For once I’ve decided to title a post exactly what it is about. No puns, no obscure references and certainly no faffing about – hopefully this is a post which will do exactly as it says on the tin. I purchased my 2005 BMW X5 3.0d Sport exactly a week ago today and already it feels like the right choice; the X5 is a vehicle that nearly everyone will be able to get in and just drive without much of a learning curve.
Handling and Ride:
Although most car reviews I read focus on this aspect of car ownership, I must confess that I have always felt that it bears little impact on most owners, most of whom just get in and drive without much of a thought for such things. But after driving various vehicles over the last year or so I realised that I had been spoilt with my Astra and whilst not at the top of my list of priorities, both needed to be paid attention to when choosing my car. BMW have a reputation for producing vehicles that handle at the top of the class and the X5 is no exception; steering is admittedly very heavy but essentially it feels like a large hatchback and not a 2 tonne 4×4 – it goes against the laws of physics to say it feels very similar to my 2003 Vauxhall Astra but that’s just how I feel. Being a Sport specification car means it has stiffer suspension and larger 19 inch wheels – both of which ensure that the ride is not as silky smooth as something like a Lexus RX, but overall it’s not that bad and the extra height means it’s pretty compliant even over speed bumps. I am very impressed.
Acceleration and Refinement:
I guess it might be because of my limited experience but again I would say that the X5 is largely comparable to my previous car, a bog standard family hatch. Obviously there is a big jump from a 1.8 4-cyl petrol to a 3.0 6-cyl diesel but acceleration seems largely similar thanks to the extra torque and bhp to compensate for the additional weight. Despite being a diesel it’s pretty refined too, unless you have the window down in which case you can hear the turbo whistle under acceleration – not an awful sound though. However despite these similarities I have ended up driving the big BMW very differently; mainly down to the automatic gearbox and fuel consumption (which I’ll get to later). Basically I try to drive a lot more calmly and with gentle acceleration to get the gearbox to change up smoothly and quickly, meaning better mpg!
Practicality and Parking:
One of my Mum’s biggest concerns with me getting my new car was parking – both at home and when out and about. In terms of driveway daliances things are yet to be settled, but the X5 at least looks handsome on the front. In car parks I am yet to experience much major difficulties and am more concerned with parking dings in all honesty. Parking sensors at both ends help somewhat but without visual assistance they are not quite as useful as they could be – plus they are a little oversensitive, although the tilting passenger side mirror (when reverse is engaged) helps a lot when pulling up against a kerb/seeing how close to the parking space line I am. Practicality-wise the car has not been tested too much; the rear seats are pretty spacious and the boot easily holds lots of soil from the garden centre. I like the novelty of the split tailgate design too, but am not sold on the long-term durability of the electronic catch mechanism…but yes overall it’s better than you’d expect from an imposing looking car.
Being a 9 year old car, with a 14 year old design based on a 19 year old platform, the electronics in this car were never going to be up to much – although in all fairness it does pretty much all that I need from it. The nav screen is large and has a decent array of options to configure, but unfortunately this is all controlled via a small knob which rotates in the opposite direction you’d expect. Navigation is frustrating as it does not accept post code and doesn’t update your route with traffic info (I believe), but with an iPhone in the car I doubt I will ever get lost. Sound quality is reasonable from the stock sound system and Bluetooth is relatively effortless to use once you have the car paired with your phone. My car also has a TV function but it’s pretty useless as the signal comes and goes and you can’t use it on the move for driver or passengers.
Whilst very reasonably equipped I have realised that my car is lacking a couple of things I would have liked; power folding side mirrors would make things a lot easier in car parks and considering the options this car has I am surprised the original owners did not specify this. The integrated sunshades would have been a nice addition too, or some sort of divider system for the boot to stop things flying about! The heated seats are great though and I don’t really have any complaints – the xenon lights are an especially nice addition.
For most potential buyers this is probably going to be the most important section of this post, and it’s important that any buyer goes in with their eyes open. When I got the car the trip computer said an average of 24.3mpg – abit too low for comfort even if this included a lot of forecourt shuffling and test drives. I reset both trip computers and have had a pretty mixed set of results; everyday 25.9mpg and 27.1mpg overall. Those are by no means awful but are less than I had hoped for, seeing as though my overall average is slowly going down as it includes a decent trip out to St Albans which saw 34mpg over a mixture of roads. The lower figure basically consists of me driving to and from work (6.5 miles each way), being pretty gentle but not slow. My calculations point out that the difference of getting 26mpg over my annual mileage vs 30mpg would only save me £250 or so per year, but psychologically it is quite hard getting mid-20’s when a tank of fuel costs me £125! I guess I don’t have much to compare it to but be realistic about fuel consumption if your journeys are short or you have a lead foot.
Possibly my main bugbear about my new car (besides mpg) is the way my iPod connects with the car. I have an FM transmitter which worked well in my Astra – the connector was big and chunky but positioned correctly it gave consistent signal and also charged my iPod easily. Now longer term I had always wanted to buy the much-praised Intravee II system which gives proper iPod integration, but had hoped that in the meantime my FM transmitter would have done the job. However no power appears to be going to my existing transmitted when plugged into any of the 4(!) power sockets in the car, and in fact when I try to remove it the fit is so snug it almost rips the connector out! Having borrowed a friend’s transmitter this does work in the car but seems to disconnect with a dodgy connection at any given opportunity. The Intravee system allows full iPod control via the infotainment system but is £150 plus £20-£100 for the Alpine unit needed to plug the iPod into. Apparently it is easy to fit but I am also concerned about the speed and durability of my old iPod classic – which would have to be boot mounted. I still intend to buy the Intravee system but how soon depends on if I manage to sort the FM situation anytime soon.
(I will finish this post in the morning! 🙂 )