In almost all departments the BMW X5 loses out to the competition. As an off road vehicle its no match for the Range Rover and if you need a huge space, buy a Toyota Land Cruiser. To make matters worse second hand BMW X5s hold their value so well that used ones dont even look like good value.
But despite this the BMW X5 remains the best luxury, off road, 4x4 you can buy. Because in the on road battle of the off road cars nothing else that sits this high, looks as good or drives so well.
Launched in October 2000 the car was initially available only with the 286bhp, 4.4 litre V8. The following Spring BMW added 3 litre petrol and diesel units producing 231bhp and 184bhp respectively. Later that year BMW completed the line up with the mighty 4.6litre V8. With 347bhp on tap the car will hit 149mph and reach 0-60mph in a shade over 6 seconds.
But even the less powerful derivatives are unlikely to disappoint, the 3 litre 6 cylinder petrol is smooth, if a little juicy, and the diesel unit pulls strongly and can nudge 30mpg if driven kindly. Unsung hero of the range is the 4.4 V8. Almost matching the 3.0 litre petrol on fuel economy and still indecently quick, the 4.4 is also the only X5 that currently suffers any noticeable depreciation, making it a great value used buy.
Equipment on all models is good with electric seats, climate control, alloys, park distance control and multi function steering wheel with cruise control as standard. And whilst leather upholstery is an option on all but the V8s Ive yet to see a car leave the factory without it.
Both 3 litre petrol and diesel models come with a 5-speed manual gearbox but most owners spend the extra £1,200 on the excellent 5 speed steptronic auto box, safe in the knowledge that the car will recoup the extra cost when sold.
BMW also offer a huge range of options, some essential others not. Most desirable is the Comms pack, which includes Satellite Navigation, TV tuner, telephone and traffic master. Costing £2,400 on a new car, expect to pay an extra £1,500 for a used car that has it.
Available in standard or Sport trim, 75% of customers choose the later which comes with larger 19inch alloy wheels, sport suspension and revised front and rear bumpers. But the non Sport models do offer slightly sharper turn in and less road noise thanks to the smaller tyres.
Leave the tarmac and the clever electronics make the BMW X5 more than capable of dealing with light off road use, the Hill Descent Control (HDC) proving eerily effective at controlling the cars progress down slippery slopes. Fit a tow bar and the X5 will dispatch with most towing jobs with ease, although the maximum towing weight of 2,300KG is closer to a Freelander than a Range Rover in terms of potential.
Inside, everything is reassuringly BMW, and theres none of the dreadful i-drive system found in the new 7 series. Comfort levels are high, the cabin is wide, the front arm rest is perfect and the electrically adjustable front seats are extremely comfortable. Front and rear head room is good, even with the optional factory sunroof and rear passengers have good legroom and great visibility.
Three years after its introduction demand for the BMW X5 remains very strong and many private sellers are charging close to forecourt prices for their cars. So a BMW dealer may prove just as economic a way of purchasing one and will guarantee the cars history and provide you with a minimum of 12 months warranty..
Check the following
Gearbox manual gearbox is rare and undesirable
Wheels 19 inch on Sport models, 20 inch on 4.6iS
Servicing Variable interval but usually every 12-14,000 miles
CD multi play stacker an option on all but the 4.6
Exhaust pipes 4.4 is distinguished by 4 rear pipes
Tow bar optional BMW tow bar is detachable
Head lamps Power wash system is standard
Stereo upgraded DSP (Digital Sound Processing) system has incredible quality
Boot luggage cover standard
Tyres 19 inch tyres on Sport models will set you back £240 each
Air bags 6 air bags as standard
Fuel consumption Only 3.0 litre diesel could be considered economical
Bumpers park distance control standard on all models
The one to buy
BMW X5 4.4i Sport Auto
2000 W with 30,000 miles
Pay £32,500 at dealer £30,000 privately
Values - BMW X5 4.4i Sport auto
2000 W Trade
2001 Y Trade
2002 02 Trade
3.0 Diesel worth £2,500 less than 4.4i petrol
3.0 petrol worth £5,000 less than 4.4i petrol
Sport models worth £1,200 -£1,500 more than standard models
BMW X5 4.4i Sport auto
4,398cc V8 32 Valve
5 speed auto
7.4 sec (0-62mph)
5 Alternatives for similar money
Figures based on CAP October 2003 edition