E60/E61 5-Series: Thank You, BMW

5-series | November 18th, 2009 by 29
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As most of you know, we will soon see a new 5-Series BMW, codenamed the F10. While there is no doubt the new 5-Series will …

As most of you know, we will soon see a new 5-Series BMW, codenamed the F10. While there is no doubt the new 5-Series will be a modern marvel in and of itself, in this article we shall take a look back at one of the most advanced BMWs to date.

Whether you liked her or not, you can’t deny the numbers or the fact that she was one of the best cars sold since it hit American soil in 2004. She was as safe as she was sporty, and she was as luxurious as a 7-Series could have been, just with a little less interior space. But that didn’t stop us all from realizing that BMW could still build one hell of a car with one hell of a controversial body…

Apart from being a modern classic, the E60/E61 5er was, outside of the E66 7-Series, quite possibly the most controversial car BMW has ever produced. Since the first day it appeared at dealerships, people were thinking that it could be the end to BMW’s quiet and subtle nature.
Well, that was true, and it’s true for BMWs to come. Whether we liked it or not, BMW was entering the 21st century, and they were doing so in a very loud way. Some blame it on Chris Bangle, and others just blame it on BMW allowing Bangle and his team of designers to ruin their favorite cars. I say, a BMW will always be a BMW, no matter if it looks subtle or appears too radical.

By using the simple thought that a BMW will always be a BMW, it has helped a lot of people understand and come around to loving the E60 and its E61 Touring brother. It drove well, felt a little big, but was still as much a BMW as there ever were. The interior was more spacious than the outgoing E39, and offered more creature comforts and incredible and new technology.
When you first sat in the new 5-Series, you were welcomed by this odd looking, yet incredibly comfortable and rather thick rimmed steering wheel. In typical 5-Series fashion, the seats were relaxing, but extremely supportive, and could even be optioned with the 7s lounge chairs. Having any E60 with the optional sport package was an amazing plus, it was really no doubt meant more for the 545i and the latter 550i. When you sat in either of those cars with the sport package, you felt like you were in a baby M5, but no less incredible. The 4.4L V8 in the 545i put out 325hp and 330lb-ft of torque. More than enough to get all 3900lbs of it to 60 in around 5.4 seconds. That’s basically a 350Z from Nissan. And it carries four adults in safe comfort? That’s what I call a winner at all costs.

The 530i came equipped in the street race battle with BMW’s perfect inline-6 producing 225hp and 214lb-ft of torque, later to be updated in 2006 with 255hp and 220lb-ft of torque. The 525i did just, well, not much, with its 184hp and175lb-ft of torque. But when the E90 3-Series came out in 2006, the 525i, along with the 530i, got an updated inline-6 with 215hp and 185lb-ft of torque.
Then came 2007, and an all new V8. The top of the line was now called the 550i and had a 4.8L unit displacing 360hp and 360lb-ft of torque. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that we saw what BMW really could do with the styling of the E60/E61. The styling was updated tremendously! With a new front end, headlights, LED taillights and an updated interior coming in to play. And finally, for the first time, BMW brought the M-Sport package styling from Europe to the 550i sport package. But, not just did the new styling make people fall in love, the new engine options made people see visions of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” in its most natural of habitats, the back roads and highways. The 525 was now the 528i with a 3.0L I-6 making 230hp and 230lb-ft of torque.

And while I told you earlier about the 550s new 4.8L V8, the real headliner here was the twin-turbocharged I-6 straight from the Autobahn burner itself, the 335i. It packed 300hp and 300lb-ft of torque, and it went straight into the 530 replacement, the 535i. That may not sound like some crazy amount, but when you take into consideration that the 3.0L twin-turbo 6-cylinder is downrated from the factory, then you begin to realize it has almost as much power from its small powerplant as the 550i does from its V8. That’s amazing. The 550i, with the optional sport package, could do sprints to 60 in about 4.6-4.7 seconds. And the 535i could to the same in about 4.8 seconds.
But in order to handle all of this power, BMW couldn’t throw their normal automatic transmission into the 5-Series, like they used to. No, BMW worked with ZF transmissions to make a brand new 6-speed unit with optional paddle shifters. This became known as the supreme transmission for not just BMW, but for all of the world. Now, everyone pretty much uses a ZF automatic transmission modified by their terms for luxury, sport and exotic cars. Although, if you’re like me, it wouldn’t really matter, because you’d be ordering a manual transmission anyway.
The 5-Series has always handled well, but when you put the E60 into some curves, twists and turns, it was so much smoother and more fluid than any 5 before it. The power from the new engines, the sound from them, as well, and the perfect relationship between man and machine had never been so good in a non-M 5. And it still held 5 passengers and their luggage in great comfort. It was sporty first, with luxury coming up closely behind.
With all of the great things about the outgoing 5-Series, one of the best is it could also be ordered in Touring or all-wheel drive. You could only order the wagon in Xi trim, while the sedan could be ordered in RWD or AWD. Only the 6-cylinder models could be all-wheel drive, however. And the same goes for the Touring. Still, you were taking a little sport out of the equation and adding a lot more utility. You didn’t have an X5, but you still had pretty much the same cargo space, you just didn’t sit up as high. And it’s also easier for you to get in and out of places, too.
All of this was fantastic and all, but there was no one thing that could have prepared us for 2006. It was the year BMW made history. It was the year BMW took the world and turned it on its head. It was the year of the M5. It wasn’t just an all new ///M for the 5-Series. It was a 5.0L V10 500hp, 383lb-ft of torque monster ready to tackle the front lines of exotic battle. It was ready to make a Ferrari bleed its own red blood. It made every exotic sports car cry and run home to mommy. It was boss, and everyone was to see why. No matter if you enjoyed the styling of the interior and exterior of the M5, you weren’t caring too much when you heard the V10 of BMW’s Formula 1 race car absolutely scream up to 7,750 RPM. Most people will hear the M5 does 60mph in 4.5s.

While that’s fast, that’s .4s off of how it really does it. 4.1 seconds is the real number. That’s a V12 powered Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, folks. And once you take the 155mph limiter off, you’ll hit well over 200mph. A friend has quoted me 186mph as the fastest he has gotten, thus far, in his 2007 M5… In fact, the E60 M5 was so good, Motor Trend did a tribute video to it, as seen below. That’s pretty cool.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention some of the key things about it. The M5 weighs 4,012lbs. Umm, that’s an SUV or truck, and still is listed as a super car. It will also fit 4 people comfortably with plenty of room in the trunk. It has 5 seats, but the middle seat shouldn’t really be used for anything other than a child. Also, the M5 came standard with the Sequential Manual Gearbox II, or simply, SMG II. It was the second generation of BMW’s 7-speed sequential gearbox with F1-style paddle shifters. While it was a clumsy and not so great transmission, it handled the duties of making the M5 extremely fast without a clutch pedal. Starting in 2007, though, BMW was forced to produce 6-speed manual transmission M5s when many of the car’s original American orders where canceled upon the news that only the SMG would be offered.

With that said, some really cool technology debuted with the M5, outside of the V10 engine. It came with adaptive bolsters for the front passengers, that when engaged, would provide extra side bolstering to which part of you was moving while the car was cornering. Also, a new HUD, or Head-Up Display, was featured with turn by turn navigation built into the already stellar transmission, speed and rev visuals. The suspension, transmission, steering, acceleration and pretty much all else, could be all changed to be smoother, harder, sportier, more luxurious, or other things, just by the push of a button. The Electronic Damping Control, or EDC, was able to sharpen up the suspension from normal, to sport and sport plus, the transmission could go calmly into the next gear or ferociously with the push of some up or down tabs behind the gearshifter. And finally, you could change the power from 400hp to 500 or 500 sport. It was an amazing way to create a monster or just putt along in 400 mode to get a little extra fuel mileage.

European iDrive shown

European iDrive shown

With all of the accolades of the current 5-Series, there is an Achilles heal that everyone would be mentioning in the comments if I didn’t say it here. iDrive. Love it or hate it, it’s the backbone of every BMW to date. And most likely every one of them in the future. It’s been the most controversial of all things by the automotive loving public, but it’s also one of the most widely copied pieces of technology. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar, Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti, Nissan, Toyota and Acura, just to name a few, all have some sort of iDrive style knob and infotainment system. People still hated the way it operated. It confused most people when it debuted on the 2002 7-Series, but most quickly adapted. It’s still labeled as the worst thing BMW ever did. While it can be irritating, it’s not that bad. At least not to me… I never found it too crude, inoperable or even that painstaking. Although, I am that guy that will sit there with a brand new toy and inspect it inside and out for hours upon hours until I figure out how everything works and why it does a certain job.
In 2009 BMW upgraded the iDrive control unit to a brand new knob and buttons to make it much easier for people to use. Some still complain about it, but I find it even easier than it was before. But, once again, I’m the anything that’s hard is more fun, type of person.
E60 M5 Sedan Side Profile
So, it’s with all of this love and hate towards the E60/E61 5-Series that I, and everyone else here at BMW Blog, bid it ado. We hope that it will make a wonderful used car for someone, whether it be used as a track car, auto-x car, turned into a 100% racing car, a grocery getter, or the smart man’s CPO business car. It’s been fun knowin’ ya, E60, but it’s time for newer and better things. I for one will miss the old girl. I think the current 5s were as good as they got in terms of blending sport, luxury and style all in one. And let’s just hope that the new F10 M5 will be even more the beast that the E60 M5 wasn’t.

-Josh from RawAutos.com
“Happy Motoring!”

29 responses to “E60/E61 5-Series: Thank You, BMW”

  1. Edox says:

    It was a great run for this generation 5 series. One class I will definitely never forget.

  2. Straight Six says:

    E60 is one of the nicest series ever and I don’t find it even a little controversial. I find it somehow futuristic, something never seen before, in a positive way of course. My dream car in short.

  3. Jordan says:

    excellent write up! it is such a nice car. BMW seems to just nail the facelifts it gives…. this one is excellent and the one it just did on the 3 series for 2009 is absolutely fantastic. I don’t think anyone could have done it better… it fixed all the little things i didn’t like about it!

    Josh, you said Motor Trend did a tribute video to the M5 but I didn’t see it posted…

  4. Theo says:

    Our E61 is by far the best car I’ve ever driven (considering size and purpose). I love its minimalistic interior (LCI is even better, attention to the last few detail a/o the infamous doorpanels).
    Its driving characteristics are unsurpassed (Dynamic Drive is a milestone) as long as you live in a country / region with acceptable road quality. And the HUD, which I first regarded as a gimmick is indispensable for safe and/or fast driving.
    I always loved the E39 and this series had to grow on me, but eventually it never stopped growing.
    I believe there is no match in the combination of comfort, driving dynamics, building quality and luxury to be found, even to this day. It still is an expensive car though, especially when loaded with options…

  5. Mitchell says:

    Loved the write up, I really believe the e60 is one of the best cars BMW has produced, maybe Im a little biased because I drive an e60, but I love it, it is just a fabulous car! I will never forget it.

    I never understood the controversy, I loved the looks of the e60, albeit very different from the e39.

  6. Feco says:

    Fantastic Car..I am a very proud E60 2006 owner..A car to never forget.

  7. AceMcLoud says:

    I never understood how anybody could not love the design of the E60. I think it’s one of the most beautiful car on the roads today, especially with M kit and proper size tires.

  8. wazon8 says:

    E60 with M-kit is one of the best looking BMW ever made. It was eighter highly technologically advanced car when appear. It’s enough to look at diesels in E60, which – despite their age – are still better than diesels in brand new E-class. Not mentioning about M5 E60, which – I believe – in ten years gonna be cult car, if it’s not such yet.

  9. @iamPitman says:

    The design throught me at first, but it grew on me very fast. The M5 was appreciated from the get go, I still love that vehicle. Depending on depreciated when the F10 drops, I might snag one up for a low price.

  10. Javier says:

    Those headlights are a little too flamboyant, almost tacky, but the rest of it is nice. Fortunately the new 5s will have very different headlights.

  11. viper says:

    it was a nice car , the new one however wont be so radical but I hope better than e60 , much better

  12. BA says:

    Test drove on ’06 and absolutely loved it. From its inception in ’04 – I never thought the look of the car was controversial. Hard lines with a smooth flow. No other brands at its time had that. Albeit the headlights were OK for their design. I just hope the F10 isn’t predicated on what was controversial 3 or 4 years a go. As you look around now, all brands have some sort of characteristics, be it lines or contours that make it unique and some what controversial. But that’s where the market is at. It’s about recognizing the car – whether or not you like the brand.

  13. Jp Albano says:

    Great article, but the 528 is powered by the 3.0 liter engine – N52 if I remember correctly, and not 2.8 liters as one would think.

  14. X5SoB says:

    The E60 was the best of the Bangle inspired designs, and its style was widely copied by the automotive industry, just look at the current Camry and Accord. The F10 looks to be an evolutionary step backwards, which really is too bad. BMW was able to avoid the styling miasma that aflficted Jaguar, Jaguar’s XJ and S-Type(and X-Type) were widely heralded by the automotive press as “Classic” and “Timeless”, and the buying public stayed away in droves. The 7, 6, and 5 were called “Ugly” and “Awkward” by the automotive press, and the buying public voted with their wallets. Just goes to show, “Experts” are frequently full of shit.

  15. Babken says:

    The King (E60) is gone. Long live the King (F10)!

  16. L1ndja says:

    Great great article.It really is a bmw fan boy article and it pays great respect to one if not the best car ever built.
    I remember seeing it for the first time,i think it was love at first time,it really was one of a kind..
    Lets hope bmw continues its tradition and that the F10 can step in to the footsteps of the King of midsize luxury sedans.
    Long live the E60.

  17. ezh says:

    M5 never did 4.1. I read 4.5 was the case, but I managed to throw out of my M5 with all available options (in 2006) only 5.0 to 100. Maybe I should made some more practice, but my feeling says that 4.7 was the max, with new tyres (there some spin on used one).

  18. tiberiu says:

    Thank you BMW for my E60! Is a really great car! Zero problems in 120kkm! :)

  19. travelgeek says:

    I had 3 of them as lease company cars. It was a huge jump from the predecessor. I remember that I was not too much impressed from the exterior but from the interior.

    Also the driving experience was a big step up. It was a very different, modern car. It influenced the design language and set the standard for years to come. It still does not look old after all, still fresh and modern.

    My last E60 was with a M package – and I also liked the exterior

  20. Steve from Oz says:

    I’m a proud E60 PRO SPORT owner as well, It’s definitely the best car that I have ever owned I couldn’t be happier & I also absolutely love the Bangle design there is nothing on the road like it..

    • Jordan says:

      I don’t really know what was so Bangle about this design. I think it looks fantastic and I really can’t see the Bangle in it. To me it’s just a very nicely designed BMW. the Bangle I can see in the old 7 series…

  21. pimnos says:

    I’ll just say this :

    -E60 controversial, yes, only for cry babies. Nowadays, I see F10 and modern Classe E (can’t remember their codename) owners still giving my E60 “that” look. You know, not envy, but something slightly close.

    -Manual… no. Automatic for life. I live in a country where we’ve been driving manuals since forever. We now welcome automatic transmission like Jesus Christ coming to Earth. We’re sick of shifting back and forth because of stupid trafic. Well you know, trafic is part of our daily routine. Automatic E60 IS one of the best driving experience you could ever have.

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