BMW E39 M5

How to cure a cold in only a few minutes? Just add power

Used Price – E39 (1998-2003) – $38,000 – 60,000

Current Price – F10 M5 – $230,000

It’s been 2 years since I was introduced to James. We’d met at the auction with a common goal of trying to get the best price for a Quattro I’d written an article about some weeks before. James was in the enviable position of being a previous owner of many auto exotica, including two quite beautiful Ferrari’s, but he had always owned a BMW, “because they just work.” His current Bimmer, as then, is quite probably the best sporting saloon car ever made, the BMW E39 M5 but he hasn’t been ready to show his pride and joy off until now.

 

The E39 M5 was the first to be produced at BMW’s mainstream production line in Dingolfing, Germany, highlighting that it was intended to be the most useable drive on a daily basis, but with a kick when you really needed it. That kick came in V8 form, normally aspirated, producing 294 kW (394 bhp) and 500 Nm of torque, via a 6-speed manual and it’s rear wheels. 100 km/h came up in a mere 4.8 seconds and if delimited it had the potential to reach 300 km/h.

Impressive right? Well not quite enough for James. Whilst not a racer, he does enjoy a track day and he needed something a little extra. A supercharger would do it, along with Supersprint headers, Schrick cams, a reinforced differential brace, adjustable Koni shock absorbers, adjustable sway bars, a lightweight flywheel and a race clutch. But being an accountant he didn’t like frightening the neighbours, so also installed Milltek exhausts with vacuum operated valves to keep it quiet around town. A short shift gearbox was next because the standard one was just too long and slow to snick in, and he followed this up with an enlarged radiator and oil cooler to keep the extra heat in check. Custom made wider wheels, front and rear, topped off the package and once he’d debadged the car as much as he could – because he is not a show off – he was almost ready.

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“There’s a little surprise,” he said, holding a plastic watering can and unscrewing what I thought was the washer tank. “Methanol burns really cold, and helps to cool things a little more.” Just cooling James? “Well maybe it helps add about 10% more power.”

That ‘help’, according to James’ mechanic, brings torque up to around 700 Nm and 466 kW (625 bhp) and bothers even V8 Supercars out of the way down Phillip Island’s straight.

After warming the oil and driving sedately around town to get some heat into the tyres, we find a nice little loop that includes a relatively traffic free entrance and exit to the freeway in order to test the accelerating powers of his teutonic project.

“Don’t be frightened of it Mike,” James says, obviously aware that I am feeling a tad nervous about wrapping his car around some lamp post, “it’s meant to be floored.”

 

bmw m5

The noise alone is intimidating enough, but flooring this thing to it’s red line, a red line that goes all the way to 7,300 rpm (as opposed to the standard 7000) is sweaty palm time indeed. My first attempt is anaemic by James’ standard and I excuse myself by explaining I just need to get a feel for it. Rolling around again, I steel myself and begin accelerating hard at the apex of the first corner and bury my foot into the carpet as the straight comes into view. Out of the corner of my eye, I see James grab for the roof handle, nervously perhaps, I am not sure, but with the red line fast approaching I just have time to change up into third and be pushed into the seat as hard as anything I have ever driven before. The car in the distance is quickly reached and I slam on the brakes before any damage can be done.

“I think I am getting the hang of it now James,” I say smiling from ear to ear.

Third time around I get on the power even quicker and this time I feel the wheels squirming, desperately searching for traction in both second and third gears, and we snake up the road in a fiendish bellow of noise and smoking rubber at wharp-like speed. We are both laughing hysterically as the adrenaline kicks in and I never want this day to end.

Though power is what this car is all about, I am somewhat in awe with how well composed it is at normal speeds, on rickety roads and over speed humps. It is supple and compliant and you can quite literally take your granny to church in it without her ever feeling uncomfortable.

“I took my dad out in it once for a decent drive up a mountain, and all he had to say was that it was a little bumpy in the back seat, as we bottomed out around the bends up the hill. We’d been doing speeds of up to 230km/h but he apparently didn’t notice or care”

After a couple more loops, I feel I have got some measure of this monster. Its tyres are now properly up to temperature and that snaking from earlier under hard acceleration transforms into grippy, mind-bending shunts up the hill. Please omnipotent deity, if you exist, let this road transform into a track so that I can taste the remaining 3 gears and then add a few corners in for good measure. Eastern Creek would be nice. But all good things come to an end and I sadly, but contentedly, turn for James’ home, happy that I still have my licence, and hoping that I have not disappointed James with my driving.

So what does all this machinery cost? James bought the car some years back with only 19,000 kms on the clock for around $125k. He spent a further $25k or so getting it to where it is today, so it is certainly not cheap. That said, you can find an E39 M5 for around $40k these days and James recommends that you spend around $15k to improve its brakes, the exhaust and cooling systems. You might not get as much power as this example, but you will certainly find joy and excitement, safe in the knowledge that it is designed to be used everyday.

James did admit that the engine had to be changed 30,000 km’s ago. It’s a common issue among M5’s that it’s big end can go every 50,000 km’s or so, if driven hard. And let’s face it, why have one of these cars and not drive it energetically. The forums, such as M5board.com, provide some great advice and suggest installing stronger big-end bolts and replacing the rod bearings every once in a while. James was told that a new donk would set him back some $45k and a rebuild a wallet wilting $65k. He rang BMW and because he is such a nice man, going about it in a nice way, BMW agreed to supply a new engine for only $22k. When asked why he was given such a discount, he was told that as he approached the matter in a professional manner, they do have some flexibility with the cost. So there is a lesson there for us all, I think.

Other BMW bargains can be found in the US. The rear view mirror for instance contains some trickery for dimming, and will set you back over $700 to replace. A bloke in Texas builds replicas and charges only $99 plus postage. So owning a car like this need not be for the super-elite, if you do your homework.

For me though, I woke up with a stinking cold but after an hour of heart pumping hilarity, I felt 100% better. Thank you James, thank you very much.

Forums:

M5Boardwww.m5board.com

Bimmerfestwww.bimmerfest.com

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BMW X5 E53

Wanted: Dignity and Self Respect

Meet Andrew. He’s a suave man about town who used to float around in a tidy 1980’s Mercedes SL. He was a veritable transatlantic Patrick Duffy (of Dallas fame, not Man from Atlantis.) Then children happened, and he bought a Great Wall. He lost his mojo.

bmw e53 2

 

Sick of watching Toyota Camry drivers pass him up slight inclines, their hats positioned on the rear parcel shelf and elderly fingers wrapped tight around their steering wheels, he had to do something. He bought a BMW X5, but not just any old X5. He bought a V8. A late 2006 E53 4.4 litre V8 in fact, the very last of the first generation, with 315 horses under the bonnet, X-drive all-wheel-drive, ZF 6-speed auto, panoramic sunroof, auto leveling Xenon adaptive headlights and a nice facelift before the next gen hit the road.

For $22,000 and 138,000 on the clock, it seems like a steal to me. In a little under the year he has had it, he has subsequently put another 18,000 on to that which included a 2,000 km round trip to Noosa with no issues, not even an aching bum. Luckily he bought it from a dealer and the statutory 3-month warranty came in handy when the brake controller needed to be replaced. Other than $300 for a new battery, it’s just been service bills since for a more than reasonable $500 for a major service, and $250 for minor.  I think I need to get his mechanics number, because those figures are a little hard to believe.

BMW-X5 Interior

So what is it like? 

There’s a definite uptick in quality to most cars, my Disco included – the paintwork, the seats, the steering wheel. Even the switchgear feels organic, not an after thought or a filler sourced from a parts bin. My only beef would be with the information screen that is small and its pixels certainly have seen better days. But all in all, it feels more like a sports car than an SUV. You’re encouraged to sit lower, but the visibility is cut too much, so you raise the electrically adjustable seat to get a feel for the proportions. It’s sizeable, but a lot smaller than my daily drive. And then you turn the key.

Pass the tissues, it’s that good. I’ve obviously been around diesel eruptions for too long, for that deep, sexual throbbing that only a V8 can give, that raucous cacophony as you rev the bejesus out of it, is a thing of beauty. Was that loud? I find myself thinking, giving the throttle another blip. Yes, yes, it might be. There is some sort of primeval connection between the guttural rumble all around but particularly beneath you and your pleasure button. Like sitting on a washing machine for more than 60 seconds, assuming you are male of course. I head toward the driveway which is, as you may remember, a bit steep and the perfect place to nail it for 30 metres. It really doesn’t matter what the car is like from here on, I am hooked.

Without the benefit of a Top Gear track, I can’t tell you how quick it really is, but Andrew is right, the throttle seems to learn your style of driving, it seems to sense that there’s a gap up front and wants you to floor it. It’s there, it’s ready, it’s like an energetic Rottweiler. Turn in is sharp, the brakes are strong and progressive and though it sits on far stiffer springs than most large 4×4’s, it takes the speed bumps and dips surprisingly well, not crashy at all. The only thing that began to bother me was the nearside wing mirror that automatically folds in when you select reverse. It’s fine if you’re looking for the pavement but not when you are gauging the width of a parking space or need to avoid a pillar. I later learn that this can be switched off.

What can he expect if he keeps it for a few more years?

  • Interestingly a number of contributors to the forums have suggested that the X5 has been beset by a few problems, worse even than the Mercedes M class in fact, the SUV that in its early days almost ruined Mercs iron clad reputation for quality. If Andrew’s beast is anything to go by, this may be unfounded, as it feels and looks as solid as a rock.
  • That being said, this being the V8 all good things do come to an end, and by 150,000 kms or so he needs to check the timing chain guide rails, as the plastic they are made of tends to go off about then.
  • As with my Discovery, there have been issues with the air suspension, something that many SUV’s will have from now on. It’s a small compressor and eventually gives up the ghost after 5-8 years. It’s not cheap either, probably $1400-1500 plus labour. However, it is worth checking the sensors before replacing the pump. At around a fifth of the price, the fat credit card size boxes can be a little temperamental.
  • Nonetheless, because of how the rear suspension is set up, the rear knuckle is loaded up with the air spring compressing down on it, this puts pressure on the rear wheel bushings and ball joints. This then gives rise to a common rear camber issue, exacerbated more so by larger than standard wheels.
  • Issues with the intake manifold leaking seem to be a regular occurrence along with weeping valve covers.
  • The cooling system is generally in need of an overhaul around 100,000-150,000 kms. The radiator has a reputation for leaking on models built between 2001 and 2008, and when it goes it has to be replaced. The rest of the cooling system should be checked and repaired at the same time and this can be expensive.
  • The water pump should also be replaced every 75,000-100,000 kms I’m told.
  • CV joints need constant attention, but I haven’t found a heavy car yet that doesn’t have this issue.
  • Externally, the door handle carriers are prone to break, but parts can be found reasonably cheaply online.

Considering it’s a hefty machine, this V8 is almost as frugal as my diesel, which I am finding hard to fathom. I specifically chose an oil burner to avoid huge fuel bills but perhaps I should rethink this strategy. With the sun roof open to its fullest extent, windows down, and heading along a twisting piece of tarmac, this is a great place to be. Then the kids switch on the pop box and the serenity is shattered. Bugger. 

Useful X5 Forums & Clubs 

Bimmerfesthttp://www.bimmerfest.comhttp://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=22 

OzBMW http://www.ozbmw.com/forums/  – http://www.ozbmw.com/forums/forumdisplay.php/25-X-Series?s=a36435bed3fa539e43a6756455af1e99

BMW Owners Clubhttp://www.bmwownersclub.com/forums/forum/14-bmw-x5-series-club/ 

BMW Club Australiahttp://www.clubs.bmw.com.au

 

bmw e53 x5 v8

Mazda MX-5

Can I have my car back, Dad

Mazda has revealed its new MX-5  and for me it’s a thing of beauty and encapsulates everything a sports car should be – light, rear-wheel drive, slick manual gearshift, brilliant handling and simply fun, fun, fun. Who give’s a toss it’s not particular fast and has a 0-100kph time of around 8 seconds. That’s not the point and well done Mazda engineers for keeping to its principles and not overloading it with every imaginable electronic device that supposedly helps us become better drivers. No wonder they’ve sold over a million of the little blighters since inception in 1985.

mazda mx-5
2015 Mazda MX-5 – courtesy of autobild.de

I’ve already singled it out as a potential first car for my son when he is old enough to start driving. His mother may not agree though, but what does she know? I can’t think of a better car to kick his driving career off. There’s only two seats so no late night joy rides with a bunch of his mates. It’s manual, so in my book will teach him how to handle a car far better than an automatic. It’s not a speedster, so no point in out running the cops or trying to burn off some dill in a Commodore. And of course, I will want to drive it, often.

Brand new, it will cost around $40k for the 1.5 litre model and closer to $50k for the 2 litre, which sounds about as expensive as a tinder date behind your third wife’s back. A quick glance through the classifieds suggests that it holds its price rather well too, with 2011 versions asking over $34k, and even 10 year old examples going for between $15-24k.

But when I get around to looking for one for my eldest (the jury is still out whether I’ll be asking him to stump up the cash or not – it doesn’t hurt to suggest he can chip in at the very least right?) will we be purchasing a money pit?

As I have written in an earlier post regarding a car older than a decade:

Carsguide.com.au tells us to “check that the Mazda’s engine starts easily, idles reasonably smoothly and doesn’t blow smoke from the exhaust under hard acceleration. The gearbox should be light and positive in its change action and not balk or crunch even on the fastest of changes.”

The soft top needs to be in good condition with no stitching missing. Hopefully it has not been used to race or run around too many tracks. A roll cage and things like a fire extinguisher would be a big give away. As with any car this old, if the numbers on the odometer do not align perfectly, you could be staring at a car that has been clocked. At this price though, I don’t care how limited edition it is, it would need to be exceptional to hand over your hard earned.

Anything else?

Well, the brake callipers are known to seize a bit but there are plenty of reconditioned parts available.

MK1 and MK2 models are prone to rust unfortunately, less so in Oz of course, but it’s well worth checking. Overseas this is probably the biggest MX5 killer outside of a teenager with a leaden foot. Areas of concern need to be the rear sill sections, rear wheel arches and the front chassis rails near the front subframe mounting. Thoroughly clean the drainage holes regularly and you can mitigate the issue.

For 1990-93 cars the o-ring on the CAS sensor (crank angle sensor), situated on the back of the cylinder head, can perish and start to leak. Mazda moved this to the exhaust camshaft for the 1994-95 model cars and began calling it the CPS (camshaft position sensor), but they are one and the same in case this crops up at some stage – confusingly, later models get both a CAS and a CPS and become two different things, but that’s another story. Anyway, on 1.8 litre cars the oil can drip onto the coolant feed pipes for the heater matrix and this will eventually make them burst. It’s worth replacing the cam cover gasket when changing the cam belt too as this can start to weep oil.

The slave cylinder in the clutch can sometimes fail and the clutch pedal will sink to the floor. Luckily, replacement units are not overly expensive.

The transmission tunnel has a tendency to get warm but reading the forums there seems a cheap remedy by changing the rubber turret boot that sits under the centre console.

The judder of noisey tappets can easily be silenced by an oil change and apparently can disappear entirely by using a fully synthetic oil.

If the timing belt has been overtightened you may hear cam belt whine and timing belts need to be changed every 100,000 kms.

Finally, if the engine is misfiring, it is not uncommon for the HT leads to fail, particularly the shortest it seems – HT (high tension) leads carry the sparks from the ignition system to the spark plugs. If that doesn’t rectify it, you may be looking at replacing the coil pack, which is more expensive.

All in all though, with some research and a bit of work, we may find one of these little things in our garage within the next five or six years. There are plenty of parts available, some great forums and when the sun’s out on a decent road, there won’t be many better places to be ignoring my son’s pleas of getting behind the wheel.

Useful links and forums:

Mazda MX-5 Clubs of Australia – http://www.mx5.com.au/

Australian Mazda Owners Clubhttp://www.ozmazda.com/

MX5 Mania – www.mx5mania.com.au

Piston Heads – http://www.pistonheads.com/gAssing/topic.asph=0&t=803271&mid=0&nmt=Common+MX5+Faults+%2F+Buying+Guide

2010 mazda mx5
2010 Mazda MX-5 (Miata) – courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

Bentley Continental GT Research

bentley continental gt

So we’ve established that a Bentley Continental GT is a) very nice and b) almost affordable. Nothing much has been known to go wrong with them on a habitual basis, mechanically at least. The biggest issue for any prospective owner is really whether you can afford to maintain it.

A minor service can set you back around $1200-1500. A major service is around $3000. So these things, for us mortals, must be budgeted for. Any problems with the engine, or associated with it, may need the engine out to work on it, due to the severe lack of room in the engine bay.

The biggest issue for the early cars at least was electrical and particularly sensor related. Sounds trivial right? Well consider this, each tyre has a pressure sensor and each needs replacing every 5 years at around $350-400 a piece, $1400-1600 in total.

Spark plugs need replacing every 4 years, which means the engine needs to come out. This is best done during the major service so again this takes time and will not be cheap.

Many buyers look into extended warranties. If you are buying from a dealer or a specialist, which is probably advisable, look into either a 1, 2 or 3 year warranty. The costs  are high, but could save your bacon should anything truly momentous happen. You are looking at something like $4-5000 for 1 year, $7-8000 for 2 years and over $10,000 for 3 years.

As with the Land Rover Discovery, the Conti GT’s air suspension has been known to play up. It has been suggested to keep the car at its lowest setting when at rest, or parked for a few days. When parked up, play around with the suspension settings to keep moving parts and rubber seals in fine fettle and listen for any obvious leaks.

bentley continental gt

 

The car is a heavy beast  and one forum suggests that all that weight, around 2.5 tonnes, plays havoc with the shock absorbers. Should these go you have to replace a pair, not just one, so this can get exxy, around $8-10,000 for the two.

The Conti doesn’t like to be left alone either, as it simply wears down its battery, so drive it regularly and keep it charged well. A battery tender is probably a wise purchase and will save you enormous angst.

According to HonestJohn website in the UK, Bentley Conti GT’s had the second highest warranty claims amongst European cars. But lets face it, you’ve bought a very expensive car and after 2 years of trouble free motoring you need to replace the tyre pressure sensors. Would you fork out your own cash or use the warranty you’ve paid for? Rich people are rich for a reason, and rightly will use their purchases well. So I don’t read anything sinister into this claim.

Finally, yes this car is expensive to maintain, but bugger me, you are not forking out the original $350k, only a third of that price, and if you did have the choice between this car and a high spec Mercedes, the costs to maintain either are very similar. If the car you are considering has been lovingly looked after, there is a very real prospect that you only have to keep up with the service schedule. Mileage is low, considering, and if there had been issues, more often than not they will have been rectified by now.

 

Typical Costs

Minor Service – c.$1200-1500

Major Service – c.$3000

Front Brake pads – c.$600

Front discs – c.$1400

Don’t take my word for it ….

I have listed a number of forums and reviews below, including one from my favourite magazine, EVO, and CAR magazine’s 4 year long term test:

EVO – http://www.evo.co.uk/buying/buyingguide/288202/bentley_continental_gt_buying_guide_prices_and_specs.html

The Bentley Continental GT combines near-supercar pace with a reputation for reliability

CAR Long Term test – http://www.carmagazine.co.uk/Drives/Search-Results/Long-term-tests/Bentley-Continental-GT/

genuine everyday usability, and the ability to turn even the most mundane trip into an event.

Forums:

6Speedonlinehttp://www.6speedonline.com/forums/bentley/298579-continental-gt-reliability.html

I have 41,000 miles on the clock and the only major repair were new control arms as bushes were slightly worn. I needed a wheel alignment so to ensure everything was spot on I had the arms changed though it wasnt a must but hey its a Miss B, cant really save a bit here or there. I did have a lambda sensor and auto door close module replaced but prices were acceptable. You can search my name for the parts I had replaced at main dealers. I will still use the main dealers for oil service as I want to keep the Bentley service history (better for when the time comes to part out) but other work can use other pro shops. I got hit by the dealer once but a smarter shopper now since finding a shop capable of repairs.

Master Class Autohttp://www.masterclassauto.com/post/bentley-continental-common-problems/

With all its beauty, though, there are some common issues to note. The Bentley Continental’s Continuous Dampening Control (CDC) is an adjustable air suspension that helps deliver vehicle stability and agility. But at 5,456 pounds, The Bentley Continental GT’s curb weight can put a lot of pressure on the shocks. Many owners have experienced problems with their air suspension even when their vehicle is still at very low mileage.

The list price PER SHOCK at a local dealership can be as high as $3,200.00 NOT INCLUDING labor costs. Therefore, it is not atypical to see a full air suspension job for a Bentley Continental GT to run as high as $16,000!

*It is important to note: these types of suspension products must be done in pairs (front/rear). So you can’t just replace one!
Maintenance Tips
• When parking your vehicle overnight (especially if for more than a few days) set the adjustable air suspension to the lowest ride setting. This can help alleviate pressure on the air suspension and potentially increase their lifespan.
• Test the adjustable air suspension regularly. Maintaining movement in the suspension ensures flexibility in the rubber materials and help prevent the pneumatic parts, valves and sensors from failing due to lack of use.
• Listen for air leaks coming from the shock area and check for warning lights on the console. Addressing these issues early may help prevent additional damage to surrounding parts in the vehicle.

I am a Bentley Service Advisor. The Bentley Continentals are great cars, but can have expensive repairs if required. I definitely recommend getting a car with a Bentley Extended Service Program. This can help limit out-of-pocket expenses should anything go wrong. Otherwise, I have clients with 60K-90K miles on their GTs/Flying Spurs and they are running fine. Just keep it maintained properly.

I love mine and drive it 2-3 times per week and on all long solo trips. It is fast, classy, luxurious, and dependable. The navigation is not the best, but everything else is first class.

I have had no other issues in the past few years with it and it has only had to be in the shop for regular service.

I had to replace all my tire sensors, but that did not cause any other failures on the car. It only meant I got an annoying message that my tire pressures. No big deal really. I am now over 40k miles after 5 years driving it and drove it just yesterday and it is still an amazing car. Running costs have been lower than with my Ferrari that I drove 1/10 as much

Edmundshttp://www.edmunds.com/bentley/continental-gt/2005/consumer-reviews/2/

 85% satisfaction rating

Land Rover Discovery 3 Long Termer: Update

IMG_4147

Kms when bought: 235,000

Current Kms: 286,000

Last service:  278,000

Costs

B Service: $630

Tyre: $250

Bearing: $500

I’ve been remiss since the last update, way back in September last year, but it seems that I have now caught up with the problems I bought 3 years ago. The only issue that has arisen since September was a bearing in the rear nearside wheel, replaced for a little over $500. It was the worst Graeme Cooper had seen apparently and the cause is still unknown. We agreed that it may have been from its earlier years pounding along rutted outback roads but who knows.

It went in for its B service in December, along with its pink slip, and sailed through both, other than the rear tyre that needed replacing most likely because of excessive wear due to the bearing failure. It has since sped up to the Tweed Coast and back, taken a full load camping twice and not a beat has been missed. Fuel economy dropped drastically on that long drive north, recording an impressive 8.8 litres per 100kms. Around town it is edging up towards 12 again, but it’s a heavy car and one that has driven a lot of k’s now, so it is fairly reasonable. Plans are being laid for a Fraser Island jaunt in the near future and a bit of sand bashing, so that should bring a few stories.

Once cleaned up, the Discovery 3 still looks as good as it did when new, give or take a few scratches from the odd bush that I may have rubbed up against. I wouldn’t mind sourcing a new drivers seat, as 8.5 years and almost 300,000 k’s of arses getting in and out are taking their toll on the side bolster. Someone made the mistake of buying a cheap bike carrier and its pads that should protect the tailgate somehow moved to the wrong position. This means the rear is sporting an unfortunate black metal smear across it. Now I wonder who would have done that … ahem.

I am pleased that I have stuck with Graeme Cooper Auto too whose work and advice has been unrivalled. They tell me I have a small service mid year, but a big A service after then. I’ll try to stretch that to a 2015 job. Nonetheless, it has strengthened my confidence that the Disco will remain in fine fettle for a long time to come.

Who said you can’t buy a high mileage car and not enjoy the experience? Now where did I put that piece of wood …