If you’re willing to live with the potential unreliability of the S85 engine from the E60/E61 M5, there’s really only one thing left to deal with—the SMG gearbox. That is, if you’re in Europe. See, here in America, the E60 M5 came with a manual transmission, which makes it quite a bit more desirable than the Euro-market car. However, Europe got the E61 M5 Touring (wagon), which we didn’t get. So how do you combine the two—the wagon and the manual? Well, if you’re in Europe, you can do a manual swap on the E61 M5 Touring, which is what DriveTribe did to their car.
In their previous video, DT shows what it’s like to manual-swap an E61 M5 Touring, a job done by the same shop that sort of pioneered the manual swap for the E46 M3 CSL in the UK. In this new video, though, they actually push the manual-swapped E61 M5 on unrestricted roads.
Has the manual swap sapped any of the original character of the car? Has it made it slower? And has it actually made it better? The answers to those questions seem to be yes, sort of, and yes. For starters, the original character has changed. For the better. It now feels more confident at lower speeds, without that automated manual lurching and jerking around, trying to figure out which gear to be in. It also technically has a lower top speed, thanks to the manual’s shorter gearing and the shorter final drive rear diff. However, it’s also quicker to accelerate for those same reasons.
But, more importantly, the manual has made the car better. It’s now more exciting, more engaging, and less compromised. It went from a car that was good but always had a “but.” Now, it’s a great car without any eggs on its face. It’s the car it should have been from the beginning.