The arrival of the first BMW SUV, the X5, caused a lot of excitement and some announced “the end of the brand”. On the other hand, the market received the car very well and today it is one of the most important models in the last 20 years of the Bavarian company’s history. Today, such a car can be bought for just $ 4,500, but it is not a model for those who want to spend little on a car.
X5 E53 History
With the launch of the X5 as the first SUV ever, BMW wanted to cut itself off from the term Sports Utility Vehicle. The point was that the X5 was not supposed to be associated with utility and would not be a direct competition for cars from the USA and European or Japanese off-road vehicles. It was also no competitor to the Range Rover – at least technically.
That is why BMW chose the term SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle). And in fact, the off-road and utility character in the BMW X5 is lacking, although it uses efficient four-wheel drive and, for example, hill descent control. Range Rover, on the other hand, is a solution with a split tailgate that allows you to sit on the lower part. It has survived to this day. In general, the car is practical, comfortable, usually well-equipped and well-finished, and above all, it is pleasant to drive.
X5 E53 Exterior
The BMW X5 has a fully self-supporting structure, multi-link suspension tuned for dynamic driving, and many solutions and engines used, among others. in the BMW 5 Series (E39). This has some advantages too, such as great access to parts, but it was also a period of good BMW units.
During the production of this car, BMW used two different powertrain solutions. Before the facelift, it was decided to use, among others from the BMW 3 Series, an asymmetrical differential with a torque distribution of 62–38% (rear-front). This is a very good solution for the road, but not very efficient in difficult conditions.
To add more fun to driving and improve off-road abilities repeatedly ridiculed by the media, after the facelift, the differential was replaced by an electronically controlled clutch, known from later and present models, which attaches the front axle. As a result, the X5 has become more oversteer and the electronics more easily control the distribution of torque to the axles also in the field. In both cases, repair or replacement with a used component involves the cost of $794-$1325. The service life is extended by regular oil changes.
X5 E53 Specs
As for the engines, these are so well-known and old units that we can only talk about faults or wear that are typical for high mileage. In the great diesels of the M57 family, anything can wear out, although the engines themselves are extremely durable. Average fuel consumption of approx. 10 l / 100 km and good dynamics encourage you to choose these units. You just need to remember to remove the flaps in the intake system, which can quickly destroy the engine.
People who value low costs and relative safety should, however, choose the gasoline 3.0i variant. The 3-liter M54 6-cylinder performs very well, and despite occasional faults in the cylinder head and timing area, it can be considered the least problematic. It is the only gasoline engine from the M family (older generation) that survived the entire production period. Very good to install autogas. According to Autospruce reports, fuel consumption is approx. 16 l / 100 km.
For connoisseurs, there are V8 engines of three different displacements and two generations. The older 4.4 are the M62, later replaced by the N62. Whereas 4.6 is M62 and 4.8 is N62. It’s good to know that the M family has a slightly simpler design, as the N uses a double Vanos and a Valvetronic system. Overall, both engines should be considered expensive to service, especially in the timing area. However, the 4.6 l engine is the most problematic. The fuel consumption of 17-20 l / 100 km is compensated by the performance, especially of the 4.8i version, which at that time was the most dynamic SUV on the market, even faster than the Mercedes ML 55 AMG.
Petrol engines of the BMW X5 (E53):
- 3.0i – 3.0 L (231 hp)
- 4.4i – 4.4 liters (286 or 320 hp)
- 4.6is – 4.6 L (347 hp)
- 4.8is – 4.8 L (360 hp)
Diesel engines in the BMW X5 (E53):
- 3.0d – 3.0 liters (184 or 218 hp)
Is it worth buying the BMW X5 E53 today?
If you find a car in good condition, it is a safer choice than the second generation or the younger Porsche Cayenne. The car was still based on old, durable solutions. You have to take into account the high costs of the service (suspension, especially air, brakes, tires, drive system), but they are still lower than in most competing models. The great advantage of the X5 is its good corrosion resistance.
Typical problems in the BMW X5 (E53)
- Minor defects in equipment (wiper, locks, parking sensors, sunroof)
- Quite low durability of automatic transmissions
- Rather low durability of xDrive
- Equipment faults typical for diesel engines (note the flaps in the inlet)
- Deficiencies in the timing area of gasoline engines
- Capricious electronics
- Years: 1999–2006 (Facelift 2003)
- Market prices: From $ 4,500 to $ 9,300
- Failure rate: Average
- Operating costs: High
- Body versions: SUV
- Trunk volume: 465L
- What to look for: The best version 3.0i and the best condition with manual gearbox
- What to avoid: The US version with a V8 unit
- Optimal amount to buy: $ 8,000