Living with the super rare BMW (E61) M5 Touring

E61 M5

BMW’s M5 CS might currently be hogging the headlines, be it for is performance figures or the positive reviews, but BMW’s lineage of M5 models has produced some enticing cars for a number of decades. One of them is very rare... In fact, only four of these E61 Tourings were imported into South Africa.

Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
Images: Bradley Doyle

The BMW (E60) M5 sedan grabbed the headlines for similar reasons than M5s that came before and after it, but it did so in a markedly different manner. As per usual, there were very generous helpings of power and performance on offer, as well as a beautifully balanced chassis. This time round the source of the grunt, however, was a new 5.0-litre V10 engine that revved to over 8 000 rpm! Controversially the engine was mated with BMW's 7-speed SMG transmission.

BMW E61 M5

Europeans love their station wagons, of course, and so BMW developed and manufactured a Touring version designed by Karl John Elmitt. A spacious, high-performance, comfortable Bavarian cruiser – what is not to like?

We tracked down a collector in Johannesburg who has a serious love affair with cars, especially BMWs. He sat down with us and shared his story about owning this very special M car. 

This model

“I bought it new, but then I sold it when I lived in the UK for a number of years. Upon my return to South Africa I bought it back. I’ve owned the sedan, but I've always wanted the Touring. 

BMW M5 Touring

“It wasn’t easy getting the car, as they weren’t officially imported. In the end we managed to organise a special order of four cars through the BMW dealerships. These four were white, black, grey and blue. The cars arrived at the same time. 

“I specified mine specifically as I love the wood trim. It is very rare that you will find red leather with the wood trim, the latter is not favoured by a lot of buyers. When I bought it back, the odo reading was high as the previous owner had used it as his daily driver.

BMW M5 Touring

“With around 180 000 km on the odo, the previous two owners have done most of the mileage, but since I bought it back, I’ve done well over 15 000 km. The longest trip I’ve done was from Johannesburg to Hermanus, and I’ve also completed three return trips to Durban. 

“Not many of these M5 Tourings were made, and even fewer in right-hand drive. These cars have really quickly become loved by enthusiasts. 


“People are quick to suggest that these V10s give problems and that maintenance is a challenge and that they are unreliable. We tend to forget that these are high-performance engines and because of that they need proper maintenance. 

BMW M5 Touring

“In the last three years I’ve had to replace the clutch, the coils and spark plugs. All together it cost less than R40 000. Since new, the differential has been replaced as have the engine main bearings. The latter was done at around 120 000 km and I know that in the future it will need to be done again, especially as a preventative maintenance approach. 

“So far the suspension hasn’t given any issues. And, although the clutch needed to be replaced, the flywheel was still in a good condition. When the clutch was replaced, a few other small parts and plugs were also replaced, also part of the preventative maintenance approach. 

BMW M5 Touring

“You also need to check, maintain and replace the fluids of the SMG transmission. These gearboxes are bullet proof. If you abuse the car, it will be a different story, but I look after my cars and enjoy them at the same time. Cars remain perfect if they are perfectly maintained. 

“The main crankshaft pulley is grooved and it has a grooved belt running over it, and the pulley has worn over time and started cutting into the belt. I then obviously had to replace the pulley." 

What should potential buyers look out for?

BMW M5 Touring

“Well, to start off with you will need to find one of the other three that came into South Africa. The main thing to look out for is simply a full service and maintenance record. No corners should have been cut in the car’s history. You need to take the car to specialists who know what they are doing. Having said that, I did the coils and spark plug replacements myself, as it is only really tricky to get hold of the last two. But when it comes to trickier stuff you need a specialist. There are really only a few people out there that know how to work on these cars and have a true interest in them. As a human you are not going to go to a vet to save money on medical expenses. The same is the case with special cars like these. 

BMW M5 Touring

“The reason I, for example, brought the car back to Johannesburg when the clutch broke in the Cape, is because I have relationships with specialists here in Johannesburg. With such an important job where the gearbox needs to come out, you can not cut corners. Labour is a big part of the expenses, to an extent more so than the parts.”

Specifications - BMW (E61) M5 Touring

Engine: 4 999 cm3, V10, petrol

Power: 373 kW at 7 750 rpm

Torque: 520 N.m at 6 100 rpm

Fuel tank: 70 litres

Maximum speed: 257 km/h

0-100 km/h: 4,64 seconds (tested by CAR magazine)

Transmission: 7-speed automated manual, SMG

Weight: 1 955 kg

Years of manufacture: 2007 - 2010

How many were built: just over 1 025 (Touring)

Where was it built: Dingolfing, Germany

What you can expect to pay for a good-condition example: up to R400 000 

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