- 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.
- Post is under moderationSUPERCHARGED #BMW-X5-Dinan-E53 / #BMW-X5-E53 / #BMW-E53 / #BMW-X5 / #BMW / #BMW-X5-E53 / #BMW-X5-4.6iS / #BMW-X5-4.6iS-E53 / #BMW-X5-4.6iS-Dinan / #BMW-X5-4.6iS-Dinan-E53
Panzer Division A heavily tuned, supercharged X5 by Dinan that’s more than just a little bit tank-like. Panzer Division Affectionately known by owner Jay Belknap as the Panzer German tank, this X5 happens to be packing some heavy artillery thanks to a Dinan supercharger conversion… Words: Dan Wagener /// Photography: Dan Wagener & Ryan Lee
Traditional love stories typically begin with ‘once upon a time’ and end with ‘and they lived happily ever after’. Most people would hope that held true for every relationship, but through past experience we all know it to be an unrealistic expectation. Some relationships can start out as planned, but take a turn for the worst. Others may start out rough, but were all worth it in the end. For Jay Belknap and his #2003 X5 it was the latter.
Ever since Jay had a daily driver it’s been some sort of truck/utility vehicle. It was something cheap and paid off which allowed him to sink money into his 1994 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4. But once he was satisfied with how the VR4 turned out, he figured he’d get the truck he had always wanted – a supercharged Range Rover Sport. So he went on the forums and asked the owners how they liked them and whilst half said they were awesome, the other half didn’t know because they were always back at the dealers. He then started researching the runnerup, the E53 X5 (keep in mind this is before the X5M had made its debut) and found that the 4.6iS could be supercharged through #Dinan for a modest cost so he decided to look for a clean example finished in black. Months of searching showed no luck and he eventually gave up.
Then one day, about half a year later he randomly browsed for X5s on the market and found a oneowner 4.6iS with 85k on the clock for sale in Texas. It just so conveniently happened to be finished in black Sapphire, was supercharged and came with Brembo brakes together with an E46 M3 steering wheel already installed. Sceptical that it had to be some sort of scam, additional photos proved it was, in fact, the real deal, so he took a flight out to Houston a few days later with a cheque in hand.
As he walked out of Houston International the black X5 whistled down the arrival ramp. It was freshly detailed and ready for him to take on a road trip back to Virginia Beach. He got in, exchanged pleasantries, got the paperwork done and proceeded to drop the previous owner off at his work. But as soon as they left the airport the check engine light came on! The previous owner said he had a guy who was an old BMW master that did all the previous work and that he would have it fixed, right then. So they headed over to the shop and found a boost leak from a clamp that wasn’t tightened down all the way. Already four hours behind schedule, Jay was ready to head home. When he finally got on to the I-10 East, he punched it and the supercharged #M62B46 / #M62 responded as you would expect. Jay was instantly hooked, forgetting that his previous Range Rover Sport even existed.
After about an hour into Louisiana though, the supercharger belt decided it was no longer going to be friends with the engine. It took out every other belt and the A/C tensioner on its way out, too. Jay shut the truck down and got a tow back west to Texas. That tow truck broke down so another tow truck took him the remainder of the distance West on the I-10 to a hotel in Beaumont, Texas, two blocks away from Beaumont BMW. He figured he’d be the first one into BMW the next day, get it fixed and be on his way.
Well, he was the first one on to the lot, but the secretary arrived and informed him that their service shop is closed on Saturdays. She invited him inside to call yet another tow truck, to get him further west to Momentum BMW in Houston. It was at that time the service manager, who was coming in to do his end of- month reports, had overheard Jay’s situation and started calling his techs. One was awake and said he’d be right in. They got him back on the road with just a new main belt (no A/C belt/tensioner or S/C belt). The previous owner called back and paid BMW for the work. Jay thanked him and said if anything else happened on the way home that he’d take care of it from there (nothing more did happen though). He later found out that the blower bracket tensioner needed an alignment.
Needless to say it was not a desirable first 24 hours of ownership. On a good note though, Jay later established a relationship with Dinan’s aftersales support team. They got him set up with the parts needed to fix the tensioner rod and belt. Like any machine, it simply needed maintenance.
Now, to the untrained eye, Jay’s X5 may appear as if it came this way from the factory, but the finer details tell all about this rare beast. If you’re not familiar with the 4.6iS model, it had a very short 2002-2003 production run. #BMW had injected the standard X5 model with steroids metaphorically speaking, just like they do with the M models. These factory enhancements included larger fenders flares, massive 20-inch wheels, larger/louder exhausts, a unique variant of the #5HP24 #ZF5HP24 / #ZF5HP / #ZF transmission, aggressive camshaft profiles, the high flow intake manifold from the older M62 cars, bored, stroked and compressed to a 10.5:1 ratio producing 342hp and 354lb ft of torque. What makes Jay’s X5 even more rare is that it’s 1 of 27 #Dinan supercharged X5s in the world. The Dinan Signature 3 package consists of a #Vortech V-2 S-Trim Supercharger running 5.5psi, a new #MAF and throttle body, a #DME and EGS flash, larger #Delphi 37lb injectors, and an E39 M5 fuel pump.
One common goal of any true performanceoriented enthusiast is to put as much tyre on the road as possible. With that in mind, together with the weight of the vehicle and the additional power, Jay sourced another pair of 10.5x20-inch OEM Style 87 rear wheels to replace the narrower 9.5-inch wide fronts. A set of four Bridgestone Dueller HP Sport 315/35/20 tyres were then fitted all-round and the improvement in grip from the 315 section tyres up front was like night and day. Behind the concave design Style 87 wheels sits giant eight-piston #Brembo callipers fitted with 380mm/15-inch discs at the front and 355mm/14-inch at the rear to help bring the X5’s larger rolling mass to a halt on demand, without a hint of fade.
To accommodate the lower offset wheels, Jay also added the #BMW-X5-Le-Mans-edition wider front arches and the rear wheels were spaced out 25mm with #H&R spacers to help balance the front-to-rear track width. A Dinan strut bar and camber plates were also added to include some extra bracing for the twisties.
At around 107,000 miles the supercharger’s high speed bearings on the impeller shaft got a little noisy, so with help from friend and mentor, Tony Acker, they sent the blower off to Vortech, and performed the M62 timing guide and valley pan job at the same time. Vortech returned the supercharger with a newer Si-Trim impeller, which meant even more mid-range power than before.
During the summer of 2011 Jay decided it was too hot and had lost trust in his OEM water temp gauge. He also wanted to be able to read and clear codes on the fly so he removed the cluster, fixed the infamous pixel problem whilst there and integrated a PLX Devices DM-100 into the cluster. In addition to the OBD date, the DM-100 was installed with PLX Boost, EGT, dual-WBO2 and oil pressure modules. Other installed electronics include a Tekonsha P3 trailer brake controller, and a hardwired K40 Dual front/rear RADAR detector and front LASER jamming system.
With the engine refresh and monitoring equipment fitted, everything was working tiptop. Then, one day as he came up a steep on-ramp that had a sharp crest to it, the X5 got airborne for a split second. Unluckily for Jay, he was at the top of the engine’s 6600rpm range when it happened. Inertia took over and all the exhaust valves were damaged, bad enough to notice under load and to make matters worse, the intake cam gears spun about the cams. With Tony’s help, they did compression, piston height, and leakdown tests before removing the heads and sending them off to VAC Motorsport for a Stage 1 upgrade, including stainless steel intake valves and fancy Inconel exhaust valves. Whilst it was there, Jay happened to come across a rare 4.6iS Tubi Rumore cat-back exhaust system. As Tubi is mostly known for making exhausts for exotic cars Jay was surprised to discover that they even made one for the X5! After installing the original heads, now blessed by VAC, a huge improvement in power and efficiency was found. The result is a power figure of around 475hp, although Jay has never taken it to the drag strip, he’d like to think it’s possible to break 12 seconds in the quarter-mile. Not bad for a ten-year-old German tank, which is the reasoning behind the name ‘Panzer’.
Today, Jay’s 4.6iS S3 has 135k miles on it, and has been supercharged for 133k of those miles. He would like to thank Dinan Engineering for its outstanding aftersales customer support and would also like to send a huge thanks to Tony Acker for his knowledge and time spent keeping this X5 running so strong. Stronger, in fact, than the day he first got it, many years and many miles ago. So does a bad start have to equal a bad finish to a relationship? In this case, most definitely not.
Below: Massive Brembo brake conversion features eight-pot callipers and huge 380mm/15-inch brake discs so it stops as well as it goes.
Jay’s X5 may appear as if it came this way from the factory, but the finer details tell all to this rare beast.
Dinan supercharger conversion is rare but was fitted on the car when it had covered just 2000 miles from new. It’s since covered another 133,000 miles!
The supercharged M62B46 responded as you would expect and Jay was instantly hooked.
Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.