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BMW M5 (F10) | PH Used Buying Guide

The F10 super saloon is as thrilling as it is usable - and has the added allure of being the last pure rear-drive M5

By Tony Middlehurst / Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In the hit parade of BMW M5s, where does the 2011-2016 F10 model figure for you? Every M5 has been great in one way or another, and everyone will have their own emotional favourite, but if you need help formulating a more informed opinion on it, here’s a fast run through the tackle that has been wearing this now-legendary badge for the last 35 years. Then we’ll have a look at the surprisingly good value that’s on offer in the used market – and wonder why that might be…

The first ‘proper’ M5 was the E28, launched at the 1985 Amsterdam Motor Show and on sale from 1985 to 1988, but the car that first signalled the brain-frazzling potential of a monster motor in a non-monstrous BMW family saloon was the E12 M535i of 1979. 218hp might not seem a lot now, but as anyone who has driven an M535i on a wet road will attest, it was more than enough to get your heart going. If you wanted to make truly quick progress on challenging routes, the M1-derived 3.5-litre straight-six powering both the E12 M535i and the E28 M5 – where it produced 282hp – placed stringent demands on the owner’s wheelmanship. It was easy enough if your surname was Röhrl, but more mortal folk needed to have their wits about them at all times.

The process of blending heavy power with lightness of touch began with the E34 M5 of 1989-1995, the last hand-built M. This was a landmark car and a fitting sendoff for what also turned out to be the last six-cylinder M5. In 1990, one of the most respected car monthlies tested an E34 M5 against a Testarossa. They declared the BMW, with its 340hp/295lb ft 3.8-litre inline-six, to be more practical, more comfortable, better handling and faster than the 385hp 5.0 flat-twelve Ferrari on the majority of public roads. To be fair it wasn’t that much more economical than the Ferrari, with an official urban figure of around 15mpg, but the 0-60 time of 5.8 seconds was still impressive for a 1,725kg five-seat saloon. The E34 was also notable for premiering the first Touring M estate in 1992. 

There was a three-year gap between the end of the E34 M5 and the beginning of the E39 in 1998, but it was worth the wait. The old six-pot gave way to a 4.9-litre 395hp V8 that endowed the M5 with a 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds and, in unrestricted cars, a potential top speed of 185mph.

 

Once again BMW took its time before introducing the next M5. Two years after the last E39 was built, the 2005-2010 E60 howled onto the stage. Its 5.0-litre V10 was an epic thing, delivering 0-62 times in the mid-to-high four-second bracket and 500hp at a bonkers 7,750rpm, but the twin-turbocharged dual-scroll 4.4-litre V8 that followed in the 2011 F10 stomped all over the V10 on both horsepower (552hp from 6,000-7,000rpm) and, more importantly for day to driving, torque. The E60’s V10 put out 384lb ft at a stirring 6,100rpm, which was nothing to be ashamed of, but the F10’s V8 had 501lb ft all the way from 1,500rpm to 5,750rpm.

Such fat, easy power combined with a double-clutch gearbox and an upgraded chassis - around 50 per cent more rigid than the E60’s - helped the F10 to a 7:55 ’Ring time, a top-end option of 190mph and an official 0-62 time of 4.4 seconds – which turned out to be pessimistic if you were at the wheel of an American press car. One of the big US mags put a 2012 M5 through the 0-60 run in just 3.7 seconds.

The F10 topped the E60 on fuel consumption, too: the official urban figure was 28.5mpg compared to the E60 V10’s 19.1mpg. Realistically, you’d be lucky to get 15-20mpg in the F10, arousing some criticism of its weight, which at getting on for 1,900kg made it heavier than the E60 to the tune of one powerfully-built director wearing a fair quantity of gold bling.

On aural appeal, not many scored the F10’s turbo woofle above the high-intensity yell of the V10, but there was no disputing the fact that the newer M5 was BMW’s most powerful road car yet. With the optional M Driver’s Package in place you could breeze along the Autobahn at a cool 190.

BMW updates its cars halfway through their lifecycles. These are known as LCIs or Life Cycle Impulses. In the case of the F10 M5, the LCI was announced in May 2013 for 2014MY cars. It incorporated new ‘double-spoke’ kidney grilles, adaptive xenon headlights and LED tail-lights as standard. New paints like Pyrite Brown and Frozen Blue were added, along with new leather colours. The steering wheel was redesigned – a big hit – as were the centre armrest and console, and the new iDrive 4.2 controller gained a bigger knob and a touchpad, which worked well. Also new for 2014 was a Competition Package that boosted power to around 570hp, loudened the exhaust, recalibrated the transmission and steering, and lowered the car by 10mm. It cost £6,700 and cut the official 0-62mph time to 4.2 seconds.

When new, the F10 M5 cost just over £73,000. You could have taken one way over the £100k mark without too much effort, or you could have short-circuited that tiresome box-ticking operation by hanging on a while and buying one of BMW’s special edition cars. In 2015 the limited edition ’30 Jahre M5’ was launched, adding another 25hp to the CP’s rating to take it up to 591hp and producing a 0-62 time of 3.9 seconds. Thirty of these matt Frozen Dark Silver cars came to the UK at £91,980 a pop.

The F10 M5’s exit model in 2016 was the 200-car Competition Edition. It had the same tech spec as the 30 Jahre and a tidy bunch of additional M trinkets. The price for that was £100,995 – a whisker under £3,000 more than the entry price for a current F90 M5 Competition.

Are these high prices scaring you? Maybe they shouldn't, because used examples of the 2011-2016 M5 are available for under £20,000, which seems remarkably cheap for the supercar-humbling speed that’s on offer here. Let’s have a troll through the ins and outs of F10 ownership and find out why.

  • Bodywork & Interior

M5s are often used daily, in towns as well as on the open road, so there may be urban dents in the bodywork which you can use to chip the price down. Colour-wise there’s a lot of love for Silverstone F10s which have a bit less blue in them than previous M5s bearing the same name. Braver souls ordered silver or grey M5s with Sakhir Orange leather, a combo that many reckon works really well although that’s obviously subjective.

The F10 cabin was a lovely environment, although some owners experienced rattles and creaks from the region of the B-pillars. The M Multifunction seats were excellent, with active cooling, massage and adjustable side bolsters. The jury remained out, however, as to whether they or the Sport seats that were the only options in the F10 topped the deleted Comfort seats from the E60 M5. 

Not everyone liked the repositioning of the button functions on the otherwise much-loved new steering wheel, but the smaller wheel for scrolling through audio sources went down well. The Bang & Olufsen sound system was an expensive option when new but it sounds amazing and is a no-brainer to look for in used M5s. The head-up display was considered to be a big step-up on that in the E60. The F10’s was adjustable for both position and rotation and displayed local speed limits and your music choices. 

  • Engine & Transmission

The F10’s S63B44 twin-turbo V8 is a fabulous unit, no question, delivering a rare combination of refinement and economy for the performance, which is considerable. Even in the dry it’s possible to light up the traction warning at three-figure speeds.

There’s general agreement that the quoted output of 552hp is conservative. Even light tuning will easily hoist that to 650hp and beyond. One big-turbo M5 is reputedly putting out 1,076hp. For those who want to go down a more traditional tuning route, stage 1 mods would include a panel air filter, remap, freer-flowing exhaust and maybe a lighter flywheel. Stage 2 would be a high-flow injection, upgraded fuel pump and clutch, a fast road cam and a ported-polished head. Stage 3 – competition cams, new pistons, heads and valves etc – wouldn’t be recommended for road use, but you could certainly put the wind up fellow trackdayers with that kind of setup.

The F10 M5 is considered to be more reliable overall than the E60 M5, but no car is perfect and the hi-po nature of this one means that careful engine maintenance is essential. Minor servicing is not as dear as you might think. One of the good things about iDrive is that it flags up the replacement status of service items. One of the bad things about F10 M5s is that a ‘check engine’ light might not be the once-in-a-lifetime thing you’d want it to be. It’s highly advisable to make sure that all the available engine and transmission software updates are implemented as they come out.

An error message along the lines of ‘Drivetrain. Maximum power not available. Drive moderately’ accompanied by a shuddering sensation if you try to exceed a light throttle opening, has been variously attributed to a range of causes from dodgy fuel to faulty air intake sensors and PDMs (power distribution modules) or leaking injectors.

Those M5 owners who replace the oil in their engines every 4-5,000 miles (which is not bad practice) might never notice the fact that they can use a little oil. Nothing too scary: a litre every 1,500 miles (when the screen indicates it’s needed) is perfectly normal. Interestingly, BMW provided holes in the M5 underfloor for access to the oil filter and drain plug. The M5’s S63 engine is nowhere near as notorious for oil burning as the N63 motor in lesser 5 Series cars. If you want to maximise the life of your F10 engine you might want to follow the advice of those in the know, which is to give it a couple of minutes’ warmup before firing off into the middle distance.

There have been rare instances of E90 M3-style rod bearing failure, most typically on 2012-13 cars. A recall on the M5 oil pump for 2013 cars may have come too late for some owners, but the 5 year/50,000-mile warranty did save at least one from financial ruin.

The four pipes that carry coolant to the turbos are worth a gander now and then as they can leak a little. Fortunately this is an easy one to fix using a repair kit. Coil packs, the coronavirus of modern motoring, go wrong on these M5s, as do spark plugs. The fuel mixture settings can get confused too. Check the service history to see if the injectors have been replaced at any point. High-pressure fuel pump (HPFP) failure can occur, but owners of other BMWs and VWs will know that that’s not M5-exclusive. Difficult or ‘long’ starting is one symptom of that. Exhaust manifolds can go west, as can air flow meters.

Battery discharge was a serious issue possibly caused by the battery fans or the headlamps running on for too long after switch-off. At one point BMW was advising owners who were having discharge problems to swap batteries at every oil change, which was a bit cheeky.

This was the first M5 to have a twin-clutch transmission, in this case a smashing quick-action seven-speeder. A six-speed manual was available, but oddly only in the US. An Active M-Differential shuffled torque between the back wheels, and you had the usual battery of damping, steering and throttle modes, controlled in the M5 by two M buttons on the steering wheel.

Don’t expect the clutch pack to last forever if you can't restrain yourself on the hard launches. Those of a more mechanically sympathetic nature will happily exchange the few milliseconds lost on a normal non-launch take-off (which is breezy enough for most) for greater clutch longevity.

Drivetrain rattles are not unheard of. There was a driveshaft recall on cars built between September and December 2014. If you’ve just bought your F10 M5 and there’s no written evidence of the DCT or rear diff fluid having been changed, replacing it will be good for your peace of mind. That diff can leak and the mounts can develop hairline cracks.

  • Suspension & Steering

In an attempt to compensate enthusiasts for some of the ‘numbing down’ that was an inevitable part of the M5’s development at a time when feel was becoming less important than supreme efficiency, the F10’s suspension subframes were more solidly attached to the body structure. Less flexy bushing material was used, as were higher spring rates and more aggressive damper valving.

Some early examples suffered from a steering vibration and clunky noises from the rear suspension, which could be down to faulty springs. In terms of ride, more than one F10 owner coming to the car from an E60 said that the F10 in Comfort mode was less harsh than the E60 in its softest setting.

In Sport Plus mode the electronic steering initially seems highly over-weighted. Although owners reported that they got used to it over time, few rated the F10’s somewhat unnatural feel, but taking the suspension and steering together, the F10’s positives – lack of body roll and precision through fast corners – outweighed the negatives.

  • Wheels, Tyres & Brakes

Standard wheel/tyre setup on the F10 M5 was 9x19s at the front and 10x19s at the back, with 265/40 and 295/35 tyres. Cars with 20-inch wheels run 265/35s and 295/30s. Go up to 21-inch and your rear tyre options could be 295/25 or 305/25 (offset permitting). Centrelock wheel conversions are available.

Owners overwhelmingly recommend Michelin Pilot Super Sports and the later Pilot Sport 4s. A few appear to rate the generally less well-liked Pirelli P Zeros for wet-weather use, but the impression you get from UK buyers at least is that the Pirellis are a bit too hard for the lower temperatures we get here. M5 front tyres can last a surprisingly long time but don’t expect the same of the rears.

Six-piston brake calipers were standard fitment on the front wheels, giving excellent stopping power. A rear pad service will cost around £900 all in, reminding you if you were in any danger of forgetting it that these are not cheap cars to run. Carbon ceramic brakes were an expensive and, if owners were being honest, not massively superior option if you didn’t get them up to temp. Assuming you didn’t spend all your time on the track, the CCB discs would last for 100,000 miles, and the pads for around half that. 

  • Conclusion

Even in standard trim, the F10 M5 is an incredible car that will thrillingly transport (or waft, according to choice) you, your family and a whole heap of luggage across Europe in either the blink of an eye or in a very relaxed fashion. It will attract a lot of positive attention on the way too. It’s an Alpina-trumper for less money, although some M5 fans did miss the more visceral sense of connection that was a cornerstone of the E60 proposition. The F10 was more efficient and almost certainly more reliable, but it was also more detached.

As mentioned earlier, anything in the classifieds with ‘LCI’ in the title means it’s an updated M5 from late-2013 on. If you are worried about reliability and think that earlier cars are more vulnerable in that regard, then you will probably also happily spend the extra on an LCI car, but many contented owners of pre-’14 cars that have had no problems will tell you that you are wasting your money.

We always recommend extended warranties on expensive cars, and that goes double for these M5s, where the cost of an engine replacement can top £30k. To send you off wondering, here’s a selection of F10 M5s from the PH Classifieds covering a reassuringly narrow price spectrum from £20-£40,000. Good hunting.

We found this white 2014 Comp Pack LCI car in Ireland for £19,495, admittedly with 94,000 miles up and no interior pics. A 50,000-mile 2012 car in the same colour with Sakhir Orange leather was £21,475, while this black LCI from 2014 with 68,000 miles was up for £21,750.

At the top end of the range we unearthed this 3,100-miler in Montecarlo Blue with black leather at £39,995. Somewhere in between these extremes we found this rather lovely Silverstone LCI from 2015 with 28,000 miles at a pound under £29k.


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