The budget conscious super saloon shopper is still out there and you may very well be one of them. As manufacturers focus more and more on crossovers and suvs there lies a soft spot in the market. One that provides those with discerning taste the chance to drive a car that can be as poised making a spirited run cross country as it is on a road course. Today’s focus will be on an excellent offering from BMW, the E60 5 Series.

The E60 ran from 2003 to 2010 and when it arrived, most in the car world were appalled at it’s Bangle designed body. It didn’t look much like the outgoing car and at the time that wasn’t popular. Today though it’s widely regarded as a style that has stood the test of time, especially after the midlife facelift it received in 2008. The car was treated to better lighting, sleeker front and rear bumper covers, new wheel options and most importantly new engine options. The car in any trim feels great inside, quality materials all around aside from some cheap plastics. For all but the M5 each car came with a six speed manual standard with an automatic being optional and a “Sport Automatic” also being available that added paddle shifters and a “Sport” button just below the shifter. The steering wheel and it’s controls feel great in the hand and communicate well with the driver. With that covered, lets get onto it.

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4th 530i

The 530i was the base model and so we won’t spend much time here aside from to say this. If you can only afford a 530i, they can still be an excellent value. The 6-cylinder found under the bonnet is adequate for getting around town and highway trips. It is comfortable and the least expensive to maintain. It won’t be inspiring but it will still look good and pricing can be very attractive, even for well cared for examples.

3rd 550i

The big V8 version of the E60 is the opposite of Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. It’s powerful (360hp) but quite heavy compared to all but the M5. In addition to the weight penalty it’s the most expensive to buy today when compared to the other options in similar condition. Only choose this one if you’re the one who wants a just long distance cruiser with the power to get to the end of it’s speedometer. That’s it’s bread and butter. It’s in the middle in terms of power, weight and pricing but gets overtaken by the second and first place finishers here. Shall we find out why?

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2nd M5

The last naturally aspirated super saloon is truly a special special car. It handles incredibly well, especially considering it’s weight. It has so much power that it literally breaks itself as it goes down the road sometimes and that’s why it’s second place here. The operating costs of even a well cared for E60 M5 will be exceptionally high thanks in part to its affinity for ruining the rod bearings of that F1 inspired V10. No doubt this car will be a classic for years and years to come. However, unless you have a small collection of yachts somewhere, this one might cost you all your pennies in the end.

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1st 535i

How is this possible? The 300 hp 3.0 version of this car is the best of the bunch? Absolutely. You see, the N54 motor lying under the bonnet is in many eyes, the modern day 2JZ. It handles stupendous amounts of power in stock form without internal modification. Additionally, it has 2 smallish turbos mounted to the side of it, so with only a tuner you can boost your horsepower to similar levels of that in the 550i. So it costs you less to purchase than a 550i and with a $300 tuner you’re not just keeping up with the 550i, you’re faster and lighter. Adding downpipes and an intake can put you in 400+ horsepower territory matching the M5 in it’s default mode. Maintenance can be expensive for all the cars mentioned here and the 535i turbos are known to go after 100+k so plan on swapping them if you’re looking at one that hasn’t had them replaced. Good news is that you can upgrade those and build in excess of 600hp with supporting modifications. Keep in mind that you haven’t lost any features of the 550 or M5 if you find the right trim level. 20 way power seats, active roll stabilization, 18,19 and 20 inch wheels, heated seats and steering wheel are all available on the 535i. You have a very fast, very comfortable, relatively inexpensive super saloon and that’s why it’s the one you want.