By on January 20, 2020

2002 BMW X5 in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Now that I’ve been doing these Junkyard Finds for 13 years and having just written my annual 10 Best Junkyard Cars post, I’m taking a look back to see what historically significant vehicles I’ve neglected as I pursue weird examples of badge engineering and triviaquestion AWD versions. I’ve been working on filling in the blanks with junked BMW 3 and 5 Series cars lately, along with 21stcentury econoboxes, and now I will be trying to shoot more German luxury SUVs.

We’ll start off with this clean-looking ’02 X5, which I found in a yard just south of Denver.

2002 BMW X5 in Colorado junkyard, hatch emblem - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter the runaway success of the Ford Explorer, followed during the 1990s by ever-larger trucks and truck-influenced vehicles to be used as suburban commute appliances, the facts became clear to the European car manufacturers: build SUVs or watch your sales in North America go to hell. So, the E39 5 Series got a thousand-pound hat and a bunch of Land Rover hardware, and the first X5s showed up in showrooms for the 2000 model year.

2002 BMW X5 in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt was tall, it was comfortable, it was American-built, it drove more like a car than a truck, and the interior boasted plenty of soft bovine flesh. X5 sales went well.

2002 BMW X5 in Colorado junkyard, V8 engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis one is the 4.4i version, with 282-horsepower M62 V8 engine. With a curb weight of 4,960 pounds, every one of those horses helped.

2002 BMW X5 in Colorado junkyard, gearshift lever - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsUnlike its 5 Series sibling/cousin, the V8 X5 had no manual-transmission option in 2002. Instead, you got a six-speed automatic.

2002 BMW X5 in Colorado junkyard, RH side view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe base price of this high-tech machine came to $59,695, or about $86,600 in 2020 dollars. You’d think that such a high-zoot vehicle would get white-glove care and last for decades, but many third-through-ninth owners of costly European cars don’t keep up with maintenance, and the junkyard gets a phone call when a $1,200 repair becomes necessary. That’s why I see so many not-so-old A8s and 7-Series and S-Classes and Jaguars in the graveyard.

2002 BMW X5 in Colorado junkyard, trailer hitch - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’m going to guess that the towing package was an uncommon option on the first-gen X5.

2002 BMW X5 in Colorado junkyard, CD tray - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDedicated storage for audio CDs seems so old-fashioned now.


Just the thing to drive to the ski resort.

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27 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2002 BMW X5 4.4i...”


  • avatar
    WhatsMyNextCar

    I remember the first time I got behind one of these things. It was a couple of months after its on-sale date, and I was wowed by how sporty it seemed, as opposed to the doughy/dowdy ML-class garbage. The rear tires on the X5 seemed like they were wider than those on a C5 Vette. And the V8 exhaust sounded like a sports sedan. It was a stark contrast to the SUVs (not CUVs) we all knew at the time. This was no Explorer/Blazer/Pathfinder/4Runner. BMW wanted to use “SAV”, if I recall correctly. “Sports Activity Vehicle”. It had little interest in “utility”. I remember rolling my eyes at that, even though (in hindsight) it was true.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    These also came with the I6 – lovely engine – but woah, that’s a lot of weight to pull around with ~225hp.

    Friend of mine had a BMW 5-series: 545? 550? with the 4.4L engine. He was the second owner. He liked the car but ditched it once a very expensive engine repair bill came up.

    • 0 avatar
      ahintofpepperjack

      The M62 engine was a fantastic V8 engine and very reliable. Around 1996 they updated it and it became the M62TU. They added variable valve timing and changed the timing chain setup from an idler gear to a plastic guide. The M62TU always had issues with the variable valve timing system and that plastic guide would fail around 100k miles requiring a very time consuming replacement.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Weren’t there widespread issues with Nikasil? As well as timing chain wear (or maybe it’s just the guides that you mention)?

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Nikasil issues were with the previous m60 engine.

          In addition to timing issues, the m62s leaked from every gasket possible. The valley pan gasket was another time consuming fix.

          My 98 540 had the valley pan gasket fixed by the previous owner, and it was leaking again within 40k miles. I kept coolant in the trunk and just lived with it. I never had an issue with the timing, selling the car with about 195k miles on it.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Ugh… I didn’t like the SUV craze in the 1990s and I didn’t like this phase of it in the early 2000s either. To each their own though.

    BMW was definitely cashing in on it and I certainly don’t blame them.

    I think the X5 deserves some of the credit in the evolution between the truck frame SUVs with the car frame SUVs and so-called crossovers. That’s just looking at it as automotive history and the progression of the auto industry.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    What I find interesting about this is the interior – plastic *everywhere*, whereas now the standards are completely different.

    The dash is plastic, the center console is mostly plastic, the door tops and steering wheel hub are plastic. I saw some people excoriating the 2019 Genesis G80 (which, of course, was designed waaaay back in 2014) because the steering wheel hub isn’t stitched leather – piece of crap! – and it’s half the price this was 18 years ago. Now if you get a top-zoot Outback pretty much everything from the knees up at least pretends to be leather.

    The change in interior material standards over the last 10 years has been almost as remarkable as the uptick in performance standards, really. I’m quite curious what changes in manufacturing and design have allowed a $48k Telluride to look/feel vastly better now than a $100k X5 did in 2005 – supply chain efficiency? Complex designs are easier to make reliable due to improved design software? Economies of scale and a virtuous cycle as everyone started using nicer stuff? Breakthroughs in fasteners, glues, the cost of leather or fake suede or whatever? Automated manufacturing got better and allowed cheap assembly of complex components? Other stuff got cheaper and allowed more money to be spent on interiors?

    Someone in the industry needs to fess up!

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      That “plastic” dash is padded vinyl, actually pretty nice feeling stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        Upon a second look, yeah, the dash top is, but the bottom half, the door tops, the steering wheel hub, the center console edges, the center stack – that looks like it’s all your usual textured rubbery stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “Breakthroughs in fasteners, glues, the cost of leather or fake suede or whatever?”

      Many Naugas gave their lives in the early 2000s to advance the state of the art of automotive interiors.

      BTW- nauga meat tastes bland and it is chewy and plasticky.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Nice interiors didn’t cost much then and don’t now, past the economy car level what they give you or not is purely market positioning. A Telluride is nice because they’re 20 years in to one upping Honda and Toyota. This BMW is plastic crap because the Germans were selling taxi cab austerity as the opposite of velour.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Keep in mind that piano black wasn’t really a thing back then. That is tool of choice now to make a cabin look more premium because it looks much nicer (when spotless for the press shots and early test drives), but still very cheap material.

      More screens also help eat up real estate, while presenting as premium, that older vehicles had to figure out what to do with.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Will that motor fit in an E28 chassis?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    As Scotty would say endless money pits, better to get a Toyota or Honda.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    The weight of a Lincoln Navigator and the interior room of a CRV. Quite the engineering achievement.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    A friend had one of these… yes, with that glorious 4.4 and insane rear rubber. We used to joke that his X5 was connected to his debit card with automatic billing. Every time we met as a group our conversations started with “what’s wrong with it now” and it was guaranteed laughter for 30 minutes. I am a current BMW owner, though, so it was all in good fun.

  • avatar
    subuclayton

    That junkyard in south Denver must be situated in a very fancy part of town.
    TTAC sure finds a lot of great looking auto-corpses in this yard.

  • avatar
    geo

    Another temptation to avoid, as these go very cheaply now but maintenance costs will be several thousand per year.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    When these were new, they were the go-to vehicle for people who drove like a$sholes.

    Apparently little changes; I find that’s still true of today’s X5M and X6M.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Maybe those who buy these get what they deserve. Endless money pits.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    The saddest part of the X5 is that this model was the best one they ever made. It’s been a downward spiral in quality since then. BMW makes poorly engineered, unreliable, but fun to drive products. I would like to call it the ultimate lease machine, but why reward a company that has such little regard for its customers, even when their wares are still under warranty.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Seeing this reminds me that putting a “clear bra” on something that won’t be meticulously cared for and become a collectible is a fool’s errand.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    The only time I wonder about what people drive are those tailgating fools in Honduhs and Toyoduhs (most consistent idiots who tailgate in the SLOW lane). I have wondered are you an idiot for buying a Duh sister car or does owning one make you into an idiot? Regardless, I set the cruise control in the slow lane and let the idiots stew in their own stupidity/

  • avatar
    Fleuger99

    I ordered a 2002 X5 but the 3.0 litre six cylinder model and I ordered it with a 5 speed manual. It drove like a sports car, I could throw it into corners downshifting and then pushing it out getting on the gas. I owned it for 6 years before selling it but loved that vehicle. I remember in 2002 when I got it, it cost me less than $20 to fill it up, the good old days :)

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