POWER RANGER #2016
We head off to Finland in search of a mighty #BMW
X5M packing some serious horsepower. What do you do if your M3 is starting to feel a little vanilla and you want to explore further avenues of performance? Er, buy an X5, of course… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photography: Jape Tiitinen.
“Never apologise. Never explain. Just get the thing done, and let them howl.” So said Agnes Macphail, the first woman to be elected to the Canadian House of Commons, thereby leaving mankind a handy and quotable getout for doing things that may raise eyebrows. It’s all too easy to do things that you think people will like or approve of rather than things you actually want to do, for the sake of an easy life; this is particularly true in the sphere of car modification, especially in an age of the immediacy of social media. Perceived deviations from the accepted ways of doing things can be met with an instant backlash – ‘you’ve done that wrong’, ‘you’ve ruined that’, ‘that looks terrible,’ blah blah etc. Who cares? You only live once, your brief glimmer of time on this Earth is far too fleeting to worry about what a bunch of wallies on the internet may be judging you for.
All of which brings us to the elephant in the room here – that we’re looking at a modified X5, rocking enough horsepower to shame any 1990s supercar you care to name, and sufficient torque to knock the world slightly off its axis. Now, there will be people out there shaking their heads, tutting, passing harsh judgement over something that they view to be unnecessary and absurd. And while it’s tempting to tell these people to stick the entire X5 in their anodised aluminium pipes and try to vape it, it’s perhaps more constructive to simply attempt to encourage an openness of mind. For you see, a bighorsepower X5 actually makes a lot of sense, if that kind of thing is your bag. And even if it isn’t, you surely can’t help but admire the achievement of wringing 775hp out of such an imposing machine. Yes, you read that right – seven hundred and seventy-five horsepower. That’s rather a lot, isn’t it?
Near enough what you’d expect to find lurking between the slinky hips of the new LaFerrari, which is a fairly devastating comparison. Or, to continue the Ferrari tit-for-tat, it’s as powerful as two whole Testarossas. Two! This, then, is an X5 that’s worthy of your attention. But this was always bound to be the way – its owner, Aleksi Sorvari of Hyvinkää, Finland, has something of a taste for big-horsepower machinery. Driving trucks for a living as he does, he has a keen affinity with supersized displacement, aggressively loud turbo whistle and stump-pulling torque, so it’s only natural that this enthusiasm for telephone-number power would carry over into his private life. Before the X5 he owned an E92 M3, which replaced a Mercedes-Benz CLS55 AMG. Given that Aleksi is just 22 years of age, this is a fairly robust introduction into the world of motoring excess. Goodness only knows what the next step might be… “I bought the M3 about three years ago to replace the CLS,” he explains. “I loved it, and it received a few modifications – three-piece Rotiform wheels, various carbon fibre parts and so on – but after three years of ownership I felt that it was time to move forward and try something new. The X5M seemed to be the obvious answer; it’s big, it’s powerful, it’s different. It only took a few days of searching to find a decent X5M in Finland, so I bought it and that was that.” Aleksi must be in a tiny minority of people who’ve decided to chop in an M3 for an X5 on the grounds of wanting something fun and different rather than, say, being forced into the decision by a growing family or some other reason of practicality. But who says decisions like this have to be rational?
It can certainly be argued that the X5M is a solid starting point for a project. After all, this is no ordinary X5 – and as much as it may irritate the old-school badge purists, it’s a bona fide #M-car
too. Debuting at the New York Auto Show in April #2009
, it was one half of the first pair of #xDrive
cars to be developed by #M-GmbH
, alongside the equally controversial X6M. The twin-turbo #S63
motor offered a juicy 4.4-litre displacement from eight thudding cylinders, its 555hp surprising many a soccer mom at the traffic lights on the school run. Contemporary magazine tests verified its ability to accelerate from 0-62mph in four-and-a-half seconds, which is frankly loopy for a vehicle with this sort of mass (not to mention an aerodynamic profile that laughs in the face of drag coefficients in favour of belligerently shoulder-barging the air like a breeze block flung from a trebuchet), and the tech gurus at M HQ ensured that it wasn’t just a brainless drag racer, tweaking and honing the suspension and steering to make the hulking brute handle like a nimble sports car. It’s an irritator of supercars that you can use as a van; conversely, it’s a sensible, practical family car that also happens to have launch control and paddle-shift. So no, there certainly isn’t any need to apologise for the X5M. It is mighty.
And that outstanding factory might was just the beginning for Aleksi’s #BMW-X5
. “A friend of mine found a German chap in Abu Dhabi who has superior skills in tuning BMWs,” Aleksi grins. “His name is Jimmy Pelka, and he operates out of PP-Performance in Weissbach, Germany when he’s not in the UAE. As soon as I’d engaged him to tune my X5M everything started to move forward, and progress was quite fast – as is the way with top professionals. I ended up making quite a lot of trips to and from PP-Performance while it got everything running perfectly, and the results are pretty phenomenal.”
This was very much an international build too, with Aleksi keen to get experts involved in all necessary elements of the horsepower race. The turbos, for example, were hand-built in Finland. “These are very special units built by Turbotekniikka in Helsinki,” he divulges, evidently pretty pleased with having chosen the right guys for the job. “They were hyped to be involved with the build, particularly when we started talking about targets for horsepower figures. This kind of project was something different from its average daily routine, which is usually just service and sales; in the end, they developed and constructed a pair of bespoke turbos for me comprising Garrett turbo housings with Mitsubishi Evo IX internals and billet compressors.” Impressive stuff indeed, and a very focused approach. And with these otherworldly turbines spinning freely and boosting hard, it was over to Buchloe, Germany to have a word with the eggheads at Alpina. Well, why not eh?
“We needed to get a quality custom product to work with these monster turbos, and it seemed obvious that Alpina would be the people to deliver the goods,” reasons Aleksi, clearly a man with a mind to do things properly. These custom manifolds, enjoying a ceramic coating from Martelius, now find themselves mated to a full lightweight exhaust system from Akrapovic – a company based in Slovenia, and best known for motorcycle exhausts before more recently moving into racing and performance road exhausts for cars. The geography of this build really is darting all over Europe. But that’s evidently what you need to do if you want to turn an X5M from a supercar-annoyer into a proper supercar in its own right. Some degree of legwork is required.
Much like with M GmbH’s own approach to the X5M, Aleksi has been keen throughout the project to ensure that this is a cohesive and all-pervading programme of upgrades, rather than simply shoving a load of dumb horsepower into the SUV to see what happens. A neat manifestation of this is his decision to upgrade the brakes to a setup with rather more beef. When you’ve got LaFerrari levels of thrust to rein in, it makes sense to tickle the standard fare a little, and what’s ensued here is a #Brembo-BBK
upgrade featuring six-pot callipers, with the front discs a dinnerplate-like 405mm across. Fans of imperial measurements will have run a swift mental conversion and arrived at a figure of close to 16- inches and, as such, Aleksi needed some pretty big wheels to clear them. It’s safe to say, however, that his choice represents a level of overkill comparable to the bonkers figure on the dyno sheet. “The wheels are 22-inches in diameter,” he chuckles. “They’re #HRE
three-piece rims, ten-inches wide at the front and thirteen at the rear.” The Dunlop rubber that tenaciously clings to them is suitably girthsome, offering up a whopping 335-section at the back. That represents a contact patch comparable to the average London back garden, although it’s wholly necessary given what the poor hoops have to contend with – 826lb ft isn’t exactly forgiving. Aleksi needs this much rubber in order to stop the very Tarmac beneath him from rucking up like an old hallway carpet.
In addition, the suspension has been hunkered down somewhat in accordance with the newfound avenues of thrust. Starting as a teetering all-terrain cruiser, it’s never going to be scraping its sills on the kerb, of course – you’d need some body sectioning, a raised chassis and tubbed arches at the least to achieve that, but that’s a whole different ballgame – but you’ll spot that it’s unmistakeably lower than your common or garden X5, in spite of wearing such vast wheels. This is courtesy of some H&R lowering springs at the front, while the stock airsprings at the rear have been gravitationally persuaded by some bossy new software.
And while the boffins at PP-Performance were busy rewriting code in the X5’s brain like some freaky DVD extra from The Matrix, they took the opportunity to reprogram the gearbox software too; the #X5M
’box is optimised for performance, but BMW probably didn’t figure this sort of performance running through it…
The nature of cohesiveness with a project like this dictates that the comfort and aesthetics are on a level pegging with the grunt, as is the nature of the entire X5 range; while stripping out the interior and fitting a single Kirkey race seat would undoubtedly bolster the performance creds, that’s not really the point of an X5M, so Aleksi has enhanced rather than pared back – after all, this is his daily driver. The comfy seats have been artfully reupholstered with black leather and white stitching by KhreliX Design in Vantaa, and the exterior has received a few treats to warn other road users that the low-slung ride height augurs something frightening. Carbon fibre abounds, from the huge diffusers to the subtler detail of the kidney grilles and badges, working alongside the darkened lights and windows. Employing carbon-fibre in a project like this for reasons of weight-saving would be an exercise in futility, but that isn’t the point; this is about presence, aggression, forthrightness.
It’s fiercely unapologetic too. Okay, there will be a lot of people out there who can’t see the purpose of a performance X5, particularly one that could show a seven-figure hypercar a clean pair of heels, but we get the strong feeling that Aleksi isn’t altogether bothered about that. He wanted an X5, so he built the best one he could, using the finest materials and resources at his disposal. The opinions of the naysayers are immaterial; there’s no escaping that number – 775hp. Seven-seven-five. If he can achieve this kind of godlike grandeur at the age of 22, we can’t wait to see what Aleksi does next.
Hidden under all that carbon and plastic is a twin-turbo V8 monster with 775hp and over 800lb ft of torque!
The interior of the X5M has been given a subtle but stylish makeover with fresh new leather with white stitching.
You surely can’t help but admire the achievement of wringing 775hp out of such an imposing machine
TECHNICAL DATA TUNED #BMW-X5M
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: #S63B44O0
4.4-litre twinturbo #V8
, custom-built turbos by #Turbotekniikka-OY
) and #Fin-Turbo
), custom #Alpina
exhaust manifolds with #Martelius
ceramic coating, #Akrapovic
exhaust system, mapping by #PP-Performance
, stock transmission with upgraded software, 775hp, 826lb ft.
CHASSIS: 10x22-inch (front) and 13x22-inch (rear) #HRE
three-piece wheels with 295/30 (front) and 335/25 (rear) #Dunlop
Sportmaxx RT, #Brembo
with 405mm front discs, #H&R
front lowering springs, rear airsprings lowered with new software.
EXTERIOR: Vorsteiner carbon fibre front and rear diffusers, carbon fibre kidneys and emblems, window tints, headlight tints, rear wiper delete.
INTERIOR: Full retrim in black leather with white stitching by #KhreliX-Design-OY
floor mats, premium BMW audio.
THANKS TO: #Bimmer-Tuning-Club-of-Finland