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The first generation X5 definitely will not go down as the best-looking BMW ever produced, but I’d argue that it’s also not the worst looking of the high-riding ‘activity’ vehicles out there. And in some respects, they make a lot of sense. Pull up next to a modern full-sized trunk in an E30 or similar vintage ‘mid-sized’ car, and you’re looking directly at running boards. The X5 offered 5-series driving style with a commanding road position, and while it wasn’t really an off-roader let’s be honest – very few of the millions of SUVs you see out there ever see more than a gravel road.
What the E53 did offer, though, was a cross-over to the Sport package available in the E39. Because of that, you could opt for the 3.0-liter M54 hooked to a five-speed manual, and unlike the E39, you could opt to get those two hooked to all-wheel drive. They’re hard to find, but one popped up with some neat mods and in a neat color combination. Is it worth consideration?
Today’s Feature Listing is this well optioned, first generation BMW X5. Paul asked me specifically to write this one up because I currently have an e53 4.4i in my stable, and the seller’s quest in finding this example was very similar to mine. The e53 X5 was considered by many the best in class at it’s release — if not in the sense of outright off-road performance, but rather more than competent in handling the occasional foul weather detail and always feeling more than up to the task the rest of the time. In fair weather conditions it behaves like spacious 5 serious, which is what makes it such a great touring car coupled with a 400+ mileage range.
In the seller’s description he describes how he sought out the following packages for his ideal e53: Premium, Sport, Cold Weather, and Navigation. Trust me, this is the combination you’re looking for. Mine is too early for navigation and is also lacking the cold weather package; which means no heated seats and an omission my wife will never forgive me for. And yes, the sport seats are sweet upgrade in the cabin of a family oriented vehicle.
I like things that are different, especially when it comes to cars. I think that’s why I’ve always been attracted to fast wagons. They’re an unusual choice in the States and I like feeling like I belong to a special club. Back in the early 2000s, the Germans were just starting to test the waters with SUVs. Little did they know that within a matter of years they would become their bread and butter. Wagons were slowly pushed out of the American market and those that stayed sold in very limited numbers until they were lifted and given body cladding. As a lover of long roofs I shouldn’t be a fan of vehicles like the X5 but of all the German SUVs, it has always been the one I had a soft spot for, even though BMW tried to coin the term “Sports Activity Vehicle” when it debuted. Perhaps it’s the fact that they offered it in oddball colors like this Grey-Green Metallic which screams Euro country cruiser or maybe it’s that they offered it with a 5-speed manual. The idea of a German SUV with a 3 pedals being sold in this country is laughable these days but from 2001 to 2006, it was no joke.
Lest I trick some of our readers into thinking its some kind of SUV week around here at GCFSB, we’ll follow on to the X5 4.6is we featured on Monday with that truck’s successor, the X5 4.8is. 2004 would bring a facelift for the first generation X5, which would be exiting stage right in 2006. But BMW decided to have one more go at the über SUV formula by jamming almost 5.0 liters of V8 under the hood, good for 355 bhp. While the black 4.6is we saw on Monday was a bit stealth, you won’t miss this Imola Red 4.8is if it was coming at you.
BMW would take a gamble in the late 1990s by unleashing the X5 “Sports Activity Vehicle” onto the public. Would this truck live up to the “Ultimate Driving Machine” tagline? Well, after a friend’s parents purchased an X5 4.4i shortly after it’s introduction, I had only one answer to that question: yes. I was amazed how car like the X5 handled. It was as if it was a 5 series on stilts, but the increased height had little effect on how tight it hugged the curves. There is even an E53 X5 in the GCFSB fleet, as our owner, Dan, recently purchased a clean, low mileage 2003 X5 4.4i to replace a Volvo XC70.
This 4.6is represents the top dog of the X5 range for 2003, with 335 horsepower routed through all four 20 inch wheels. It’s not an optimal combination for off-roading, but it’s doubtful this black on black example for sale in Oregon would leave the tarmac for extended periods of time.