BMW E60 M5 Buyers Guide

Roughly nine years ago, the masterminds at BMW Motorsport, BMW’s in-house performance division, decided it would be a spectacular idea to stuff a massive 5 liter V10 engine producing just north of 500 horsepower into their mid-level sedan, the BMW 5 Series. The BMW E60 M5 was produced between the years 2006-2010. The bottom line is, the E60 M5 is still arguably one of the most insane, capable, and ridiculous cars of all time. If you are considering E60 M5 ownership, this buyers guide should help educate you on the pros & cons, as well as what to look for in when buying pre-owned such as key options and equipment, and what kind of service and maintenance you can expect from a car of this level.
What do we love most about the E60 M5? Well, obviously it’s the power plant and the same one that powered our previous BMW M6 project car. The 5.0L V10 revs beyond 8,000 RPM and was derived from its Formula 1 racing division. This level of motor is the last of its kind unfortunately with stricter regulations worldwide. The car even has a “M” button on the steering wheel that allowed for an instant change in the motors output from 400hp to 500hp. Talk about awesome. Do not be fooled though, just because you can buy a M5 for $30k, doesn’t mean it is a $30k car. It still is a $100k car that costs like a $100k car to own and operate. The experience, however, is well worth it.
Photo: Matt Magnino

The key focal point with the M5, aside from the V10, is the transmission. When introduced in 2006, the M5 was only available in a 7 speed sequential manual gearbox (SMG) that had multiple levels of drive logic and shift modes. This transmission was similar to Ferrari’s F1 or Lamborghini’s E-Gear. Single clutch which meant it was clunky, awful in traffic, and awful when it got too hot. However, when all the stars aligned, it was insane to drive with. If you cranked up the shifting speed (it is adjustable) and had the car in the M Dynamic mode, it would slap off gear changes with authority. The motor was designed with this transmission in mind so their marriage felt great, at least 70% of the time.
Photo: EB Photography

In real world circumstances it wasn’t always in tune with the driver. Due to an uproar from US M5 customers, BMW was convinced to add a 6 speed manual transmission to the options list for the 07 – 10 M5s. This transmission, to my understanding, was taken out of the previous generation E39 M5. While the manual transmission M5 was certainly slower and less aggressive, it added a real dynamic and thrill to the car you couldn’t get out of the SMG. Let’s be clear here too, the car isn’t all that slow with the stick shift. You won’t be disappointed.
Photo: Charlie Davis

The E60 M5s original MSRP ranged from the high $80k range to over $100k based on different equipment levels. The M5 comes standard with navigation, heated front seats, xenon headlamps, 19 inch wheels and the aggressive body flare. The base M5 is nothing to scoff about. For example, there are 3 seating options in the M5. There is a standard BMW sport seat, a multi-contour seat with active side bolsters, and a heated/ventilated multi-contour seat with active side bolsters a la the 7 Series. Obviously, the heated/ventilated variety is the best, but the other two certainly do not disappoint. To me, a must have option is the extended leather interior. The extended leather included a full leather dashboard, door cards, and center console. It even included an alcantara headliner. Nice touch. It really added to the experience.
Photo: Mark Plat

However, when you are searching for your M5, pay attention to the dashboard especially where the leather is tucked around the vents and the windshield. Much like other high-end cars with leather dashboards, they are susceptible to the leather shrinking due to the heat exposure. This is a costly fix if it is starting to pull back. I haven’t seen this on many M5s, but it can happen. Other fun M5 goodies included a head-up display, which displays speed, navigation directions, current gear and revs on to the windshield, but not something you would miss if you didn’t have. There is also a choice of wood or aluminum interior trims and other luxury items like comfort access keyless entry, heated rear seats, and rear window blinds. All those things become novelties.
Photo: Malek Fayoumi

We discussed the clunky transmission, but we didn’t address the other major factors included with M5 ownership… its absolutely horrendous fuel economy. The M5 averages around 13-15 MPG between city and highway. It also has an abnormally small tank for a vehicle of its size so you will feel like you’re practically driving from gas station to gas station. If you get 150 miles out of a full tank, you’re doing well. It is also good for a quart of its expensive BMW exclusive synthetic oil roughly every 1,500 miles. That’s what you get when you drive around with a 10 cylinder Formula 1 engine in your 5 series.
Photo: Thomas van Rooji

Brakes, tires, and other consumables, as you would assume are expensive and it goes through them as frequently as you’d expect in a car of this caliber. It is a heavy and powerful car. The M5 isn’t a complete maintenance whore though. Most of these cars were pretty well maintained up until 50k miles, when BMWs 4 Year / 50,000 mile warranty and full maintenance plan expired. Those records can be accessed from any BMW dealership. Beyond the warranty, it is nice to see that the car has been regularly serviced and maintained. Keep in mind M5s are usually owned by enthusiasts who know and appreciate what they have. They are typically kept up with.
Photo: Denniske

There aren’t many third party extended warranties available for the M5, but I would strongly consider getting one. There is a lot of technology in this car especially between the dreaded BMW iDrive system and the SMG transmission with drive logic. Having a warranty to cover these items should strongly be considered. Remember, the SMG has a clutch that wears. It cannot be controlled by the driver (it can be abused though), so it can often be covered under warranty if you have the right coverage.
Photo: Jeremy Cliff

When you start looking for a used M5, you will find that the market is all over the place. Asking prices can range from the low $2x,xxx such as this mint 07 BMW M5 6 speed manual to over $40,000 for later years. Granted that’s over a 4 year period but, like any of these type of vehicles, you really do get what you pay for. There isn’t a year that I would say avoid, but obviously early 2006s have the worst reputation and were SMG only. The transmission is a preference, but as the cars get older, I see the manual transmission M5s being the ones to buy. The car is far less complicated and there is less to go wrong.
Photo: dejjsch

In 2008, the M5 got a headlight and taillight update with LEDs and mid-year it received a slight upgrade in the head rests for the multi-contour seats, but for the most part aside from 2010 where the cars received the new/updated iDrive, they are all the same. Obviously, newer technology would make the 2010 the car to have, but those are still up there in price and hard to justify the premium when the basics of the car are identical. Being able to buy an M5 sub $35k is really the sweet spot at this point. There are nice cars for just under $30k as well, you just have to search for them.
Photo: Cypo Design

The bottom line is this, M5 ownership can be as rewarding as it can be costly. The experience of ownership is out of this world. The car does it all and with authority. Do your homework first, get a PPI, and most importantly, enjoy the experience!

– Marc of UDrive Automobiles