If you can afford the depreciation on a new, mid-spec supermini costing around £16,500, you can afford to run a used, 65,000- mile 2007-reg BMW M5 at the same price.
Granted, when they come, the M5’s bills will knock you flat on your back but you’ll soon be on your feet, propelled by the desire to re-experience that Formula 1-inspired 5.0-litre V10, whose 389bhp – rising to 493bhp when you press the M (or Power) button – is directed to the rear wheels through a quick-changing, seven-speed, sequential manual gearbox (SMG).
Granted, this best-selling M5, codenamed E60 – there was an E61 Touring version, too – hasn’t the charisma of its V8 predecessor, the E39, and prices still have a way to fall. There are some nasties to watch out for, in particular its fondness for clutches, its appetite for fuel brought into focus by a 70-litre fuel tank that means you’ll be stopping every 200 miles to open your wallet, and its general high-cost ways (mechanics call this the ‘M tax’).
But this M5 is still a spectacular way to travel and sooner or later prices will find their level, the best cars will firm up and those who know will talk of it as a ‘future classic’.
It was launched in 2005, costing £61,750 in standard form. Standard? It had 19in alloy wheels, sports suspension, gearchange paddles, a head-up display, a sat-nav, leather trim, quad pipes… we’ll stop there. More important, it had gadgets: that Power button, launch control and 11 shift modes for the SMG ’box (the fastest is seriously hard on the already overworked clutch).
The M5 was facelifted in 2007, a move that coincided with the arrival of the E61 Touring version that already incorporated the new mods. Changes included adaptive cornering lights, larger headrests and visual tweaks (daytime running lights, and LED indicators and tail-lights). Crucially, the SMG transmission gained upgraded pumps and hardware, too. Facelifted cars were released in batches over 12 months, so it’s not unusual to encounter a late-2007 M5 that is actually a pre-facelift model.
All M5s require careful buying and this E60 is no exception, so drive as many as you can. Research the M button and that 11-mode shift system, and don’t be shy about exploring the many performance permutations. An owner who won’t let you try the M button in the most extreme S6 P500S shift mode is probably terrified that you’ll expose his car’s brutalised clutch and clonky diff.
Check not only tyre wear but also whether the rubber is budget or premium, and test his knowledge of engine oils. Castrol Edge 10W60 should have been its only tipple.
Prices are all over the place but you shouldn’t have to pay more than £16,000 for a 2007-reg low-miler. Towards £24,000 is where the best late-plate BMW Approved Used cars are, before the first of the next-gen F10 M5s hove into view.
An expert’s view...
SEAN MURPHY, IRIDIUM
“I owned an E60 M5 and had a very bad experience with it. It had done 130,000 miles without problems and then all hell broke out. Granted, some was accidental stuff like a wing mirror being knocked off (£1000), but it went through three iDrive controllers and two throttle actuators (there are two at £600 each). It also needed a new clutch. Parts aren’t cheap. I was unlucky with mine, though, because generally the E60 is reliable and will do high mileages with ease — and it has the best-sounding BMW engine ever.”
BMW M5 problems - buyer beware...
Conrod bearings can give trouble if oil changes are skimped. Check for a Vanos warning light: it could be an oil pressure issue involving the sump-tohead hose or the Vanos pump (£1600) rather than the Vanos unit. Throttle actuators can play up. Expect oil consumption of around one litre per 1000 miles. Check if the expensive main service is due and negotiate if so.
SMG 3 gearbox, fitted to later cars, is more reliable than the SMG 2 but the single-clutch weak point remains. The clutch lasts about 50,000 miles. The ’box is clunky around town but should be clean and quick at speed. Early cars were recalled to replace the SMG pump.
It’s naturally noisy at low speeds and when turning but whining, grinding and clunking are not good. Check for a slight oil weep (£30 each for seals).
Expect around 30k miles from discs. If the disc has a lip, replace. A brake fluid change is needed every two years.
STEERING AND SUSPENSION
Generally tough but feel for steering column vibration or knocking, which points to worn control arms. The optional EDC suspension is reliable but a damper is £600 if it goes wrong.
If the system freezes on the BMW logo start-up page, suspect the harddrive. Budget £700 for an exchange system or have the ECU and computers updated with the latest software.
Also worth knowing...
BMW has issued two technical bulletins (grinding noises from the rear diff when cornering at low speeds, and preventative maintenance for the sunroof). Safety recalls include one issued in September 2013 for a faulty fuel filter heater that could cause a fire.
BMW M5 prices - how much to spend?
Early 2005-2008 cars with more than 100k miles but full service history (fsh) and major new parts.
Circa 100k-mile 2005-2007 fsh cars.
Cars on 05-08-plates at 70k-90k miles.
Still 05-08-plate cars but with about 50k-70k miles.
Facelifted 07-08-reg cars with up to 60k miles, plus some earlier cars at optimistic prices.
Most expensive 08-10-reg cars with fsh, including some BMW Approved Used.