Photo: Justin Westbrook

I had a 2006 BMW M5 with more than 180,000 miles dialed up in my possession the past four months or so. Well, until Sunday. It was fast, loud, fun to drive, and honestly, in pretty desperate need of repair. Instead of doing those repairs, I decided I’d trade the car for a much better car, a 2002 Honda S2000, that actually doesn’t need much work at all.

If you’re saying that, yes, buying a high-mileage V10 M5 was a bad idea full of problems I couldn’t handle, then I am way ahead of you. Here’s how it led me to Honda ownership.

I bought the M5 in the Bronx after some lengthy talks with the car’s seller. And I’m not talking like a few texts back and forth or a couple minutes of back-alley negotiations, there were weeks of talking before I was able to get my hands on the car. The whole transaction was an ordeal.

When I first tried to look at the car, it wouldn’t start. Two of my friends were kind enough to go out there and try and see what was up—they tried jumping it, swapping batteries, and did everything to troubleshoot the issue—but they couldn’t get the car started. After another trip out there to mess around with it, we concluded that the SMG transmission was somehow locking us out from starting the car because of a potential issue with the clutch.

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After the seller got the necessary work done, got his lien paperwork from his bank, and I was able to come back out there, we finished up the transaction (weeks after it initially started—patience is key) and the seller signed the car over to me—mind you, he signed in the wrong box on the title, but that’s a whole other thing.

Before I even officially owned the M5, it felt like we had history together. I had experienced a slim share of its issues and watched the situation resolve itself, but then it was my turn to learn what it was like to own and drive a 500-horsepower, 12-year-old German super sedan.

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Yet immediately after getting the M5 onto a highway, I could tell something was desperately wrong. The SMG felt strong, the engine pulled hard, but the steering and whole front-end felt totally busted. It pulled, it clanked, it vibrated—everything felt loose. For the most part, it stayed that way until I traded it off.

The car needed work, beyond the suspension. If I were to keep it, the smart thing to do would’ve been to flush all fluids, fix the suspension (replace the electric dampers, control arms, and more), and potentially plan out something for the V10's rod bearings, as they’re a known weak point for these cars. That all sounds like a lot of work and money, and honestly, I just didn’t care enough. I needed a way out.

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I had the M5 listed on Craigslist for a decent amount more than I paid for it, with a description that I felt disclosed the work it needed, but I couldn’t find any serious buyers. After a few months, I had two people come to look at it, but nothing came of it. Well, not until I got a text last Sunday night asking if I wanted to trade for an S2000.

As it turns out, I did want to trade for an S2000. Very desperately, actually.

New E60 M5 owner Nick questioning the impulse trade

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After working all the car details out, the S2000 seller, Nick, and I initially decided to meet the next day near his place. At first, that seemed reasonable enough, but he jokingly threw out the idea of doing an “impulse trade” and coming out there that night, so I did.

I found a notary who was willing to meet at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night to notarize a Pennsylvania car title, and myself, my girlfriend, and her little dog Fred hopped in the M5 and took a two-hour drive through intense rain from Manhattan to eastern Pennsylvania.

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After a test drive, swapping titles, and admiring Nick and his buddy’s car collection (RHD Nissan Patrol, Nissan GT-R R32, a BMW M2, and now an E60 M5), my girlfriend and Fred and I were on our way back home in a new, fully-functioning sports car.

It’s amazing how much less broken the S2000 felt compared to the E60 M5. Both cars had within just a few thousand miles of each other on the odometer, but comparatively, the little Japanese roadster felt like it just rolled out of a showroom.

Everything worked, there were no clunks, no warning lights, or anything else to report. The worst thing I found on the car was that the center console cigarette outlet was coming loose. There wasn’t even any rust!

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It felt like the car had been put on a dyno for 182,000 miles and then I had been handed the keys.

From the nearly 200 miles I’ve put on the S2000 so far, I can safely say the car is absolutely amazing. Its steering is incredibly direct, the engine screams at you as you rev it toward its sky-high redline, and the brakes grip like the car is magnetically thrusting backward. It is a true sports car, and somehow I got lucky enough that my 182,000-mile example manages to still resemble what I imagine it was like new.

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I want to be fair to the M5. It was a good car, but it deserves an owner far better than me. I couldn’t care for it the way it should be cared for, and I couldn’t give it what it deserved. I bought it knowing what I was getting into, but over time, I just began to feel less and less willing to toss money its way or deal with its countless issues.

Hopefully, the S2000 and I will have a different relationship.

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