It’s been five months since I last wrote about my six-speed V10 M5 that I picked up off Craigslist for $10,500. Amazingly, despite everyone’s claims that the engine would immediately explode, that hasn’t been the case. In fact, I’ve put 6000 miles on the car in that time, including a track day at Watkins Glen International. Of course, those miles were far from trouble-free. Here’s an update on one of the cheapest V10-powered cars in the country.
The Drivetrain Is Just Fine (Probably)
Okay let’s get this one out of the way first. The engine still works, and still feels like it makes nearly 500 horsepower (though I’m sure a few of those have disappeared in 160,000 miles). But there’s a distinct chain noise coming from the front, which I suspect means the chain guides and/or tensioners will need replacement sometime soon. It still burns a good amount of oil, and still goes into limp mode at the top of third gear because it’s not getting enough fuel. A reader that goes by messaged me and suggested to check the fuel pump fuses, but even after changing them, the problem persists. I suspect the fuel filter may be the real issue, so I’ll eventually get around to changing that out.
The car has also thrown a “Running too rich” code a few times, as well as a “Running too lean” code once. I assume this is because of a faulty injector, though the codes haven’t been persistent enough for me to pursue a repair just yet. I’ve also gotten “Increased emissions” alerts regarding the catalytic converters. Again, these codes don’t really pop up often, so I’m not too worried about fixing whatever’s causing them.
The six-speed remains in good working condition, even after a day of hustling at Watkins Glen. I changed out the fluid before the event, and it looked fairly clean from a quick visual examination. It’s amazing how much simpler the manual trans is underneath compared to the SMG, which is covered in pumps and cooling apparatuses.
I actually took the car to a dealer to get the differential shaft input seal replaced (if you remember, it was leaking pretty badly) because I didn’t feel like disassembling the rear end to get to the seal. While it was there, I got the handbrake fixed and OEM BBS style 166 wheels put on that I bought from a junkyard to replace the black knock-off items. All of that cost me $1350, which is a lot of money, but about what I expected from a dealer.
The Suspension Is Not Fine
This car feels like it’s about to shake itself apart going down a bumpy road. I suspect the shocks are in need of replacing, as are many of the subframe bushings. The electronic damper control still feels like it works, which is a . Despite my promise that I’d replace the engine, transmission, and differential mounts to get rid of that horrible knocking noise I mentioned in the last update, I still haven’t done any of that—mark it up to laziness, I guess. Also, parts are expensive.
Electrical System: Who the Hell Knows
Within the first thousand miles after I bought the car, every time I turned it off it would give me a low-battery voltage warning. I didn’t think much of it until one day I fired it up and all of the auxiliary power items (power steering, suspension, iDrive unit, etc.) stopped working. Thinking it just needed a restart to reset everything, I turned the car off and tried to restart it. As I should’ve guessed, it refused to start the second time. The battery wasn’t charging. , then later that day on the highway, the car’s entire gauge cluster just went blank—speedo, tach, and fuel readings all just stopped functioning—not the most fun thing to happen while you’re driving down the road at 75 mph. So, I went to AutoZone and got a new battery. The M5 forums say you have to take it to a dealer to have the new battery “coded” to the car, but I haven’t done that, and everything seems to be working just fine. The best part is, I no longer have to reset the date and time every time I turn the car on. Luxury!
I was expecting something to go catastrophically wrong during my visit to Watkins Glen for a NASA Northeast track day in April, but nothing really did. Of course, since I didn’t bother to change the brake fluid beforehand (great planning, I know), I roasted the fluid during the first session—turns out repeatedly slowing down a two-ton car from 145 mph will do that fairly quickly. I could clock about five laps per session before the fluid would give up on me, and the mis-matched all-seasons that came on the car when I bought it (I’m on a budget, alright?) weren’t very helpful. But nothing went wrong, and the four-hour trip back to New York City went off without a hitch.
Funnily enough, my M5 wasn’t even the highest-mileage M5 at the event—that award goes to Fleet Managerin his 215,000-mile E39. He took it straight out of winter storage and to the track without even giving it a wash (though to be fair, he only did that because the car he was originally going to take had its rear brake line damaged the day before).
Aside from all the suspension and bushing stuff, there are a few other small things I’d like to take care of. I want OEM chrome kidney grilles to replace the cheap-looking black ones currently on the car, and a working USB input (the one inside the center console does nothing). I removed the tints and cleaned the interior, though all of the leather and trim pieces still have a lot of wear. On the upside, it doesn’t smell like death whenever I open the door anymore. The air conditioning still doesn't work though, which is more of a problem now that winter is over.
Do I regret buying this car? Of course not. It's been a dream of mine to own a V10 M5, and thanks to the magic of depreciation, that dream has become reality. But reality comes with consequences, as I will continue to find out as my experience owning this car will show as time goes on. Stay tuned.
(Shout out to R&T contributor and all-around interesting person for the on-track photos!)