Modern not classic 1999 BMW X5 E53

One of the most successful new cars ever dreamed up happens to be one of the most horrific secondhand. Words Tony Middlehurst.


MODERN NOT CLASSIC Classic or not… We explore old car no man’s land


The BMW X5 E53 is one of Munich’s best-ever sellers – but the secondhand scene presents many horrors

How do you keep sales strong on a long-running vehicle? If you’re Land Rover and it’s the Defender, you leave it more or less exactly as it was in 1949. For other car manufacturers the styling refresh process can become a problem. The old stager that people still want to buy has to remain recognisable, but it has to do that within a wider product range moving forward with entirely new models and new looks.

Modern not classic BMW X5 E53

Modern not classic BMW X5 E53

Which is why the 2020 BMW X5 has evolved from a beautifully executed concept into something with a back end that looks like a staircase and a front end that looks like your gran’s fireguard.

None of that will matter to BMW or to X5 E53 buyers because well over 2.2 million X5s have been sold since 1999, the sales graph line obediently hitting new highs with the arrival of each newly facelifted or comprehensively revised model.


Even someone with a pickled walnut for a brain could have predicted the X5’s success. If you stepped into a BMW dealership in 1999, when German cars still had a well-earned reputation for engineering

quality, you’d hardly be able to hear yourself think over popping champagne corks after BMW announced a five-seat battlewagon with Range Rover levels of ability and luxury (using plenty of tech appropriated from Land Rover when they were under BMW ownership) but without any of the RR’s finely-honed ability to leave you stranded on a mountain or, more ignominiously, on your drive. The best bits of Range Rover married to the best bits of the superb 5-Series (E39). It was the easiest sell ever.

That aura of German engineering invincibility has since been worn down to a stump by the withering effects of electronic overcomplication and ironfist cost controls. Now, as an ownership proposition, a used BMW is no better than a used Kia. Indeed, there’s a very good chance it will be a great deal worse. If you threw £999 at a gen-one X5 today, which you could, you’d spend four times that amount on getting it up to something worth less than £2000.

That’s the trouble with big sales numbers. Even early X5s in reasonable nick are never going to be worth anything because the biggest thing coming round the next corner will be a bill outweighing the value of the car. And thanks to BMW’s grubby overdilution of the once-proud M badge, even the X5 M versions will never achieve classic status.

It all seems like a sad fate for the first – and, some would argue, the best – BMW SUV. Still, in other news, there must be some new Land Rover tech on the way. Why? Because BMW is seriously considering the idea of acquiring a stake in Jaguar Land Rover. LR techies will already be working hard on a fresh batch of tall tales.

BMW X5 E53 used car horror story?

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