Exquisite Goods

This page attempts to answer frequently asked questions about the BMW X5. All of these answers should be taken with a grain of salt, for they are those of the enthusiastic but unofficial owner base from Roadfly. For official answers about the BMW X5, peruse the BMW NA home page, consult a brochure, and/or ask your dealer.

What’s it Like?
What’s it like?

How does it drive?

Incredibly well. Like a BMW, like a sports sedan, not at all like a truck. Not quite as well as a 5-series.

Is the ride quiet? Lots of road or wind noise?

It’s impressively quiet.

What’s the steering like? Heavy? Light?

Most owners say, “just right.” Few people call it too light, some have termed it too heavy, especially 4.4i SP owners whose 19″ Y-rated tires have more “grip.”

Is it safe?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it’s not only the safest SUV tested, but the safest vehicle of any kind.

How’s it in the snow?

So long as you’re not using the 19″ or 20″ tires, it’s great. All that nifty AWD technology makes for a great on-road snowmobile.

Is it reliable?

Yes. There are a few scattered issues, but all in all this is a very dependable vehicle.

What’s the mileage like?

Officially the 2000-2003 model 3.0i gets 15/20, the 4.4i 13/17. Reports of up to 23.7mpg (3.0i) on road trips, and down to 12mpg (4.4i) for city driving. 

        For the 2004 (V8 now has valvetronic):

3.0i manual

City: 13.2 MPG
Highway: 24.3 MPG
Combined: 18.5 MPG


3.0i auto

City: 13.0 MPG
Highway: 23.8 MPG
Combined: 18.2 MPG



City: 12.9 MPG
Highway: 23.1 MPG
Combined: 18.0 MPG

Your mileage may vary depending on your particular degree of spirited driving.

How’s the cargo capacity?

It’s not impressive. Perhaps that’s why this isn’t a Sport Utility Vehicle – not enough Utility. Not only is there no third seat, the cargo area isn’t even as deep as a 5-series wagon, though it is somewhat taller. That said, it’s no Miata, you can definitely put a lot of stuff back there, or lay down the back seats and put even more – but by SUV standards, it’s small. Here’s a comparison from Consumer Reports:

CarCu FtPayload (lbs)
Discovery 46.5 1330
ML 45.5 1340
RX-300 (2wd) 37.5 880
Grand Cherokee 37.0 1150
X5 35.5 1290
QX-4 34.4 795

Please compare it to other SUV’s.

Well, technically it’s not an SUV. I’m not just being difficult – BMW has made a vehicle that does not compare directly against anything currently out there. Here are some very broad comparisons, but this is of course a very religious issue. If you want to read about how the X5 pales in comparison to the competition, you’ve come to the wrong place.

The Mercedes ML-series is less expensive, more capacious, better off-road, but noticeably cheaper on fit and finish, and does not handle as well as the X5.

Acura MDX is less expensive, substantially more capacious, but not quite as luxurious (a little blander) and does not handle quite as well as the X5. The X5 4.4i is much faster, the X5 3.0i is about as fast (slightly slower to 60mph, identical quarter-mile time) despite being heavier and nominally less powerful.

The Lexus RX330 is less expensive, not as luxurious, not as good an off-roader, and doesn’t handle or perform as well. You can tell I’m not impressed by this vehicle, although it is a fine people-mover.

The Lexus LX470/Toyota Land Cruiser is a much, much bigger vehicle which handles better off-road, but which cannot compare to the smaller, tighter X5 on-road. Nice vehicle, though.

The Range Rover and Land Rover Discovery II are large, great off-roaders which suffers in comparison on-road, and have poor reputations reliability-wise.

The Audi Allroad Quattro is a nice car. A great competitor to the X5, it is faster than the 4.4i at about the price of the 3.0i, has more cargo capacity. It feels very different, though – the driving position is entirely different (I feel the X5 is more commanding), and the X5 feels more polished and solid. Handling is different. The look of the allroad is a little plasticky because, well, there’s a lot of plastic on it.

Porsche Cayenne is now out and is a formidable competitor to the BMW performance-wise, though certainly more expensive.

What’s this SAV thing?

It’s not a Sports Utility Vehicle, it’s a Sports Activity Vehicle.  Which is BMW’s way of noting that most people don’t go off-road with their off-road vehicles. So they built an off-road vehicle that is highly optimized for on-road performance. It will go off-road, but that’s not the main point, which is to have a blast on the road in the dry, wet, and snow, and to suffice off-road when that’s what’s needed.


Which should I get, 3.0i, 4.4i or 4.6is?

The 4.4 engine is more powerful but also more expensive to buy and to run. The 3.0 engine is certainly powerful “enough,” in the sense that it is capable of producing a very zippy ride on a fully-loaded X5 (keep in mind that the 3.0i is ~250 pounds lighter than the 4.4i), but the 4.4 engine provides power to burn, with an impressive back-pressing “oomph.” 

Aside from engines, there are other differences between the two models. Compared to the 4.4i, the 3.0i:

Comes standard with a manual transmission (upgradeable to steptronic automatic transmission). Note that the 4.4i cannot be purchased with a manual transmission. 
Comes standard with leatherette seats (upgradeable to leather as an option or  as part of the Premium package)
Comes with plastic trim (upgradeable to wood as part of the Premium package)
Does not have a self-levelling rear suspension (upgradeable as part of the Sports package)
Comes with 17″ wheels with all-season tires (upgradeable to 18″ wheels with all-season tires as part of the Sports package. Not factory upgradeable to the 19″ wheels with performance-rated tires)
Cannot be upgraded with rear heated seats
Cannot be upgraded with 16-way comfort seats
Cannot be upgraded with Multi Informational Display

These details are based on the model 2001 model year and are of course subject to change at BMW NA’s whim.

It terms of finances, the 4.4i comes in at about US$10,000 more, but contains more standard features than the 3.0i, so if you were planning on loading up on features the price difference shrinks a little – to about $8000 depending on the configurations.

Does the 3.0i SP feel the same as the 4.4i SP?

Probably not, since the 4.4i SP has performance tires, which will give it a tighter feel. When comparing the various mode/SP configurations, consider that the 4.4i comes standard with auto-leveling air suspension, while the 3.0i does not. But the 3.0i SP has anti-roll bars and a stiffened suspension that the 4.4i non-SP does not, so the following probably holds true when talking about tightness:

3.0i non-SP < 4.4i non-SP <= 3.0i SP < 4.4i SP

Is there some production problem with the 4.4 engine?

We don’t know why, but there is a problem getting enough 4.4 engines to build 4.4i X5’s (and 540i’s and 740i’s)

What’s this about a diesel?

The great BMW 3.0d engine will soon be available… in Europe. This engine has a lot of torque and great fuel economy (with cheaper fuel) without the traditional diesel clatter or dirty exhaust, and so is a nice option for the heavy X5. Americans should storm the BMW NA offices and demand this engine. Note: some owners have reported a phone interview from BMW asking if they’d buy a diesel engine. Just Say Yes!


What are the programmable options?

Here they are, with the defaults specified.

I. Car Memory:

1. Daytime Running Lights – not active. when active, your low beam (inner pair of lights) comes on…not your xenon.

2. Pathway lighting – active. can trigger by flashing high beams after ignition is off.

3. Driver’s sear position memory – not active

4. Armed alarm confirmation signal – arm/disarm confirmed both visually and audibly.

II. Key memory

1. Auto locking after car in motion – not active

2. Selective central locking – active. press unlock once, releases driver’s door. press twice releases all locks.

3. Climate control settings memory – always active. Car duplicates the same CC settings as the last time that key was used.

What’s the best color combination?

There is no “best,” it’s whatever you prefer. Black, as on all cars, is hard to keep clean as it shows every scratch. The Oxford Green is also quite dark.

How’s the Leatherette?

It’s very hard to distinguish it from leather without a side-by-side comparison. The care should be easier, too.

Is the Sports Package ride harsh? Can I live without it?

Opinions vary – which makes sense if you think about it. If there were no argument, BMW would probably just sell one or the other. The SP is undeniably tighter than the non-SP, but many owners swear by it. Owners living in smoothly-paved areas seem to like it more than those in Pothole City. The non-SP ride still has a great, BMW feel, the SP ride simply more so. If you can, test them back to back. The Sports Package also comes with auto-leveling air suspension (standard on the 4.4i) and a series of aesthetic features such as a dark headliner (ceiling) and 3-spoke sports steering wheel, which may or may not make it worth the extra cost to you.

What’s the deal with the 19″ 4.4i SP tires? Are they good in the snow?

They are pavement performance tires and are explicitly not recommended for snow or off-roading. Many folks get a second set of wheels/tires for snow, usually 18″ but sometimes 17″. Sometimes 4.4i owners will buy the 18″ wheels/tires from a 3.0i owner getting non-OEM wheels.

Is the premium sound system worth the money? Will I need to upgrade it for truly great sound?

This sort of ends up where you’d think. People who don’t care much are fine with the standard sound system. People who care more like the premium system and think it’s worth the money. Truly discerning audiophiles upgrade.

Should I get the Xenon lights? Are they worth the money? Don’t they blind everybody?

A very religious issue. Most who have them swear by them, laud their safety (look, a deer!) and could never go back to plain old halogen. Some say they’ve never been “flashed” by oncoming drivers while some who drive on especially curvy, hilly roads say they are flashed often.

What does the PDC (Parking Distance Control) do? Should I get it?

Tries to warn you that you’re about to back into a pole, or a Toyota, or your neighbor’s dog. There are four sensors on front, and four on back, and the front and back. The system beeps (different tones for front and rear) as you approach an obstacle, and increases the frequency as you get closer.  People seem to like it, though there is occasionally a false positive. Very useful in tight city parking situations, and might help valet parkers take more care when parking. Could pay for itself quickly if you avoid a collision.

Should I get the Navigation system?

A religious issue. It’s expensive, and it has its limitations. Entering in addresses can be tedious. There is no touch screen. The system is CD-based, not DVD, and therefore only has a portion of the country at any one time (you need to pay for a different region) and a limited amount of detail in that region. The system hides some features – speed and height – so that they are virtually impossible to find. Some owners have reported the system giving poor directions, and giving up when driving “off the map.” That said, it really does help navigate, and some people swear by it. You need to decide if it’s worth the money. There are no really great 3rd party systems at this time.

BMW Hitch or aftermarket?

The wiring for the hitch is notoriously difficult to install, so going with BMW may be your best alternative. At my dealer the $495 BMW hitch has a $425 installation fee. If you don’t need wiring (for instance, if you’re just using the hitch to carry a bike rack) then an aftermarket Draw-Tite hitch may suffice just fine, though it is reported that the hitch may not carry as much weight, and it sticks out a little farther than the BMW one.


The rear fan is really loud.

When turned up all the way it is quite loud, but apparently no louder than the front turned up all the way.

My wheels are coated with brake dust.

Yes they are. Nice brakes though, aren’t they? That’s because they are huge, and well-ventilated. The upshot is a lot of dust. Which means regular cleaning on your part.

I can’t lift up my windshield wipers to clean the blades!

Yes you can, but you need to turn off the car with the wipers in the up position. This is documented in the user’s manual. Why on earth would BMW design it this way? Apparently to get some aerodynamic value by storing the wipers under the hood.

My sunshade clips keep falling off.

These are junky little pieces of plastic. Your dealer should replace them for you, but one owner suggests this:

“This is going to be confusing, but here goes…I put a drop of glue inside the mechinism which clamps tight around the insert which the shade hangs from (the piece that rides on the springs inside) to keep that insert (on the springs) from falling out. I did not try putting glue on the mechanism which opens to reveal the springs, though that will be my next step.”

My interior door handles are chipping.

Widely reported. Bring it to your dealer.

My tailgate button doesn’t work.

This stems from the microswitch’s rubber cover slipping out of its groove and jamming the switch. To fix it, raise the tailgate and you will see a rectangular rubber seal which you push to activate the trunk lock. Look at its perimeters and you will definitely find an area where it has sunk into the groove in which it is housed too far. Use your fingernail or a small pointed object and pry it out and reseat it properly. It will work.

In the future, just squeeze it gently, it will work just as well and avoid this problem.

My Xenon headlights are too low/high

Sometimes the headlights come adjusted incorrectly (or at least not to your taste). Your dealer can adjust them.

What service updates have there been?

AllData Recalls and Service Bulletins

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