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Old 10-13-2020, 01:04 PM
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Columbia, SC
Posts: 37
BenFenner is on a distinguished road
BenFenner's 2004 Silver SUV

Table of Contents:

Sister threads:
BenFenner's 2004 Silver SUV (SR20-Forum, must be signed in to view)

Facebook Groups updated with select progress:
E53 Xoutpost
BMW X5 E53 2000-2006 DIY Repairs
BMW X3 And X5 Off road and camping
Manual Elitist Jerks
Obsessed Garage
Ultimate Klasse Gruppe
Rare Wheel Awareness

1) Introduction

2) Up-to-date price record
3) Up-to-date fuel economy record
4) Up-to-date maintenance/modification record

5) Original sale listing
6) "Taking delivery"
7) VIN, odometer, license plate holder, rear wiper arm
8) New license plate holder
9) Cardboard luggage protection
10) Save the stick
11) Pics with Wagon
12) Pics with Coupe and Wagon
13) Recharge air conditioning

Last edited by BenFenner; Yesterday at 11:20 AM.
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Old 10-13-2020, 01:05 PM
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Columbia, SC
Posts: 37
BenFenner is on a distinguished road

2004 BMW X5 3.0i

Original listing: 2004 BMW X5 with a 6-speed manual transmission for sale (reproduced here as a backup)
VIN: 5UXFA135X4LB09205

Yes, I bought an SUV. I never thought this day would come, but I've joined the dark side. I, too, am now wearing a giant fucking hat at the theater. How did this happen? I'll explain.

I quit my desk job to focus on a career from home, likely as a remote software developer. I also plan to have children, which is a big part of why we picked up my wife's wagon a few years back.
With me at home, and Katie driving the wagon to work every day, it donned on me that I wasn't realistically going to drive an infant around in the coupe. So now all of a sudden I needed a 4-door car as well.

We also have been using the wagon to the fullest, hauling all manner of fire wood, lumber, and mountain bikes. It might be nice to have a car that would be better for that, and one we'd care less about messing up.

After learning a year or two ago that the first gen X5s could be had in a manual transmission, and those models were super-cheap (not many people looking for a manual SUV), that really got the wheels turning in my head. I did more research and learned the facelift (2003+) models had a 6-speed instead of a 5-speed, so that was my goal. The manuals were only available on the 3.0L I6 engine, so that's what I was getting. Later on I learned 2004 was the first year of the torque-splitting xDrive AWD system (previous years used a static 62/38 rear/front split using DSC and braking to maintain traction) so I guess I got that too. I should have researched a bit more and held out for a 2005+ model, as they came with a compass in the rear-view mirror. But that isn't a deal breaker, and probably can be retrofitted pretty easily (I hope).

After missing out on a local example due to a trip out of town, I said I would pick up the next decent example that came along. That just so happened to be a pristine example in Pennsylvania for an unusually high price of $5,500. The price was a lot higher than any of the others I'd seen, but this was easily the best-kept example I'd seen so far in the country.

This was in late April, right when the entire country shut down for COVID-19. I put down a deposit and waited for an opportunity to pick it up and bring it home. I've never purchased from a used-car dealership before, but Steve at Hellam Auto Sales was extremely helpful, communicative, and easy to deal with.

The good:
  • 6-speed manual transmission
  • Black interior
  • Bi-xenon projector headlights
  • No navigation/iDrive
  • Sane turn signal stalk operation
  • Heated seats (cold weather package)
  • Most components like the tonneau cover, window shades, spare tire, tool kit, etc. are present
  • Memory settings for seats/mirrors
  • A proper engine oil dip stick
  • Plenty of room to haul lumber/fire wood/mountain bikes/etc.
  • 7,000-pound towing capacity
  • My wife doesn't mind driving it

The neutral:
  • 152,336 miles
  • Dark-brown wood interior trim

The bad:
  • Silver exterior (my least favorite color for this car)
  • AWD (prefer RWD for simplicity, reliability, fuel economy, driving dynamics, etc. but will make the best of it)
  • No compass in mirror (2005+ had them, may retrofit)
  • No aux input for audio (may eventually add something for this)
  • There are some small cracks in the wood-trim
  • Missing floor mats
  • The fuel economy is abysmal
  • The infotainment display is missing ~40% of the pixels
  • The up/down temperature buttons for the digital HVAC controls rarely work
  • Broken/loose hood vent
  • Broken/missing plastic trim for trunk floor
  • Wheel locks that I don't have the key for
  • Rear wiper arm is corroded stiff (does not wipe glass)
  • License plate holder hardware is corroded

The ugly:
  • The steering ratio is horrid (likely to combat roll-overs) -- there is no wonder SUV drivers illegally swing wide during turns -- SUVs are so awful
  • The stock wheels it came with are hideous. (Plans to fix that in the future.)
  • Minor damage to the unpainted lower section of the front bumper cover
  • Ugly headlight washer warts

Driving impressions:
So here are the things you might not have expected.

First off, that steering ratio! Boy is it just atrocious. I'm sure it is to combat roll-overs, but it makes legal right turns almost impossible without a lot of effort. I now sort of understand why everyone else on the road drives so horribly...

The clutch/shifter action is decent, but not as crisp as most BMWs. The pedal placement is also not exactly typical BMW, making heel-toe action a bit of a learning process but after a week I had it down without messing me up for the other cars. The first-gen X5s are rated for 7,000 pounds towing capacity which was retained for the manual transmission. The way they pulled that off, was to make 1st gear a crawler gear of sorts, which gives up around 8-12 MPH or so. It is pretty useless in normal driving, so I hear a lot of manual X5 owners just start out in 2nd. It is a bit of an annoyance. Also, you'd think at least 6th gear would be decent the highway, but it is not very tall. The car buzzes along at 3.5k RPM or so on the highway in 6th gear at 80 MPH. I hear the 5-speed transmissions are only ever-so slightly worse. =/

Other than that, it's a bit wallowy, it's tall, it's obnoxious, it blocks everyone's view of the road behind me, and it can be annoying to park in tight places. It's an SUV. It sucks.

Future plans:
As mentioned already, I may retro-fit a rear-view mirror with a compass. I might get auxiliary audio input working. I will certainly fix/replace anything that is loose or broken.
I plan to get the OEM tow package to install, but it is NLA and expensive used, so we'll see when I can pull that off.
Maybe one day I'll delete those hideous headlight washer nozzles.

I have long-term plans to one day lower it a lot (possibly cutting deep into the unibody) to normal wagon height, but also do a baja/overlanding wheel/tire package.

I also feel one day I will EV-swap it, making it our first EV. I will retain the manual transmission. A manual is a must, regardless.

Who knows... We'll see.

Last edited by BenFenner; 09-27-2021 at 09:01 AM.
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Old 10-13-2020, 01:07 PM
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Columbia, SC
Posts: 37
BenFenner is on a distinguished road
Up-to-date price record:

Begin 2020 below.

$5,500.00 - Used 2004 BMW E53 (Link)
$339.00 - Sales tax (capped in SC at $300) plus misc fees (estimate, can't find records)
$44.71 - Property tax (Link)
$14.03 - New aftermarket license plate holder (Link)
$109.81 - A/C recharge (Link)

Total: $6,007.55

Last edited by BenFenner; 02-10-2024 at 06:05 PM.
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Old 10-13-2020, 01:07 PM
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Columbia, SC
Posts: 37
BenFenner is on a distinguished road
Up-to-date fuel economy record:

x.xx mpg - Worst track economy
xx.xx mpg - Average track economy (Raw - xx.xx/x)
xx.xx mpg - Best track economy

12.47 mpg - Worst city economy
13.75 mpg - Average city economy (Raw - 192.47/14)
14.93 mpg - Best city economy

12.90 mpg - Worst mixed economy
16.42 mpg - Average mixed economy (Raw - 147.75/9)
20.04 mpg - Best mixed economy

20.31 mpg - Worst highway economy
20.31 mpg - Average highway economy (Raw - 20.31/1)
20.31 mpg - Best highway economy

Last edited by BenFenner; 12-15-2023 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 10-13-2020, 01:08 PM
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Columbia, SC
Posts: 37
BenFenner is on a distinguished road
Up-to-date maintenance/modification record:

2020-04-11 ...... 152,336 ...... Purchase car from Steve at Hellam Auto Sales, PA
2020-05-04 ...... 153,4xx ...... Replace license plate holder (Link)
2020-07-13 ...... 153,689 ...... Recharge air conditioning (Link)

Last edited by BenFenner; 02-10-2024 at 06:08 PM.
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Old 10-13-2020, 01:08 PM
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Columbia, SC
Posts: 37
BenFenner is on a distinguished road
Original sale listing:

Here is a copy of the original sale listing.

Original listing in Facebook Group - Ultimate Klasse Gruppe
Shared listing in Facebook Group - Manual Elitist Jerks

Screenshot of original

Facebook album permalink (in case the images below don't show up in the future).

I will be posting up 2004 BMW X5 with a 6-speed manual transmission for sale this week and seeing if anyone would be interested before I do so.
One owner X5 with 152k miles. New Michelin tires. Heated steering wheel and seats. Everything works as it should. Clutch feels perfect. Transmission feels perfect, no pops or grinds. Just passed PA inspection with flying colors.
I’m located @ 17402
For more info please DM me, thank you.

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Old 10-13-2020, 01:09 PM
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Columbia, SC
Posts: 37
BenFenner is on a distinguished road
"Taking delivery" | Albums 1, 2, and 3

As mentioned earlier, my brother and I hopped into the wagon and drove 8 hours North to PA to pick up the car. It was decently uneventful, but I did see two other wagons.
More pics in albums linked above, as usual.

Last edited by BenFenner; 10-14-2020 at 07:28 AM.
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Old 10-14-2020, 08:11 AM
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Columbia, SC
Posts: 37
BenFenner is on a distinguished road
VIN, odometer, license plate holder, rear wiper arm | Album

I took a few pics after getting home just to document some things right away, like the VIN, the mileage, and some of the nagging issues I noticed.
The license plate holder has some seized hardware that I'll fix before putting on my plate.
The rear wiper arm is seized at the joint, so it is stuck up off of the glass. This is quite a bit less important, so I'll probably get to it a ways down the line.

Last edited by BenFenner; 12-28-2021 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 10-14-2020, 12:46 PM
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Columbia, SC
Posts: 37
BenFenner is on a distinguished road
A helpful member gave me some excellent advice in another thread regarding the aux input and compass mirror. Here it is for my records:

Originally Posted by iansanderson View Post
Great buy! I laughed a bit because literally all of the issues you described, I have been through and done. I recommend the OEM aux cord kit, p/n 82110149390. It's cheap, and with a bluetooth audio adapter, it's a perfect setup.

Compass mirrors are PnP. I found mine at a pull-a-part from a 2006, and paid $5 for it.

MID pixels were a big hit to the wallet. I think I paid $800 for a new unit after getting fed up buying used ones that didn't work.
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Old 10-14-2020, 04:43 PM
wpoll's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: South Island, New Zealand
Posts: 4,687
wpoll will become famous soon enough
MID pixels are a $20 fix - not $800 - if you get the DIY ribbon cable (PixelFix etc.)

But the ribbon can be a swine to install - if you aren't good with very fiddly electronic repairs, send the unit out to be repaired - likely only $100 for such a service.
2005 BMW X5 3.0d (b 02/05)
2001 BMW F650GS Dakar (b 06/01)
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