Last Chance To Buy: BMW X5

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The Independent Online

When is it going?

In April, there will be a new-look and larger X5 - 20cm longer, 5cm higher and 6cm wider - but do you really need a bigger and uglier X5, when the older and prettier one is still out there?

What's good about it?

It's a high-rise 5 series, which is a very good thing, as it means it is great to drive and versatile. It's a high-image cruiser, bought for its looks rather than its off-road ability. Despite its size, it is easy and, immensely satisfying to drive, and remarkably, has all the poise and comfort of a 5 series. Most have automatic gearboxes that change smoothly and suit the car well. The dashboard is lifted from a 5-series, with a few subtle modifications, so everything is easy to find.

While there's space at the back for three adults, the boot isn't the biggest but it is a good shape and the tailgate splits so that just the glass can be lifted. The lower part drops to give a flat loading platform.

If money is no object, then a pair of V8s offering 4.4 litres and 4.8 litres respectively have lavish specs that include auto transmission and leather seats as standard. The options list is huge, and many are loaded with extras. Otherwise, go for the 3.0 diesel. It's smooth and has just the right low-revs punch a car like this needs.

It tips 30mpg across a mix of trips, which is 10mpg better than the petrols. What's more, it is the slowest depreciator of the lot. Choose between SE or Sport trim. Both offer all you're likely to want, including alloy wheels, climate-controlled air-con and a CD player. If diesel isn't for you, there's a 3.0 petrol that makes a good enough fist of hauling the X5's bulk around,

What's bad about it?

No multiple seating options, but if that's what you want you should buy an MPV. High petrol running costs - they guzzle fuel - and it's a tame off-roader. The 4.8iS gulps fuel, costs lots to run and isn't even the best to drive. It manages just 13mpg on urban trips.

How much?

Recently, it has been possible to get discounts, especially on petrol-powered X5s. Even so, car supermarkets such as Motorhouse 2000 (08702 248440) can get deals on diesels, and a 3.0D Sport Automatic with high spec is £38,999, saving at least £1,000 on the usual price. Newregcars.co.uk (0870 922 0983) can get a 4.8i Exclusive Edition at £56,488, saving £6,152; or a 3.0d SE Exclusive at £38,844, saving £3,900.

Any snags?

Hard-driven X5s eat through tyres, brakes and steering bushes. Older diesels experience problems with fuel injection and cracks in inlet manifolds. Also suffer faults with air-mass sensors, which means poor running and flat spots when accelerating. Electrical problems are most common, followed by brakes and fuel-system troubles.

Specifications

Launched: 1999

Engine: 3.0i, 4.4i, 4.6i, 4.8i, 3.0d

Performance: 3.0d max speed 130mph, 0-60mph 9.6 secs

Economy: 32.8 mpg

Safety: NCAP five stars

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