- Post is under moderationBlast from the Past. We don our rose-tinted specs and sample Hartge’s 5.0 V8 E53 X5… it’s still a hoot to drive. It’s been a while since we drove an E53 generation X5 but this Hartge-fettled example reminded us what was so great about the original V8-engined softroader. Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Gus Gregory.
We may well be on the third iteration of the X5 softroader, or Sports Activity Vehicle, as #BMW still insist on calling it, but there’s something that’s still rather wonderful about the original E53 incarnation. In the right colour and sitting on the right alloys it’s still a pretty good-looking piece of kit that has aged well, although conversely in the wrong colour and on the smaller wheels it does also show its age. I still have a pretty soft spot for the car – a wonderful, if slightly expensive to run, workhorse in 3.0d form, and hilariously quick and well-mannered in the fruitier V8 varieties. Even after all these years one of my favourite car launches was the face-lift E53 X5 over in South Carolina riding the Blue Ridge mountains in a raunchy V8. Stunning scenery, hospitable locals and a great car to be let loose in.
Even today in my slightly madder moments I can’t help but have a quick trawl of used X5 values (usually in their brawniest factory 4.6iS and 4.8iS formats) so when the chance came up to sample the wildest of X5s this side of the one-off X5 Le Mans I jumped at the chance. The car in question is a Hartge 5.0-litre X5, fully converted when new by Hartge and its UK agent Birds. I can still remember sampling Hartge’s demonstrator out in Germany back in 2002 and finding it hilariously entertaining to punt along with prodigious shove from the fully-fettled Hartge V8 accompanied by a fruity NASCAR-style soundtrack.
On a recent visit to Birds’ Iver HQ to sample its divine 435d xDrive that you can read about elsewhere in the issue we spotted this dark green example, looking ever so slightly incongruous in amongst the more modern fare. One often has the chance to sample heavily modified BMWs when they’re new, but to come across one 15 years down the line is a rare treat and we couldn’t pass up the chance to sample this car to see how it has stood the test of time. Would it live up to my fond memories of the model, or would it be a huge disappointment?
Before we put the pedal to the metal though it’s probably worth having a quick recap as to what exactly went into this Hartge X5 conversion. At its heart was an engine conversion that took the V8 to 4930cc thanks to an increase in bore (by 2mm) and stroke (up 6.1mm) to develop figures of 380hp and 376lb ft of torque, good enough to propel this brick on wheels to 150mph while knocking off the benchmark 0-62mph dash in a smidgen under six seconds. It wasn’t just about a capacity increase though as there was a bespoke Hartge exhaust with four howitzer-sized tailpipes and to ensure it handled the extra power the chassis came in for some upgrades, too. There were stiffer anti-roll bars and a Hartge suspension set up that lowered the car by around 30mm to ensure that the big SAV’s bulk was kept in check when pushing on.
Rounding off the package was a styling kit that included a hugely aggressive front apron and a very sexy set of 22-inch rims. Even today 22s are pretty big, but 15 years ago these really were something to write home about. And it would seem that the past 15 years have been pretty kind to this particular X5 and it’s still in excellent condition as befits a car that’s covered less than 50k miles during its life. It’s also benefited from a few pleasant upgrades such as an M3 steering wheel complete with paddle-shift gear change and a well-integrated aftermarket sat nav and entertainment system in place of the outdated standard fit nav screen.
The proof of the pudding though is in the driving and simply twisting the key (remember keys – a joy to use after the modern fad of keyless go and push button starts) elicits a wonderful throaty roar from the rear of the car before it settles down into a bassy idle that’s just a tad more menacing than the regular X5 V8. Trundling away from Birds the X5 is certainly eager to get a move on and feels a little bit like a caged tiger prowling the streets. On rougher roads those gumball wheels and tyres do make the car fidget quite a bit and be under no illusion that this machine will provide a billiard smooth ride, but despite this the X5 starts to wheedle its way under your skin, making you smile every time you prod the loud pedal and grin a little as it tries to take off into the next county.
Crusing up the motorway to our shoot location and the X5 garners plenty of glances from other motorists and that bold front end styling that Hartge gave to the car proves to be very effective at clearing slower moving traffic from your path as other drivers seem to be convinced the X5 is simply going to Hoover them up through the huge air intakes. If we were to let it off the leash it feels like it would still hit its 150mph maximum, but that’s a game best not played on the M40 so we make do with entertaining ourselves once we reach the backroads.
On A roads and fast B roads it’s a real hoot to punt along, feeling pretty rapid in isolation, no doubt a feeling partially assisted by the wonderful V8 soundtrack. Its outright speed is to a certain extent put into context by the 435d that I’m chasing, but as you can read elsewhere in the issue that machine is insanely fast. The X5 corners pretty well too – grip is never an issue thanks to the huge footprint and the four-wheel drive, but when the roads get rougher and more bumpy you do end up being a little more circumspect as those big wheels can upset the ride to quite a degree.
Overall though the Hartge 5.0 X5 still convinces as well as it did back in 2002. This one has been lovingly looked after and seems to be in fine fettle. If you’re after the ultimate X5 pop along to Birds and give it the once over, you won’t be disappointed.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE: #2002 / #BMW-Hartge / #BMW-X5-5.0 / #BMW / #Hartge / #BMW-X5 / #BMW-X5-E53 / #BMW-E53 / #BMW-E53-Hartge / #BMW-X5-Hartge / #BMW-X5-Hartge-E53 / #Hartge-X5-5.0 / #Hartge-X5-5.0-E53
ENGINE: #V8 32-valve / #M62 / #BMW-M62
MAX POWER: 380hp / DIN
MAX TORQUE: 376lb ft / DIN
TOP SPEED: 150mph
0-62MPH: 5.9 seconds
Contact Birds where the car is for sale for more information
CONTACT: Birds Garage
Tel: 01753 657444 Web: www.birdsgarage.co.ukStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderation/ #Chris-Pellowe / #BMW-E38 / #BMW-735i / #BMW-735i-E38 / #BMW-7-Series / #BMW-7-Series-E38 / #M62 / #BMW-M62 / #M62B35
You really can’t go wrong with a nice E38 and Chris’ example is most definitely that. When he bought the car it was a tatty Aspen silver example with tired paintwork, an interior seemingly trimmed in dog hair and loose bits of trim flapping about the place. But no more. The outside has been wrapped by Chris himself under a gazebo in what he describes as “a sort of matt purple chameleon colour” which we think looks great. It’s been given a serious drop on some #BC-Racing coilovers and fitted with some 18” #Japan-Racing JR10s, which really suit the car. The whisper quiet exhaust has been replaced with some straight pipes to allow Chris to really enjoy that #V8 soundtrack. Finally, the outdated 4:3 ratio sat nav and DSP have been thrown out, upgraded speakers and a standalone amp have been fitted, and the dash now sports a seventh gen Kindle with a flashed Android ROM, which has endowed this 7 Series with a mobile hotspot for Google Services and Spotify on the go.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderation/ #1998 / #BMW-E31 / #BMW-840Ci-Sport / ESTIMATE £10,000-£12,000 / #BMW-840Ci-Sport-E31 / #BMW-840Ci-E31 / #BMW-8-Series / #BMW-8-Series-E31 / #BMW
With the rise in classic values it would seem like the decent E31s will be experiencing a rise in value soon – prices being asked for 850CSis recently must mean that the #V8 -engined 840Ci #BMW-M62 / #M62 / #M62B44 , especially in Sport trim, will follow. This one looks lovely in Barbados green with light parchment leather and with 62k miles showing and an extensive history it looks like good value.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationSWEET LIKE CHOCOLATE #BMW
With a 4.4 V8 under the bonnet, this is one tasty E30 Cab. With a delicious paint job good enough to eat and a V8 under the bonnet, this E30 Cab is a treat for the eyes and ears. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Matt Richardson.
A few years ago, all manufacturers suddenly decided that now would be the time that brown cars were ‘in’ and every new car we saw in photos from motor shows etc were brown. And, you know what? It was alright. Jakub Wojciechowski thought similarly, and with his E30 Cab rocking a luscious cookies and cream colour scheme, he’s got a car that seriously works. Though if you still need convincing there’s also the V8 under the bonnet… Yeah, we thought that might win you over.
Originally from Poland, Jakub has spent the past eight years in the UK and all of his life lusting after BMWs: “My first car was a E30 325e Coupé. I wanted an E32 7 Series but they were too expensive so I ended up with the E30 instead; it was nice but after six months I found myself wanting more power so I sold it.” Two weeks later he found himself a resident of the UK and not long after that he found himself behind the wheel of a SEAT Toledo. “It was fun to drive,” he says, “but FWD is never as much fun as a rear-wheel drive car...”
One fortuitous day, whilst out on a job in London for the automotive window repair firm he works for, Jakub drove into the wrong car park and instead of finding his customer’s car, he found this car. “It was a Dolphin grey 325i that had been crashed into. The nearside of the car was damaged, and there was a ‘for sale’ sign in the window...”
£750 later he was the proud owner of a rather sorry-looking German E30 (hence the left-hand drive), but he had plans, big plans: “I wanted to put something else under the bonnet, so I spent a lot of time on various forums and sites seeing what I could fit; I wanted the biggest and best engine I could get, so it had to be the 4.4-litre M62 V8.”
When Jakub gets an idea in his head, he doesn’t waste time: “I had it for four days and then drove it over to Poland and left it with a friend of mine who was going to do the work for me.” Car deposited and ready for its transformation, step two was getting hold of a donor car, so Jakub did just that: “I bought an E38 740i for £1300, drove it to Poland, gave my friend the engine and gearbox then broke the car and made my money back.”
Once back in the UK again, Jakub’s friend informed him that the 740’s auto ’box wasn’t going to fit into the E30, so Jakub went shopping once more, snapping up a V8- powered E34 530i with a five-speed manual for £525 and once again hit the road, delivering it to his friend. Jakub then left his friend to get on with it, happy in the knowledge that before too long he’d be hitting the streets in his very own V8-powered E30. Unfortunately, things rarely work out exactly the way they’re meant to…
After a year and a half, Jakub’s friend gave up on the project, telling him it was too involved. A disillusioned Jakub left the car sitting for another year before he could find the energy to try and get the project off the ground again. Attempt number two, however, proved to be a lot more successful as his research led him to the doors of PUZ Drift Team Polska; not only was this outfit extremely successful when it came to drifting, winning the Monster Energy King of Europe series, it also happened to have no less than four M62-powered E30s.
“The guys there knew what they were doing,” grins Jakub. Seeing a V8 under an E30’s bonnet never fails to impress – there’s just so much engine stuffed into such a small space and if you can look at those pictures without making V8 noises in your head (or with your mouth, we won’t judge) and imagine it doing a massive smoky burnout, there must be something wrong with you. The engine’s been equipped with a set of X5 exhaust manifolds as they fit in the confines of the E30’s engine bay and there’s a 2.5” manifold-back, cat-free exhaust that runs to a rear silencer and is finished off with a pair of 60mm tailpipes, the drop-top allowing Jakub to really enjoy that awesome V8 soundtrack. The five-speed ’box has been mated to a shortened propshaft which connects up to an LSD, because when you’ve got that much grunt up front, you need to be able to put it down where it counts.
While the V8 swap was a major part of this build, there’s so much more going on here and Jakub really has left no stoned unturned. We need to talk about the interior, because it’s going to raise a few eyebrows but, hey, at least it’s not dull grey or boring black, right? “The car was originally twotone,” explains Jakub, “gold on top and bronze on the bottom so I wanted an interior that would match; I left everything with my mum’s friend and one year later the interior had been transformed to look like this.” A two-tone car with a two-tone interior is a bold look that some people might find challenging, but it was exactly what Jakub wanted. “I had the car in its twotone colours for three years,” he says, “and then I saw an X1 in Marrakesh brown and I immediately knew that I wanted that colour for the E30,” he says. Marrakesh is a lush, rich brown, with a gorgeous metallic flake to it – it’s the kind of deep colour you just want to dive into and it looks fantastic with the light on it, picking out all the details on the bodywork. And, even though the interior was created with a different exterior colour in mind, it still works here, adding a second shade of brown, like hot fudge sauce on a rich chocolate cake, and then topping the whole lot off with some cream. Delicious.
A five-stud conversion has been carried out, using E36 Compact rear components and E30 M3 front components, the latter being far from cheap but generally regarded as the right way to do a front-end five-stud conversion if funds allow, with everything bolting straight on and requiring no modifications. E36 328i brakes have also been fitted, giving this E30 rocket ship a useful increase in stopping power.
With the five-stud conversion the world is your oyster when it comes wheel choice, though actually finding a set that Jakub liked and that were the correct fitment for the car proved tricky. “Initially I had some 18” Alpina wheels from an E34 on it but the offset was all wrong. I was going to get another set but the offset on all the ones I looked at was either too low or too high. Then I found these 7.5x17” wheels in white and the right offset so I bought them. They were cheap and they suit the car,” says Jakub and we have to agree. The arches have been pulled by 8mm to fully accommodate them and they work with the brown, the interior and they definitely work with the drop that the E36 eBay coilovers Jakub’s fitted deliver. The car also sports a pair of replica M Tech 2 bumpers, which have had the rubbing strips removed and have been fully colour-coded. Jakub’s carried out a quad projector HID headlight conversion with LED angel eyes.
“It’s been to three different garages, three different bodyshops and two different upholsterers,” says Jakub wistfully, “and parts have gone missing. The guy who did the leather died before he could finish the soft top panel and the person I took it to couldn’t match the interior colour so it’s been trimmed in black leather for now. I’m still looking for some Shadowline trim as I’m not a fan of the chrome and I would love a set of BBS LMs, RSs or a set of E32 Alpina 17s,” he adds, “but I eventually want to sell this car and buy an E28 M535i but I’m going to keep that standard.
“I sometimes wish I hadn’t touched this car in the first place. I like it and it makes me happy, but on such a big project there’s always something to do,” he sighs.
He is right, of course, a project like this is a big undertaking and it can easily turn into one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time but that you end up regretting when there just doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
For some people, the thrill is the build but it’s actually probably a more normal emotional response to want to finish a project car so you can enjoy it, though we doubt many of us can relate to that. “Having said that,” says Jakub with a smirk, “I don’t regret a single penny I’ve spent on it.”
There it is, that little spark of joy that is always there with any modified car, even when you’re fed up with it, even when you wish you’d never started a project in the first place and when you can’t stand the sight of the thing – all it takes is that single moment where you realise that, actually, despite all that, deep down you still love your car. No one can go through the drama of building your car but you, we as outsiders only see the finished product that we admire at the petrol station, on the street, at a show. Jakub’s journey with the E30 has been long and arduous, a lot of downs fighting with the ups, but all it takes is that one moment of joy and you’ll be reminded that what you’ve built is something pretty delicious.
DATA FILE #BMW-V8 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-Cabrio / #BMW-E30-V8 / #BMW-E30-M62 / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabriolet / #BMW-3-Series-Cabriolet-E30 /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.4-litre #V8 #M62B44 / #M62 / #BMW-M62 , X5 exhaust manifolds, twin 2.5” custom stainless steel exhaust system, back box with twin 60mm tips, E34 530i V8 five-speed manual gearbox, 25% locking LSD
CHASSIS 7.5x17” (front and rear) wheels with 205/40 (front and rear) Blacklion BU66 Champoint tyres, five-stud hub conversion, E36 adjustable coilovers, double brake servo moved behind headlights
EXTERIOR Debaged front and rear, side trims removed from doors and wings, aerial and door locks removed, wheel arches pulled 8mm
INTERIOR Full leather retrim in custom twotone finish including dash, steering wheel and centre console, heated front seats
THANKS To my mum Dorota for all the running around she’s done, car hire and garage, Furman in Lubon Poland, RS PUZ in Torun Poland
“I saw an X1 in Marrakesh brown and I immediately knew I wanted that colour for the E30”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationStunning Alpina Roadster V8. The Other Z8. It might look like a Z8, but Alpina’s Roadster V8 was an entirely different animal and all the better for it.
Think this is a BMW Z8? Think again! It’s the even rarer #Alpina Roadster V8, but it might just be the car the Z8 should have been in the first place… Words: Matt Robinson. Photography: Max Earey.
ALPINA ROADSTER V8
Late summer, 2003, Nottingham. A different time, a different world, a different job. I might be making this sound overly nostalgic, given we’re only talking about 13 years ago but in many ways the pace of change in the 21st century does make the early 2000s feel like a different era in retrospect. Take BMW. Back on that sunny day I’m referencing above, the company’s lineup ran thus: Three, Five, Seven, X5, Z4. The 6 Series was on the way but it wasn’t in showrooms. That list doesn’t, of course, include the MINI, which was still only a three-door hatch at that point, but it’s clear to see that the current widespread diversification of the Munich fleet had not yet begun to take effect.
Actually, I’m missing a car out of the 2003 roll call of honour and that’s the Z8, one of BMW’s largely forgotten vehicles. A glorious mix of the cutting edge (aluminium space frame chassis, 4.9-litre V8 from the contemporary M5) shoehorned into that indulgently classical body (designed to evoke the 1950s 507 Roadster) it rather spectacularly missed its target because it didn’t appeal to flame-surfaced petrolheads wanting the latest Bangle designs, nor did its six-speed manual gearbox and rather aggressive manner coerce historic car buyers into shelling out for it. Almost 6000 of them were made, which suggests that #BMW would argue the Z8 was an unqualified success, but we can’t help feeling that without a largely underwhelming appearance in the Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond film franchise (it basically did bugger all before getting cut in half longitudinally with a helicopter-mounted buzzsaw), BMW’s most opulent roadster would have fared worse on the global markets. It needed to be a little more laid-back, a little more comfortable to ride in. It needed an automatic gearbox option. In short, it needed to be more like the Alpina Roadster V8.
Which is the reason I’m banging on about Nottingham in the days when England’s cricket team were still desperately searching for an Ashes series victory, when Gareth Gates was (shudder) a force to be reckoned with in the charts, and when Tony Blair was midway through his second term as Prime Minister. Because, lucky sod that I am, I was in the biggest city in the East Midlands that day in order to drive an Alpina Roadster V8 when it was new. It was car 47 of 555 and it was Sytner’s demonstrator, finished in Stratus grey with a light-coloured leather interior. It was utterly glorious and, as cars go, rarer than rare. Sure, 555 might not seem the most limited of production runs but 450 of the Roadster V8s were destined for the US, another 75 remained in mainland Europe, 20 headed east to Japan, and the final ten were allocated to the UK – although rumour suggests only eight of these actually sold. I drove that 2003 UK car and thought it was magical. I was also convinced I’d never, ever get to have a go in one again.
Cut to a cold moorland road somewhere between Bradford and Hebden Bridge, early 2016. And to my surprise, I’m in a 2003 model year Alpina Roadster V8 once more. This time, naturally, it is not new, but it might as well be – the example I’m in has covered a scant 15,000 miles in its 13-year life and it feels as tight as the proverbial percussion instrument. The mellifluous 4.8 up front is burring away, responding with decent haste to throttle inputs and shoving the ‘modern classic’ forward with real intensity. The Alpina Switchtronic gearbox isn’t unduly hesitant or struggling to find the right cog for the job, while its quaint, handstitched ‘+’ and ‘–’ buttons on the steering wheel prompt shifts as and when you need them. It feels good to be back in the saddle. Actually, scratch that; it feels superb. It seems this most curious of Alpinas has retained all of its allure, and then some.
And that undiminished appeal brings us onto another area where 2003 again feels like a different era. Back then, the brand-new Roadster V8 was around £6000 more expensive than the 400hp Z8, costing £86,000 in the UK. Time, though, has done funny things to the values. The BMW Z8 has become something of a collector’s piece, despite everything, with values sky-rocketing past the original purchase price. So imagine what has happened to the financial status of a car of which just 555 were made. This one, in the more traditional Titanium silver so many Z8s are seen in, is No.116, a machine which has spent its pampered life cloistered away in a collection over in the US. Imported back here by those connoisseurs of fine automotive exotica, Kahn Design, it is now up for sale – with a previous owner on the logbook and 15,000 miles on the clock – for practically three times its original value. You’ll get a fiver change from £240,000 if you want to buy it. Wow.
It is an astonishing market performance for a less well-known example of an often-overlooked BMW model. But maybe there’s a wider appreciation for its deliberately retro looks nowadays. Put it this way, in about four hours in the Roadster V8’s company for our photoshoot, we had the full gamut of public response: young kids on the roadside gawped and even applauded as it trundled past (maybe the ‘OO 77’ numberplate helped); one bloke in a garage was convinced it was a modern re-creation; another was astonished when we told him that the Alpina was from 2003, not 1963.
Yet it cannot be denied that the Roadster V8, and by extension the Z8 on which it is based, is a gorgeous car. That long bonnet, those sweeping haunches, the slender rear light clusters – it’s a design where you can really enjoy spending a long time simply drinking in the details. For what it’s worth, Alpina didn’t do a lot to BMW’s basic shape. You’ll notice there’s no branded ‘cow-catcher’ spoiler adorning the Roadster’s face, nor are there side skirts or a revised rear bumper. The V8 actually wears a lot of BMW roundels, on its bootlid, side gills and at the pointiest bit of the sharp prow. The biggest giveaways that you’re not dealing with your common or garden Z8 are the Alpina legend on the Roadster’s rump and those 20-spoke alloys – not cotton-reels, in this instance, but rims with five clusters of four spokes each. When driving No.47 back in 2003, I was told by Sytner’s then-representative that fitting spoilers to the Roadster V8 would have been “like putting a moustache on the Mona Lisa”. What was true then remains valid now.
Linked to the lack of a bodykit, the biggest change Buchloe made to the Z8 was one you cannot see, with the E39 M5 drivetrain of the regular car replaced by one of Alpina’s own making. A 4.8-litre V8 developing 381hp (down 19hp on the Z8) and 383lb ft (up 14lb ft on the Z8, and crucially peak torque is available at lower revs in the Roadster V8, too), it was mated to Alpina’s five-speed Switchtronic automatic. That last detail alone is what made the Roadster infinitely more appealing in the US than the manualonly Z8. But what has all this got to do with spoilers?
Well, although the Alpina is slightly slower on acceleration than the Z8, clocking the 0-62mph sprint in 5.3 seconds compared to 4.7 for the BMW, it has a higher top speed of 166mph against the Z8’s 155mph limited maximum. However, the Alpina could go faster still, but aerodynamic lift beyond 166mph means that a rear spoiler would be needed – and we’re back at square one in terms of disrupting the Roadster V8’s delicate exterior lines. The fantastic interior is much the same story of restraint. No.116 has black leather, which is practical, and again the Alpina changes are subtle. The trademark blue dials are in place, complete with the little gear indicator directly in front of the driver, while there’s an Alpina-branded centre boss on the exquisite three-spoke steering wheel, which also features the green-and-blue stitching of Buchloe. Other than that, it’s the same as a Z8, Switchtronic gear lever notwithstanding. Again, this is no bad thing, because the Z8 used bespoke switchgear that you won’t find in any other BMW – such as the rocker switches for the electric windows, the slender silver stalks on the steering column, and the rotary dials for the climate controls. About the only familiar button you’ll spot is the heated seat switch, sequestered away next to your thigh on the centre console.
That 4.8 is worth looking at in closer detail. A double overhead-cam 32-valve V8 of 4837cc, it is a development of the Alpina 4.6 – and, yes, these are the same pair of motors that Buchloe famously ‘gave back’ to BMW as a present, for use in the ‘iS’-badged performance variants of the original X5. With an aluminium block and head, Bosch Motronic engine management, a revised crank with a 93mm bore and 89mm stroke, Mahle pistons and an Alpina exhaust system, it managed to develop its peak outputs without resorting to forced induction. All right, the specific output of 79hp-per-litre might be a touch leisurely, but the way it goes about its business is anything but. Even in a world where hot hatches can do 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, the 1615kg Roadster V8 still feels acceptably punchy.
Alpina’s final alterations came in terms of the handling. Buchloe chose to soften off the Z8, fitting its own dampers and springs with gentler rates in both instances. However, beefier anti-roll bars front and rear ensured that the handling didn’t go to pot. And, to an extent, Alpina worked its customary magic. Fire up the engine with the plain black leather starter button to the right of the wheel and it turns over with a creamy roar. Slot into ‘D’, release the brake and the Roadster V8 oozes off down the road in a charming, cultured manner. It’s a doddle to drive and despite 20-inch rubber of 255/35 aspect front and 285/30 rear, the ride is sumptuous. I remember No.47 rode well, but not as smoothly as this. Maybe sports cars of today, adjustable dampers and all, still can’t flatten out imperfections as well as these cars of, er, yesteryear. The steering is another area which deserves credit, as it’s full of weight and feel from the off. It would appear it hasn’t been Americanised beyond all reason. Stoke the 4.8 up and the Alpina will pick up its skirts and hustle, although it’s a GT first and foremost.
Under harder cornering the rear axle tries to skip and jump on bumpier surfaces, while during this style of driving the steering feels a touch slow on the uptake. Point-and-squirt would be the better approach to adopt when pushing the Roadster V8 quickly, rather than trying to eke every last ounce out of it as the last of the late brakers. Nevertheless, however No.116 was being conducted, it felt as good as new – no undue squeaks, rattles or groans were to be heard, and all of its major controls felt cohesive and taut.
Is there anything negative to note? Yes, we couldn’t get the hard-top off. The tool was there and all the locking bolts moved smoothly enough, but our guess is that its previous owner never once removed the hard-top and, as a result, it’s a little too attached to the windscreen’s header rail. A little bit of care and attention in Kahn’s workshop will see that right in a jiffy. Apart from that, it’s a clean bill of health. Not only does No.116 feel mechanically sound but the interior is absolutely flawless, as if it has never been used. Slightly more than a decade might not be the most challenging period to keep a vehicle in time warp condition but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be commending the Alpina’s former owner for having done so.
In short, then, this is your best chance of owning an as-new Alpina Roadster V8. But should you splash out a quarter of a million on such a machine? That’s trickier. It remains a sublime GT, with its bespoke interior, svelte appearance and that wonderful Alpina drivetrain. But £240,000 gets you a lot of choice in the car world these days and for all the things the Roadster V8 excels at, a supercar it ain’t. Kahn’s people reckon it will become part of a larger collection, where it will be the fifth, sixth or maybe even 20th addition to a rich person’s horde. That sounds about right to us. Whoever buys it, though, is getting something magnificent, out-of-the-ordinary and from a completely different era of car building. Even if that era is 2003.
Tel: 01274 749999
Stoke the 4.8 up and the Alpina will pick up its skirts and hustle, although it’s a GT first and foremost.
Below: Alpina 4.8-litre V8 is a jewel and really suits the car’s character Right: Plenty of modern/retro details and a smattering of Alpina badges.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #2003
BMW #Alpina-Roadster-V8 / #BMW-Z8-E52 / #BMW-E52 / #BMW-Z8 / #BMW / #Alpina-Roadster-V8-E52 / #BMW-Z8-Alpina-Roadster-V8 / #BMW-Z8-Alpina / #BMW-Z8-Alpina-Roadster-V8-E52 / #BMW-Z8-Alpina-E52 / #Alpina-E52 / #Alpina / #Henrik-Fisker / #BMW-Z8-Stunning / #BMW-E52-Stunning /
ENGINE: #Alpina #V8 , DOHC, 32-valve / #M62 / #BMW-M62 / #M62-Alpina /
MAX POWER: 381hp @ 5800rpm
MAX TORQUE: 383lb ft @ 3800rpm
0-62MPH: 5.3 seconds / #ZF5HP
TOP SPEED: 166mph (limited)
PRICE: £86,000 (2003 UK+Tax), £239,995 (today 2016 UK)
You’ll get a fiver change from £240,000 if you want to buy it. Wow.
Left: Auto transmission lever is a surprise addition to the Z8’s interior Right: Trademark Alpina blue dials and neat gear indicator.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationPhysical Attraction / #BMW-X5-4.6iS / #BMW-X5-4.6iS-E53 / #BMW-X5-E53 / #BMW-X5 / #BMW-E53 /
Re-evaluating the bonkers #BMW-E53 X5 4.6iS. Back in its day the X5 4.6iS was one of the fastest 4x4s on the planet, but how does it feel nearly 15 years later? Words and photography: Mark Williams.
I was always fascinated by physics at school. Chemistry held an interest too, but that was more a morbid fascination with combining substances we were explicitly told not to mix by our mischievous teacher, who would often then turn his back and wander off to the storeroom for five minutes, leaving us with two half-full test tubes; one of fuel, the other of igniter and only one thing left to do. My 14-year-old niece reliably informs me that today’s teachers are a boring lot in comparison. It was the physics classes though which really held appeal.
Across the corridor, the mysterious art of applying power or force to an object with a certain density in order to motivate it forward grabbed my interest, and that’s something which has never really left me. It’s clearly visible in some of my car purchases over the last 15 years; two-tonne leviathans stretching their legs to the tune of lusty, big capacity V12s which overcome sheer mass through brute force and power. Which brings us neatly to this, the X5 4.6iS.
I’ve driven several SUVs over the last year or so, and I’ve doubted every single one of them upon first acquaintance. Come the time to return them though, and there’s an uneasy feeling inside which suggests that there is some logic at work here, and hence appreciation of what they can achieve. Logic? Well ask yourself this – would you rather hack up to Scotland in a Fiesta, or something with refinement through size, long-legged cruising ability thanks to a big motor, and the confidence instilled in the driver through being able to see hundreds of yards ahead? If you accept that big cars don’t have to be built in the mould of the 7 Series or S-Class, and you don’t crave the final degree of handling incisiveness which enables you to clip apices time and again, then you begin to appreciate why people buy these things.
So let’s not think of the psychology at work here and just consider the X5 on merit. Generally regarded as the first in the line of lifestyle SUVs, or SAVs as BMW prefer it (Sports Activity Vehicle, as if ‘Utility’ conjures up off-brand images which keep marketing men laying awake at night), the X5 first rolled down the path previously traversed by later versions of the Range Rover throughout the ’80s and into the ’90s. That is, once the Range Rover had opened the door to a market for luxury off-roaders which spent most of their time on-road, BMW’s boffins got to work. Porsche then followed and the rest is living history, seen every day on the roads and in car parks the world over.
A few years into the lifecycle of the first generation of X5, the E53, BMW gave us this in 2001. An X5 which gorged itself on a diet of M62 V8 and F1-spec rubber (315s out the back, so make sure your credit card is up to the task when you visit Kwik Fit as decent brand Reifen will set you back 400 quid a corner), equating to two tonnes plus a load more, 347hp, 354lb ft of torque and an attitude.
The exhausts rumble, the bluff grille sends smaller fare scattering into the inside lane and the owner looks smug whilst trying not to eye the fruit-machine behaviour exhibited by the pump whilst filling it up. But there’s a promise of being able to continue should it snow, or still being able to extract oneself from the field at the local place of interest, after it rains and turns it into a mud pie (and never mind that the aforementioned 315s are about as useful in said conditions as a Teflon-coated castor would be). We all know the Modus Operandi at work here, right? BMW refined the recipe in 2004 with the 4.8 model, but the first jaw-dropper and convention-changer is what you see here.
And it works, it really does. At the time of the test (and thanks given here to the owner for allowing us to borrow the car he had recently purchased from James Paul down in West Sussex, 01403 823723 or www.jamespaul.co.uk) this particular 4.6iS wasn’t in the first flush of youth, but still only had 78k on the odo and hence, plenty left to give. It creaked and groaned a bit over the region’s more pot-marked asphalt but in general, you’d have to say that the guys at the North Carolina Spartanburg plant where they assembled these things (and still do, 1.5 million units later) knew what they were doing. Yes it rolled a bit in the corners but one soon dialled into its responses and compensated accordingly, driving in accordance with its size and weight. That is to say, ‘considerately’.
When I hit the throttle, velocity was gained with a baritone rumble and a feeling that anything which happened into our path would be swept away under the avalanche. At least one could see said ‘target’ well in advance thanks to the elevated driving position.
Onto the brakes before tipping it into a bend and there’s a very clear feeling that one shouldn’t really be doing this in something so vast, but it slows with authority and the lean through the subsequent corner actually helps the chassis settle and not panic the driver. The steering isn’t fast enough for this kind of work though, even bordering on the vague (plus it’s far too light) and no matter how much lock you think you need in those early miles, you consistently need just that little bit more. Nobody ever claimed it’s anything approaching lithe as a handling device though, because clearly it’s a blunt instrument designed to bludgeon and not trim its line via the control surfaces, but the honest reality is that you can cover the ground at a good pace in one of these things without the feeling that one false move will require our cartographers to reach for their pens and start over…
Back at James Paul, I have a good look over the interior and muse to myself that dashboard architecture and styling has come a long way in the past ten years. In terms of toys, all the high-end kit of the period is present and correct, so the seats are powered in every direction except sideways, ditto the mirrors and steering column. The air-con still kicks out an icy blast, the sound quality from the (standard) stereo makes you wonder whether BMW has cut some corners in order to pinch the pennies in that area in recent years and the sat-nav makes a decent attempt at finding its way around (and never mind that you’d need a trained chimp to reach the buttons from the driver’s seat). Praise the Lord that there’s an actual engine coolant gauge and not ‘only’ an oil temp gauge or merely warning lights, the engine starts with a key (quaint) and the shift pattern printed onto the base of the auto shifter harks back to auto shifters of old, and not the algebra expressions which appear printed atop modern shifters. It all works well enough too, save for the inevitable pixel issue on this age of #BMW and a line or two missing on the sat-nav screen. But these are niggles, easily sorted.
Closing the doors and standing back to admire the heft, it’s not ageing too badly either. Okay the frontal aspect looks a little old and the light pods particularly, complete with separate and permanently visible washing pods, really date it. But from the side and especially from the rear three-quarter, where those 315s somewhat dominate proceedings, it looks squat, heavy and dependable. And it would be reliable for the most part, but you would have to look out for coolant leaks, some of which can cost an arm and a leg to rectify, and they consume suspension components with frightening regularity, which shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise when you consider the sheer mass of the thing.
Bottom line, for the £7.5k this was up for prior to being sold (and I succeeded in squeezing in a video review too, so pop over to my Quently Bentin YouTube channel for that one), it represented a quite staggering amount of metal for your money, and an amusing way of poking fun at the laws of physics.
Thanks to: James Paul
Tel: 01403 823723
TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-E53 X5 4.6iS
ENGINE: V8, petrol, normally aspirated / #M62 / #M62B46 / #BMW-M62
MAX POWER: 347hp @ 5700rpm
MAX TORQUE: 354lb ft @ 3700rpm
0-62MPH: 6.5 seconds
TOP SPEED: 149mph
ECONOMY: 19mpg (17 on test)
PRICE: £54,000 (2001), circa £7500 (today)
When I hit the throttle, velocity was gained with a baritone rumble.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.