A HIGH-REVVING, SWEET-SOUNDING V10 SEEMS GOOD ON PAPER, BUT THERE’S A POTENTIAL BILL-FUELLED REALITY
You know you shouldn’t, but how can you resist a V10 M car? M5 and M6, represent!
THERE’S A LOT to like about BMW’s mid-’00s mechanical twins: the E60 M5 and E63 M6. The 5.0litre V10-powered pair boasted 373kW/520Nm, could clock 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.7 seconds (various independent tests have bested this figure) and, with the speed limiter removed, could reach 322km/h, some 200mph in old money. Most tantalising of all, however, is the fact that you can pick one up today for less than the price of a new three-cylinder 103kW BMW 118i.
Before you rush off to the bank however, be warned that problematic examples can be disastrously costly to fix and maintain. But we’ll get into that later.
The E60 M5 landed on Australian shores in 2005, with its two-door M6 sibling following one year after, and marked a significant departure from all that came before it. The M5, in particular, represented the world’s first production saloon ever fitted with a V10, and shared the crown with the M6 as M-division’s most powerful series production cars at the time.
The S85 V10 will remain a unique footnote in M-division history, with this generation’s M5 and M6 representing the only V10 production models ever produced by BMW. In line with industry and emissions trends, they’re likely the last of their kind we’ll ever see from Munich again.
Upon launch, much fuss was made of the M5’s Formula 1 links, with the road-car’s V10 and seven-speed semiautomatic powertrain layout echoing the configuration used in F1 in the noughties.
There was also a degree of controversy over the M5 and M6’s styling. They looked nothing like their sleek predecessors, and both were mired by controversy and critique. The more mainstream 5 Series copped much of the flak, so too did Chris Bangle – BMW’s American Head of Design between 1997 and 2009.
In reality, Bangle merely signed-off on the E60 5 Series, whose lines were laid by one of his underlings, a young Italian designer named Davide Arcangeli. Arcangeli’s design breezed through board approval though, in a sad turn of events, he passed away from leukaemia just days after his design was green-lit.
Bangle spoke highly of Arcangeli’s unconventional styling, and later stated that the beloved young Italian’s passing galvanised the design team to push through his proposal unchanged.
Ironic, then, that one of BMW’s most divisive designs may also be one of modern motoring’s most pure and true to one man’s vision. Look beyond the styling, and these two technically interesting cars could, for all their flaws, make for intriguing weekenders powered by one of the most charismatic engines ever built by BMW.
THIS GENERATION’S M5 AND M6 REPRESENT THE ONLY V10 PRODUCTION CARS EVER BUILT BY BMW
THE E60 M5 is the most successful M-badged 5 Series yet – shifting 19,523 units across five years of production. The M5’s only official Touring variant also appeared here, with 1025 vehicles produced for European markets only. Of that run, 223 Tourings (denoted by chassis code E61) were produced in righthand drive for the UK market.
Most M5s were sold to North America (8800), which explains why they were the only lucky ones to gain a six-speed manual option alongside the maligned SMG gearbox. Few buyers ended up ticking the manual option box, with just 1366 manual M5s produced.
The E63 M6 coupe and E64 M6 cabriolet were produced in far smaller numbers, with production totalling just 9087 coupes and 5065 drop-tops by mid-2010. Just 323 coupes and 378 convertibles opted for the no-cost manual option. On the local market, it’s the M5 saloon that’s the most in demand. Only a few examples were observed on the market ranging between $45-$80k. M6s are lineball on value, however, there are significantly more on the market with, generally, far lower mileage.
BODY & CHASSIS Styling is subjective so it’s up to you whether you like the look of the M5 and M6. Regardless, the E60 5 Series in particular was a revolutionary design that played with negative surfaces and its ‘flame surfaced’ concave panels. Such carefully curved panels, especially those made of aluminium, can be costly to repair – so inspect closely for dents and damage. Condensation is known to collect in headlights, and panoramic glass sunroofs can grow leaky due to perished rubber seals.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION BMW’s SMG automated manual gearbox can be the cause of sleepless nights. The gearbox hydraulic pump motor is the frequent offender, with issues generally arising after 100,000kms. Clutch sensors and pressure accumulators can also fail, however, the pump motor is generally the first to go. Symptoms include slow or hesitating shifts, fault codes or the dreaded red cog of death warning light. It pays to account for a healthy contingency budget.
The S85 engine boasts 10 individual throttle bodies, with each bank controlled by a throttle actuator. These actuators are a common fault, often pertaining to the worn gears from age. In worst cases, rod bearings prone to wear can lead to terminal engine failure if not addressed. OEM replacements or aftermarket bearing upgrades will do much for future-proofing and mechanical confidence.
SUSPENSION & BRAKES Check for leaks and test each variable electronic damper mode for full functionality.
OEM tyres measure 275/35/19 up front and 285/35/19 out back, and can cost in excess of $2K to replace.
INTERIOR & ELECTRICS Boot floors should be inspected for signs of water, which can infiltrate the boot due to blocked rain channels. An LCI update brought redesigned doorcards, and a vastly improved hard drive-based CIC iDrive system. Test all electric functions and watch for warning lights on start-up.