BMW M5 E60 vs. M5 F10

BMW M5 E60 vs. M5 F10

The BMW M5 has long been considered king of the sports saloons but what’s better than owning one? Owning two, of course! We catch up with Don Wearing todiscuss his E60 and F10 duo. Which one would you choose?

Words: Graham Leigh

Photography: Jason Dodd

Two’s Company M5 E60 and M5 F10 M5s compared

BMW M5 E60 vs. M5 F10

Since its initial release in 1985, the M5 has been the yardstick for what a performance saloon should represent. Supercar-worrying performance in a package that can take the kids to school in the morning and be doing a hot lap of the Nürburgring by teatime. Every subsequent iteration of the model has been superb and the hype surrounding each release justified. Whilst the raison d’etre has been a constant, the means to the end, in true M Sport style, has kept us guessing. The E28 and E34 M5s utilised six-cylinder engines prior to the E39 heralding V8 power. A further two-cylinders were added for the 2004 introduction of the screaming V10 E60 model before returning to a V8 for the launch of the F10 in 2011. This time a pair of turbochargers simultaneously met tightening emission standards and provided a more accessible powerband and an even more impressive set of stats. The current F90 has thrown in four-wheel drive to the mix for the first time to tame the extra power and to allow the model to compete with the real world traction and pace offered by Ingolstadt.

BMW M5 E60 vs. M5 F10

Somebody who has experienced most of the M5 flavours over the years is 67-yearold Don Wearing from Tackley in North Oxfordshire. This July will mark 51-years in the motor trade for him. Starting work in 1971, Don worked his way up to Head Technician at the Kings End Garage, Bicester (a Ford retail dealer) before going out on his own in 1989. Don has grown his successful business, BW Auto Services, and says that, as a self-confessed petrol head, he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Don was very much a blue oval man: “When I was younger you could have cut me in half and read F-OR- D going through me like a stick of rock”. This is evidenced by an impressive array of Dagenham’s finest in his car history. Don’s first car was a Ford Corsair 1500 GT that he paid the princely sum of £42 for. This was closely followed by a 1966 Mk1 Cortina 1500 GT.

This car marked the start of the modifying bug and was upgraded with a Rover V8, 3 Litre Zephyr gearbox, RS2000 differential and twin exhausts. A 1971 pre-facelift Mk1 3 Litre Capri XLR followed and then a Capri RS3100 when it was just two-and-a-half-years old. Company cars at the Ford dealership meant that Don experienced all the Cosworths, XRs and multiple Sierras.

Don’s head was first turned by Munich back in 1983 when he took in a 1981 528i: “A couple from nearby Abingdon brought the car in on part exchange against a brand new Granada Ghia X Estate. I remember driving it for the first time and being blown away. With the conservative looks, I didn’t expect it to be fast but it was and it handled beautifully. Whilst that car was in stock, I found myself grabbing the keys at every opportunity”. Don’s first BMW was a 1984 735i that came in as a part exchange in 1986. Impressed with the ownership experience, Don upgraded to a 1989 735i. This Lachs Silver example featured an unusual specification including a manual gearbox, black Buffalo leather, and burred walnut. Don added Alpina wheels, side stripes and front spoiler. The car was used by him and his wife as their wedding car. An Oxford Green E38 735i followed and was also cosmetically enhanced with 20-inch Alpina wheels and front spoiler. Numerous other BMWs including E36s, E46 330Cis, 135is and an F10 550 M Sport have been enjoyed by Don. His wife owns a stunning E60 535d in Velvet blue and his son (who incidentally works in Quality Control for BMW) was gifted Don’s old Titan Silver E31 850CSI M Sport manual for his 21st birthday. It’s fair to say that the marque is a family affair. A Sakhir Orange F13 M6 adds a pop of colour to the impressive collection.

Self-evidently, Don became a huge fan of the refinement offered by BMW saloons but craved a bit more power. A Y-registration E39 represented his first foray into M5 ownership and he started in style with the facelifted example boasting Le Mans blue paint and black and grey leather. Those of you with long memories will recall the infamous Jeremy Clarkson Top Gear review of the E60 M5 that was aired on BBC 2 way back in 2005. Clarkson gushed “You want to take it on? Don’t bother! It doesn’t matter what you’ve got, what you’ve ever driven, this is faster…it’s more astonishing. You just cannot believe that you’re in a big four-door saloon because it goes and it feels and it sounds like a Ferrari 430 and that’s about the best car I’ve ever driven”.

Praise indeed and from that Sunday evening onwards, Don promised himself one. The example you see here looking resplendent in the iconic Silverstone 2 paintwork came up for sale in the Swindon branch of Dick Lovett. At the time, the 2005 model was just three-years old. Don had lusted after a black example but this well-specced, low mileage minter ticked a lot of boxes on his option wish list including black leather, Logic 7, Alcantara headlining and active seats. The original owner paid £72k for the car making the £46k that Don paid a few years later seem fair. However, Don explained that the depreciation continued to gallop on and about 18-months into his ownership he noted that the Parkers Guide reported a £1500 decrease on the worst month. Still enjoying the car and realising that it would be wise to keep it rather than selling it at the bottom of its value curve, Don decided to follow a similar route he had trodden with his earlier 7 Series models. He added some tasteful aesthetic modifications to make the car his own. Cue AC Schnitzer 20-inch alloys, bumper grille, front splitter and clear rear clusters.

After selling his original E39 M5, Don missed the experience and a 2002 Carbon Black example, with black leather, was sourced and enjoyed for a period before Don felt that an F10 M5 could provide his V8 kicks.

A 2013 black example with Sakhir orange leather was purchased but Don came across a rare 2014 30 Jahre Edition that was being prepared for sale by Sigma in Coventry. This model is impressive out of the box with 600hp as opposed to the 560hp of the regular car, a Competition Package that consists of stiffer springs and dampers, a 10mm reduction in ride height and sharpened differential, steering and DSC settings. This car was one of only 300 produced worldwide and one of 30 officially imported to the UK. Eye-catching Individual Frozen Dark Silver looks menacing, especially against the black Competition alloys. In-keeping with Don’s taste for subtle exterior modifications, this car had already been enhanced with Hamann side skirts and roof spoiler, and an AC Schnitzer front spoiler. Don just had to have it and the black F10 was part exchanged against the beauty you see on these pages. The F10 had some strong competition from the Nissan GTR and recedes C63 AMG.

Don was impressed by the performance credentials of the GTR but Don was put off by expensive and regular servicing, gearbox fragility and an interior “that looked like it was lifted from an X-Trail”. Whilst the AMG was fast and luxurious, Don reported that it was overly stiff for UK roads and that even his much older E60 had a far superior level of ride comfort. “On the journey home, with the first press of the M button and the sound of the optional Akrapovic exhaust, I knew that I’d done the right thing”. The car had 4,300-miles on it when the deal was done and due to the weekend only, sparing use it still only has around 6k on the odometer. Both Don’s M5s have the ceramic brake option fitted which he describes as a must on these cars: “They perform fantastically, they don’t go rusty, there’s much less brake dust to clean up and they last well”.

You pays your money and takes your choice. And 2004 represented a different automotive landscape. BMW M division was sticking with natural aspiration and engines that were at their best at the higher echelons of the rev range. The S85 5.0 V10 made peak torque at 6100rpm and maximum power of 499hp was delivered at 7,250rpm just before the car’s limited 8250rpm ceiling. Tightening global emissions had forced BMW’s hand into forced induction. The F10’s S63 4.4 twin-turbo V8 makes a brutal max torque between 1500 and 5750rpm, with the max power of 552hp being delivered from 6000 to 7000rpm. Both cars are blisteringly quick with the E60 covering the 0-60 dash in 4.3-seconds and the F10 in 3.7-seconds.

Period road tests were blown away by both cars. The 7-speed SMG 3 used in the E60 was a noticeable improvement over the SMG 2 but is much less sophisticated than the precision of the dual-clutch 7 Speed DCT in the E60. North Americans got the no-cost option of the 6-speed manual in the E60 as the rest of the world looked on with green eyes although the SMG-equipped option was faster in most road tests.

As ever, big expensive cars continue to have big expensive bills even when they represent a used car bargain. For the E60, con-rod bearings can be a weak point if the requisite Castrol Edge 10W60 hasn’t been changed frequently. Clutches usually have a hard life and require regular replacement. Always test drive and always press the M button to ensure that the clutch and diff are not cowering in the most aggressive of settings. Whilst even the most healthy of differentials will be audible at low speeds and cornering, grinding and clunking are a no-no. If you can, plug in a diagnostic reader and make sure that the VANOS system is healthy. Throttle actuators are another known weakness. If a car has receipts for any preventative maintenance or replacements in these areas it could save you a packet in the long run. Early cars should have had a recall on the SMG pump so check this is noted in the history. As with any toyladen luxury car, check all the electrics work. Pay particular attention to the iDrive controller which is a known weak point.

The F10 is obviously a newer car but few M5s have been bought to pootle to church on a Sunday so be equally as vigilant. Rod bearings can be problematic, particularly on 2012-2013 cars. There was an oil pimp recall on 2013 cars so ensure there is proof. The turbo cooling pipes can leak coolant but this is a simple fix with a repair kit. Coil packs and spark plugs need to be checked regularly. Recent receipts for injectors and the high-pressure fuel pump are a bonus as these do not last forever. As with the E60 older brother, the drivetrain needs to be checked. There was a driveshaft recall on late 2014 cars. DCT and differential oil changes will promote longevity. Look out for hairline cracks on the diff mounts as hard launches pack a powerful punch. The F10 is considered by many to be the more reliable car but whether there is the huge gulf some may have you believe between it and the E60 may be a bit of a hangover from yesteryear. As touched upon earlier, E60s suffered huge depreciation at one point. Not everyone who could afford £10k could afford specialist or main dealer appropriate servicing. A highly-strung V10 isn’t a place to cut corners and some of the reputational fragility was down to shoestring upkeep. As the price tag has increased, generally so has the depth of the owner’s pockets and associated TLC.

As with all the naturally-aspirated M cars, they are well-worked in stock format. Even more aggressive cams from the likes of Schrick are available as are aftermarket exhausts for your aural delight but gains are marginal for the considerable outlay. For the tuners amongst you, the F10 offers more bang for your buck, as you would expect on a force-induced car. A remap alone can unearth 650hp and, if your pockets are deep enough, there’s scope for dyno-worrying four figures. At the time of writing, the cheapest E60 M5 in the classifieds was a mildly modified (but receipt heavy) 2005 example with 89k that looked to be a well-loved car. At the other end of the price spectrum was a stunning example of the E61 Touring model that had been professionally converted to 6-speed manual specification, had full BMW history and had covered 59000-miles.

Yours for a cool £47,495. However, late teens to early twenties seems to be the sweet spot for good, usable standard cars. Switching the browser to F10 M5 revealed a 2014 example with 63500-miles but a category S marker to be the cheapest at £21,500. A 2016 car with 55,580-miles in Sakhir Orange was £31,998 but the majority of cars were around the £25k mark. Financially, there’s more than a little overlap between the models so it really comes down to personal taste.

We asked Don if he had a favourite between his two M5s: “The E60 is such a lovely car. You can drive around in it in a relaxed manner in auto and it’s very comfortable but when you go higher up in the rev range with the pace and the noise, it’s a car with a lot of soul. I love it to pieces. The F10 is a different beast and in reality, far too much for UK roads. However, with the power, the capability, the technology and the rarity of my 30 Jahre Edition, if push came to shove and I had to keep one, the F10 would be that car”. Personally, I’ve got a hankering for the E61 as the Labrador lugging capabilities of the Touring would suit my needs and save the leather but if you’re in the market for either of these M5s, choose wisely and you won’t be disappointed. This breed of big, fast, gasguzzling saloons feels like a genre whose ilk we won’t see for much longer. Enjoy a piece of history. Or two…

Financially, there’s overlap between the models so it comes down to personal taste.

There are obvious differences between the two generations inside – both have their advantages.

“With the first press of the M button I knew that I’d done the right thing”.


E60 M5

  • ENGINE: 5.0 S5 V10
  • TRANSMISSION: 7-speed SMG 3
  • MODIFICATIONS: AC Schnitzer 20” alloys, bumper grille and front splitter and clear rear light clusters

F10 M5 30 JAHRE

  • ENGINE: 4.4 S63 twin-turbo V8
  • MODIFICATIONS: Hamann side skirts and roof spoiler and AC Schnitzer front spoiler
Article type:
Robi4997 1 month ago #

So, what did Don have to say? All the above is just joirno waffle.
I had the e39 540i M Sport Touring and loved its 6-speed manual — easy to drive in city and on B roads.
I tried the f10 but it felt devoid of excitement.
I fell in love with the e61 m5 and cherished mine until it was stolen. If the insurance ever payout I’ll get another.

I have a manual e30 and an auto e66. I can adjust to the SMG III and love it’s adaptability. It is a faff to change a gear in the 760.
The m62 v8 was more economical the n73 is more economical, but heck the sensations of driving a v10 overwhelm any thoughts of driving economically.

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