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Used car buying guide: BMW M5 (E60)

Even on updated cars, the SMG gearbox isn’t the smoothest or most durable. To preserve the clutch’s life, as well as to improve shift times and jerkiness, lift off the throttle slightly when changing gear.

Otherwise, the E60 M5 should be a treat to drive – it is a BMW after all – and you can enjoy the still rather state-of-the-art engine and full stainless steel exhaust between fill-ups, and even the gimmick of switching to P500S mode, which unleashes all 500bhp, instead of the ‘standard’ 400. When filling up, admire the Chris Bangle-designed lines, which to many eyes have aged well and still help the M5 look modern today – to match its modern performance.

What we said then

14th September 2004: “We could dedicate two issues of this magazine just to the engine spec of this car. It’s a powertrain engineer’s dream, one of the finest road car engines yet built.”

An owner’s view

John Simmons: “I love these cars and especially that glorious, high-revving engine, which really comes to life above 5000rpm. Modding the exhaust only makes it sound better, in my opinion. True, the launch control’s a bit useless but everything else is so much fun I can forgive it. Check the history carefully because any repairs will cost you a fortune, especially involving the big-end bearings. Oh, and you’re looking at 17mpg tops.”

Buyer beware

Engine: Conrod bearings (probably the main cause of the M5’s reputation for unreliability) can give trouble if oil changes are skimped. Check for a Vanos warning light: it could be an oil pressure issue involving the sump-to-head hose or the Vanos pump (£1600) rather than the Vanos unit. Question the owner about the oil that has been used: it should be Castrol Edge 10W60 only. Expect oil consumption of around one litre per 1000 miles. Check if the expensive main service is due and negotiate if so. Throttle actuators can play up. 

Gearbox: Even on updated cars, the clutch will need replacing after 50,000 miles (potentially £3000 or more). All will be jerky in town, but it should smooth out at higher speeds. If the seller won’t let you put it in P500S mode, they could be hiding a brutalised clutch. Some cars have had manual swaps, so check where the gearbox has come from, and who has fitted it.


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