BMW M5 Touring (E61, 2007 - 2010): review, specs and buying guide
Launched in 2007 as BMW M's first ever series production estate, the V10-powered E61 M5 Touring remains one of the most exotic models of its kind
The E6X-generation M5 is becoming a modern classic, with its motorsport-derived S85 V10 and clean, Bangle design more appealing than ever. Launched in 2005 ahead of Audi's V10-powered C6 RS6, the model was made available in both saloon and Touring forms, with the latter launched as the first and only M5 Estate in right-hand drive – the upcoming F91 M5 Touring will succeed it as the second.
While its ability to cover vast distances in comfort and maintain absolute composure during 170mph autobahn stints is impressive, it's that exotic power plant that captivates. Inspired by BMW's early 2000s Formula 1 efforts, the 5-litre naturally-aspirated S85B50 V10 was built from the ground-up by Munich's finest engineers, constructed from aluminium using the same techniques as with its Formula 1 blocks.
The first (and only) production BMW V10, it produces an impressive 500bhp and 383lb ft of torque, figures that make it one of the most powerful naturally-aspirated production engines built. It doesn't only produce strong power though, with its spine-tingling exhaust note and intake sound like not much else on the road – coming with individual throttle bodies (like its S65 V8 relative in the E9X M3), an aftermarket carbonfibre plenum is well worth the outlay...
Without the snappy transmissions and forced induction of the others in this selection, its performance figures can't quite compete. The 0-62mph sprint happens in 4.8sec, with top speed at a restricted 155mph – at a cost, buyers could lift this to 189mph, with some owners claiming that a 200mph figure is possible.
As such exotic, bespoke powertrains become a thing of the past, the charm of the E61 M5 has certainly increased with age, and at its launch, our first impressions were good. As part of a 1300-mile road trip back in 2007, Jethro Bovingdon said: 'Occasionally the fireworks at the top end trick you into thinking that the M5 is a bit too peaky, but in reality it’s already working hard at 3000rpm and feels strong and insistent as it chases 5000rpm. The steering remains heavy, which can disguise the M5’s agility, but when pushing really hard the front tyres respond to the wheel with a beautiful linearity and really cut into the road.
There’s a fast third-gear downhill right-hander that should have the big BMW feeling clumsy and heavy, but it scythes through without a lift, the rear just edging out into mild oversteer. You can almost hear the treadblocks on the front Michelins sinking into the surface whilst the rears rotate just a fraction faster against the abrasive surface to kill any chance of understeer stone dead. This tail-led stance is the M5’s preferred angle of attack and it’s both effective and thoroughly addictive.'
Though far from the distraction of the 'box in the E46 CSL, the M5's seven-speed SMG does suffer from clunky downshifts, and its invasive traction control certainly shows its age. Apply modern tyres and turn the assists off, though, and you have yourself one very special performance estate. BMW claims just 1009 E61 M5s were produced in total, just 5 per cent of the total E6X M5 production run.
You will likely have heard plenty of horror stories about the E6X M5 and its S85 V10, but it’s not all quite as gloomy as you may think. Its rod bearings were manufactured with tolerances usually associated with a motorsport engine, leaving very little in the way of margin for maintenance and owners who don’t respect cold engines as well as they should – should a car have a poor maintenance history and/or have received abuse when cold, the result can be premature rod bearing wear and the potential for catastrophic failure.
Thankfully, there are numerous BMW specialists around the country able to swap rod bearings for new OEM or uprated items, providing peace of mind. At around £3000, it’s not a particularly cheap piece of maintenance, but ensure frequent oil changes (some recommend at least every 5000 miles) and keep revs and load low while cold, and you won’t see any further issues. If you’d rather avoid the cost of swapping bearings, oil analysis can offer some insight into engine health, but it will never provide the full picture – the only way to be certain is to swap bearings altogether. Elsewhere, throttle actuators and the VANOS system can occasionally have issues, but neither of these are as costly or vital as rod bearing health.
Given the E61’s rarity, it’s no surprise that they’re hard to find. There are never more than a few up for sale at any one time, but maintenance concerns have kept values low. From £30,000 will get you an E61 M5 in reasonable condition, with tidy, c40,000-mile cars likely to set you back from the £40,000 mark.
BMW M5 Touring (E61) specs
|5-litre naturally-aspirated V10
|155mph (189mph optional)