The rare luxury cars fast vanishing from our roads

Cars with a luxury slant sell in smaller numbers by their very nature.

But some are destined to survive in tiny numbers. Here, we look at the rarest luxury cars on the UK roads, in descending order of the number remaining taxed and in use. Data comes from the excellent How Many Left website.

Vauxhall Signum – 2006

Vauxhall was aiming for luxury space at a distinctly mass market price with the Signum. Based on the same wheelbase as the Vectra estate and a sibling of the ghastly Fiat Croma Mk2, the Signum offered huge amounts of rear leg room and the two rear chairs could be slid back and forth to suit their passengers. There was also the clever FlexSpace centre console, while boot space was equally impressive.

However, the combination of the Vauxhall badge and low-grade cabin materials meant the Signum was never a serious rival to the likes of the BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class. Sales were sluggish and now there are just 2006 left on UK roads and 1574 SORN’d as registered but not on the road.

BMW 5 GT – 1564

In a bid to be almost all things to all luxury car buyers, the BMW 5 Series GT was based on the contemporary 7 Series’ platform but with fastback styling and an SUV stance. Its biggest differentiator was offering hatchback practicality in a class dominated by saloons, which made it a bold move by the German company.

There was loads of space in the front and back, superb comfort, and punchy engines. However, customers kept their distance and the GT is now a rare sight with only 1564 registered for road use in the UK, with a further 76 off the road.

Maserati Quattroporte – 1330

The Maserati Quattroporte has always been a lesser spotted luxury car going right back to its 1960s roots. This has been part of its appeal, mixing a performance image with exclusivity, so perhaps we should be surprised there is as many as 1330 Quattroportes of all types on the UK’s roads instead of worrying about dwindling numbers.

There are also a further 351 in ownership but not road registered. The fifth generation of Quattroporte, built between 2003 and 2012, is the most numerous and it’s easy to see the appeal when it’s powered by a Ferrari-derived V8 engine.

Volkswagen Phaeton – 1018

Volkswagen offered everything from a 3.0 V6 turbodiesel all the way up to its mighty 6.0-litre W12 motor in the Phaeton. It meant the model suited all types of luxury car buyer, from the private hire companies to anyone who simply wanted the very best in performance and refinement. Given the amount of time, money and effort VW poured into the Phaeton’s development, this was assured.

What wasn’t such a given was sales success in most markets. The anonymous styling combined with the lack of prestige of the VW badge held back sales in Europe and the US, and only China showed any great enthusiasm for the model. In the UK, there are now only just more than 1000 Phaetons in the road, with 362 more registered as off the road.

Aston Martin Rapide – 767

The four-seat Aston Martin Rapide offered buyers a chance to enjoy all of the dynamic pleasure of the company’s coupe models but with a dash of real-world practicality. The four-door body made the rear seats eminently usable – if a bit cosy - and you could even fold them down to add to the load space.

However, like its Lagonda predecessors, the Rapide never really took off in the sales charts and there are now only 758 driving on UK roads, plus 76 in storage. Out of this number, the rarest of the lot is the AMR version with a mere 38 still being used on the public road.

Honda Legend – 572

Count up all of the different generations of Honda Legend still on UK roads, including the Coupe versions, and you arrive a figure of 572. This says a lot about how luxury car buyers took a look at the Legend and most decided to spend their money elsewhere, which was something a shame as it was fully loaded with equipment, some of it groundbreaking. Unfortunately, the Honda name didn’t have the same pull as Audi, BMW, Jaguar or Mercedes.

As well as the 572 Legends remaining on the road in the UK, there are a further 451 parked on driveways and in garages.

Peugeot 607 – 348

Large French saloons have rarely fared well in the UK sales charts and the Peugeot 607 is a prime example of this. It may have enjoyed agile handling and decent ride, but it just looked too similar to the dull 407 saloon. Add in a cabin that was well equipped but not especially well put together and you had a car that only the French were ever going to love.

A slow seller when new, the 407’s numbers are thinning out and it has the dubious distinction of being a car where there are more off the road than on it. In total, 594 are registered as off the road, with only 413 being driven.

Citroen C6 – 382

The Citroen C6 should have been a much bigger seller than it was when new between 2006 and 2012. It was unashamedly French in its approach and styling, using Citroen’s Hydractive 3+ suspension to deliver a superbly cushioning ride quality in a car that evoked memories of the brilliant DS. It was also plush, roomy, and well-made inside.

None of this mattered and buyer stayed away, which means the C6’s high survival rate shows it’s a decently reliable car. In the UK, there are 382 on the road, with another 215 in ownership but parked off the street.

Infiniti Q70 – 366

The Infiniti brand has vanished from many markets after trying to convince buyers it could take on the likes of Audi, BMW and Jaguar. The Q70 was its executive offering and came packed to the gills with standard equipment to lure in buyers.

Sadly for Infiniti, the Q70’s ride and handling were never up to snuff compared to those of its European contenders. The company was also slow to offer a diesel engine at time when this was crucial to fleet sales, which sealed the Q70’s fate and there are now just 366 remaining on the road, with a further 7 languishing in garages.

Jaguar XJ Super V8 – 244

Tally up the 2003-2010 X350 generation of Jaguar’s XJ Super V8 and there are a mere 244 left on the UK’s roads, and around a fifth of the total number of survivors in storage. Find one of these cars that’s left and what you’ll discover is a long wheelbase version of Jaguar first all-aluminium XJ with the R version’s 400bhp supercharged V8 under the bonnet.

Jaguar threw everything at the Super V8 to make it as luxurious as possible. However, this also resulted in a price that was twice that of the entry-point XJ6 and accounts for this model being very thin on the ground.

(Jaguar Cars)
Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph – 169

The break-up of Rolls-Royce and Bentley overshadowed the Silver Seraph’s short life. Introduced in 1998 as the British duo were being split apart, with Rolls going to BMW which provided the 5.4-litre V12 for this luxury saloon, the Seraph was also hampered by its less than generous rear seat accommodation. In car aimed at those who would sit back there, this was a misstep.

In the end, Rolls-Royce produced a total of 1570 Silver Seraphs for worldwide sales, and just 169 of this number are still cruising UK roads. There are also 71 Seraphs tucked away in garages but not registered for use on the public highway.

Renault Vel Satis – 109

Renault’s Vel Satis was always destined to be a rare bird on this side of La Manche. Partly due to large French saloons having failed to score highly with the all-important company sector since the 1980s and also because of its odd looks. Get past these hurdles and you would find a car that made an excellent motorway cruiser and was a much better thought out luxury offering than the Avantime that now enjoys cult status.

None of this mattered at the time and the Vel Satis foundered three years after its 2002 introduction. Now, there are only 109 left on UK roads, with almost double that number sitting on driveways waiting to be put back on the road.

Volvo S80 V8 – 81

The Yamaha-developed 4.4-litre V8 engine gave the Volvo S80 a very different character from the other motors in this restrained Swede. With 311bhp on offer, it could crack 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and hit 155mph. Even so, it was also capable cruiser and gave Volvo a four-wheel-drive flagship to take on BWM and Mercedes, helped by keen pricing for a car boasting this size and type of engine.

While a small band of private buyers saw the appeal of the S80 V8, company drivers opted for the more economical and tax-friendly 2.4-litre turbodiesel. As a consequence, the V8 was and remains an enigma on UK roads, with a mere 90 left taxed and further 14 sitting off the road.

Alfa Romeo 164 – 70

It says a lot about the Alfa Romeo 164’s appeal to enthusiasts as a modern classic that a hefty 311 of them are owned but patiently waiting to be registered for the road. It also says a lot about the cost of fixing these cars relative to their values that only 70 are legal for use on the road.

In its day, the 164 earned plaudits for its handling and entertaining drive, and the 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre V6 engines have proved tough and reliable. However, Alfa’s lingering reputation for corrosion kept buyers away from the 164 in period, so sales didn’t reach the numbers it deserved.

(Alfa Romeo)
Hyundai Genesis – 42

Hyundai’s 2015 Genesis swam resolutely against the tide of conventional thinking for the luxury car market. A large petrol engine with high carbon-dioxide emissions might work for a Mercedes-AMG, but for a car made and sold by Hyundai, it wasn’t going to work. And it didn’t, which is why there are only 42 Genesis left in the UK and one currently untaxed. The Genesis brand has recently been relaunched as a stand-alone brand.

Maybach 57/62 – 35

Add the total number of Maybach 57 and 62 models left on the road in the UK and you have 35 cars. Out of the number, 16 are the smaller 57 model, with the remaining 15 made up of the longer wheelbase 62. There are also a fair few off the road, with 17 Maybach 57s in storage and a further 11 of the 62 model untaxed.

The luxury offered by these two uber-Mercedes models was never in doubt. However, their enormous list prices compared to even the most expensive S-Class - complete with a brand that didn’t mean that much to most - put off all but the very wealthiest buyers and guaranteed they would be thin on the ground.

Audi A8 W12 – 35

Audi first introduced its 6.0 W12 technical marvel of an engine to the A8 in 2001, though this was more of a toe in the water ahead of the launch of the next A8 in 2002. This second-generation A8 offered the W12 as the ultimate motor in the long wheelbase model with 444bhp. Sensational as it was in refinement and performance, it was a slow seller and remained so when the third-generation A8 arrived in 2009.

While Bentley shifted thousands of Continental GTs with the W12 engine, Audi A8 is hard to find with only 35 left registered for use on UK roads.

Bentley Eight – 23

The Bentley Eight was introduced in mid-1984 as a more cost-conscious way to enjoy this most British of car names. It had a list price of £49,497 to make it some £10,000 cheaper than a Bentley Mulsanne or Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit. It was hard to spot when Bentley had saved on the money and the Eight became a popular model up to 1992.

A total of 1734 Eights were sold new, but only 23 survive on UK roads, with another 30 registered but off the road. Sadly, many fell into disrepair as their values tumbled at the turn of the millennium and it was easier to break them for spares than keep them in serviceable condition.

(Bentley Motors)
Mercedes-AMG R63 – 7

The Mercedes R63 AMG held the unusual title of the world’s fastest six-seater when it was launched in 2006. What you got for your £74,115 before options was an MPV that could blast from rest to 62mph in 4.6 seconds and top out at a capped 155mph. It also came with 4Matic all-wheel drive to cope with the 6.2-litre V8’s 503bhp.

Few were convinced by the R63’s curious appeal, or its 17.3mpg combined economy, and annual sales could be counted on one hand. This has resulted in just seven R63s still being on the UK’s roads, with another three waiting to be taxed.

Rover 75 Vanden Plas – 0

The Rover 75 Vanden Plas was aimed at a niche audience of private hire, local dignitaries and government ministers. All of them would appreciate the 200mm extra rear legroom of this stretched 75 saloon, which was built to order with custom coachwork by S MacNeillie & Son. This work included extending the rear doors and roof, and each car was based on a high-spec Connoisseur trim. The problem for this 75 was the niche market it was aiming for was simply too small and the Skoda Superb already filled this gap. Unfortunately, there is now none left on the roads. But there is 1 that is SORN.


The rare luxury cars fast vanishing from our roads We track down the unicorn pricey cars that are disappearing from our roads