Hello Paul, I am a keen enthusiast of performance driving and I would like to upgrade from the E36 BMW 3 series (325i) to the X5 series. I am torn between the first generation BMW X5 E53 and the second generation X5 E70 for performance, design, comfort and technological reasons. What is the better option? Kenneth.

Hello Kenneth, without fear of being labelled old school, I have not been convinced about the dynamic performance superiority of the newer 2006 BMW X5 E70 over the older BMW X5 E53 launched in 1999 when BMW still owned Land Rover.

The newer E70 BMW X5 is more comfortable and leisurely to drive. It comes with better safety and electronic driver aids as well as convenience features but it lacks the grunt and bite of the older E53 X5.

If you love engine performance like I do then you should look for the rare N62 4.8 litre 355 Horse powered E53 to reach 0-100 KM/H in 6.1 seconds. The equivalent 4.8 Litre 350 Horse powered engine in the E70 X5 will do 0-100 KM/H in 6.5 seconds.

The smaller 3.0 litre petrol 261 Horse powered engine in the E70 has slightly better performance (8.1 seconds 0-100 Km/H) compared to the E53’s 3.0 litre 227 Horse power which takes 8.8 seconds to reach 0-100 Km/H.

If the 4.8 litre E53 is beyond your reach you can settle for the M62 4.4 litre petrol engine whose 355 horse power plant will make you leap from 0-100 Km/h in 7.5 seconds. The older E53 X5 sounds and feels more like an attacking young brute. E53 feels firmer on the asphalt and more dynamic when you push it hard through the curves.

The E70 X5 is less settled during aggressive driving and feels more like a tamed horse with less punch. E70 is wider (60mm), longer (165mm) and heavier (91 kilogrammes) which makes it less agile. If looks do not lie, the E53’s leaner and more aerodynamic shape makes it nimble and a sportier BMW of the two choices.

But there is a good side to the E70. Its six speed transmission makes it more fuel efficient and suitable for a smooth quieter drive. Comfort and convenience features are more refined.

The E70 comes with lots of safety and dynamic driving electronic toys. Manual transmission was dropped and the four wheel drive features the X drive. E70 has the space saving electronic joystick like shifter called i drive which connects electronically to the transmission saving space hitherto used for shift linkages.

The head up display projects critical information to the windshield while the active steering changes steering ratio according to speed and driving style. E70 gives a pleasurable drive with Adaptive drive, Active Roll Stabilisation as well as Adaptive Shocks. An imported or locally used poorly maintained E53 or E70 BMW X5 will be very unreliable and expensive.

Have it examined by a technical person before you put pen to paper or open your wallet. Previous owners are notorious for selling them to get rid of problematic transmissions or Diesel engines. The car importation age limit has probably cut off the importation of an E53 X5. Unless you buy a locally used one.

Causes of unstable idling

Hello Paul, my 2003 Nissan Maxima has unstable idling. I have changed spark plugs, air cleaner, fuel filter and ignition coils. I have even cleaned the throttle and fuelled at different fuel stations thinking its a fuel problem. Help me before I give up on it. Julius.
Hello Julius, do not give up yet. Having ticked almost all the inspection boxes, you need to ask the mechanic to examine the Nissan engine for a possible vacuum leak. Engine vacuum is generated from the internal combustion blow by gas and harnessed through the engine positive crank case ventilation valve. This vacuum helps to stabilise the engine during running and will play a significant role in smooth performance and fuel efficiency.
Overtime leakages will develop as the vacuum hoses at the throttle potentiometer, intake manifold, vacuum solenoids or the brake booster become warped and cracked by the engine heat, age or oil leaks. In the absence of a vacuum gauge or tester, a mechanic can use observation and tighten or replace all damaged vacuum hoses. Also, ensure that the intake manifold gasket does not leak due to damage.

Should we buy an SUV or saloon car?

Hello Paul, my husband and I have been driving a saloon car for a long time. We recently had a near fatal accident where our saloon car was written off after crashing into an SUV. We need to replace this car and are debating between buying the bigger SUV or another saloon car. Which of the two options is safer? Nnalongo.

Hello Nnalongo, the debate on whether SUV (Sports Utility Vehicles) or saloons (small to large sedans with lower floor and separate boot sale) are safer has been around for a while. This seemed to be fueled by the fact the taller SUV’s poorer centre of gravity made them easier to roll over in the past. However, with time, car manufacturers have mitigated this problem by lowering the centre of gravity in the designs and introducing active anti roll bar systems, electronic stability control systems as well as active damping among other passive safety technology. More recent statistics reveal that occupants of SUV vehicles have a 50 per cent higher chance of surviving severe crashes than those in saloon vehicles. But the question lingers; does driving an SUV automatically protect its occupants during a crash?
Size matters. SUVs are larger than saloon cars and have a higher mass ladder frame chassis construction which better absorbs the crash or collision forces, hence protecting the SUV occupants better in case of an accident. Flip side of the coin is bigger heavier SUVs will push the smaller saloon cars backwards or be more intrusive during impact collision which increases risk of serious injuries or fatality during impact. Before you write off saloon cars, there are variable factors you need to consider.
Design of the car in question matters. SUV or saloon, the crash worthiness of a vehicle plays a big role in contributing to the safety of its occupants. A car designed with all round safety features such as an integrated safety cell, roll cage, safety intrusion beams, multiple air bags and seat belts that retract stands a better chance to protect its occupants from injury or fatality than one without them.
Newer cars are better. Buyers of newer saloon or SUV vehicles should confirm that they have high standard passive safety features such as crumple zones, collapsible steering, supplementary restraint systems (SRS) with multiple airbags and seatbelt pre tensioners, Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution (ABS + EBD).
There are other important non-vehicle related factors that will play a role in contributing to accidents or determining fatalities.
Driver attitude: Aggressive driving, recklessness, poor time management and failure to give way.
Driver skills: Handling, maneuvering, response time, braking and observation.
Vehicle condition: Tyre, suspension, prior accident repair history general maintenance.