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Old 02-08-2014, 09:20 AM   #1
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BMW X5 Tow Vehicle

We're considering buying a 2014 BMW X5 to tow our Flying Cloud 25FB. (Our current tow vehicle is a Toyota Tundra Double-Cab 5.7L, which is great for towing but not so great around town.) There is a $1,500 option called "Dynamic damper control + rear axle air suspension" on the X5. I'm assuming that this would be helpful for towing. Anyone have any information on this? Also, would we need to replace the 18" 255/55 run-flat tires for towing? Any comments or other suggested options would be helpful.
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Old 02-08-2014, 09:45 AM   #2
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My guess is that a weight distributing, sway control hitch will be more effective than the suspension option. I have a BMW550i and replaced the run flats ASAP because of ride harshness and noise issues; however, the run flats have extremely stiff sidewalls which is considered to be a positive for towing.

Good luck!

John S
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Old 02-08-2014, 10:53 AM   #3
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John S: We will be getting a Hensley or Propride hitch to use with the X5 (we are using an Equalizer currently), but many posts on this forum lead me to think the rear air suspension would be helpful.
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Old 02-08-2014, 11:54 AM   #4
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We are currently looking at a 2014 X5 for towing. I have had an E53 X5, an E83 X3, and several BMW sedans. We would be purchasing in Canada, where the BMW options are bundled differently than in the US.

I think that the air suspension may be helpful over and above the weight distribution equipment, but not essential. It likely also adds a step to your hitch set up routine due to the need to turn it on and off while you adjust weight distribution. I don't know how that circuit is controlled on the 2014 model, ie how easy it is to turn it on and off. That would be worth checking.

Our base model appears to come with the 19" wheels here. I won't go larger than that. I will stay with the run flat tires. I have had them on two BMW vehicles, and haven't minded them. I bought replacement run flats as well. There are two camps on this issue, some appear to hate run flat tires. I would think that the stiffer sidewalls will aid in lateral stability, helping to avoid sway. I would look at the load rating of the stock 18" tires and compare it to the optional tires.

The full active suspension option gets good reviews from those wanting the ultimate handling package for what is a fairly heavy vehicle (by BMW standards). If I wanted the best handling X5, I would order it. I don't see dynamic damper control offered by itself in Canada, so hadn't considered that one. I believe it is incorporated into the active suspension option here.

I didn't have air suspension on the E53 X5, and didn't miss it, even when towing (smaller trailers than yours). If we do go ahead with the 2014 X5, we will not be ordering the air suspension or the active suspension option, as I personally feel that BMW often takes the path of most complexity, and the cost of those sorts of options also shows up in the repair and maintenance, not just the purchase price. I think the most reliable BMW has fewer options, not more (after having had six of them in the past few years, and enjoying all of them).

Which engine are you considering? I have looked at the diesel, and have owned two diesels (not BMW), but have a hard time justifying the price premium this time around.

Jeff
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Old 02-08-2014, 12:26 PM   #5
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We tow our 16ft with a 2009 X5….LOVE it!
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Old 02-08-2014, 01:08 PM   #6
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Been There, Doing That, Great Tow Vehicle

See my avatar and search on "withidl" and you'll find out all you need to know about towing with an X5.

I would advise going with the diesel which wasn't available when I purchased my 2001 X5.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:31 AM   #7
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jcl: We would get the X5 diesel. Since you have owned several BMW's, how would you rate your experience with reliability? In my limited research I keep seeing BMW reliabllity issues mentioned. Should this be a consideration in my decision or not?

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Old 02-10-2014, 10:23 AM   #8
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You might consider checking the reliability reports at Consumer Reports. They have been fairly accurate over the years.
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Old 02-10-2014, 10:34 AM   #9
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My experience with my 550i has been totally flawless. I believe the X5 is made in South Carolina while the 550i is made in Germany but I truly don't know if that is significant. We toured the facility in SC and were impressed. I know some BMW's have been problematic but my experience has been wonderful.

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Old 02-10-2014, 12:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wlanford View Post
jcl: We would get the X5 diesel. Since you have owned several BMW's, how would you rate your experience with reliability? In my limited research I keep seeing BMW reliabllity issues mentioned. Should this be a consideration in my decision or not?

wlanford
In my personal experience reliability has been very good, but I had a strategy to maximize it. The vehicles have been a 318, 325xi, z4 3.0, X5 3.0, X3 3.0si, and 535 M Sport. You will note that there are no V8 models there, I like the BMW inline six cylinder engines. All but the X5 had manual transmissions.

I don't think that the higher initial cost of a BMW correlates well with ultimate reliability, it isn't one of the design objectives. I think it is fine, but not outstanding. BMW focuses a lot on the driving experience, and if you notice and like that, then it makes sense to consider one. If that driving experience doesn't stand out for you personally, then there are other more reliable vehicles IMO. BMW engineers are famous for over engineering solutions to rather simple problems. As an engineer, I admire some of those solutions, but think that they overdo it too often. Just look at their automatic transmission gear selector. Or the electronic parking brake. Or the early iDrive interface.

I am active on multiple BMW forums. I see a number of nuisance reliability issues related to optional equipment (HUD, back up cameras with limited low light capability, panorama roofs, active suspension, entertainment systems, etc). I choose to spec my vehicles with fewer options, particularly electronic ones. This doesn't imply just buying base models, rather judicious selection.

With the 3 series and X3, I was comfortable keeping the vehicles a long time. With the 2007 535 (which had a lot of on board computers, electronic features, etc) I sold it at the end of the warranty period (4 years). I hadn't had any problems except one HP fuel pump, fixed under warranty, but I wasn't able to maintain the vehicle myself like I could the others, and I didn't want to experience it getting old. I let someone else find out about it.

If we get the X5, it would not have the technology package, adaptive suspension, or navigation. I think those systems get obsoleted faster than the 7 year BMW model cycle.

Long answer, hope that helps.

Jeff
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Old 02-10-2014, 12:41 PM   #11
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You specifically stated an X5 as your objective so I've passed on replying earlier but please consider an option. I've owned several new and used BMW's and they are outstanding vehicles but like all of the newer tech heavy models I would never purchase one without investing in an manufacturer extended warranty. To a certain extent reliability is luck of the draw but the modern features like HUD, adaptive suspensions, etc would be prohibitively expensive to fix on your own. If you do order one avail yourself of the delivery program at the Performance Center in Greenville. Their obstacle course and road course will demonstrate the vehicles true capabilities and the staff there is great.

Now to the option I mentioned; get diesel and you will never be sorry and if availability and pricing cause concern simply drive to a good Mercedes dealership and test drive a new ML350 or GL350 (the ML is sufficient for a 25 foot AS). I believe it would be worth your time, remember I'm a long time BMW fan but in the big SUV market MB is the better choice. My wife's GL regularly gets 28 mpg and 15 mpg towing our 28ft International Serenity.

My 2 cents, sorry for intruding on your thread.
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Old 02-10-2014, 01:22 PM   #12
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X5 Reliability

Concerning reliability, my 2001 4.4i Sport Package with Dinan engine/transmission software upgrades and larger Dinan throttle body has/had the following maintenance problems:

  • Right cam sensor kicked an error code while under warranty with no noticeable engine performance degradation (simple R&R).
  • Transmission torque converter "radial seal" minor leak noticed on garage floor at ~60,000 miles. Although out of warranty, BMW North America authorized the Dealer to replace it under warranty; ~$35 for the seal and ~$1350 labor absorbed by BMW Corporate.
  • Both left side window regulators failed (waiting for right side). Cost was ~$165 each, but the Dealer installed them at no labor charge while I was there on another matter.
  • Alternator failed (bearings froze while one of my sons was driving it). As I was out of town it was towed to the Dealer where the R&R cost ~$1,600. It should be noted that the original 4.4i engine has a coolant cooled alternator in the block, while the later engines have exterior alternators that are more easily replaced.
  • 2 each batteries replaced since April 2001, better than average life; latest replaced last summer with an AGM battery which cost ~$200.
  • I do all my oil/filter changes with Mobil 1 15W-50 at ~6,500 miles and with ~109,000 mile on the odometer the engine consumes ~1/2 quart of oil between changes.
  • Transmission has no dipstick and is advertised as "life time", but being a Texaco Lube Engineer I tend to know better so at ~70,000 I R&R'd the transmission oil. My cost from the dealer for the oil, which is a "straw" color (not dyed red) fully synthetic, was ~$35 per quart with a total cost of ~$230 (couldn't easily source it other than dealer).
  • Tire replacement averages ~44,000 miles for the rear and ~50,000 for the front. Due to a lot of negative camber on the rear suspension (for performance/stability) I have to "flip" the rear tires on the wheels at ~22,000 miles so that the worn inside tread is put to the outside where it no longer wears. If I didn't "flip" them I would be replacing them every 25,000 miles. I switch sides on the front tires as I cannot "X" them since the fronts are 255mm wide and the rears are 285mm wide. Last tire cost was ~$240 front and ~$285 rear.
  • ABS/DSC/etc "hydraulic unit" is currently leaking so I just keep adding brake fluid as the "hydraulic unit", which cannot be purchased separately from it's electronic control unit, cost ~$4,000; that's just for the part; so again, I'll just keep adding brake fluid as long as it keeps working.
The original cost of the vehicle in 2001 was ~$60,000 plus another ~$1,600 for the Dinan performance upgrades. That and the tax put the total at ~$65,000. For that I rationalize I got 3 vehicles:
  1. A powerful truck with a manually controllable automatic transmission to pull my ASCL 31'
  2. A luxury vehicle that is very comfortable on long trips.
  3. A performance vehicle which can run the "twisties".
So that's ~$22,000 per vehicle; it's my rationale and I'm sticking with it.
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Old 02-10-2014, 01:37 PM   #13
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Withidl, your experience is very applicable given the number of towing miles you have done. I would point out that your E53 is the same generation as my 2003 X5 was, and they were quite a bit simpler than the 2004 E53LCI, 2007 E70, 2010 E70LCI, or 2014 F15 (which is currently offered).

My X5 had oil changes every 18,000 km (sooner than called for). Brakes were replaced (by me) with low dust pads at 25,000 km and were still in good shape at 75,000 km. Original tires were still good (about 30% remaining) at 75,000 km but they were not the optional wider wheels. The only warranty repair was a LF wheel bearing, and the dealer replaced a door speaker grill at no charge after a rear seat passenger accidentally kicked it and it cracked. That was it as far as I remember, apart from scheduled services.

The X3 had water ingress to a taillight circuit that the dealer had to replace weather seals for under warranty. It had a battery at 7 years ($130), scheduled oil services at 24,000 km, and is on original brakes with 50% left at 90,000 km. Doesn't use any oil.

While the 535 failed a high pressure fuel pump (well known issue) it drove in under reduced power, and got a new one under warranty. Then the dealer called me in for a recall two years later when they went to a new supplier. They did it again, which was a nuisance but seemed like a good idea, since they upped the fuel pump warranty to 10 years. When I look back at my service logs, it also had a creaking dash fixed under warranty (they knew right away where to look) and door seals that creaked (they had a service bulletin and replaced the weather seals on all four doors). This was the first year of the face lifted 535, and none of these issues were unique to my vehicle.

One thing for the OP to watch for is that the nuisance failures tend to grow in frequency in the first year of a new model. With the 2014 X5, the diesel engine is a carryover, the transmission is new, and the body and electrical are new. I would give it a few months.
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Old 02-10-2014, 02:02 PM   #14
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X5 Maintenance Additional

I forgot to add the following maintenance items:
  • R&R'd the brake pads on all wheels at ~104,000 miles (first pad replacement), the disks were OK and did not have to be replaced or "turned".
  • R&R'd the left front half shaft CV boots. I did this myself and it's a bit of a job as the spindle nut is torqued to 350 #'........ had to use a LOOOOOOng cheater bar. Incidentally, replacement shafts from your local parts store are NOT the same diameter/quality, so I opted to replace the boots since the shaft and joints were OK.
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