Keep up appearances
The prestige SUV’s showroom glow can be costly to sustain
magnesium dashboard support and improvements to the fourwheel-drive.
The engines wereBMW’s best: a 3.0-litre inline six petrol slurper, a 4.8-litre V8 and a 3.0-litre turbo diesel. The V8 went like gangbusters but had quite a thirst for premium unleaded, making the smaller petrol engine and the turbo diesel the sensible choices. Of these, the diesel was best choice overall. It was the most economical but still had sufficient performance and it was rated the best balanced of the new bunch on the road.
A slick shifting six-speed auto was the main gearbox choice, upgraded to an eightspeed self-shifter in 2010. Nothing was lacking when it came to the cabin— it was roomy, the seats were comfortable and it had everything you could want.
NOW The X5 looks like a winner in the showroom but drive it away and the story isn’t so glowing.
BMW’s behemoth receives mixed reviews from the trade, with reports of numerous issues that could tarnish the ownership experience. The body and underlying mechanicals— the engines, gearboxes and
drivelines— are reasonably robust and reliable but the boltons are not necessarily so.
Rear tyre wear is an issue. The wear is more pronounced on the inner half of the tyre tread and it can’t be adjusted out— there simply isn’t enough adjustment available. It becomes an issue when you have to stump up a considerable sum to replace those massive run-flat tyres. At the rear the outer bush in the lower control arms wear, eventually needing to be replaced, while at the front, the caster bar bushes wear out.
In a rather poor design, the airconditioning drains on to the drive shaft from the centre transfer case to the front diff and can cause the shaft to rust.
Starter motor bushes wear out leading to the replacement of the starter motor.
The alternator is a complex water-cooled device with a plastic bush that wears and breaks up. As with the starter, replacement is the only option.
Plastic hoses and fittings in and around the engine bay go brittle and fall apart requiring replacement. Door locks and window regulators regularly fail. The dash and control panel displays fade and the panels have to be replaced.
To make matters worse, replacement parts are very expensive. Australians pay two to three times the American rate for the same BMW-branded factory replacement parts. The exact parts, made by the same suppliers such as Bosch but without the factory branding or packaging, can be obtained by astute mechanics for less than the factory equivalents.
Anyone contemplating buying a used X5 should think long and hard about it. Buying a car with high kays on the odo — 100,000km or more— runs a real risk of their dream becoming an expensive one. The best car to buy is the one that’s just come out of lease— these generally have low kays and have been well serviced.
Before buying an X5 consider where it would be serviced. BMWdealers will charge you the most (for labour and parts). An independent specialist will charge much less and is likely be able to find cheaper parts and in some case be able to repair parts instead of replacing them.
Don’t jump in. Have your preferred car checked by an expert before you buy.
The X5 is a great driver but parts and servicing can be very expensive as the kays climb.