Shopping 2014

"A one in a million chain of events"


Bangernomics, the art of running a car for £50/week or so including purchase price. It's fun in a carefree, existential kinda way but I think i've well and truly grown out of it. Truth is, this Passat was an emergency purchase when I moved house and sold my wonderful Cayenne S back in 2013 so I had bangernomics sort of thrust upon me. The VW was never supposed to stick for so long but I actually grew quite fond of it and really enjoyed wringing out such an ordinary pedestrian machine on a weekly basis. The fact that it also owed me zero pounds after 20 months reliable motoring was also undeniably appealing.

This September just gone though the clutch started slipping and the exhaust began blowing .. quite a entertaining combination let me tell you. With an estimated repair bill of more than it's worth I somewhat reluctantly launched into the process of replacing it. In my head I began with a rough budget of say £6000 or £7000; 'that will get me a nice replacement runabout', I thought. A quick glance through the Autotrader though soon put that theory to bed. A German barge at that sort of money (think 530d, A6 etc.) and you are suddenly at the back of some dodgy trading estate in Hounslow looking at a car that's been to mars and back, has sod all service history, an abused interior and exterior, a whole battalion of previous owners and is hiding goodness knows what secrets and evils.

Now in my younger days I could have done my homework, put on my battle gear and conquered this whole landscape going from bungalow to trading estate right across the interior of the M25 and come out with a genuine good buy at an amazing price but as i hinted at in the beginning, those days for me are well and truly finished.

So overnight I double my budget to around the £15k mark and my first almost instinctive reaction is to investigate the E60 M5, a car i've admired and liked the look of for many many years. I see a fairly cheap example locally but the interior is rough, the looks don't really wow me as I was expecting and the trader is just ok, not really the sort of person I want to buy a car from.

A quick read that evening and I am reminded just how flawed this generation of M5 is; woeful SMG box, fragile drivetrain, appaling range and economy that would bring even a seasoned Cayenne S owner to his knees. Ok so I COULD buy an E60 M but honestly, its an old car and what's more from that transitional "work in progress" epoch where things like engines and semi-auto boxes and digital dynamics were trying to be modern but hadn't truly come of age yet. Nope, if I am to spend more money that your 6k or so then I want modern and relatively up to date. Goodbye 10 year old M5, my time for owning you has been and gone.

How about something newer then with a build date in the last 5 years ? Well this Q7 was good value and it would have made for a good family and work wagon but for me there are a few glaring problems with Audi's flagship SUV. Firstly the Q7 is absolutely huge which doesn't bother me that much until you realise that inside it's actually quite cramped. The ride and drive is trying to be sort of sporty but it only half succeeds and a first generation Cayenne (let alone the like for like gen) completey trounces it from a dynamic point of view. On the firmer suspension settings I found the Q7 to be really quite harsh and ragged and you get the sense that they should have made this car more like a waftomatic full fat Rangie experience rather than trying to appeal to keen drivers. As if that wasn't enough I don't like the clumsy, antediluvian infotainment system and inconveniently we are back to West London badlands territory.

As I exit the dealership a strange group of feral children with twisted limbs and clumps of hair missing give me a chilling death stare, a pack of Alsations bark incessantly at me from behind a wall of chicken wire and a shadowy figure high up in an overlooking tower block tries to throw a fridge freezer down on top of me as I speed away from the compound. Goodbye 'bottom of the barrel' West London car dealerships, it's been truly thrilling. Time to up the budget even further.

I'm not sure what got me onto the B7 RS6. Looking at estates I suppose it was in my natural line of sight after discounting E60's, Cayennes, Q7's and the like. Hell, if i'm going to spend 15k I may as well spend 25k and get something I properly want, so I go and see this lovely white example that's up for 31k. Man maths ... did you see what i did there ?

Now I really did like this car. It really pulled at my heart strings and I was awash with that feeling that I think you really have to get if you are spending more than about £500 on a car. The seller was nice chap and he let me have a good drive and I liked pretty much everything I discovered. Fabulous 550bhp engine, great interior, lots of toys, smart looks and a massively practical car. These are reliable too, nothing like the RS6 generation before.

I think if the sale and the fine details had been right I would have bought this car. I had that moment of emotional toxicity where I just wanted it and it was hard walking away. Without going into too much detail though when I checked the car out and thought it over, it simply was not the correct car to buy but sadly one to definitely pass by.

The following few days though I pretty much set myself up for the RS6 and did more reading and research. Isn't it a joy when a car that all it's life has been hidden from your consiousness, suddenly drifts into your radar and becomes strongly desireable and the focus of your affections ?

It was clear that I was unlikely to find another white example so this chase was going to come down to what other colours I liked and finding the right car from the right seller at the correct price.

A few days later and I took a look at this blue example at Super Vettura in Suningdale. Great bunch of guys there and a chance to oogle at some Veyrons and F40's in pasisng but the colour of the Audi just isn't for me. It's a gorgeous hue but I realise that I am looking for something less vibrant and preferably a 'non colour'.

The next milestone in my journey was a trip up to the Midlands to see an RS6 that is screaming 'buy me'. A very honest private seller, remaining Audi warranty, low miles, a more understated classy looking colour, very high spec and well looked after, it's green lights all the way. That evening on the way home i'm commited to the car and all set to look at the market in depth and come back to the seller with an offer the next day and work out a deal.

It's odd though because something stopped me. Looking at the pictures as I write this now I can see that this really was a lovely car and a beautiful example and I'm not totally sure what caused me to wobble. I think part of it was the test drive of this RS6. Would you believe that despite the double blown Lamborghini V10 engine it didn't actually feel that fast or punchy ? Also, unlike the white example, the ride quality felt very very granular and harsh. The tyres seemed good and proper OEM but for some reason I just didn't enjoy driving this car as much.

I think after that I got a bit confused and bewildered by everything. I kept scanning the classifieds again looking at the whole RS6 market. I think a part of me was trying to find a car for a cheaper price perhaps because in my heart of hearts I didn't really want one that much and begrudged paying top dollar. I also noticed that the dark blue car and the white car (both private sales) were both way too toppy whereas main dealers seemed to be selling these cars at cheaper prices.

I speak to a BM main dealer from the north at one point who has the same spec/year car for sale for almost £4000 less. Audi main dealer in Bath also had just sold a low miles example with full Audi prep and warranty for substantially less than any of the examples I'd been to see. I realise that the RS6 market is all over the shop and the true price of what these cars are shifting at is only seen at mains dealers who have strict stocking policies and have to price realistically to sell.

Looking back, this must have been when the frustration started to set in a little. I'd been doing this laborious car searching lark for over 2 weeks, didn't seem to be progressing very much and the clutch on the Passat was getting worse and worse. I had to warm the whole drivetrain up for 15 mins just to get enough power to the wheels to move the damm thing off the driveway !

The weekend went by and I surmised that although the white RS6 grabbed me by the heartsrings, it was one to avoid and the moment had passed and for various reasons the dark blue car left me cold. Maybe its the whole Audi thing or maybe because the car is not current and still a bit dated but I decided that the RS6 is not for me. I go back to thoughts of just getting the best E60 530d/535d I can find for about £15,000 and putting this whole torturous process to bed ASAP. Just then though I spotted this F10 530d on the web for only 5k more than a good example of its older generation relation at £20,000.

Now this is the moment that crystallised this whole process for me. The advert looked really promising and the car was low-ish miles and a good spec with panoramic roof and wide navigation. The night before it dawned on me that I really do want something with an up to date interior and gadgetry and i'm thinking to myself that this is the one, unless something completely extraordinary transpires, i'll be walking away with this car. Ok, so it's no performance car but what it lacks in the way of detuned lambo engine it will more than make up for in terms of current generation modernity, practicality and runing costs.

What a disappointment though. I turn up and the seller is a nice enough guy and sort of seems trustworthy but this 530d is littered with marks, chips, scratches and I also notice that one of the doors has had paint. My Cayenne when I sold it with 119,000 miles on it would have put this damm thing to shame ! How on earth can a car with only 40k miles on it end up this tatty ? To cap it all the iDrive screen has more scratches than Streatham icerink. Goodbye Mr. F10 530 diesel with painted panels and front PU that looks like its been through three World Wars.

Out of bad comes good though because this was my defining moment. I realised at that man's quaint Surrey country house that the F10 5 series was the car I really liked more than any other in terms of looks, cabin etc. and I also realised that I'd well and truly had enough of private sellers awkward glances when questioned about paintwork, stamps in service books that had been tippexed and corrected, dodgy dealers up and down the length and breadth of the country operating out of a bungalow chock to the back teeth with 27 cars in front of it, and packs of rabid wolves chasing me out of muddy wastleands at the back of Southall. That evening I said 'Sod it' and decided to treat myself to a completely risk and hassle free, first class buying experience and buy the car that I really wanted all along and that would emotionally make my dig deep into the wallet.

A few calls the next day then I was booked in to see this nearly new F10 M5 at one of my local BM main dealers. The test drive went very well. From just the first few metres it was obvious that this machine was truly from the present, a hugely accomplished and beautifully realised and finished car that made the B6 RS6's feel almost prehistoric. Don't even mention the Q7 !

We took a few country roads at a fairly gentle pace and in some traffic I took the time to play with some of the toys and dynamic settings. Wow, this is a machine that is chock full of tech and wizardry. At one point during the test drive my salesman is writing a postcode somehere (not sure where !) and somehow his handwriting appears on screen and then quickly gets procsessed to an address and a point on the navigation map. Impressive stuff but I don't have too much time to take notice because we hit some fast roads and I begin to explore the drivetrain and oh MY, what a drivetrain it is, truly state of the art and of the moment. The instant power, the slick lightning quick DCT gearbox, the NA-like throttle response, the sheer mindbendingly rapid lunge toward the redline, this is one very veeeeeery fast and accomplished car.

When its all over, it really is the first time in 3 weeks or so that i've been truly impressed. It's a big car and its outright ability and performance is laugh out loud insane. Such is the envelope of this car that I surmise that it won't necessarily be amazing fun all the time but it probably will be a joy to own and be in for most of it. It's aspirational, it's hugely desireable, it has a enormous great big glittering halo around it and owning one will be a motoring experience well worth chalking up on the great big encyclopedia of my motoring life.

In the flesh the Silvertone silver is not quite what I am looking for and this example has had a replacement engine already and 2 owners so I turn my attention elsewhere. A quick trip to BMW Hampshire to see this white example. The pictures on the net are stunning and it's a massive spec and a fairly good price as far as main dealer goes. As I nod off to sleep the night before I'm expecting this to be the one (we've been here before !) but come the appointment and there is something about the white in the flesh that just doesn't do it for me. It's all a little 'bitty' and fussy. I don't like the black shadow line around the side glass, the different tints on the various windows and more generally the shape just does not look that good to me in the white.

Luckily though this dealer had a 2014 black demo on site as well and when I take a look I know instantly that black is the one. The alloys and silver accents on the handles and grills standout beautifully and the car exudes a wonderful mix of elegance and agression. Back home then to find the best black cars out there on the BMW approved list.

The next day i'm booked into see 2 black cars at the weekend. Something catches my eye though and that's a Singapore Grey car with black wheels at BMW mayfair. It's completely not me; I hate grey cars and in the main I generally dislike black alloys. For me the silver alloys of the F10 M5 are one of its most standout cosmetic features and to make them completely black and their beautiful form all but invisible is surely a crying shame ? This Park Lane car though really draws me in and I have to go and see it to cross it off and rule it out.

The next day though as they wheel it out in the back streets of Mayfair I know it's mine. It doesn't look like an M5 somehow. Not a trace of corporateness, not a whiff of M6 salesman or Boardroom exec. No, this is a 'speedhunters' car, a Jalopnik cover star. You won't find it on the Marylebone road crawling into the city at 8mph but gunning down Brunters, neck a neck with a Ferrai FF at a VMAX event.

This uniqueness appeals to me massively. Yes it's a little bit boy racer-ish but it's different from the crowd and is seriously imposing and muscular in the flesh. The colour isn't a grey either but a wonderful dynamic reactive hue that dances around the blue green spectrum depending on what sort light catches it. The silver handles and side grills highlight beautifully and the 'M Performance' sill decals just about work for me too because after all, it is 200mph M5.

So there you have at. An absurd and surprisingly precarious sequence of events and a generous tablespoon helping of Man Maths which started with at E60 5 series estates at £5k and culminated in a twin turbo V8 M4 saloon capable of 200mph and in excess of 600bhp (if rolling road tests are to be believed rather than Munich's cunningly conservative offical figures).

I think this is definitely more 'me' and my Bangernomics days are well and truly over. Main dealer, full warranty, prepped to within the last micrometer of paintwork, 7 years free service pack, through KDS geometry check before delivery, 1 owner 'nearly new' 13,000 mile car and something that I genuinely want and was lusting for and am happy to stump up cash for. I'm quite possibly a long time BMW detractor or cynic and have never really considered their cars but I have always had a bit of a fancy for the M5. I very nearly bought an E39 M5 when they first hit high £30k's and I came close to going for an E60 M as well. The subconcious works in mysterious ways.

I will be putting some thoughts to paper very soon in terms of what this car is all about and how it drives but for the moment, suffice to say that it seems to be a unique mixture of the pinnacle of everyday luxury/practicality and total and utter out and out Insanity ! Stay tuned.


The Jackals Racetrack 1998 Richard Morris