Dearly departed

Summer2011009_515452808ab7b-lightbox I wish it wasn’t so. As I mentioned last time, for any true petrol-head, the V10-engined M5 is a fabulously beguiling and loveable car. If you can have one, you should. Sure, there are some not insignificant flaws like the gearbox which is frankly dim-witted in anything other than its most aggressive setting. But on the whole, no spacious executive-class saloon has any right to feel this utterly special and naughty. The engine makes every trip an event. Of course, using an M5 to pop to the supermarket can feel like using a very large sledgehammer to crack a particularly small nut, and doubles your grocery bill if you factor in the petrol….but it’s never dull or workaday. And when you’re not in Fandango mode, it’s a surprisingly comfortable and luxurious way to waft around. However. Unless you are truly bounteously blessed when it comes to the contents of your bank account, my experience is that it is quite hard to stomach the running costs of one of these cars. I touched on this before. The insurance is four figures. The annual tax bill is half way to being four figures. You have to renew the BMW warranty annually to avoid your wallet living in a state of perpetual nerves. Consumables such as brake pads/discs are properly expensive. And then there’s the inescapable fact that having to re-fill the 63 litre tank every 80 miles or so if you drive around in central London is just an exercise in incinerating wealth. Etc, etc, etc. Trust me, the rate at which money disappears will have the woman in your life wondering if in fact there is another woman in your life…or maintenance payments for a lovechild she doesn’t know about.
Things came to a head over our summer holiday plans. She who commands is Italian and knows for a fact that Italy is The World’s Best Country. Ergo, she is prone to the view that there is no point flying half way around the world to somewhere else when you could just go to TWBC. Furthermore, she wanted to go down by car, not least so that gallons of “proper” olive oil and other TWBC culinary essentials could be heaved back to London afterwards. Ever one for a road trip, I am all up for that. However, here comes the realisation that we own three cars and not one is really suitable. Her smart fortwo? Obviously not. The Z1? Not remotely enough luggage space. M5? Marvellous. Except that the fuel cost would be truly astronomic (2 euros a litre on the autostrada…) and by the time you pile on Channel crossing, tolls etc. the cost is prohibitive. That was the start of the end for a car that never appealed greatly to her (too big, vulgar, ugly and noisy I’m told!).

 

My biggest dilemma in the end was over what to replace it with that would be relatively practical, efficient and wallet-friendly, but wouldn’t feel like a complete anti-climax by comparison. I tried an RS3 – just my cup of tea…in theory. The right size. Stonkingly quick. Sounds rather good too. But frantically expensive, not economical, a very dated design and, to be perfectly honest, just not that fun to drive as it turns out. The M5 has it licked in that respect. And then BMW announced the M135i. Straight six with over 300bhp? Tick! Rear wheel drive? Tick! Manual gearbox? Tick! Five doors? Tick! Can you spec it to the hilt? Tick! How much? A distinctly bargainaceous £30k… All very promising except that it was yet another BMW. This is beginning to look obsessive. But there was nothing else comparable and having always bitterly regretted not ordering a new 1M when I had a chance to do so, it was destiny. No demonstrators were yet available and all the indications from my local dealers were that they would get automatics in as demonstrators in any event. So I took a deep breath and did something I swore I’d never do and ordered one without even testing it. A lucky gamble as it turns out, but that’s a story for another day.
This meant parting with my big bad blue super-saloon in . I know it was the sensible thing to do and that keeping it would have been folly. But it was a wrench to part with it – my last drive in it was bittersweet. Everything set to full power, max attack and off we went destroying the eardrums of wildlife for miles around. But that just gets you to the end of the journey quicker. And makes you even less inclined to hand over the keys.  I hear its new owner is very pleased with it. I try not to hate him.

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Jonathan Malim