OK readers the day has finally arrived when I am able to tell you that I have bought a new car! The actual day itself was Thursday and so I have spent the last few days getting to grips with my new 2-tonne toy that is sitting proudly on the driveway! It’s only been 3 days but I am already very confident that I’ve made the right decision and that this is the start of another love affair with a car I’ve long lusted after.
So what did I buy? Well after much deliberation and searching I was able to track down a very tidy 2005 BMW X5 3.0d Sport…essentially the exact car I’ve had eating away at me for the last year since my search started. It has an almost flawless black exterior, 19 inch Sport wheels, black leather inside and a black head lining. Equipment-wise it is very well specced with factory navigation, freeview television, Bluetooth, heated seats front and rear, xenon lights and rear privacy glass. If I’m honest I would have quite liked power folding mirrors but that’s about all that’s missing; the sunroof would have been quite a worry as it has a reputation for leaking!
Why this particular X5? Well first I need to give a little more background about what finally stirred me into motion on the car front; it’s been a while since I’ve properly updated this blog on my car hunt but eventually it became intertwined with my brother’s own decision to buy a car. Although I was in favour of him of buying a brand new car on finance he decided that he would prefer to make good on my tongue-in-cheek suggestion of buying my beloved Vauxhall Astra; not the world’s worst decision and in all honesty one that left me significantly more at ease about swapping the blue beauty I’ve driven for the past 5 years. However his imminent need for the car meant that I really had to get to grips with searching for a new one for myself – no more hopelessly staring at Audi Q7’s and Range Rover Sports, no things needed to get serious and so again I was back at looking for nice examples of BMW X5’s and Mercedes ML’s.
Initially the younger design of the ML saw it pull ahead, as with fresher looks, a 7 speed gearbox and standard aux input it was clearly a more head-led choice. Unfortunately though most ML’s fell into the outrageously expensive top tax bracket of £495 p/a, and whilst a few early ML320’s were cheaper to tax they were not only rare but tended to be pricier to buy and commanded insurance quotes equally as high as the X5’s. Finding an example of the BMW seemed to be much easier, and because the vast majority of cars were registered pre-March 06 they were £200 cheaper to tax than the Merc’s. Additionally specification in the X5’s appeared to be much more uniform than in the ML; most Sport versions had navigation and heated front seats, whereas on the Mercedes it proved more difficult to find a car which had both within my budget.
Ideally I wanted to look at examples of both cars before making any kind of decisions, and so tracked down a 2006 ML320 in Welwyn and a 2005 X5 3.0d in Harlow; both around 25 minutes from where I work (in different directions admittedly). But before I went to see either car I happened across a superb looking 2006 ML280 with low miles and a reasonable asking price; the ‘280’ ML’s had a detuned engine which meant slower performance but significantly cheaper insurance prices. Usually this was offset by the fact nearly all ML280’s were more expensive to tax, but this particular one fell into the cheaper band and so I was very interested…the only problem was that it was located all the way up in Loughborough – a 2 hour drive away. By this stage I had nearly persuaded myself that it was going to be this particular ML or I would ‘settle’ for an X5 located closer to home and in retrospect maybe I should have taken the time to have a go in it (or indeed any ML), but I felt after my time in my friend’s R Class that I had a good idea of what to expect.
Why did I plump for the BMW X5 then? Well if you recall one of the very first blog posts I did detailed my love for the big German and throughout this whole process it has been a constant weight on my mind. Plentiful examples, tidy handling, just-about manageable running costs and reasonable purchase prices have rightly made it very popular, and indeed it’s popularity was one of the only things that gave me cause for concern. But I found myself thinking that if I didn’t get the X5 it would still be a car I wanted to own *one day*, whereas if I didn’t get the Mercedes I would probably wonder ‘what if’ but still feel very happy in my Beemer. That’s why I went with trepidation to view a 2005 X5 at a small dealership in Harlow, in fact they had 2 very similar vehicles with near identical spec so I decided to have a look at both and hopefully get to experience a test drive.
After sitting through a horrible traffic jam we finally made it to the basically hidden dealership where my X5 resided; it was actually the guy’s house and the base of operations for a primarily online-based dealer which tended to deal with high end 4×4’s and a few sports cars. I had intended to view the cheaper of these 2 X5’s which at £10,700 was already a little pricey in my opinion despite it’s low mileage and nice condition; it had all the features I wanted and also had a brand new set of tyres but a couple of things drew me to it’s near-identical twin. The more expensive (£11,390) car had 2,000 less miles on the clock (81k) and also featured rear heated seats, but more importantly it had only had one owner and a full BMW Service History…coincidentally one conducted by Stephen James BMW, a dealership which you actually see from the top floor of my house! The car had spent it’s life around the corner in Winchmore Hill too, so chances are I may have even passed it unwittingly before! The other car had had 3 owners and a non-BMW specific history, not awful by any means but not worth the £500 discount.
So after a good look around it was time to go for a test drive; I was already quite chuffed with the car and the fact that the young salesman Lee had been nothing but friendly and helpful left me totally and ease and confident about taking the car out on unfamiliar Harlow roads. It was actually a surprisingly varied and lengthy test drive which encompassed a variety of driving, something that left me feeling even more positive about the car (even after seeing the average 24.3 mpg figure on the trip computer!). Back at base I expressed serious interest in the car but concern about the nearly bald tyres and fact the the road tax had expired – a cheeky offer of £10k was made, then £10.5k, but the best that he was prepared to do was to lower the price to £11k…any less and I would have to look at the other X5 he had for sale. I can’t say I was entirely chuffed about the price, especially when I had to put £285 of road tax on immediately, but once we rang him back and got him to agree to put 2 part-worn tyres on the front I decided just to go for it. I am sure that I could have found a similarly good example of X5 for a little less, but that could have taken a while and in all honesty I was quite smitten with the big Beemer. A phone call and £500 deposit later it was agreed that I would go to collect the car on the first of the month (for the road tax), and that’s precisely what I did…as a bonus the tyres he put on it were brand new and the MOT had no advisories on either!
My impressions so far? Well on the whole they have been incredibly positive. It is obviously a big change from my Astra (which by the way has just benefited from a £250 service, although no fix for the suspension clunk) but in terms of handling it is not a whole lot different – just a lot taller. It is clearly wider and longer too, but with parking sensors and big side mirrors this has not been too much of a problem (even in the multi storey car park I tackled today!). Probably the biggest hurdle has been the change in my driving style from frantic warm-hatch pace to the gentle surge from the 3 litre diesel under the bonnet; I say gentle because the mpg counter in the car’s dials has become my worst enemy and sees me trying to achieve optimum fuel economy at all times. My first day of driving I was a little disappointed with as despite my best efforts I was only able to return 25.2 mpg overall, but today I was able to get on the M25 for a bit and my long term average has risen to around 29mpg, with today’s consumption being 33.2 mpg – not bad at all considering it hovered under 20 mpg for the first quarter of the day! My improving fuel figures are needed too, because on Thursday I filled up the car with £125 of diesel!
What’s coming up in the future for my X5? Well after a full week of commuting next Sunday will see a trip to Trent Park – territory which completely suits the BMW. Longer term I am very interested in buying a system with which to link my iPod to the car, a feature which is sorely missing now that my old FM transmitter refuses to work with the car, plus my Mum owes me a private registration plate way back from my 21st birthday – something which should look lovely on MY gleaming black BMW 🙂
Expect plenty more updates over the coming months and also pictures added to this blog post in the next couple of days-for now I only have a couple on my laptop!