BMW X5 VS. Lexus RX300: 100K Mile Rematch

January 29, 2010
2002 Lexus RX 300

2002 Lexus RX 300

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We added an X5 to the fleet of silver SUVs in our driveway this past week. As a 2002 model with 120,000 on the odometer, it does not show its age. The silver paint is still well preserved and the black leather and dark poplar trim show nary a sign of wear and tear. It came from a loving home, with service records preserved from mile one.

An old X5 is nothing exceptional on its own. What makes it interesting is that the X5s stable mate is a silver RX300 with about 120,000 on its odometer. If it werent for that silver paint, the cars would share nothing in common. Back in the day, circa 2000, the midsize luxury utility market had just begun to explode. The RX300 and X5 were introduced around the same time, and were competing for the same wealthy buyers. About a decade later and with the same amount of mileage, the X5 has aged much more gracefully than the old RX.

I guess this is where German engineering comes into play. Material quality of the X5 is far more durable, which helps keep wear and tear to a minimum. Fit and finish is as good as any BMW made today and the design is far less dated than the RX. The X5 feels timeless, like its built to be around as long as you keep it running. The same cant be said of the tattered Lexus, which seems exponentially more dated.

Unfortunately, being that the X5 is German, means the sticker price is just the cost of admission. Once a member of the BMW club, your dues will take the form of astronomical repair bills. Hey, luxury comes with a price, right? A small oil slick on the driveway underneath the big BMW revealed a leaky valve gasket cover. $400. Expect to replace it every 60,000 miles along with CV boots, cooling components, bushings, and power steering hoses. Other than those, er, reliability foibles, the X5 shines in a way the trouble free RX never could.

Solidity of the chassis is still intact, steering is still spot on, and the doors still shut with a considerable thunk. Were happy to pay the price of repairing it because the wonderful X5 still has so much life left in it. The torquey inline six, and the physics-defying cornering ability of the 4800 pound SUV still amaze. Unfortunately, all enjoyment was drained from the RX300 about 50,000 miles ago. It was never a thrill to drive, but at least it was refined. However, a decade later, the renowned Lexus refinement is a little rough around the edges. Plush leather has cracked, wind seals have dried up, and noise levels are now louder than entry-level domestics. As of 2010, the RX300 is barely average and way past its expiration date. Yet as old as the X5 is, it will always be a BMW.

Automotive Blogger A. L. Foltz

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