May 2010

DSC01140_4bf02720b556c-lightboxExcept for a trip to Sheffield to watch the semi-finals of the World Snooker Championship (an otherwise excellent weekend spoiled by Nick Clegg doing a speech in The Crucible…) it’s mostly been a case of running around locally for shopping trips in preparation for the birth of our daughter in July. X738 has behaved impeccably, no doubt benefiting from the pampering normally afforded to the CL600 during the week that the Merc was with OSC Motorsport having its suspension repaired. We ran around in one of their courtesy cars whilst the M5 was tucked-up in the Merc’s air-chamber.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the oil-consumption since the S62 suddenly seemed to have consumed half a litre over a couple of thousand miles, but it’s been ok since. Using ‘sport’ mode definitely smooths out both the power delivery and the gear-changes, and I’ll admit to a wry smile when the M5 happily swallowed a new buggy, a car-seat, a moses basket with rocker, a carry-cot and bags of nappies with room to spare.

The Wife had voiced concern over the space in the boot (it is slightly reduced in all honesty by the gubbins for the DSP which are slung under the parcel shelf) but as it turns out, the car took the lot. And John Lewis will have another big pay-out later this year as a result…. They earn it though. The chap that assisted us in choosing a buggy spent 2 ½ hours showing us every single example they had, explaining the pros and cons of each.

It won’t be long before a couple of Conti Sport Contacts are needed on the rear, and I seem to be waging a constant war against dust and other airborne particles which really show up in the car’s dark interior.  Lord only knows what impact a baby will have but heh-ho. Driving along with the sunroof open on tilt makes a nice change (didn’t have one on the 535d which I always regretted).

On a recent run to Southampton, the M5 was tailed and overtaken for a few miles by an E36 M3, the driver of which was obviously very keen to view the (recently valeted) M5 from all angles. He eventually wailed off into the distance, shooting the M5 one final approving glance combined with a knowing nod of the head as he swept past. I do tend to forget sometimes that I’m driving what many consider to be ‘M-car royalty’ and it’s always quite pleasant to receive ‘nice car mate’ plaudits on petrol station forecourts.

Ah yes, petrol… A lot has been committed to paper about the fuel consumption of the E39 M5, and yes indeed it does enjoy a drink. But making decent progress along the A34 recently, I saw an average of 27mpg over the course of 160 miles of enthusiastic driving, which I didn’t think was too bad. It is possible to gargle your way through 15-and-a-bit gallons of super-unleaded in a little over 200 miles but at sane speeds the consumption isn’t an issue.

As with all big motors (CL600 included), start to use the power and the consumption will increase. Whilst we’re on the subject, it seems to perform best on Tesco SUL too, which has an Octane rating of 99 ron. I seem to recall ‘evo’ magazine doing a test of fuel ratings a couple of years back which also tallied with this impression. Fourth-gear pick-up from about 40mph is keener and more urgent with 99 ron fuel, even compared to the 97 ron stuff that gushes forth from BP pumps. I suppose this is to be expected considering the octane rating, but even so ‘supermarket fuel’ is often seen as the poor alternative.

Now that the honeymoon period of M5 ownership is over, thoughts have turned to how to replace it. The plan right now is to mothball it once the mileage nears 70k, which I expect to be around the tail-end of next year. Current ideas are a used S-Class or CLS (S600, S65 or CLS55/63), but a recent test-drive in the new F10 5 series had me thinking again about new-car ownership. It really is an impressive beast, the F10, even if you do have to spend over £3k on the options necessary to endow the chassis with the kind of adjustability that we’re used to in our 5 series models.

Quiet and comfortable with a simply superb interior, it is nevertheless able to straight-line a roundabout in that clinical fashion that seems peculiar to German saloons. Have some fun with the options though (which you must do if you ever intend to sell it) and a £37k 535i SE rapidly becomes a £50k motor, and having lost serious dough on the last one I bought new, I’m not sure I can afford do it again (especially with MB dealer W220 versions of the S600 selling for £19k). Time will tell.

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Mark Williams