One of my personal favorite bits that The Grand Tour Trio, formerly of Top Gear, do is when they find budget alternatives to new cars. For instance, rather than buy a new Hyundai econobox, you can spend the same money and buy an old BMW M3 and have far more fun. In the most recent episode of The Grand Tour, the gang heads to China to see what sort of Western luxury cars can be had second-hand for a tenth of the cost of modern luxury cars. The Western luxury car that Clarkson proposes Chinese customers buy is the E38 BMW 7 Series.
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Not only does Clarkson drive an E38 7 Series, he drives the BMW 750iL, the big V12-powered version of the famous 7er. For it, he spent around £8,000, or about one hundred times less than the Hongqi L5 luxury car he drives at the beginning of the episode. Not only is it far cheaper, but it was actually more reliable than the brand-new Hongqi, faster, better looking and nicer to drive. Sure, it wasn’t as over the top as the uber-opulent L5 but the E38 7 Series was better in every other way.
The problem for Chinese customers is that brand-new luxury cars cost more than double in China than what they do in Europe or America, due to tax and just a bit of old-school overcharging by manufacturers. At the same time, a lot of luxury cars from a decade or so ago were never sold in China so there isn’t a second-hand market for them. That means to get them, Chinese customers have to import them from Europe, pay shipping and tax. However, even after all of that, they’re still far, far cheaper than what new luxury cars cost.
So it’s actually pretty fascinating to watch and see just how much better value cars like the E38 7 Series are in China and why they’re so good to buy. Did Clarkson finally give some genuine consumer advice? Check out the latest episode on Amazon Prime.