FULL-ON E70 X5 X-RATED / #BMW
We don’t see many modified X5s doing the rounds but this full-on, bad boy of an E70 makes up for that in a big way. Slammed, styled and ICE’d up. We don’t feature many X models in DRIVE-MY, but this X5 makes up for that in one fell swoop… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Andy Tipping.
Good as the X5 may be, it’s not a car that’s captured the imagination of #Drive-My readers, so we haven’t featured that many over the years. This is possibly because it’s a big 4x4 rather than something with retro appeal or an affordable performance machine. Fortunately, what we lack in quantity we make up for in quality with this awesome example. It’s an E70 X5 3.0sd, which means it’s got the twin-turbo diesel straight-six under the bonnet, and it belongs to Am Singh, owner of car audio distribution company #BladeICE .
Am’s no stranger to modified cars (or feature cars) and you won’t be surprised to learn that some of those have been very audio-focused. “My first car, a Citroen AX GT, was featured in Max Power back in 1999 and a couple of years later I built a JDMspec Lexus IS200 (Altezza RS200) which I fitted a supercharger kit to. It was featured in Fast Car magazine,” he says. “I’ve built some audio heavy vehicles, too, including a Lupo GTi which was featured in sister title Performance VW magazine in 2013. I also own a Chevrolet Astro van which I’m planning to rebuild this year.”
This X5 was purchased out of necessity when Am and his missus were expecting their second child in 2014 and the family wagon at the time – an E91 330d M Sport – was deemed too small. “I didn’t want to leave the BMW brand as the E91 was a pleasure to own,” says Am. “I found the X5 at Sytner BMW in Leicester. It was a oneowner car in fantastic condition and the back looked like it had never been sat in. The colour and interior combo instantly drew me to it and the spec was impressive too. It’s got the panoramic roof, keyless entry, Comfort seats, Saddle brown leather and, as a bonus, seven seats! Not that we plan to have any more kids, though; two is enough!” he laughs.
So, how do you go from mild-mannered X5 to full-on feature car? “Secretly I always had plans for the car,” Am reveals, “however, things went further than I initially imagined.” This is something we’ve heard many times before. Six months of standard X5 ownership passed before Am decided that a bit of modifying was in order and started on what was to be an incredibly slippery slope.
“Initially I purchased some KW V3 coilovers,” says Am. “Then I looked at brakes from the X5 M, which comprised massive 395mm discs and four-pot Brembo calipers. These were fitted and I ran it on stock 20s for about three months, after which I got talking to a new up-and-coming wheel manufacturer in the USA: Brada wheels.” In case you don’t know, Brada produce lovely forged wheel designs and while 20s would be plenty on most cars the X5 can pull off much bigger wheels, so it would have been rude not to indulge, really. “I wanted to go with a BBSstyle wheel with a cross-spoke design and the Brada BR-1 fits the bill perfectly,” Am continues. “So I ordered a set of 22s and these were built to order as they are a fullyforged/ CNC’d three-piece wheels in a staggered fitment. It was worth the wait and I ran them for the few months that were left of summer #2014 then took them off for winter. That’s when my mind went into overdrive.
“I started work on the audio, as I needed a demo car for 2015. As a lot of the products I distribute were pointing towards OEM integration and exotic high-end sound quality, the X5 was the perfect base to allow me to go for an OEM+ approach and maximise my marketing possibilities. At this time I also picked up a CIC with Combox to replace the aging CCC iDrive system and I made sure it had DAB, too, while Mak’s Retrofits helped with the installation and coding.”
With plans under way for some impressive ICE, Am decided that the X5 needed more than just an audio overhaul and resolved to completely change the look of the car. While he had originally wanted an X5 M, the price was too much of a stretch so he decided to go for the next best thing, and set about building a perfect replica. “I got to work looking at all the parts that differ on the M Sport and the X5 M,” Am says. “Initially it didn’t appear to be more than front wings, front bumper and rear bumper but it ended up being a lot more. There were many other items to consider, like headlights, quad exhaust, bumper grilles, trims, clips, bolts etc the list grew and so did the spendometer! After about seven months of searching eBay USA and eBay Germany I managed to get the majority of the parts to start the transformation. Some items had to be bought new, though, as they were insanely hard to find on the secondhand market.
“After a couple months with the X5 M conversion I came across a set of Adaptive LED headlights that were only found on very late model X5s and X6s. BMW actually had it up as a retrofit conversion for around £3000 plus fitting. Again I searched through eBay USA and some US forums and found a complete set of headlamps. They needed a new harness and FRM3 module, which I purchased new, after which I called on Mak’s Retrofits to help me with coding-in all the features of the headlights. They totally transform the look of the car, making the front-end look like the new F models. They also offer functional benefits, such as adaptive control and a light output like I’ve never experienced before. I’ll never feel complete with regular xenon lights after having had these LED headlights!
“The body conversion took place in spring of 2015 and in the meantime I was left to finish trimming the audio build I had fabricated during the winter. The full setup consists of four Mosconi D2 (full range Class-D) amps, Gladen Aerospace two-way speakers mounted in the A-pillars and the Gladen 201 Extreme 8” slim-mount woofers which utilise the OEM underseat location. Two Gladen SQX 10s are mounted in a trick side-ported enclosure and headed by the Mosconi 6to8 DSP – the brains of the operation. It is linked to the OEM head unit via a high level input but also has full high definition EDR 2.0 Bluetooth audio streaming capability. This means wireless audio playback via tablet or phone, and Tidal or Spotify apps work great for this. “To power the amps I opted to use three XS Power AGM batteries. I mounted them in the OEM location, secured on billet CNC hold-downs. These offer enough reserve power to cope with long audio demonstrations and enough juice to power the vast array of stock electrics throughout the car.”
Depending on how up you are on your car audio that might well be all Greek to you but for the uninitiated a quick glance at the interior shots reveals that there is a lot of top-end audio gear stuffed into this X5, and the quality of the installation is impeccable. What’s nice is that everything is very discreet. Yes, the two-way speakers in the A-pillars are big but they don’t look out of place and the boot build is beautiful – the enclosure for the Gladen subs looks like it’s a factory item while the installation of the amps in the boot floor is elegant and understated. You probably wouldn’t even notice the Mosconi DSP controller, custommounted behind the #iDrive controls and the fact that Am has retained the factory head unit means that everything is seamlessly integrated and he’s lost none of the numerous standard functions. Beyond the audio, the wood trim has been wrapped in black for a more elegant look while the steering wheel was retrimmed by Jack at Royal Steering Wheels in black Nappa leather with contrasting stitch to match the saddle brown leather on the seats.
If the inside looks good, the outside is nothing short of gobsmacking. Am may have invested a vast amount of time and effort on obtaining the X5 M bodywork components but it’s certainly been worth it as the end result is awesome. There’s just so much sheer aggression emanating from the X5 M styling that it’s almost enough to knock you off your feet. No corners have been cut, with a proper quad exhaust system having been fitted which sits in a gorgeous carbon fibre diffuser. And, where you’d normally expect to see an X5 in full-on off-road mode, the massive drop that Am has achieved with the KW coilovers gives the car a completely different look. The way the Brada 22s fill the gargantuan arches is just insane. Oh, and the wheels are perfection. The mirror finish on the lips with the brushed centres suits the X5 so well.
You might have thought that was that, but Am is most not one to rest on his laurels and since our photoshoot the X5 has received a few more changes. “Initially I chose the KW V3 coilovers as I’ve always been an old-skool static type of guy,” he explains. “Despite the craze of air suspension in the last few years I went with coilovers purely because I didn’t want to use up any boot space with air tanks or compressors, as this would take away from the room I wanted to dedicate for my aural pleasure. With more and more cars using the trunk space for tanks/hardline installs and ditching audio in place of it, I wasn’t going to bow down to the air-ride gods, so I stayed static.
“However, since this photoshoot I had to admit defeat. The KWs were being wound down more and more and as a result I had no suspension travel, often riding on the bumpstops. For a 2.5-tonne 4x4 that makes for a pretty bumpy ride! So I explored all avenues of keeping my trunk space intact and still having air suspension with the trunk looking OEM+.
“The air compressors are discreetly mounted in the side compartment and the management is hidden out of sight next to the battery bank under the amps. The fivegallon air tank is mounted on the rear tailgate behind a fabricated panel that’s been trimmed in Alcantara, and the tank has been covered in original BMW Saddle brown leather to complete the theme. I mounted the Air Lift controller into one of the front air vents for ease of access and it looks like it was there from factory.”
Static or on air, it really makes no difference as this X5 provides a visual punch either way. Every show it’s been to it’s a crowd pleaser. A lot of work has gone into building this X5 over two years but it’s all been worth it. Am’s built himself an awesome machine and one that you’re unlikely to see replicated anytime soon, which makes it all the more cooler.
DATA FILE #BMW-X5-E70 / #BMW-X5-3.0sd-E70 / #BMW-X5-3.0sd / #BMW-X5 / #KW / #BMW-Performance
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six #M57TU2D30 / #M57 / #BMW-M57 / , #Evolve remap, #Eisenmann Race exhaust with quad 90mm tips, #ZF / #ZF6HP standard six-speed automatic gearbox. 350hp, 500lb ft of torque
CHASSIS 10.5x22” (front) and 12x22” (rear) Brada BR-1 wheels with 285/30 (front) and 335/25 (rear) Pirelli Scorpion Zero tyres, #KW-V3 coilover suspension (now replaced with air-ride), X5 M #Brembo four-pot callipers with 395mm discs (front)
EXTERIOR X5 M front and rear bumpers, front wings, LED Adaptive headlights, 35% tints rear window/doors, 50% front doors, #BMW-Performance carbon fibre front lip, Vorsteiner rear carbon fibre diffuser, modified front and rear arches, paintwork sealed and protected with #Gtechniq C1 and Exo V2 coatings
INTERIOR Royal Steering Wheels Nappa retrim, black gloss trim panel wrap, A-pillar mounted two-way speakers, CIC with Combox retrofit, custom fabricated Mosconi DSP controller in centre console, #Gladen-Audio Aerospace 28/80 components in A-pillars, #Gladen 201 Extreme underseat mid bass drivers, 2x SQX 10 Gladen subs, 2x Mosconi D2-100.4 amps, 2x Mosconi D2- 500.1 amps, #Mosconi 6to8 DSP, 3x XS Power XE12- 40 batteries, Sky High Car Audio cabling throughout, boot install trimmed in Alcantara
THANKS Zane at Brada Wheels, Henning at Gladen Audio, Mak’s Retrofits
I wasn’t going to bow down to the air-ride gods so I stayed static.
I always had plans for the car, however, things went further than I initially imagined.