Future Classic Friday: BMW X5

The original BMW X5 was a bold step for BMW. The company’s first foray into an entirely new market, which has evolved to become one of its staples, with the current range now running from X1 to X7.

In many senses, BMW was early to the party, predicting an evolution of the car market that would see increasing demand for performance-oriented SUVs.

Indeed, in order to explore its options in the SUV market, it’s rumoured that BMW’s 1994 takeover of the ill-fated Rover Group was partly to learn all it could from the engineers behind the iconic Land Rover brand about engineering such vehicles.

Whether these rumours are true, or the fabrication of Rover apologists, however, has never been determined.

Unveiled in 1999, the BMW X5 was, for a while, the most desirable 4x4 on the market, despite the fact it wasn’t actually that sensational off-road.

It was capable over rough surfaces and slippery tracks, but it was no Land Rover, a fact that poured foam on the suggestion that it was stealing Land Rover’s technology. Indeed, the only Land Rover-developed component it had was the brand’s Hill Descent Control.

Where it excelled, however, was in BMW’s traditional territory. Despite being an SUV, the BMW X5 was a great road car and in that sense it had a major impact on the car market.

Smaller SUVs such as the Honda CR-V and Land Rover Freelander had already proven it was possible to build an SUV with car-like dynamics, but the X5 took it one step further by creating an SUV that was truly sporty.

It had the power to match, too. The 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines were fairly punchy, but the 4.4-litre V8 was something else – lustrous, warbly and powerful, it gave the X5 a distinctively muscular character that defined it as something a bit special.

Then there was the M-developed 4.6iS, which American magazine Car and Driver gloriously described as ‘the car that kicked the Mercedes ML firmly up the fanny’, the f-word in question being a bum in American parlance, before you send in letters of complaint.

Unsurprisingly, the BMW X5 was a big hit, despite being one of the vehicles that kickstarted the whole ‘Chelsea Tractor’ image that would wind up the world’s environmentalists. By 2004, it had become BMW’s third best selling model, behind the BMW 3 Series and 5 Series.

It was, then, a car that was right for its time and bang on target, no matter what negative perceptions it developed. For a while, it was the car of choice for footballers’ wives and city bankers, which brought with it perceptions of the 1980s yuppy image, but if anything in a more negative context.

And to look at it that way is to denigrate the BMW X5 a little, as if you look at it from a pure engineering perspective, it was a terrific car.

In addition, it was also a trendsetter. Today, there’s a myriad of premium SUVs to choose from and while traditionalists may argue it was the Range Rover that created the luxury SUV sector, which in fairness, it probably was, it was the BMW X5 that introduced decent driving dynamics. Often copied, never bettered, despite what the purists say.

Indeed, just five years later, the Range Rover Sport appeared. An SUV that was developed to have peerless road dynamics. Whisper it, but Land Rover probably learned more from BMW than the Germans did from the Brits. Find a classic BMW for sale.

Ask HJ

Can I insure my 2003 BMW X5 as a classic?

I live in Enfield where i have to pay ULEZ. Vehicle is currently off road declared SORN, however I want to get the vehicle back on road in a month or two. I covered only 200 miles a year prior to ULEZ. I want a fixed price valuation for it, or how can i get a acceptable valuation for it, say £20000 or above? It's in showroom condition, bought from new and original condition with no restoration anywhere whatsoever. Which insurers can i approach please? What do I ask for? Can I do daily insurance and or should I go for a yearly policy, will this be a policy I use my NCB on or will it be a policy that don't require NCB?
As your vehicle is 20 years old you may be able to insure your X5 as classic vehicle with an agreed value and a limited annual mileage. You can read more about how to do this in detail on the Honest John Classics page here: https://classics.honestjohn.co.uk/insurance/classic-car-insurance-by-type/how-to-value-your-classic-car-for-insurance-purposes/ and here: https://classics.honestjohn.co.uk/cheap-classic-car-insurance/ However, it is important to be realistic about an agreed value, because it is not what the car is worth to you, it is a reflection of what it would cost to replace it for an equivalent vehicle. Looking online at other 2003 BMW X5s, even versions with the most desirable 4.6-litre V8 petrol engine and under 100,000 miles are selling for around £7,000. The insurance you choose will need to suit your use case, but we would suspect it will be cheaper to get an annual policy with limited mileage rather than insuring the car only on the days you wish to use it. You can enquire with your current insurer about this, but we would expect a classic insurance specialist to offer a better deal.
Answered by David Ross
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