After the older legendary BMW M5 E39 came this. An M5 which upgraded the well-known driving pleasure to the next level. Thanks to the good weight distribution, electronically adjustable suspension, precise hydraulic power steering, and rear wheel drive with a variable speed sensing differential lock, the handling of this car is exceptional. And then there is the well-known high revving 507 hp, 5.0 l, V10 engine which sounds like the best rock band from heaven with Jesus himself as the band leader playing in front of the audience from hell, basically.
It was produced specifically for this M5 and for the M6 from that time, so no other BMW has this engine and most probably no other BMW will get a V10 engine in the future. But as they say, you have to pay to play and don’t go to the casino without money. Yes, there is a fair amount of possible issues and I don’t think anyone will tell you that owning this car is going to be cheap and very affordable.
The interior of this M5 is the same as in the regular 5 series, so for example the well-known issue with worn plastic surfaces here and there can occur, and the early iDrive system is not the fastest or the nicest to look at. On the other side you can find only well equipped cars since the M5 had plenty of luxury features as standard. Like the: leather interior, the very comfortable front electrically adjustable and heated sport seats with adjustable side bolsters, head up display, EDC suspension and all those more or less usual things. On the other side, the full leather package which included leather covered door panels, leather dashboard and alcantara headliner was optional and definitely much nicer than the standard plastic finish.
-The electronics in this M5 is definitely not unreliable, but there are cases of failed parking sensors, alternator, passenger seat sensor, and the early iDrive system can cause some issues, so basically it can have the same electronic issues as the regular 5 series.
-It’s of course important to have the battery in a good condition and check the electrically adjustable seats properly.
-The touring version can have issues with the non working electronic tailgate. This is usually caused by the broken wiring harness which goes to the tailgate. The other earlier symptoms of this problem are: not working rear window defroster, bad radio reception, or the not working remote locking. The new wiring harness costs around 100€, but you need to find someone who is at least a little familiar with electronics, if you can’t fix this yourself of course.
Generally speaking mainly the early cars can have more often problems with the electronics, like in the regular 5 series, but plenty of these cars have already fixed most of these electronic issues and there are numerous videos and guides on the internet how to fix them.
As usual, check for water leaks in the interior. Occasionally clean the sunroof drains and the drains under the cabin air filter plastic housing because they can be clogged, and you don’t want that. “more information about the drains are in my used BMW 5 series E60 video”
This BMW was standardly equipped with the EDC electronically adjustable suspension. You can adjust it from sport to comfort mode with a push of a button, but you obviously can’t expect a soft-very comfortable ride even in the comfort mode. At the end of the day, this is still a high performance more aggessive car with big wheels, stiff suspension and precise steering. “The W211 Mercedes E55 AMG or E63 AMG on the other side is a more comfortable car thanks to the air suspension”
You should definitely check the shock absorbers for leaks, and be prepared to change them on cars which have more than 100 000 mi.
The touring version is standardly equipped with the self-leveling air suspension on the rear axle. The air struts are going to leak sooner or later so be prepared to replace them. A brand new genuine air spring costs around 318 €, an aftermarket is obviously cheaper approx. 130 €. The air compressor itself and sometimes one of the height sensors can fail as well, so if your air struts are not leaking then you know where to search for the problem next.
“Touring version: it’s good to replace the air suspension air compressor air filter too – new filter costs around 40€.”
The control arm bushings will obviously fail at some point, so as usual check for those knocking and clunking noises from the suspension on bad quality roads.
It’s also worth mentioning the rear differential which can leak, and in some cases it failed completely – but mainly on the more abused cars. So check for all those strange whining noises at all speeds or grinding noises from the rear of the vehicle while cornering at low speed which can be the sign of the worn differential. But these noises can be sometimes fixed by simply changing the differential fluid, and it’s of course important to change it regularly after 31 000 mi / 50 000 km.
The exclusive engine of this M5 is great, obviously, but it drinks fuel like there is no tomorrow and the owners complain about the small fuel tank so you will most probably make some friends at the petrol station. But this shouldn’t be a big surprise. On the other side, this engine can surprise you with some bigger repair bills.
-The first very common issue of this engine is related to throttle actuators, there are 2 of them and they can and most probably will fail usually after 40 000 or 50 000 mi. In this case you get warning lights on the instrument cluster + the car enters into limp mode. If one of them fails, then sooner or later the other fails too. You can buy a new or a cheaper remanufactured actuator, but to change them, you have to remove both sides of the intake manifold and a bunch of other little stuff with pretty bad access. So if you can’t do it yourself then be prepared to pay some extra money for the labour.
-The next possible issue is with the well-known rod bearings. They can be worn even after 50 000 mi, and you can actually find plenty of cars which had them already replaced. They were replaced either because they were already worn or just preventively. But there are of course also cars which still have the original rod bearings even after 110 000 mi for example.
They say, that the rod bearing tolerances are very tight, and the recommended 10W60 engine oil is very thick so the oil can’t lubricate them properly at cold start. Then there are of course other things which can cause this premature problem, like the not properly warming up the car after cold start, long oil change intervals or just simply abusing the car.
All in all, if the car still has the original rod bearings then you should just do an oil analysis after every oil change or once in a year. If the metal traces in the oil will be higher than you will know that it’s time to change the rod bearings.
However, after 80 000 mi you should definitely consider replacing them as a preventive maintenance to prevent further damage – the price for this starts at approximately $2 500 at an independent specialist, although with the proper tools you can do it even yourself and there is no need to remove the whole engine to do this.
But remember that if you don’t replace them then you can end up with a damaged crankshaft or with a destroyed engine in the worst case, so it really is better to change them preventively-at least in high mileage cars. While changing the rod bearings you have to clean the whole oil system. All the oil channels, the vanos oil pump, the vanos accumulator and so on, because if you don’t flush the oil channels then the tiny metal particles in the oil can cause various issues in the vanos system.
-And the vanos system, yes the vanos system is another possible source of problems. But usually only if the owner is not able to change the oil in time. So it’s extremely important to change the oil after max 8 000km
-There are also cases of faulty vanos solenoids + the internal vanos oil pressure line can break usually on early cars, causing internal oil leak and loss of oil pressure, so it’s good to change it preventively with the rod bearings.
-And lastly there are cases of failed vanos high pressure oil pump usually just in early cars made to 2006, again, mostly because of long oil change intervals. And if this oil pump fails then it can destroy the engine, funny stuff.
“the engine has to be smooth at idle, not rough”
As in the other BMW M5 engines, oil consumption can be an issue, but if you have slight oil consumption then there is no need to panic.
The stock rev limiter of this engine is at 8 250 RPM which is already a lot, but you can increase it with various upgrades, although I would definitely not recommend increasing it.
It really is a unique engine so you have to take very good care of it. Don’t abuse the car, use high quality fuel, warm up the engine properly– so keep low RPMs until the oil temperature gauge is somewhere near the middle, because the oil is very thick and it takes longer to warm it up properly. Also check the oil level regularly, and remember you need to have clean oil to have a properly working vanos system!
This V10 engine is equipped with timing chain which is not famous for being prematurely worn out, although in high mileage cars I would consider changing it preventively.
This M5 can be equipped with a 6 speed manual gearbox which is reliable, only the clutch can be worn out, obviously.
But then, there is the infamous 7 speed SMG sequential gearbox.
-First of all, this gearbox is definitely not the smoothest. Some people will call it rubbish and some people will get used to it, or they will even like it. But at the end it more or less fits to the rough character of this car.
Ok but the problems:
-Let’s start with the worn clutch, which is at the end not really a problem since at some point, you have to change it in cars with the regular manual gearbox too. So, the clutch in this SMG transmission lasts approximately 50 000 mi, but the lifetime obviously depends on the driving style, which means that it can last even 100 000 mi.
-Then, cars made to January 2006 can have more often issues with the hydraulic unit electric motor, in this case you will have low hydraulic pressure, warning messages, fault codes, and the gearbox can be stuck in gear. (Fixing this usually costs around $1 000 with the labour, $662 for the motor only)
-Rarely the expensive SMG hydraulic unit can fail as well. The unit only, costs around $5 000 but you can find companies which can refurbish it for half of the price.
Because of these problems, there are cases when they changed the whole SMG gearbox even under the warranty. But some of these transmission issues on newer cars are resolved by a simple software update.
“Numerous cases when the SMG gearbox was replaced after 60 000 km or 90 000 km / 37 200 – 56 000 mi”
To summarize things up: it’s better to buy a car made from February 2006 or even better from 2007, buy only a car with proper maintenance history, find a good independent specialist, change all the fluids in time, and remember! It’s better to buy a car which had already replaced all the major components which can fail – like the rod bearings, SMG clutch or pump, and it doesn’t really matter if it has higher mileage. The main thing is the good condition. If you found a car with replaced main components then you should keep at least 5 000 € for the additional repairs.
And if you are buying a car which doesn’t have at least the basic things replaced then you should keep at least 10 000 €, unless you want to do the maintenance at the dealer because in that case you should keep even more money.
As usual check the car properly before buying, and if you have personal experience with this car or more information about it, then you can write it into comments!