Late last year, I wrote about how I was starting to turn the corner on the E53 X5. At the time, BMW’s decision to produce an SUV was comparable, and many folks who lament the current state of the brand point to the X5 as Patient Zero.
That wasn’t helped by the fact that BMW marketed the X5 as a “sports activity vehicle,” eschewing any pretension of off-road ability. Of course, history has shown that BMW was merely ahead of their time, as crossovers dot suburban driveways like the dandelions growing through the cracks beneath them.
My personal favorite E53 is the later 3.0i variant, powered by the mighty M54 inline six. With excellent models like the Alpina-powered 4.6is, why do I love the 3.0i so much? It’s simple: they’re cheap, and they can tow 6,000 pounds.
For the uninitiated, that’s a pretty healthy towing capacity, especially considering this is a inline-six model from two decades ago we’re talking about. So what can you haul with 6,000 pounds of capacity? I’m so very glad you asked.
Three BMW K100 motorcycles – 2,030 pounds
BMW motorcycles are legendary for their reliability and performance. One of the most legendary motorcycles to wear the roundel is the K100 line. In full touring guise, a K100 is a heavy beast in motorcycle terms, weighing in excess of 500 pounds. With an X5, you can tow three of them at once…or several more, depending on how big your trailer is. I did the calculation based on using a nice three-rail open motorcycle trailer I found for sale online.
Your 2002tii, spare tires, and tools: 5,800 pounds
If you’re looking to transport your 2002 race car in style, how about an eighteen-foot enclosed trailer that can also fit a full box of tools and a spare set of race tires? That’s everything you need for a race weekend. Sorry, E36 guys, but even stripped down, your car is just a bit too heavy—unless you switch to an open trailer and pack fewer tools.
Tens of thousands of 10-mm sockets in an enclosed U-Haul trailer: 3,360 pounds
This one took a lot of math to figure out, but the good news is that you’ll never run out of 10-mm sockets ever again. U-Haul’s largest enclosed trailer is a six by twelve feet design, with an interior volume of around 400 cubic feet. While both the the X5 could support the weight of significantly more 10-mm sockets, the trailer itself maxes out at 2,480 pounds. Besides, why get greedy?
Another E53 X5: 5,850 Pounds
When you’re driving older BMWs, parts will break. It’s a fact of life. With an E53 X5 3.0i, though, you can always be prepared, because you can tow an entire parts car behind you at all times. With the money you’ll save, you can put it right back into the tank, because I’m sure your fuel economy will be horrific.
Helping your sister-in-law move: 0 pounds
There is one important caveat here though, and that is tongue weight. While BMW’s line of full-size SAVs like the X5 and X7 have respectable towing capacities, their tongue weight ratings tend to be around 600 pounds, which is a severely limiting factor when it comes to pulling a heavy load. Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped some owners in Europe from towing large Airstream trailers.
Here’s my advice: If you buy an E53 X5 and put a hitch on it, get one of those fancy M Sport bumpers with the plastic cover that hides it. That way, when your family and friends move, they’ll ask people with pickup trucks, not the low-class yuppie with the old BMW sport-ute.
I know this because instead of taking my own advice, I bought an old pickup truck last month, and I’m helping my sister-in-law move next month. Thankfully, she only has one 10-mm socket, no motorcycles, and no race cars, so it should be pretty easy, right?
What would you tow with an E53 X5?—Cam VanDerHorst
[Photos, From Top: BMW CCA, BMW Group, BMW CCA, U-Haul, BMW CCA, Cam VanDerHorst.]