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BMW 550i (E60): Spotted

There are rare BMWs and then there are rare BMWs - as this manual, V8 5 Series proves...

By Matt Bird / Sunday, January 13, 2019

Car fans are notoriously fickle. They'll talk themselves blue on cars they want to buy if only the manufacturers would make them, only for those models to emerge and be left languishing on pricelists. The Toyota GT86 is the perfect example; enthusiasts wanted a rear-drive, lightweight alternative to hot hatches, which Toyota then sold fewer than 5,000 of across the EU in the three years to the end of 2018.

Manual V8s are another category. As the big cube, naturally-aspirated V8 continues its interminable decline, so a few want to keep control via a stick and three pedals. But clearly not in sufficient numbers to keep the things going; combine all that with emissions regulations and the drastic improvements in auto tech and the demise is hard to avoid. Beyond the Mustang GT, what else is currently available?

That said, it is still possible to combine the reasonably modern and usable with the traditional appeal of a big V8 and a manual gearbox. See, as an example, this E60 BMW 550i. While it is now a 10 year-old car, our recent M5 comparison revealed what a contemporary car the E60 generation remains, inside and out. Certainly those au fait with current BMW infotainment tech will be at home here.

What they'll be less familiar with, pleasingly, is the charm of a 4.8-litre V8 deemed good enough for Morgan until very recently allied to the satisfaction of a manual gearbox. BMW has never supplied the sweetest of manual gearboxes, but there would surely be enough novelty appeal in the Munich take on a muscle car to overlook that.

Moreover, any manual 5 Series is pretty rare (and therefore interesting) - let alone one with a V8. Howmanyleft suggests that there just 11 other 5 Series like this one registered in the UK, which if anything is higher than expected. There are five SE-spec manual saloons, 10 M Sport 550i Tourings and, staggeringly, three manual 550i SE Tourings - by comparison there are currently 146 550i M Sport auto saloons of this generation registered. Clearly, there are rare BMWs and then there are rare BMWs.

This particular 550 is nicely specced in carbon black with cream leather, and comes with new Pirelli tyres plus a wheel refurb, paint touch up work and wiring repairs. A car like this is surely not the kind of 5 Series where ownership is fallen into by accident, so you would have to assume a level of care and commitment that may elude the more ordinary versions. Certainly it's looking good at 109,000 miles.

Some will likely baulk at that mileage with a £12,500 price tag, but this was a near-£60k car once upon a time. And, well, it becomes a case of find another after that, really. Indeed, find another interesting four-door saloon with a manual that isn't simply an E39 M5. Which is a pretty compelling alternative, granted. Otherwise there's the odd MG ZT 260 and, er, well, that's about it.

So while the appeal of probably the most controversial 5 Series ever in one of its least popular derivatives is going to be extremely narrow, the 550i is most definitely welcome here. As a car for combining much of what we like about the old days with a good chunk of the new, it looks very alluring indeed. Try it while some are still around!


Engine: 4,799cc, V8
Power (hp): 367@6,300rpm
Torque (lb ft): 361@3,400rpm
MPG: 25.9
CO2: 260g/km
Year registered: 2008
Recorded mileage: 98,000
Price new: £N/A (optioned to £58,000)
Yours for: £12,500

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