“Why would you even consider buying a seven year old V10 M5? What’s wrong with you? If you want to throw away your money away that badly, just give it to me!” That’s what you must be thinking right now.
And ordinarily, I would be more than happy to give you my money because I’m just that generous (no, not really), and also, I’m fully aware of the fact that buying an E60 BMW M5 generally means financial suicide. In fact, I know someone who paid tens of thousands of dollars to replace a blown V10 in his M5.
So, why would I get one?
Because I had to. I had no choice. You see, not too long ago, I came across the mythical, the imaginary, the ultra rare E60 M5 that no one believes exists—but it does, because I found it. I found a unicorn.
Regardless of condition, this is an extremely special car. The E60 M5s feature a 500 horsepower V10 engine supposedly inspired by BMW’s Williams Formula One motor, and enthusiasts that own these cars drive the hell out of them. It’s virtually impossible to find low mileage, gently-driven M5s for sale.
Lots of miles are bad news for these cars because the rod bearings will inevitably need replacement and other expensive repair work may be required. It’s like BMW designed this car to self-destruct as the odometer gets close to hitting the six-figure mark.
What’s even more challenging than finding an M5 with low miles is coming across one with three pedals. According to the BMW M Registry, only 1364 manual transmission E60 M5s were built exclusively for the North American market—one of which I actually own now.
My M5 is not the usual ticking time bomb version of one that most owners are desperately trying to get rid of. Instead, I have a pristine, 42,000 mile M5 with a glorious six-speed manual transmission. I had been keeping an eye on M5s for sale for some time, and I know that what I have now is about as hard to come by as a reasonable, well-adjusted human being running for president of the United States.
But that’s not what makes this car reach unicorn status. The reason I bought the car, instead of giving you the money, is the fact that it has a BMW Platinum warranty. That’s right. A BMW warranty, and not a third-party and unfortunately named Kent’s KarKare warranty where filing a claim to replace a parking sensor might go something like this:
KKK: Sir, were you driving in the left lane instead of the right one?
Me: Umm, maybe?
KKK: Oh that’s why the sensor went out. We’re not covering it.
Having a BMW warranty means that I can sleep like a baby at night knowing that I won’t have to sell an organ in order to keep the M5 running. BMW even mailed me a warranty booklet and a letter after I transferred the warranty over to me from the previous owner.
I’ll only need to pay a $50 deductible for repairs until May 2017. Let’s hope that I don’t have the M5 beyond that because if I do, I’m sure that the stress of owning a warranty-less M5 will cause my blood pressure to spike instantly sending me to the hospital.
Besides impending rod bearing failures, E60 M5s are known to have issues with the clutch, throttle actuators, oil pump, electronics failure—the list goes on and on. And when something breaks, it’s crazy expensive to fix. So, you can imagine why having a warranty on one of these machines is so critical.
But until the warranty expires, I’ll have lots of fun with this car. I’ve owned the car for a little over a month now and I’m having a blast driving the M5 every day. But before I get into all the good stuff about the M5, let me first talk about a few of the things that annoy me about the car.
When first starting the car up in the morning, it sounds like a lion choking on a buffalo bone. There’s a painful, insanely loud drone that emanates from the exhaust, which wakes up all my neighbors. And the drone goes on forever. The idle fluctuates, and the car doesn’t want to cooperate if you try to drive it normally. You have to really be gentle with it for a few minutes, so much so, that you can’t even keep up with normal traffic.
People in Honda Odysseys and Kia Souls will look at you strangely wondering why you can’t go faster in a hotrod BMW. Meanwhile, I anxiously wait for the oil temperature to get close to 210 degrees so that I can finally push the M button and unleash all 500 horses.
Once I push the M button, everything is great. I’m in heaven after that.
Gallons per mile
I knew the V10 had terrible mileage but didn’t quite comprehend what that would mean to live with on a daily basis. I’m literally running out of gas every other day. It doesn’t help that I am compelled to thoroughly enjoy the V10 at every possible opportunity, resulting in the gas tank needle moving with roughly the same velocity as the speedometer needle. Almost every gas station owner in town recognizes me now.
And I don’t even want to get into how much my monthly gas bill is. All I can say is that at a burn rate of 1/12th gallon per mile, I’m glad that I live in a state where gas is still affordable. I hope that prices don’t skyrocket while I’m still in possession of this gas guzzler.
Also, dear Mother Nature, please accept my apologies and forgive me for choosing automotive pleasure over any environmental considerations whatsoever on any level.
I will drive a Prius in my next life. Maybe.
The fear of breaking down
Despite having a warranty, I can’t help but feel nervous that something will go wrong each time I get into the car. The other day I was driving to Dallas from Austin and the message “Increased Emissions” popped up somewhere around Waco. I immediately thought: “I hate you Waco!”, and not for the usual reasons. I knew this was bound to happen with the M5 that point I hadn’t even owned the car for two weeks. Realizing that I have the warranty helped me get over my anxiety almost instantly afterwards.
After Googling the phrase “Increased Emissions message on a terribly unreliable E60 M5”, I found that it could either be a bad O2 sensor or bad gas. Luckily after re-filling the gas tank, which I need to do every minute anyway, the message went away. Phew, it was bad gas.
That was a close call. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I find myself stranded on the side of the road some time in the near future. But luckily I’ll be able to whip out my trusty BMW vehicle protection program card and call roadside assistance.
iDrive-ing me crazy
The iDrive infotainment system in this M5 is complete garbage and horrible to operate. Obviously it’s an older system than what the new cars get, but the menus are so convoluted that even after messing with it for a month now I still can’t get to things easily like changing the air conditioning vent settings or checking tire pressure status. BMW must have had chimpanzees in their user experience test group when designing the 2009 version of iDrive.
Despite the quirks that I have to put up with in this car, it is still one of the best cars I’ve ever driven. There is no better way to sum up the M5 driving experience other than to say that it’s simply fantastic. The unique combination of the superb handling along with the V10—oh my god the V10—makes the E60 M5 pretty special.
The power delivery is unbelievably smooth and the engine revs so quickly that you’ll completely overlook the lack of low-end torque. My M5 has aftermarket exhaust on it which makes it sound like an exotic supercar—or what an F1 car should actually sound like. Here’s a quick clip:
I can take corners in this thing that I shouldn’t be able to with a 4,000 pound car. Even when I lose traction, I hardly feel the loss of grip, because the nannies can expertly determine how badly I suck as a driver and compensate for it. I love it.
No matter how unreliable the E60 M5 might be, I will miss this one-of-a-kind V10 BMW ownership experience once it’s gone.
Now I know why someone who recently sold his E60 M5 bought another lower mileage, newer E60 M5. At the time I was thinking, why would you sell a car and get the exact same thing again? Yeah, not wondering about that so much anymore.
I’m super lucky to have come across this gem of an automobile and love driving it—I have a feeling it will be a tough one to get rid of. Oh, who am I kidding; the second something breaks, I’ll want to get rid of it. There’s no way I will be holding onto this beyond May 2017. I better have another car after May of next year so that I can continue to survive and maintain a peaceful, heart attack-free lifestyle.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to go put some more miles on the M5. Only 57,000 more to go.
Ayan Basu is the man behind Torque Affair, a blog about exploring his fascination with speed. Based in Austin, he’s always on the lookout for interesting things in the world of cars.