It might seem strange that my Pick of the Day is an SUV, but read along and it might start to make sense.
In the mid to late 1990s the trend of people driving SUVs was already well on its way, and we started to see more of them on the road. Unfortunately not a single one of these vehicles was sporty or fun to drive. They were either bare bones commuter vehicles like the Toyota RAV 4 or off road focused vehicles made to cover rough terrain but not good when a paved road got twisty.
Then the North American part of a German manufacturer took a look at the SUV market and had the idea of a sporting SUV. That company was BMW, and the new vehicle they X5 launched in 1999 was the X5 SAV(which stands for Sport Activity Vehicle). Ever since the launch of the X5 the SUV market has never been the same and practically every manufacturer now has a sports model of their SUV, and even the more basic SUVs out there are much more fun to drive than the original versions of the cars.
So here is how the story goes. In the mid 1990s BMW had just sold Rover, and two people working for BMW North America, Rich Brequs, Head of Product Planning at BMW NA, and Rick Doolan, CEO of BMW NA, had an idea. These two crazies saw a market for an SUV that drove and handled like a BMW, basically an SUV that would also still be considered an Ultimate Driving Machine.
There was a faction within BMW who wondered why, when they owned and then sold Land Rover, they would even try to build a BMW SUV and doubted that any engineer could develop such a vehicle. I personally remember thinking the same thing, seeing the X5 as a crazy idea, that was until I drove one.
By the time of the launch of the BMW X5 at the 1999 New York International Auto Show, the car was an instant hit, selling out quickly and requiring BMW’s South Carolina plant where all the X5s were built to increase capacity to deal with the demand. The rest is history, and that amazing history is why I feel that the first generation E53 X5 should be considered as a collector vehicle.
This X5 is finished in Alpine White with a tan leather interior and has covered 114,000 miles from new. Before you question why I would post a newer car with higher mileage, try searching for an E53 X5 with lower miles. There are a few but the great majority of them that are for sale have well over 250,000 miles on the clock. The reason for this is that these SAVs are just so good at everything, from the daily commute to cross country drives. In good weather on nice roads to off road duty, the E53 BMW X5 just delivers and does so for a long time.
This X5 is described by the consigner as being an absolutely immaculate and pristine first generation X5. They go so far as to say that they challenge you to find a nicer, cleaner, more superb-driving X5. It is a low mileage, for an early X5, one-owner example that they say looks like a 2 year old vehicle. They add that it is in near flawless condition inside and out, and just as good mechanically. It is powered by the BMW 3.0 liter M54 225 horsepower inline six cylinder engine paired with a 5-speed automatic transmission. Options include heated electric leather seats, moonroof, navigation and lots more.
With the SUV segment being the biggest seller for cars in the U.S. I think it is time to start looking at the early examples of what were the best ones built as collector cars. The E5 X5 is the design template that literally changed the way the SUV was engineered and designed, leading to cars such as the Porsche Cayenne, the various Audi S series SUVs, and even more exotic models such as the Lamborghini Urus and the Maserati Levante. Any vehicle that literally rewrites the book on how an entire vehicle segment is designed deserves notice as a collector car and this is a nice example that illustrates that.