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

Long Termer: Land Rover Discover 3 TDV6

land rover discovery 3
By: The Car Spy

It’s been service time for the Disco. Basic oil change and new air filters. Ignoring the binging and warning light for the brake pads is not advised, certainly not for the few weeks I have done. It means that the pads have chewed up the disc rotors and they need replacing. The wife managed to puncture a tyre and so two new ones have been sourced from Tempe Tyres and a new screeching sound has been heard that points to a problem with the electric handbrake. This could mean a very expensive change if the whole system is up the spout. Hopefully, the handbrake just needs realigning and a quick service. Obviously I’d prefer the latter, for a replacement system costs something like $1600. Ouch.

Whilst removing the wheel Graham Cooper Automotive discovered one of the wheel nuts had been so badly damaged that, if it had been missed, the chances are it would have fused to the wheel completely. So a very difficult and stressful job avoided then, because I know that a puncture would have happened one wet and windy night on a busy road. The family would have been subjected to a tirade so incandescent I would have frightened them for months.

The time has come to replace the compressor for the air suspension. After 2 years of incessant binging I think it has finally given up the ghost. Fair enough really, it’s only a small thing intended to raise and lower a 2 tonne vehicle every time the ignition is turned. It has done so heroically for nigh on 8 years and 272,000 km now. The system works exceptionally well, but the amount of bad press Land Rover have had over its suspension system makes me wonder if a more conventional set up would have been more reliable. Then again, I would not be able to raise or lower my vehicle on a whim, and its off road abilities would be curtailed.

The decision was made because for only the second time in the last 2 years the suspension bottomed out leading the car to bunny hop over anything more substantial than a manhole cover. This in itself is not so much a problem at low speeds, bouncy but manageable. But at 30, 40, 50 km/h + it’s nigh on dangerous, certainly when my wife is driving and the kids are in the car.

IMG_0155As before however, you only need to switch off, let the car cool down for a few minutes and then start up again. The system seems to right itself and you can be on your way. However, just the very next day the same problem occurred, so perhaps it’s telling me something. It’s as if the car can sense that my bank balance is marginally more healthy this month and intends to raid it as soon as possible.

On top of all this the immobiliser key has started to play up and a new one has to be sourced from the UK, proof of ownership spied and a fee to calibrate the software to my car. All up it takes 10 business days to arrive. An 8 year battery life seemed reasonable, but at a cost of $500? There’s much to be said for the simple life and I don’t see my insurance premiums improving with all this electronic gadgetry either.

When you look at the outgoings this quarter, the Disco is proving to be a very expensive car to own. I had budgeted between $2-3,000 for maintenance a year, but costs are exceeding that now. However, let’s put it into perspective. The suspension compressor will last another 5-8 years, the key likewise. If I had not ignored the brake pad warning for so long I could have avoided paying for new discs, and tyres are tyres. If the wife is just a little more careful and stops thinking she’s driving at some monster truck rally, we won’t be having many more puncture incidents. Regular servicing at a specialist, like Graeme Cooper, who doesn’t rip the customer off will help too. So with any luck the next couple of years will be a little more reasonable.

The car feels more planted since the new compressor has been installed and it’s a joy to drive without the binging. The new tyres up front have helped too and now it’s a bit of trial not to play with the settings and raise and lower the car much like those low riders in the States. On a recent trip out with my son, one of his mates called out as we drove past, “cool car,” so I am happy with that, for now.

Stay tuned.

By: The Car Spy

 

Costs this Quarter

Servicing – $275

Front discs and pads, air filter and sensor – $613

Remote Key inc. programming – $480

Air Compressor for suspension – $1360

Labour – $262

Tyres x2 – $500

 

Faults to be diagnosed:

Electronic Handbrake (replacement – $1600) or service ($150)

 

TVR Tuscan mk 1

By: The Car Spy

TVR’s were fast and furious and it is incredible that such a small factory with limited resources could have turned out anything as accomplished as the Griffith, Tuscan, Chimera or Cerbera. Of course these were the culmination of almost 50 years of development under various owners, but the four mentioned above, under the stewardship of Peter Wheeler, were arguably the best they ever made. It’s just such a shame that after almost 25 years he sold out to a 24 year old Russian millionaire, Nikolay Smolensky, who ran the firm into the ground in only 2 years.

As a teenager in the early 80’s I yearned to own a Griffith. It was quite simply the coolest car around. Not only was the modern Griffith, like its predecessors from the ’60’s – the 200 and 400 – a V8 powered 2 seater, it was also a convertible. And to a spotty youth a convertible meant sexy, it meant pulling power. It was so different to anything else, it was ahead of its time. Its shape could grace a motor show today and you’d be none the wiser that it was in fact 30 years old.

But there was a sting in its tail. It was notoriously unreliable. TVR did not have the billions to check and double check its products and the only testing that could be done was by the customer after delivery. Of course the firm learned and things improved but only to a point.

Tuscan Speed Six Mk1

By: The Car Spy

Though a proposed Speed Six Griffith never made production it did evolve into the Tuscan Speed Six and an even sexier shape. The twenty years preceding its arrival had helped TVR to improve its cars and build a brand new engine, the speed six; a normally aspirated straight-6 that was the most powerful ever to be fitted to a production car with 350 bhp (261 kW) up to 405bhp (302kW) as in our Tuscan.

The engine had issues with poor lubrication and cooling. This led to valve gear failure, worn out cam lobes and finger followers. In the case of the finger followers there were reports of poor batch products and some cams were made from substandard material. As such the lobes on the cams wore out quickly. Therefore it is essential to follow a proper warm up procedure and avoid driving the engine too hard before the oil has fully lubricated the engine.

The Tuscan had a poor clutch design that could cause some components to fail after only 32k kms and its slave cylinder was definitely sub-standard. So check gear changes thoroughly and if the clutch feels spongy with little resistance, the slave cylinder seals may have gone.

Water ingress was also a common issue; in its combustion chamber leading to the head gasket failing in the engine and into senors controlling EFI warnings and power windows in particular. The ECU in the transmission tunnel has a tendancy to get wet too and this can cause the electrics to stop working. You could, for instance, be stuck inside the car as the door opening buttons are electric. Luckily there are emergency door release pulls beneath the dashboard.

It is also imperative that owners remove the front near side wheel and check the battery compartment every 6 months. One of the bolts in the battery tray can wear through the housing on the charging point causing it to short. The danger here is that it could set the vehicle on fire, so hopefully you will remember where those door pulls are if you’re inside when or if this happens.

Problems from rust are unlikely due to the fibreglass body, but its tubular steel chassis could be susceptible if it spent any time in a UK winter. Its rear screen often pops out, particularly when the targa roof panel has been taken out, mainly because it was slightly too small. They revised the size in the mk 2 and if your mk1 hasn’t had the change, go and source the newer one.

The original suspension was never the best and this can lead to tramlining. Fitting after market shock absorbers could help and the original ‘spider’ alloys have been known to bend quite easily.

For more detailed information visit http://www.mytuscan.co.uk/problems.php

Also check out http://www.pistonheads.com

Both sites are from the UK and considering you will more than likely need parts at some stage, why not go straight to the source.

Typical Costs

I’m still working on these. If anyone has a recommended service centre, please let me know. It seems wise to assume that owning a TVR is not going to be cheap or stress free. Sure you will be the envy of all at most track days or quarter mile sprints but you don’t want to be re-building the engine after each occasion.

Land Rover Discovery 3 TDV6

By: The Car Spy

Discovery 3’s are not a cheap vehicle, that has to be said. They require diagnostic tools for major services and therefore a dealer is often the first port of call. However, costs can be minimised by finding a specialist with the correct equipment. For minor services a local mechanic, such as Ultratune for instance are perfectly acceptable. But if parts are needed it is better to seek out a specialist.

There are a few things to look out for if you are looking to buy a Disco. Firstly a full service record. For the reasons stated above services can be expensive, ranging from $400 up to $1500, so it’s possible a few may have been skipped. The auto transmission needs an oil change every 75,000 kms and it has to be synthetic, which can be pricey. For diesels its timing belt has to be changed every 160,000 kms so for higher mileage examples, make sure that has been done. It’s an expensive job and would be part of the $1500 service. If, like our long termer, it’s eclipsed a quarter of a million kms, then the alternator may pack up, but you should be warned in advance by a poorly charging battery. The air suspension system can have a few problems and may need changing every 4 to 5 years.

Land Rover Addict in the UK suggest a few more areas to check (http://www.landroveraddict.com/features/2011/4/13/discovery-3-buying-guide/)

SUSPENSION

Listen for knocks from the suspension – they eat lower wishbones quickly, and at £300 ($500) per side plus a full alignment check, it can get pricey.

TERRAIN RESPONSE

Make a point of engaging and disengaging all functions when looking at a potential Discovery. If the warning lights and noises come on, you may be looking at a new compressor.

By: The Car Spy

ENGINE

BIG, ISN’T it? You can’t really see much of the TDV6 lump under all the plastic cowlings, but it sure fills the large engine bay well.The 2.7-litre engine is shared, in Land Rover form at least, with the Range Rover Sport and has proven to be generally very reliable. A common problem is the failure of the EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) valve leading to a loss of power and lots of smoke. A blanking kit is avaliable, but only for Euro 3 engines – otherwise you will have to replace the valve. A criticism aimed at the 2.7 is that it can feel a tad sluggish, and many have been chipped to boost performance.

HANDBRAKE

A COMMON fail point is the electronic handbrake. On well off-roaded examples it can be prone to sticking on or failing completely due to mud and water ingress. You’ll often hear a horrible screeching and grinding as a D3 goes to pull away.

Typical Costs

Alternator  $850 (fitted)

Air Suspension Compressor  $1100 (1400 fitted)

Rear Sway Bars $90

Front Sway Bars $47

Front Wiper Blades $65

Recommended Service Centres

  • Ayers Automotive

15 Ada Avenue BROOKVALE 2100

Phone: (02) 9905 6048

http://www.aauto.com.au

Recommended Forums

  • Australian Land Rover Owners

www.aulro.com

SAAB 900 Turbo 16v

SAAB 900 Turbo 16v 5 Speed Manual DSCF1171

Year Registered: 1991

Mileage when bought 132,000
Mileage when sold 247,000

Buying a car out of warranty and heading for its first 8th birthday, you know that certain repairs are likely to be needed. Clutches tend to go around the 100-150k mark, depending on how you drive and whether you like to rest your left foot on the pedal. Gearbox’s have a similar shelf life and so too for transmissions. If you buy well and have a full service history to guide you, you can mitigate some of these costs, but you know that eventually parts will wear out.

Saab’s were built by snow loving Swedes and designed to survive a head on collision with an elk. It is perhaps because of this the 900’s predecessor, the 99, was the only car allowed to race in the UK’s Rallycross series in the 80’s without the need for an aftermarket roll cage. The 900 Turbo inherited much of this strength and it is quite possibly one of the safest places to be in an accident, so long as you don’t launch through the windscreen or smash into the steering wheel for there are no such things as airbags. You could also do yourself a mischief with a poorly placed hot drink, for SAAB’s idea of a cup holder at the time extended to two shallow rings on the inside of the glove compartment. Handy for when stationary perhaps, but not at a canter.

DSCF1162This model was the last of the true SAAB’s, pre-General Motors and the hideous piece of machinery that superseded it in 1994. As with any vehicle, if maintained properly and regularly, it can and most probably will last very well. The 900 is no exception and a mileage in excess of 400k (644,000 kms) is entirely possible.

I ran the car for 13 years and a glance through the receipts showed some common threads. Engine mountings, CV joints and boots, and front disc’s were the most habitual repairs other than the exhaust mounting that must have been changed 7 or 8 times. Luckily the part was inexpensive but you took sleeping policemen with care for the consequences meant a day or so of creaking and clanging before a replacement could be found and you’d be convinced the shock’s had gone.

In time, costly repair bills did eventuate including a new clutch, transmission, radiator, brake master cylinder, exhaust system, steering column and a new headliner. However, these were parts that had to go at some time and then only once.

By using Hollobon’s rule of addition and subtraction, developed mostly on beer mats and coffee stained post it notes, the car cost me in the region of $1200-1300 per year including services but not including tyres. I tried to service the car every 6 months and for a time used cheaper repair garages such as Ultratune. I can’t knock their service but the parts did seem to have a shorter lifespan and ultimately paying slightly more at a specialist proved more efficient and the car drove far better.

 

TYPICAL COSTS

Transmission replacement  $2272

Clutch replacement  $1550

Radiator $ 275

Outer CV Boots kit (fitted) $ 215

Brake Master Cylinder (fitted) $ 260

Front Engine Mount  $ 190

Steering Rack Boots  $ 150

Starter Motor  $ 150

Steering Column $ 113

Exhaust Mount  $   10

DSCF1170RECOMMENDED SERVICE CENTRE

SAABTech – 3 Taronga Place, Mona Vale NSW 2103 – Tel 02 9999 2771

www.saabtech.com.au

RECOMMENDED FORUMS / KNOWLEDGE BASE

www.saabcentral.com

Here is a more comprehensive report from Simon Turner, to read more visit:

http://www.saabcentral.com/techhelp/c900/900_buyers_guide.php

Head gasket: Signs of water and/or oil leaks from the cylinder head. Unless you are a fairly competent mechanic you will be looking at around 10 hrs labour plus parts for a replacement. Expensive!

Gearbox:One of the major weak points in a Saab is the gearbox. You hear of gearboxes, both automatics and manuals giving up the ghost at 60,000 miles and others going on for over 300,000 miles. It all depends how it has been treated. Auto boxes coupled to Turbo motors probably have the worst reputation for letting go first. As a rule of thumb you can reckon on some major gearbox repairs between 150,000 and 200,000 miles. Again gearboxes can cost anywhere from £200.00 for a second hand box to £1000.00 for a fully recon box, plus the labour to fit it! The whole engine and gearbox has to be removed for repair or replacement. Things to look out for, difficult to engage gear, not engaging any one of the gears, a whining noise whilst travelling in 3rd or 5th and popping out of gear particularly reverse.

Turbo:Again the Turbo’s seems to have a life span from anywhere around 60,000 miles to 300,000 miles. As a general rule a turbo can be expected to last around 120,000 miles. The earlier oil cooled Turbo’s tend to go sooner than the later water cooled turbo’s but obviously again it depends how they have been treated. The earlier oil cooled Turbos require a lot more time to cool down. Again they are fairly costly to replace averaging around £300 to £400.

Timing/Cam chain:Expected lifespan around 150,000 miles. Listen for rattles from the engine especially when the engine is cold. You can replace the chain without removing the engine with a link chain, but it is recommended by Saab that the guides are replaced at the same time which does involve removing the engine.

Exhaust system:Might seem obvious but a complete exhaust system is a fairly expensive item to replace. If you are able to get under the car check the system for general condition and check the exhaust manifold for cracks, especially the 8v cars.

Oil and Water: Check the oil for signs of ‘mayo’ water leaking into the oil system and at the same time check the coolant for signs of oil getting into the water system. Both are usually signs of gasket failure.

Clutch:If the clutch pedal is taking just after you have started to release it then it would indicate that either the hydraulic clutch system has air in it and it needs bleeding or more than likely the seals have gone in the mastercylinder and it needs repairing or replacing. The other less likely reason is that there is wear in the pedal linkage allowing for freeplay in the pedal itself. Of course the clutch itself might need replacing at around £150.00 including labour.

Power Steering Rack:Try to get access to the underside of the vehicle to check the steering rack for leaks. When test driving the vehicle the steering should be light and responsive. If stiff when the car is cold and becomes more responsive as the car warms up, this is a sign of a rack on it’s last legs. Replacement racks are available for around £150.00 to £200.00 plus around three hours labour to fit.

C/V joints: When test driving a car with steering on full lock and you hear a click, click, click sound this is a sign of worn CV joints. Replacement joints cost around £70.00 plus a couple of hours labour to fit.

Ball joints: If you have the facility available. check the ball joints. Although fairly cheap and easy to replace they can lead to bad handling and uneven tyre wear. Listen for signs of loud knocking.

Shock absorbers & Springs: There should be no ‘spring’ in the suspension. If there is then the shock absorbers need replacement at around £40.00 each. They should last around 100,000 miles. Also check the rear springs as they tend to sag on older higher mileage cars especially ones that might have been used for towing.

Heating system:Check the operation of the heater and for water leaks in the left footwell. Water leaks indicate the heater control valve needs replacement. No heat, or if you are unable to turn the heat off would indicate a problem with the heater controls.

Sagging Headliner:A common problem which to be fixed properly requires the complete removal of the headliner shell and application of new material and replacement. The lining and adhesive are resonably priced.

Central Locking:Central locking can play up for a number of reasons.

Heated Seats: Quite often on higher mileage Saabs the heated seats have ceased to work. This is usually due to a broken element in the seat itself which involves removing the seat for repair.

Radiator: Might seem like an obvious one, but make sure you check the radiator for leaks and general condition. Cost is around £150.00 to have it replaced.

Electric window winder:This seems to crop up quite often and can range from just requiring a good lubrication to the replacement of both the window motor and regulator. Fairly easy to replace yourself and inexpensive if using second hand parts.

Body: Although generally rust free, the 900’s do have some common places where rust can appear. Check the bottom insides of doors, wheel arches and petrol cap cover in particular. Also around the base of the spoiler in the Turbo and along the inside bottom edges of the doors.