Used cars

Published on August 11th, 2020 | by Joshua Chin

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Why You Shouldn’t Buy A BMW E60 M5 For RM 80k

For the love of god, just say no to this bargain bahn-stormer. 

Not too long ago there was an article published on DSF regarding the fact that you could get a used BMW 2 series Active Tourer with a manual gearbox and a warranty around RM70k. 

It sounded like a good deal. A practical, 5 seat MPV with some old fashioned row-your-own fun thrown in the mix. There’s even still some warranty left so it’s a couple more years of headache free motoring. 

But let’s be honest though, even with a 6 speed manual ‘box, a front wheel drive BMW minivan isn’t exactly the image that any car enthusiast would have in their mind when mentioning the Bavarian brand. 

What is more likely on their minds when mentioning the marque of the Ultimate Driving Machine would be something like this: The BMW E60 M5. 

So if I say that this full fat M-car can be had for just under the price of a base Proton X70, it sounds like the deal of the century. In fact, there are a handful of these V10 engined BMW halo cars currently on sale right now for around RM80k. 

Think about it, a practical sedan that just so happens to be face-rippingly fast, all for the price of a Malaysian SUV, what’s not to like? 

However before you reach for the cheque book, I advise you, nay implore you, in the strongest possible terms to run like hell in the opposite direction and resist the lure of this V10 engined temptress. 

All for the benefit of your sanity and financial stability. 

The Good

Credit where it is due, the E60 M5 does make a really strong case to worm its way to any enthusiasts heart. Discounting that masterpiece of an engine for now, the styling alone may be enough to convince some as it has to be said that the styling of this generation of M5 does look ace even after 3 generations of 5 series. 

Although the Bangle design was initially critically panned by the contemporary motoring press for being too fussy and generally over-designed. 10 odd years on though, the styling of this particular generation of 5 series has matured like a fine wine. The radical design helped the E60 5 series still look fresh and contemporary even today.  

In addition to that, on the M5 version the additional M details are subtle enough to be the perfect Q car. To the casual passer-by, it looks just like any other 5-er. Even if the body panels are completely different to the hum-drum 5 series, the only tell tale signs to that a fire-breathing V10 is living under the hood would be the larger M specific wheels, quad pipes out back and the signature M fender grille.

Furthermore being a 5 series, the interior is also cavernous. It easily seats 5 in relative comfort, and there is more than enough cargo capacity for daily use. And with the M5 being the top of the range 5 series, there are some extra goodies thrown in like a head up display, ventilated and heated powered seats with body-hugging bolstering and electric rear curtains. 

However, lets be real here and say that the biggest draw to the E60 M5 would probably be that fire-breathing naturally aspirated V10 under the hood. 

Developed and built in the same plant as the (now defunct) BMW F1 team, the BMW S85 V10 unit found under the hood of the Bavarian beast is exclusive for the M5 (and M6 derivatives) and not used in any other BMW. 

Press that M button on the steering wheel and there is 500 hp and 520 Nm of torque on tap. Let that V10 scream till its 8,200 rpm limiter and you got yourself a four door saloon that can eat supercars for breakfast. 

In the M5, the century sprint is done in 4.7 seconds, while 0 – 200 km/h takes a ludicrously short 15 seconds. That’s not all though, as the masterpiece under the hood can pull this large luxury sedan all the way up to a staggering 205 mph (330 km/h) if the 155 mph limiter has been removed. 

And when it comes to the twisties, it’s an M car. What else do I have to say? It may be harsher riding than the normal 5 series sedans of this era, but that is to be expected for a car that managed to lap the Nurburgring in 8:13. 

The Bad

By now you’re probably salivating about this amazing bargain. RM 80k for all that M goodness does sound really tempting, but there are some red flags that you should know about too before committing to the M lifestyle. 

Let’s kick off with the minor stuff first, like technology. The M5 may have been a technical marvel when it first launched in 2005. 15 years on however, the tech is starting to show its age. None more obvious than in the interior. 

Remember that when the E60 generation of 5 series was launched, it coincided with the time when screens started popping up in cars. So although the iDrive was a revolution back then, in the cold light of today it is painfully slow and infuriatingly unintuitive to use. It also doesn’t help that being the M5, every vehicular setting that the driver may want to fiddle with has to be done through this ancient system. 

There is also the running costs to consider when running an M5. Discounting the fact that the maintenance of an old German luxury car costs an arm and a leg, even just the fuel that the V10 consumes on a daily basis will burn a massive hole in even the thickest of wallets. And while on the subject of that V10, the car may be cheap but the road tax certainly is not. 

To the curious, the road tax on a 5.0 V10 is RM11,130. 

This problem though will seem like a niggle compared to one of the biggest bugbears of the M5 – the gearbox. 

While the engine was a masterpiece, the 7 speed SMG gearbox mated to it however was not. 

It is worth noting although manuals were available, they are rarer than hens teeth and only available in North America thus only left hand drive. All right hand drive M5s meanwhile had to make do with this sequential manual gearbox that is considered by many as one of the (many) achilles heel on this generation of M5. 

Many have criticised this gearbox for being clunky, slow to shift and jerky. And that is when the transmission is still working, which thanks to the notorious SMG pump failure, is a rare thing indeed. 

The Really Ugly

This neatly brings me onto the elephant in the room as to why sensible people avoid this super saloon with a ten foot pole and then continue to run far in the opposite direction – maintenance. 

There is a reason why this halo M car is so ridiculously cheap. It is because keeping one of these on the road require pockets deeper than the grand canyon. 

Look at it this way, not only is this an old German luxury car, but it is also an old German luxury car with massive amounts of power and many many bespoke parts. So maintenance already will not be cheap. Add to that the E60 M5’s many, many common problems and you’ll get the perfect recipe for bankruptcy.  

Laundry list of common faults and their very expensive fixes is too extensive to list here so here are the highlights. 

The main term that will make E60 M5 owners lose sleep will probably be ‘rod bearings’. These bearings buried deep in the engine have been known to fail as early as 100,000 km. And when they do fail, the death rattle will start and its goodbye V10. 

Another ticking time bomb will probably be the VANOS high pressure pump. You would think that with its job of sending oil to the variable valve timing system, when it fails only the VVT system would be affected. 

That’s where you would be wrong though as when the VANOS pump fails, it sends metal shavings into the V10, and inevitably you end up with another dead V10. 

It is also worth pointing out at this time that there are no permanent fixes to any of these problems. All that are available are band-aids to plaster over these potentially engine-destroying wallet-burning problems. 

Take the rod bearings for example. The best fix out there is preventative maintenance. Frequent oil changes and even oil analysis is the key to prevent that death rattle. A near-complete engine strip down to replace the rod bearings every 100,000 km can also be considered part of the routine maintenance when owning an E60 M5. 

A similar story could be said for the VANOS pump. And the SMG pump. And the throttle actuators etc. 

Conclusion

So having known this, if you still don’t mind spending more on maintenance in a year than on the car itself, please feel free to get these bargain bahnstormers. 

For the others who haven’t taken complete leave of their senses, run away while you still can. Because the scream from that naturally aspirated V10 can tug at the heartstrings of even the most sensible of petrolheads. 

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About the Author

Automotive journalist. Professional work on dsf.my and automacha.com. Personal writing found at driveeveryday.me. Instagram: @driveeveryday



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