag one for our five grand budget.

Volkswagen Passat W8

At once outrageous and so subtle, the pinnacle of the B5 Passat range was one of the most outlandish creations to be released by the normally conservative VW Group. Well, until the Phaeton arrived anyway.

Technically it’s not a pure V8 but a W8, the engine using the ‘narrow angle’ design philosophy which created the VR6 and by extension the W12. Boasting 271bhp from its four litres, it turned the outwardly unassuming Passat wagon into something of a hot rod. With just the 17-inch wheels and discreet badging to identify it, the W8 scorched to 62mph in 6.8 seconds courtesy of standard 4Motion all-wheel drive and topped out at a limited 155mph. Almost unbelievably, it was offered with a six-speed manual box as well as the more common five-speed automatic.

As a beacon of lunacy in the steady life story of the Passat, the W8 is a brilliant diversion and although they’re rare on UK roads, there are a few around. Budget on £6000 for a manual example, although projects are around for half that, but you will have to be patient if it’s the estate you really want.