BMW X5, anyone ever done one?

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
I think I may have mentioned it before. My current daily driver is an 2003 X5 4.4s with 179000miles on it. I also have rear air suspension and no issue in the last 3 years I owned it (bought it from the original owner and I don't believe he had issue either).

I bought it from a friend as a stop-gap measure after I sold my 4Runner. It was intended for a couple months until I buy a newer vehicle, but it's been so reliable that I have had it for over 3 years now. Drove it from California to Boston. From towing our trailer to Burning Man to skiing at -30C in Quebec.

I agree with you that I believe BMW overbuilt these. It was pretty much their first SUV (SAV) and they did a good job.
We actually used it for a TSD rally in New Hampshire a few weeks ago because my wife (the driver) loves to drive it (she has a brand new 340 M-Sport.).

By now parts are really cheap so if you can do some work yourself, I think it's a good option. They are becoming very rare.

The only real problems I have had is the alternator ($1000) and the ABS module ($1500). Still a lot cheaper than a new vehicle.IMG_8056.jpgIMG_6876.jpgIMG_6877.jpgIMG_6305.jpgIMG_0429.JPG
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
I know one was built up as a chase vehicle for a cross dunes race in Africa and it was a total flop. The rear aluminum suspension broke stranding the chase vehicle. Same weak suspension parts on the factory X5’s and oddly the sedas had the same problems in the US city use.

Its a boxy car with super light weight suspension bits that break when you add weight beyond 4 people and two golf bags.
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
Order "Race to Dakar" on Netflicks if you have it, or here it is for sale
http://www.amazon.com/Race-Dakar-Charley-Boorman/dp/0751538175

The support vehicle was a modified and BMW X5 there is plenty of footage of it, and is an interesting show.
Broken rear suspension arms which are Aluminum and under built just like the Sedans that have had broken rear suspension here in the states. They are OK for hauling 2-4 people and some light luggage. Once you go beyond that you’ll likely discover the rear suspension arms are built for a light weight M3 and fail as your rattling down a dirt road with limited towing options.
 

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
Broken rear suspension arms which are Aluminum and under built just like the Sedans that have had broken rear suspension here in the states. They are OK for hauling 2-4 people and some light luggage. Once you go beyond that you’ll likely discover the rear suspension arms are built for a light weight M3 and fail as your rattling down a dirt road with limited towing options.
Mine have not broken yet at 178000 miles, and I don't recall anyone having that problem on the X5 forum.

I don't really intend to run the Dakar with it though.
 

cj-10

Member
I am shocked you have not had problems with your X5. My 2004 4.4i hated cold weather. It would "earthquake" on start up and the dash would light up like a christmas tree. The door handles broke all the time in the cold. The rear washer nozzle would freeze and then spray continuously until you pulled the fuse, and the wiper arm would break if ice was on it. The Xdrive hated the snow and ice.
 

LRNAD90

Adventurer
Broken rear suspension arms which are Aluminum and under built just like the Sedans that have had broken rear suspension here in the states. They are OK for hauling 2-4 people and some light luggage. Once you go beyond that you’ll likely discover the rear suspension arms are built for a light weight M3 and fail as your rattling down a dirt road with limited towing options.
I've not heard of these suspension failure rates in sedans you speak of, and the E53 is built off of the 5 series platform, not the 3 series platform. But back to the X5. The E53's rated load capacity is up to 1,356 lbs (depending on model and options, GVWR is the same for all). That's right up there with the Land Rover LR3/LR4 and Jeep GC.

I'm on my second X5 as a family hauler, been around the forums for 10+ years now, and I've never heard of this issue either. I wrench on all my vehicles, and honestly, from what I have seen being underneath it, the build seems fairly robust for street based SUV. Given its over 6K GVWR, stated load capacity, and 6K rated tow capacity, I'd find it hard to believe its that much more fragile than most in its class (hell the full frame/Solid rear axle 4Runner is only rated to tow 5K I believe). Saying its only good for hauling 2-4 people and light luggage seems like a bit of an exaggeration to me..

For what its worth, I like our E70 35d with its 425 ft-lb of torque and 30 mpg on the road even more than the E53, but max load capacity is down a tad over the smaller E53.
 

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
I am shocked you have not had problems with your X5. My 2004 4.4i hated cold weather. It would "earthquake" on start up and the dash would light up like a christmas tree. The door handles broke all the time in the cold. The rear washer nozzle would freeze and then spray continuously until you pulled the fuse, and the wiper arm would break if ice was on it. The Xdrive hated the snow and ice.
I have had to do some repairs, but nothing I would consider out of the ordinary for a vehicle with 178000 miles.

Yes I also had to replace the door handles. They are like $40 on Ebay brand new, but the quality varies a lot.
I also had to replace the radiator,the brakes, battery, tires, windshield and the front control arm bushings. But keep in mind this over a 3+ years period.

The shaking sounds like a bad coil. One common problem with the 4.4i is the valve cover leaks and the oil end up around the spark plugs and inside the coil, causing problems like you describe.

The reservoir for the washer fluid is in the front and it has two pumps, one for the front and one for the back. They are super easy and cheap to replace.
You probably just had a bad connection there.

I drove my X5 between Boston and Quebec all the time - I am actually going back tomorrow and it's about -15C at the moment.

Don't get my wrong, it's not a car for everyone. You need to be a bit of a mechanic for sure to stay on top of it and don't break the bank.

I do think that the X5 is better than most people are lead to believe.
 

cj-10

Member
I replaced 4 or 5 door handles, I did the water transfer pipe repair, the valve seals were leaking luckily I had a warranty to replace those and get the head machined. We had a different motors though M62 vs N62. All the things I experienced other had on Xoutpost. When everything was good I loved driving it except in the snow. I think in 2004 they "upgraded to X Drive" and that was terrible. I did a ton of work on the car and when it was under warrants the shop did a bunch of work. I replaced the plastic gear in the transfer case that goes bad and a few window regulators. Re did the gaskets on the auxiliary air pump. I put about 55k mi on mine.
 

LRNAD90

Adventurer
All vehicles have issues as they age. We bought out E53 with 44K miles on the clock. Was totaled in a relatively minor rear end collision in 2018 with 236K miles on it. I did one drivers door handle, various suspension bushings, ball joints, Both front axles (CV joints), fuel pump and an alternator (my fault for not addressing a leak from the power steering fluid reservoir directly above it). I'd say it wasn't until 150Kish miles before I started doing anything beyond regular maintenance, and when we put her out to pasture she needed a thermostat, and several oil leaks (valve cover gasket primarily) addressed, as well as a slow coolant leak from the reservoir tank. Honestly not bad for the mileage IMHO. Would probably still be driving it had the my wife not gotten rear ended. And we bought another X5 to replace it, so the experience couldn't have been TOO Bad.. LOL!
 

BringMeWinch

New member
Dual ehc? You are a brave one!
For what it's worth, the prior owner had front bags and the control unit replaced. I inspect the suspension before any longer trip and look for wear. But yeah, crossing my fingers. After a bunch of tinkering with ride-height calibrations I ended up returning to stock since that's where it rides best. The higher setting feels too choppy on gravel roads so I rarely change height anyway.
 
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