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

Land Rover Discovery 3 Update

At least I didn’t buy an Audi Q5

After all the rubbish I get from drivers of mostly Japanese cars, all the jibes about my car’s reliability resembling a long and winding dog turd, all the should-have-known-better’s and I-told-you-so’s, it takes a bloody non-Land Rover Discovery 3 part to almost kill my Disco. The German made and globally praised ZF 6 speed automatic gearbox.

Its death throes were easy to tell, as it slipped in second up the steep driveway out of our apartment complex, resulting in an embarrassing reverse down hill to start again. Much like a retreating turtle-head you could say. If it wasn’t for the low range box, and that I could at least lock it in first, I would have been royally buggered. Worse still, I would have been at the mercy of my neighbours’ snickering as they passed me in their reliable Subaru’s and Toyota Echo’s, there was even a Holden Barina. A Barina I tell you, a 1990’s model to boot! Oh the humanity.

At least it got us through Christmas and returned us from a family camping trip.

Nonetheless, the question of whether it was worth fixing or that it was time to bite the bullet and call it a day, did raise its head. My Disco’s value, given it has almost 300k on the clock, would barely scratch 20 grand if I was lucky. So the cost of a replacement transmission, or a rebuild at around $7k, was a conundrum indeed.

That was the situation I was posed with a little over a month ago and after consideration (and much persuasion of the wife), we decided that it was indeed worth repairing. You see, it’s not my style to offload such trouble, whether in part exchange or at an auction house, so I had to do something to recoup any part of my investment. A lengthy search around wreckers yards yielded just one suitable used replacement, but it was a thousand kay’s away and would cost $3,500. Even though it came with a 6-month warranty, I would then most likely have to replace the transmission pump at around $1500, and have it all put together for another $1200-1500. When you also consider that it is best to use a part that is already married to my car, rather than something that isn’t and would possibly cause more woes, $7k for a rebuild began to look a lot more attractive. I even found a specialist who would save me a further $500 (CATS of Rosebery), and that was a figure I was not going to sniff at.

Thankful for small mercies? Too bloody right

So it took a week and my Disco is back on the road and seemingly stronger than ever. It now takes the ascent out of the driveway with aplomb, and that smugness of being able to tackle tough (albeit urban) terrain has returned.

So why the comment about Audi Q5’s? Well, apparently, had its DSG 4×4 ZF box gone similarly haywire, something that is beginning to happen at an alarming rate according to my transmission guy, it would cost me somewhere between $20-25k, not the paltry $6.5k I paid. Audi had hoped that an after-market would have arisen since 2009, but as the box is a sealed unit for life, nobody wants to touch it.

land rover discovery 3

 

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

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.