Back in January, I reviewed my (then) current car: my Honda Civic Type-R. I also detailed the reasons that I would be swapping it for something else: corrosion, age of components, uncompromising ride, pain in the arse to do basic DIY jobs and so on. I concluded this post by stating that I was looking at the newer FK2 Type-R. However…
The FK2 musing came to nothing in the end. Partly because the cars hold their value so well which would have entailed some sort of finance repayments (which I really don’t want to have again after clearing it all on previous vehicles), and partly because I saw this as an oppurtunity to take a chance on something completely different…a car that I’ve gazed at longingly for several years now, and a car that I felt I should take the plunge with now while a) prices are right and b) it is still possible to run a fat-engined gas guzzler. So this is what I bought:
Now, you probably see these all the time on the roads, but this specific model was actually very hard for me to track down, especially in good condition. This is a 2007 BMW 530i M-Sport, and what that means is that this packs a big 3.0, naturally-aspirated straight/inline six petrol engine. For reference, there are LOADS of diesel models of this E60-gen 5-Series on the market (very well-specced I might add), and lots of “lesser” petrol models such as the 520, 523, and 525, but I specifically wanted this three-litre beastie and the 530i badge was surprisingly difficult to find here in the UK.
Essentially, this is the best model available underneath the (crazy) V10-equipped M5, and the 545i/550i V8 variants. Better still, the six-cylinder in the 530i is miles more reliable than any of those models, requiring only regular servicing and oil changes. In contrast, the V8’s can suffer with pricey valve stem seal issues, and the M5…well, you don’t buy a V10 supersaloon and expect it not to be an expensive, high-maintenance relationship.
The straight-six under the bonnet of this car is known to be one the best ever made, and it won a lot of awards too. It was also the end of an era as BMW began fitting turbos to their six-cylinder cars afterwards. Unfortunately, there was a massive push to get the public to buy diesel cars (a government promotion that has aged about as well as the Gollywog) when the E60 was on the market (2005-2010) which is why the majority of cars in the classifieds and trade ads are diesels, and why I had such a tough time finding a 530i. I also didn’t want to compromise and settle for something like a 520i so I persisted, searching for months until I finally landed on a car with history and low miles. The only compromise I had to make was the gearbox, as this is an auto – something that I’d previously considered sacrilege as a petrolhead. However, the auto ‘box is actually a positive for me, as I’ll explain in a bit.
But what originally drew me to this car, specifically an E60 with M-Sport aero kit, is how the car looks. It’s one of the biggest ironies of my life that the Chris Bangle styling of the E60 struck me as absolutely revolting when these cars first came out, taking over from the attractive E39 generation. Over the years though, my opinion has done a complete 180 and now I can’t get enough of how these cars (and other BMWs from the Bangle era such as the E85 Z4 and E63 6-Series) look. I’m forever looking back at mine in car parks from different angles. Take a look at the last few generations of 5-Series and you can see smart, but safe exterior styling that has evolved at a crawl between model generations. Never again has there been such a radical, sweeping change in aesthetic design as the Bangle era, and I don’t think we will see such a gamble by a car giant like BMW ever again.
In my opinion, it looks superb from all angles, especially with the M-Sport bumpers, skirts, and 19-inch “Spider” alloy wheels (the best-looking factory wheel option in my eyes, though the 18″ MV2s are also nice). The only thing dulling it’s impact is that there are still a lot of E60’s on the road! As more and more gradually shuffle off to the scrapheap, I think the E60 design will only continue to age well and turn more heads.
Inside, it’s all black leather with optional black headlining, and M-Sport steering wheel and sill plates. There is the infamous i-Drive system (which I’m not finding to be the headache that many BMW owners make out) and plenty of luxuries that I never had on the Type-R such as heated seats, parking radar, tinted mirrors, fully electric seats, DVD player, 6-CD changer etc. It hasn’t got all of the options unfortunately (there are so many that I doubt any E60 is specced exactly the same…), but that’s also less to go wrong, right?
The best of it is that waiting paid dividends, as this car has all the service stamps, Continental boots all round (with loads of tread left), and less than 70,000 miles – crazy for a fourteen year-old motor! There’s also evidence of a brand-new air-con condenser having being fitted which would have cost the previous owner a decent wedge. All of this set me back well under £10,000, even less after I’d traded the R.
I’m dead pleased with it and honestly still can’t believe that I have one of these. I’ve had a fair few strange looks in the work’s car park as I work a (to use the American term) blue-collar factory job so I guess it is odd to see somebody like me in an executive-spec BMW that overhangs the parking bay(s) by a considerable amount!
As for why I consider the automatic gearbox a plus point these days…well, that ties into another reason that I wanted shot of the Type-R: my intermittent back problems. On bad days, those Recaro seats and the rock-hard suspension setup really inflamed the issue, and long drives were just so unappealing with pressing the clutch in after sitting on a motorway at cruising speed for hours pulling on my lower back. Even though the 530i sits on 19″ wheels, the ride is infinitely kinder, and the seats are far more supportive with a lot more adjustment options. It’s no slouch for an auto anyway, and it shifts along incredibly quickly given the car’s size (no doubt helped by the ‘M’ setup). There’s also the option to flick the selector to the left and shift the gears manually too if I want.
So yeah…a completely different kind of car than the one I’d anticipated getting but, so far, I’m enjoying it. Naturally, any big, older luxury German car is a risk as far as potential issues and costs go, but these are still well-made machines with heaps more build quality than the Civic. Besides, sometimes you just have to take a risk and go for something, even if it might not end well down the line.