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Pre-Owned: 2000 to 2006 BMW X5 SUV

Original Luxury

Colin Ryan
May 20, 2016
Photographers: Courtesy of BMW
The BMW X5 is one of the original car-based crossovers. Where rivals at the time were going more for luxury, BMW threw some of its renowned driving talents into the mix. That also meant no real off-road ability, but such a drawback has hardly bothered the X5’s thousands of buyers. And anyway, there’s still a massive amount of plushness. The closest alternative (arguably even exceeding it, from a driver’s point of view) is the Porsche Cayenne.
The first-generation X5 (factory code E53) is based on the excellent E39 5 Series midsize sedan (which itself was a derivation of a 7 Series platform) and was built in BMW’s then-fairly new Spartanburg factory in South Carolina. When it debuted for the ’00 model year, it had a 282hp 4.4L V-8 linked to a five-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive came as standard (62 percent of torque goes to the rear wheels in normal driving conditions, in an effort to convey that hallmark rear-drive BMW feel), along with heated front seats, separate climate controls for the rear passengers, plus leather upholstery and wood trim. A 3.0L inline-six joined the ranks the following year, making 225 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque and mated to a five-speed automatic or manual transmission.
Photo 2/7   |   2004 E53 X5 4.8is Rear Side View
In ’02, the range expanded in the other direction with a well-stocked 4.6is model, propelled by 340 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque from a 4.6L V-8. The 4.4L V-8 was also boosted to 290 hp. Extra brake lights and an optional suspension with adjustable ride height came in ’03.
A facelift in ’04 also brought an updated all-wheel drive system (called xDrive), along with “angel eyes” headlights, new taillights, larger grille, soft-close tailgate, trailer stabilization control, adaptive headlights, six-speed automatic transmission for the V-8s, plus a standard six-speed manual transmission for the straight-six engine.
Photo 3/7   |   2004 E53 X5 4.8is Interior HiRes
The 4.6is was replaced by the 4.8is, which has a 4.8L V-8 making 355 hp and 360 lb-ft. The 4.4L was upgraded to a 315hp unit. Satellite radio and Bluetooth joined the options list. Automatic climate control became standard across the range in ’05, and V-8 models were fit with xenon HID headlamps.
Although the X5 is now a mainstay of this luxury crossover segment, with undeniable appeal and driving chops, it hasn’t been without its issues. There’s a lot to check over. It might almost be quicker to list what not to look out for, but here it goes.
Photo 4/7   |   2004 E53 X5 4
The X5 has been known to chew through brake discs and pads, steering bushes, ball joints, and front outer CV joint boots. Door locks can freeze in winter, owners have reported dodgy door handles, and power window regulators can fail, as can the panoramic power sunroof. Some pixels in the dashboard readouts tend to go AWOL. Then there’s the chance of coolant leakage from failure of the header tank bleed valve, plus leaky hoses, ventilator pipes, and their connections.
The self-leveling rear suspension will need a good going-over, and some early V-8s might have had porous engine blocks. The 4.4L also has a reputation for suspect valves.
Photo 5/7   |   2004 E53 X5 4.8is Dash HiRes
The jury is still out whether the “lifetime automatic transmission fluid” really lasts a lifetime. It could cause the unit to fail between 120,000 and 150,000 miles. An independent specialist will change the fluid and owners must expect to do it again after 60,000 miles.
An ’04 4.4i in good condition bought from a private party is valued at $4,915. But it might be a good idea to look at something more recent and perhaps with the 3.0-liter straight-six. An ’06 3.0i with the same criteria (and with an automatic transmission) is blue-booked at $6,502.
Photo 6/7   |   04x5
If anyone has even half a mind to look elsewhere, that’s probably not a bad thing. Someone has to really, really want a used X5’s lovely driving dynamics to make that kind of maintenance commitment and possibly live with build quality that might charitably be described as “patchy.” If you’re undaunted, get the youngest, best example you can find and enjoy the ride.
2000-2006 BMW X5
Body type: 4-door midsize crossover/SUV
Drivetrain: Front engine, 4WD
Engines: 3.0L/225hp DOHC inline-6 (’01-’06); 4.4L/282hp DOHC V-8 (’00-’01; 290hp ’02-’03; 315hp ’04-’06); 4.6L/340hp DOHC V-8 (’02-’03); 4.8L/355hp DOHC V-8 (’04-’06)
Price range, whlsl/retail (KBB): $1,623/$3,976 (’00 AWD 4.4i V-8), $6,409/$11,494 (’06 AWD 4.8i V-8)
NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/fr pass: Five stars/five stars
Photo 7/7   |   2004 E53 X5 4.8is Emblem HiRes

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