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The Cars of 2003…

Revisiting the new cars of twenty years ago

2003 was the year of Concorde’s last flight and marked the founding of Tesla, but there were plenty of new cars launched, too. Which one is your favourite?


Cars of 2003The big X5 SUV was already a success, so BMW was keen to repeat the recipe with a smaller offering. It drove nicely and there was a strong range of engines to choose from, although not everyone was bowled-over by the firm ride and an interior that felt cheaper than expected. It still sold well, though, and numerous revisions over the years kept things fresh. One with around 150k miles on the clock can be yours from £2000.

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BMW Car Club GB

Porsche Carrera GT

Cars of 2003As the pinnacle of Porsche engineering the GT had it all, from a V10 engine for 200mph+ performance to high-tech carbon-fibre construction and race car-inspired aerodynamics. It even had a gear knob made from beech wood, something inspired by the famous 917 racers. Fewer than 1300 were made and it didn’t come cheap, and you’ll have to dig deep if you want one today. In excess of a million pounds, in fact.

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Porsche Club Great Britain

Chrysler Crossfire

This distinctively-styled coupe (and convertible) was based on the platform from the Mercedes SLK, so it drove nicely enough and offered plenty of kit for the money. The V6 engine was a decent performer, too, although the real performance was reserved for the SRT-6 that got 330bhp and 0-60mph in just 5.1 seconds. Those are rare, but if you’re in the market for some affordable style then good Crossfires can be had for around £4000.

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UK Crossfire Club

Alfa Romeo GT

Borrowing its platform from the 156 saloon and with smart Bertone styling, the GT blended good looks with decent practicality. Buyers could choose from lively Twin Spark petrol engines or a frugal diesel, but it was the sonorous V6 that topped the bill; with 240bhp the coupe was a genuine 150mph machine. Those are worth a bit more but £2000-3000 is enough for a decent GT and you’ll want one with a sound service history.

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Alfa Romeo Owners Club

Ford GT

Harking back to the legendary Le Mans racers of the 1960s, Ford’s modern interpretation was a dramatic supercar that used its supercharged V8 engine to good effect. With 550bhp and a 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds, it tempted a certain Jeremy Clarkson to buy one. Only a little more than 4000 were made and not many come up for sale, but if you’re after motoring excitement then you’ll need to find upwards of £400,000.

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Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

When it came to outright drama there was little that could touch this stunning machine, one that combined advanced construction and aerodynamics with an epic supercharged V8 motor. Was it quick? You bet. 0-60mph was over in less than four seconds and it could go on to 207mph. Just 2282 were made and the SLR wasn’t cheap with a price tag of £313,000, and you’ll pay a similar amount to own one today.

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Mercedes Benz Club

Lamborghini Gallardo

Produced under Audi ownership, there was much-improved quality to go with the usual supercar attributes. Handling and grip were fantastic, and buyers would certainly be seduced by the 5.0-litre V10 engine that shoved the Gallardo to the other side of 190mph. The drop-top Spyder that arrived in 2006 only added to the appeal, while the second-gen model from 2008 got a bit more power. Don’t buy one without a meticulous service history, and budget from £60,000.

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Lamborghini Owners Club

Bentley Continental GT

The first Bentley under VW ownership was an absolute belter, one that offered proper luxury and serious punch. The latter was courtesy of a twin-turbocharged W12 engine that sent 552bhp to all four wheels, and meant the opulent coupe could hit almost 200mph. You could have a convertible from 2006, too. Maintenance and repair costs can be eye-watering so avoiding neglected ones is crucial, but with prices dipping under £15,000 the Conti is very tempting.

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Bentley Drivers Club

Smart Roadster/Roadster Coupe

2003 was when these stylish small cars arrived in the UK, and they soon found favour with buyers wanting a sportier take on the Smart theme. 80bhp from the 698cc 3-cylinder engine meant modest outright performance, but they were fun to drive even if the jerky gearbox spoiled things a little. A Brabus-tuned version was offered, too. Good examples can be found from £3000, but water leaks can cause all manner of trouble so check carefully.

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The Real Smart Car Owners Club

Rolls-Royce Phantom

This was the first new Rolls developed under BMW ownership, so there was plenty of expectation. And boy did they deliver. From the imposing looks to the incredible levels of refinement and luxury, the Phantom was very special and it still feels the same twenty years later. Performance from the V12 is ample, too, and it’s a very relaxing way to travel. It cost plenty when new, but the cheapest one we’ve found is £60,000.

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Rolls Royce & Bentley Enthusiasts Club

Rover CityRover

A way to get MG Rover back into the small car market, their answer was a mildly-revised Tata Indica. It was cheap to buy and usefully spacious but the flipside was poor economy, disappointing build quality and lacklustre dynamics, and while almost 9000 were sold in the UK they are rare today. The company folded just two years later, and with fewer than 200 on the road finding one for sale might be the hardest thing.

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Rover Sports Register

Volkswagen Golf

It’s the Mk 5 generation we have here, a model that continued the Golf’s reputation as classy and capable transport. A wide range of engines and trim levels ensured a version for every taste, and it also marked a real return to form for the famous GTI badge. The bread-and-butter models could have seen hard use, though, so it’s a case of finding the best you can afford. Prices start at less than £1000 for a mega-miler.

Join the club:
Volkswagen Owners Club GB

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