What’s it like to live with a decade-old BMW M5? Here’s one owner’s story…

I NEEDED TO GET another car and, with two growing children, another Porsche 911 was not going to work. A friendly car dealer friend (James) rang me and thought he had the perfect “Big Boy” car for me.  A one-owner BMW M5 with the 5.0-litre V10, whose owner was about to lose almost $200,000 in depreciation.  

The previous owner had ticked every option you could think of, including: heated and cooled seats, window blinds, keyless entry, ski hatch, phone kit, iPod integration to name but a few.

The car had been serviced regularly and kept spotlessly clean. I had it checked out by BMtech who gave it a clean bill of health. After 18 months here are the 5 good and 5 bad things about my M5.


  1. It’s the 5-litre V10 M5 and the engine is what you buy the car for.  The 507 HP (374KW) revs to 8,250rpm.  When we pull on to a freeway, I usually get call of “Punch it Chewie” from my 10 year old daughter.  She loves the acceleration even more than I do.
  2.  It’s a sleeper.  My sister-in-law thought it was a diesel.  Only those in the know spot the subtle M5 badges and know that it’s a car that can do 0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds and reach over 328 km/h.  My brother thought I should take the M5 badges off and put a 516d badge on, but the bigger than standard wheels and the quad exhaust pipes can’t be so easily hidden.  There are plenty of 520’s with M5 badges so removing just the badge would be meaningless anyway.  There are actually a lot of very small M5 badges all over the car.  Even the steering wheel is stitched with the three different M colours. 
  3.  The handling and performance is everything you would expect.  The ride is well sorted and you will never approach the limits of the car on a public road.  The auto blips on the downshifts are a joy.   Joining the freeway where two lanes merge into one is always fun when the other drivers try to out accelerate me at the lights. 
  4.  It is packed with toys.  For a car nearing 10 years old it has: a TV; active seats (with heating and cooling); cameras, head up display and voice control, to name a few. The level of configurability of the car is daunting.  For example, you can configure buttons on the steering wheel, the change times of gear shifts, how many seconds the lights stay on for.  Luckily I have a teenage son who helped configure everything from the seats to the performance setting to my preferences, but I had to draw the line at letting him configure the emergency start (Launch control), as I don’t want to damage the clutch.
  5. It is practical. Having owned a number of sports cars, a car that I can fit the whole family in comfort, but still gives a smile every time I get into it, is the car’s best feature.


  1. The SMG single clutch gearbox in auto mode is a nightmare. It seems to know exactly the wrong moment to change gear and is able to pick the wrong gear every time. In auto it can kangaroo down the street like a learner on their first lesson from a cold start. It tries to do hill starts in second. I could go on, but the simple fix is to always drive it in manual mode. It does blip on the downshift and the paddle shifts are OK. In the USA you could get a proper 6-speed manual instead of the 7-speed paddle shift and in most other counties there was a touring version (hatchback), but not Australia. 
  2. The sound insulation is so good in the car; I can’t appreciate the sound of the exhaust.  My neighbours have told me they can certainly hear it in the morning, but you have to wind the windows down to really hear it.  That’s probably why on the later models they play the engine sound through the car’s speakers…
  3. It’s a 10-year-old car that cost over $230,000 new (plus options).  It has a 10-cylinder engine.  When things go wrong, they will go very wrong. Luckily I have BMtech who have been looking after the car and so far so good.
  4.  It’s a black car and impossible to keep clean. The huge brakes generate lots of dust on the alloy wheels.  There were not many M5’s imported into Australia, so I couldn’t be too picky on the colour. 
  5. The iDrive can be little infuriating, especially the iPod interface. BMW has managed to put an interface on the iPod that is exactly the opposite of what Apple would do. It is unintuitive, hard to use and extremely frustrating. I have however managed to update the sat nav to the latest version and the phone holder and integration works really well.

I actually had to really think quite hard about what I didn’t like about the car; the colour and too much sound insulation are hardly major problems. You don’t buy a 5.0-litre V10 and complain about the fuel economy, even though I am a pom.

I plan to keep the car for at least another 3–4 years. I test drove a Tesla just after I got the M5 and it was another jump in performance again.  Electric cars are definitely the future. A Maserati Quattroporte with the ZF Gearbox could tempt me (and bankrupt me), but I think the next car will be another 911 once the kids can drive themselves around.


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About Author

David Palfreeman

David is passionate about cars and has driven at racetracks around the world; including Spa, Nürburgring, Brands Hatch, Bathurst and Phillip Island. He loves Porsche 911’s but currently drives a BMW M5.


  1. Hate to tell you this but it will be 7 or 8 years until your 10 y.o. daughter can drive herself around (depending on which state you live in).

    So you may be keeping it longer than you thought!

    1. Thanks Vaughan, I should have probably worded it that I was waiting for my teenage son to start driving, which will only be a few years away. I will then only need room for my daughter. 🙂

  2. Glad you don’t complain about mileage. As a non-owner, let me do it: 200 miles to a tank! My boss had one, his now wife’s only complaint about the car, confirmed in Road & Track’s test. I mention this as a reality check reminder to people complaining about BMW downsizing their engines – there’s a reason!

    1. The tank is small, but it costs the same to run if it had a big or small tank. That really doesn’t bother me that much as I rarely do trips of 400km and over in one go.

    1. Don’t recall any Suzukis trying merge at Toorak Road, but the next time I see I Suzuki, I’ll be sure to let them in. 🙂

  3. To the Author follow these steps;

    1. Auto Mode in D5 with M sport engaged
    2. Turn off DSC traction control
    3. Bring the car to a 40-50mph roll
    4. Press the gas pedal until it clicks at the floor.
    5. Enjoy

    I (and several other M5 owners) have found Auto mode when used for sprinting is the best way to go. The car knows exactly where to downshift and shifts exactly at redline.

    1. Thanks Justin, yes I agree that at times the auto can be good, but for just driving in town, especially hills, I find the auto mode terrible.

  4. Nice story David, having witnessed the back of an M5 from behind the wheel of an EVO Final Edition, I can vouch for the healthy function of the warp drive.
    Giant performance from a big luxury bus.

  5. European factory brake pads are terrible. usually supersoft and dusty Pagids, easily replaced by far higher performing and cleaner pads that cost a fraction of the OEM BS pricing. Part for the reason the car is such a fat pig is the 150kg of sound proofing. I’d be looking at replacing that with lighter alternatives than bitumen pads and also much nicer aftermarket exhaust. Factory wheels aren’t great but not too bad compared to some, but they would have gone years ago. Don’t like black consider a wrap and can be easily removed when you come to sell if needed.

    Fuel usage is terrible because it’s lack of low end torque means it needs it’s tits revved off to get going. SC kit will fix that and with correct tune improve economy heaps when not sinking the slipper in.

    I only drive by auto in manual mode even though it’s an excellent box in auto mode.

  6. My M5 diesel (3 litre, turbo) is by far the best car I have ever owned and driven. Superb road holding and handling, very comfortable and has been fautless over 235,000 kms. Ideal for long distance touring. Ceramic brake pads have improved service life and kept the front wheels clean! Long term fuel consumption is 7.4 litres/100 kms. Hard to know how to replace it when the time comes. Any ideas?

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