Home » You Can Buy A Twin-Turbocharged V12 AMG Mercedes For The Price Of A New Volkswagen Jetta

You Can Buy A Twin-Turbocharged V12 AMG Mercedes For The Price Of A New Volkswagen Jetta

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Owning a car with a V12 engine is on almost every enthusiast’s bucket list, but powerful V12s normally aren’t cheap. Ferraris and Lamborghinis are properly exotic stuff with price tags to match, and on the cheaper side, even Aston Martin Rapides aren’t quite as quick as you might think. However, if you’re looking for smoothness rather than a screaming soundtrack, Mercedes might have exactly what you need thanks to AMG.

Yep, the upper echelon of modern AMG Mercedes-Benzes starts with the ’65’ cars (SL65, S65, CL65), ultra-rare twin-turbocharged V12 monsters that had to be held back electronically to not completely decimate their transmissions. For ages, this engine was simply too powerful for the then-latest generation of Mercedes-Benz gearboxes, so you can only imagine what it could do to a set of rear tires.

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However, these cars aren’t just for Forbes List billionaires anymore. Over the years, values have come down so that instead of six-figure price tags, each starting with a two, you’re looking at five-figure price tags, each starting with a two, or possibly even a one. How good is your traffic attorney?

What Are We Looking At?

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In the mid-2000s, AMG decided that a supercharged V8 just wasn’t enough. The people wanted more power, so the engineers in Affalterbach cooked up a 6.0-liter quad-cam V12 with a starter motor powerful enough to snap everyone to attention. Of course, twelve cylinders just wasn’t enough, so AMG added two turbochargers, liquid-to-air intercooling, and a maximum boost pressure of 22.1 psi. The result? A whopping 738 lb.-ft. of torque and 604 horsepower. That ought to move two tons of German opulence alarmingly quickly.

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Indeed, AMG then found homes for this engine under the hoods of the SL65, S65, CL65 as the first twin-turbocharged V12 AMG models, and were they ever rapid. Acceleration off the line is traction limited to say the least, but once these cars get going, they just take off. For reference, Car And Driver took a 2007 S65 AMG from zero-to-150 mph in less than 22 seconds during instrumented testing, quicker than a Ferrari F430 despite a zero-to-60 mph time seven-tenths of a second slower. Also, a Ferrari F430 is a purpose-built speed machine, while an S65 is an executive sedan with a massive V12 under the hood. Not bad, AMG. Not bad.

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Of equal importance to the sheer figures is the way these cars feel when you get on it. There’s no bark-and-roar pantomime, just a low whoosh as you get pushed into your seat by the hand of god. Top-end acceleration feels nigh-on limitless, and numerous filmed autobahn runs show these cars charging into their electronic top speed limiters like rhinos. Take the limiter off, and prepare to see the fun side of 200 mph.

How Expensive Are We Talking?

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Depreciation is a hell of a drug, and older AMG 65 cars can be picked up relatively cheaply. A brand new 2024 Volkswagen Jetta Sport stickers for $23,810 including freight, and there are plenty of these V12 juggernauts under that cap. Want to feel the wind in your hair? This 2005 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG recently sold on Cars & Bids for $23,000, and it looks promising. Sure, it might be in the monochrome spec of silver-over-black, but with a mere 92,900 miles on the clock, a clean Carfax, and the big ticket ABC suspension pump taken care of, it’s a promising grand touring convertible with some serious speed up its sleeve.

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Alright, so maybe you’re more of a sedan person. How about a 2007 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG? This one sold on Bring A Trailer back in April for $20,250, and it’s a shocking amount of car for the money. Not only did it boast a mere 82,000 miles on the clock when it sold, it has a clean Carfax and loads of equipment. The W221 S-Class marked new heights for in-car tech, and this one has heated, cooled, and massaging rear seats, night vision, and adaptive cruise control. It’s one aftermarket CarPlay box away from feeling like a new luxury car, all for a surprisingly sensible price.

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Switching gears from Recession Rich to ’04 Rich, if you like pillarless coupes and cannot lie, you might dig this 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG that sold on Bring A Trailer back in March for $12,277. Yep, less than $13,000. It’s got a clean Carfax and a clean title, so why did it go so cheap? Well, the paint’s in pretty rough shape, and the odometer screen in the gauge cluster isn’t working, so the total mileage is unknown. A 2023 Carfax entry claims 128,000 miles back in August, but who knows? Regardless, this is one fast car for the money.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

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While an aged Mercedes is typically a money pit, the M275 AMG V12 is one of the better powertrain options. It has no common internal flaws, and because the might of the engine necessitated prolonged use of the old five-speed automatic transmission, you won’t run into ultra-expensive coded conductor plate replacement like you might with a seven-speed automatic. However, coil packs on these cars are built as cassettes, so if one goes bad, replacement of the entire bank is needed. Somehow, genuine Mercedes-Benz parts from FCPEuro are one of the most cost-sensitive ways of doing this, but a set for both banks will run $2,335.98 plus a $250 core charge.

It’s also worth noting that all of these cars are old German luxury cars, which means they have their own non-engine-related foibles. We’re talking about hydraulic suspension that costs some serious coin to keep going, along with four-figures worth of discs and pads on each axle, various pain points when it comes to the reliability of creature comforts, and of course, all the bushing and whatnot that wear out on any car over time. Running one of these beasts isn’t cheap, even if they aren’t likely to experience catastrophic failure.

Should You Buy A Cheap Twin-Turbocharged V12 AMG Mercedes-Benz?

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If you’re shopping for compact cars, stay away from these V12 Mercedes highway missiles. They still require new luxury car money to maintain, and that’s before we get into their voracious appetites for fuel and rubber. However, if you’re looking for something fun and have always wanted a powerful V12, these cars are simply magical. Sure, they don’t have the theater of a Ferrari or Lamborghini, but if it’s smooth, understated, ferocious grunt you’re looking for, an S65, CL65, or SL65 won’t disappoint.

(Photo credits: Cars & Bids, Bring A Trailer)

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Alpine 911
Alpine 911
7 days ago

Apparently the torque on the first test cars was so high that they spun the rims inside the tires.

Also, they restricted the torque from 1,200+ Nm to 1’000 Nm because that was the limit of the transmission (and it was the strongest already).

Colin Howe
Colin Howe
7 days ago

These are not quad cam. Actually just SOHC

Also, coil packs can be repaired much cheaper and better here

https://www.v12icpack.com/

Swedish Jeep
Swedish Jeep
7 days ago

My 16 year old son’s best friend just bought a 2005 v12 SL 600 from a guy who was going to scrap it, for 800 bucks. He towed It over and dropped it in his driveway. Now this kid is an aspiring mechanic, but in two weeks with about 50 bucks in parts and some mcguyver skills he’s managed to get the thing running and driving under its own power in excess of freeway speeds- oh and it has no smog or mufflers hooked up (yes its loud). He says it’s surprising easy to work on, and he’s trying all kinds of stuff with it. I keep telling him to put the content up on his YouTube and TikTok (no way he’s posting anywhere else) and people will find it. He’s having a blast- he’s going to run that thing into the ground- or get as much power out of it as he can… and if grenades- he’s out 850 bucks and has learned a lot. For now he’s big pimpin in a huge V12 Mercedes….

Last edited 7 days ago by Swedish Jeep
Tina Dang
Tina Dang
7 days ago
Reply to  Swedish Jeep

Thanks for this link and he’s amazing.

Swedish Jeep
Swedish Jeep
7 days ago
Reply to  Swedish Jeep

This is awesome- When I posted this 2 hours ago he had one video up with 8 views. I asked Ethan before posting the link and told him to upload the other videos he has. In 2 hours he’s gotten over 1000 views on multiple videos. You guys are awesome, this is so encouraging for a young kid and his friends who love wrenching.

Sv Maven
Sv Maven
7 days ago

My S65 was an amazing car. The first and second owners pay the depreciation and get warranty service.Third owner is probably the sweet spot. Fourth owner pays for service the third owner deferred. Fifth owner parts it out on eBay

Marques Dean
Marques Dean
8 days ago

Here’s another Audi for those who need their S6 fix.
https://www.coventrymotorcar.com/listings/2018-audi-s6-prestige-quattro/

Harrnack
Harrnack
8 days ago

I owned a 2005 S-Class with this engine (non-AMG spec) and fancy ABC suspension. I bought the car at 9 years old (so, 2014) with 100K of mileage. Paid 10 grand for it.

In the next 10 months, I spent another $10K to fix minor ABC issues and catch up the maintenance.

Gas and insurance ran about $1000 a month (got about 12 mpg, 8 in sport mode).

Had to sell it due to job loss after 10 months of glorious driving. Could only get $5000 bucks for it when it sold. So for the 10 months I owned it, it consumed about $25,000.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d do it again but saying you can get this car “for the price of a Jetta” is extremely misleading as the follow on costs can easily be more than the car.

Jb996
Jb996
8 days ago

I never thought I would sell my “cheap” 911. But for a V12 GT car, which I think suits me better as I age… I just might. Hmm…

I put a lot into maintenance into the 911, doing the work myself, how different could a Merc really be?
Is it bad that I didn’t flinch too badly at $2300 for 12 coils? And that’s the worst thing about these engines??
Hmm…
Damn you Hundal!!

Last edited 8 days ago by Jb996
Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
8 days ago

These are great. But let’s not forget the slightly less tuned 600 models. SL, CL, and S. Still V12, still twin turbo. Less coin. We’re talking 5.5 V12 with 500 hp and 600 torque. In the mid aughts. These things were unreal. And their starting prices were WAY less money than the AMGs but had like 85% of the juice. I’ve fantasized about getting one since then, but never too seriously. Maybe now is the time as they are probably fully bottomed out on their depreciation curve. Not to mention the V12 is quickly becoming extinct, not to mention one’s with turbos attached. They may become worth something soon enough.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
8 days ago

There was an SL65 for sale on my local Craigslist for $12k a few months ago. It had just less than 100,000 miles on it but had been given the all-black treatment, which made it look absolutely awful and likely why it was so cheap. The ad noted that both the headlamps and taillights had been tinted on the inside, the factory AMG wheels were gone, and that there was a slight misfire. A few quick Google searches brought up the coil pack issue and price, and once I started looking at replacement headlights I decided there probably wasn’t a better example of the old addage “nothing is more expensive than a cheap German car”. I still like the thought of the SL65, but I no longer ever see myself owning one.

Andrew Daisuke
Andrew Daisuke
8 days ago

I’ve owned:

Electric (Nissan)
NA I-4 (Volvo)
Turbo I-4 (Volvo, VW)
Turbo I-5 (Volvo, twice)
NA V6 (Ford, Honda, Toyota)
NA H6 (Porsche)
Turbo I-6 (Cummins, twice)
Twin Turbo V8 (Duramax)
Supercharged V8 (E55 AMG Wagon)
NA V10 (BMW)

but never a 12. dear god do I want to though.

Last edited 8 days ago by Andrew Daisuke
Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
8 days ago

Oh I remember these. They’re some of the greatest sleepers of all time. There were also a few 600 models around this time that had a 5.5 liter twin turbo V12 and “only” about 500 horsepower (but nearly 600 pound feet). They were usually faster than their comparable AMG 55 models and even stealthier.

I came across a really nice local SL600 that was priced around 20 grand and I thought about it more than I should have/sent it to my old man to see if he was interested in going half in with me. He wasn’t. He’s sensible. But anyway Car and Driver got an 04 SL600 to 60 in 3.6 seconds, and it ran a quarter mile in the high 11s as a fucking stock GT car in the early 2000s. Unreal.

But I daydream of V12 Mercs all day every day, and all of the turbo, cylinder rich Benz mills of this era produced ludicrous quantities of torque. I frequently browse listings for stuff like this and I’m always surprised by how affordable it is. I don’t think it’ll stay that way forever, because for how crazy 600/65 AMGs look on paper they’re not actually THAT bad to keep running.

I remember daydreaming about this stuff as a teenager. Welp looks like I’m off to cars dot com again…slash something like this isn’t the worst financial decision you could make? You COULD go finance a new car…or you could pay cash for a depreciated beast, set aside all the money you saved to keep it running, and spend (most) days enjoying the pleasures of a bygone era when Ze Germans went completely off the rails.

Last edited 8 days ago by Nsane In The MembraNe
Goof
Goof
8 days ago

I know someone who’s gone for one of these and paid to get it entirely sorted.

Was it that cheap in the end? No. Was it still ‘cheap’ for what you end up with? Absolutely. Do you have a shit-eating grin at all times when you drive it? You bet.

Kicker? This is the car his wife asks to borrow the most. She’s kind of a stereotypical little old bitty, so it’s hilarious to think of a smol grandma taking a friend to breakfast with it, both of them cackling like crows the entire time.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
8 days ago
Reply to  Goof

They don’t live in Pasadena, do they?

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
8 days ago

I know folks will be along shortly to point out how you’re paying $23k for a grenade with the pin already out, but I want to use this opportunity to express how terrified I am when Gavel Gazing hits on something (initially, financially, regrettably, desirably) attainable.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
8 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

I almost got in trouble today when I spotted an 08 Audi S8 with the “lambo” V10 for only like $7k.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
8 days ago

Emergency funds are overrated, anyway.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
8 days ago

I pass a V10 S6 on my commute. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve thought about leaving a note and asking how much they want for it.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
8 days ago

2000-2010 Audi’s have got to be at the bottom of the curve. B5’s are dirt cheap, V10 S6/S8’s are fuck it money, and even the wagons aren’t commanding high prices. If I was smart I’d buy a well maintained one right now. Aside from the supermodels like Coupe Quattro and S2, old Audi’s dangerously cheap.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
8 days ago

> even the wagons aren’t commanding high prices

time for a cold shower and a long walk to sort through some feelings. Plus, plus, this is the last golden era in which “in-car entertainment” referred to the pedals and gearbox, rather than a screen.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
8 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Every time I hear the phrase “in-car entertainment” I am reminded of this girl I used to go out with who was something of a contortionist.

Marques Dean
Marques Dean
8 days ago

If you guys only knew…
This gem is an hour and half from my house. Not a V-10 but pretty damn close and some would be willing to sell their soul for it!
https://www.coventrymotorcar.com/listings/2007-audi-rs4-sedan/

The Dude
The Dude
8 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Right? There’s so many tempting cars featured, and then I have to remember two things:

  1. They’re almost always money pits unless I have the wrenching skills, which I sadly do not possess.
  2. I’ve only owned Korean and Japanese cars. At this point in my life it would be weird driving anything else haha.

Still, it’s a great read and there’s definitely a reason why these machines, as great as they are, cost as much as a new entry-levelish car.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
8 days ago
Reply to  The Dude

From my experience, you develop the skills as you go along

The Dude
The Dude
7 days ago

That makes sense, I started learning to wrench when I was younger, then college, a career, and other life happened and I couldn’t prioritize it. I’ll do some minor things like oil changes, stereo installs, misc. minor fixes where I won’t risk creating a more expensive problem for myself. But with the kids getting older I’m back in a position to start getting back into it.

So one day I’ll be able to afford keeping one of these glorious machines on the road.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
7 days ago
Reply to  The Dude

If you get the chance, go for it! I started wrenching on very basic stuff in my mid twenties. I never spun a wrench before that time. 5 years later I bought a project car and now it’s back on the road after a full bare chassis restoration.

That taught me a bunch of skills (workshop organization, dealing with rusty parts, painting, electrical diagnostics…) and knowledge (how a car works, different types of bolts and their uses…). Had I waited to “be ready”, I would never had bought my rust heap nor développée the skillset necessary to tackle it.

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