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The power of five, multiplied by ten.

Updated: May 18, 2021

Known internally as the 'E60' M5, this ten cylinder, Formula 1 inspired super-saloon dominated headlines when it launched back in 2004. Powered by Garching's first and only roadgoing V10, the E60 has found its way into the hearts of enthusiasts worldwide.

In 2004, BMW replaced the E39 M5's S62 V8, with the naturally aspirated S85 V10. With the increase in cylinders, came mind-numbing figures; 507bhp at 7,750rpm, and a redline of 8,250rpm (at which point its Formula 1 origin became clear, thanks to a shrill, banshee like scream). The E60 M5 was capable of over 200mph (with the limiter removed), yet with its saloon (or touring) body, could also carry groceries and a family in comfort.

Now, before we go any further, I won't be waxing lyrical about the S85's questionable reliability. When any manufacturer drops a V10 into a saloon that can hang with a Ferrari F430, it's fair to say that it should be maintained like a supercar. After the M5's value dropped and the used market became saturated, it became known as a 'money pit', 'the best way to empty your wallet, fast', and 'the most unreliable BMW ever'. I've seen poor examples of the E60 M5, but also some of the best. Where they've been properly maintained, warmed up prior to spirited driving, and serviced regularly, these examples of the E60 M5 are absolutely exemplary.

Back in April 2019, Carwow raced an E60 M5 against an F20 M140i (B58), and the G15 840d (B57). Whilst the E60 had the other two beaten in terms of horsepower, the 840d won the torque battle. Check the video out below, and see what unfolded as the newer BMW models took on the V10 powered beast.

Thankfully, E60 M5's are still scaring off most buyers, so they can be had from around £12,000 - however, it's important to make sure that whichever E60 you do decide to part ways with your cash for, is a well looked after, and properly maintained example, otherwise it will drain your wallet faster than it empties its fuel tank.

However, the S85's retirement also marked the end of the naturally aspirated M5, as BMW replaced it with the F10's twin-turbocharged S63 V8. Not only did the S63 deliver fewer cylinders, it delivered a far less engaging drive - sure, it was faster than the outgoing E60, but it seemed to have lost an element of what made the M5 so special to begin with. Additionally, the S63 saw the introduction of BMW's 'Active Sound Design' technology (piping engine sounds into the cabin via the speakers) arrive on the M5, signalling that the S85's V10 scream truly had been confined to the halls of BMW Classic.

Tiff Needell drove an E60 from the UK to France, finishing at the historic racetrack in Pau. He began his review with the words 'We're about to test one of the greatest cars in the world'. Needell's review summarised the brutal M5 beautifully. It is a true test of the M5's pseudo-touring persona, which, at the push of a button, transforms into nothing short of brilliantly spectacular, and genuinely breath taking.

I'm a firm believer that no article on the S85 V10 is complete without a mention of Jeremy Clarkson's iconic review of the super-saloon. His words ring true even today (as shown in the Carwow video above), 'You want to take it on? Don't bother. Doesn't matter what you've got, doesn't matter what you've ever driven, this is quicker, it's faster, it's more astonishing'. You can see the second part of Clarkson's review below.

We'll likely never see another naturally aspirated M5 (or M engine for that matter), making the E60/61 M5 (or E63/64 M6) a very attractive proposition, and in the face (no pun intended) of today's ever expanding kidney grilles, the Bangle-inspired designs could even be considered 'handsome'.

In a throwback to 2012, Hollywood Car Films created an ode to the E60 M5 and its glorious V10 - it's a beautifully shot video that was a fine way to say 'arrivederci' to one of BMW M's finest achievements to date. Check it out below.

Yes, the S85 V10 was the swansong for the M Division's atmospheric engine, and what a soundtrack it was.

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