The E39 generation M5 built from 1999 to 2003 was a tough act to follow. Beautifully balanced, eye-wateringly rapid and flattering to even the most ham-fisted driver, it still elicits wistful sighs from besotted petrolheads the world over. The E60 model was tougher to love. Technologically dense, intimidatingly complex and challengingly styled, the later M5 was nevertheless something that caused jaw-slackening astonishment, if not instant affection. The proposition was initially very simple; one engine, one trim level, one body style, one transmission and very little in the way of options. At over £60,000 it wasn't cheap but compared to vehicles with equivalent performance it was a bargain.
Sales were initially a little slow but as the M5's shape began to mature nicely, orders rolled in. The promise of a manual gearbox kept many hooked but it was never launched in the UK, the Americans (of all markets) getting it instead, joined with non-switchable traction and stability control. When changes did come, in 2007, they were very subtle indeed. The seven-speed sequential gearchange was modified slightly to offer some much-needed smoothness in full automatic mode and the front spoiler was minutely restyled. The biggest news was the introduction of a rather handsome M5 Touring variant, the first M5 load lugger imported to the UK.