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.
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.
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
BMW Owners Club – http://www.bmwownersclub.com/forums/forum/14-bmw-x5-series-club/
BMW Club Australia – http://www.clubs.bmw.com.au