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by Bill Braun

Staff Writer

on November 2, 2013
To call the BMW M5 an icon of the automotive world is an understatement.

Under the hood, the twin turbo V8 now pushes over 550 horsepower and sports a seven-speed double clutch transmission.  The entertainment system now comes with a DVD player, Bluetooth and a 16 speaker sound system, integrated neatly into BMW’s iDrive menu system, which controls most every user-selectable function in the vehicle.

The Project

With so much already in place from the factory, many customers are looking for just that “something extra” to personalize their ride.  Some want more volume, some want better sound quality.  Some just want to make sure that when you get in, you remember the experience.

Buying a six-figure rocket on wheels implies you want all three, and maybe a bit more…

One thing can be said with certainty:  you don’t buy a car like the M5 if you don’t love to drive fast.  The 500+ foot pounds of torque alone says that clearly, so it was obvious that the M5 needed protection.  We gave it some – by cloaking it in invisibility.

The Escort 9500ci radar detection system is arguably the best on the planet.  It features a GPS antenna, dual radar receivers and front/rear laser shifters.  The technology that goes into this system is well beyond the norm, even going as far as detecting the vehicles speed and adjusting sensitivity to match.

The 9500ci also works with Escort Live, a free service to many Escort owners on your smartphone which constantly taps into the drivers speed and location, then updates the driver - warning you when speed traps, VASCAR (airplane-based speed detection) and traffic light cameras are near your location.  The driver can also mark a location when they find a new hiding spot for trouble with a single button push. 

With a 16 speaker audio system already in the M5, you’d expect this “next level” ride to need some big bass to go with it. When the request was made for a special bass system, the phrase “next level” was absolutely on our minds.

The Installation

Unlike removable radar detectors, this gear is rigged for stealth.  We were asked to go beyond even the factory’s standards, and use our imagination – one of our favorite phrases.

The Escort 9500ci comes with a pair of modules.  One with the controls built into it, the other with a display.  Both were immediately removed from their stock housings, and carefully integrated into the M5 to make them look like factory options.

The first step was to make a custom plate for the controller, to be mounted in the door.  Precision workmanship is the real difference maker when it comes to making a factory look, so perfect holes, materials and functionality all have to come together for the mission to be completed. 

The next item was the display.  Making the information visible while the car was running, but completely invisible when it wasn’t was the challenge. By disassembling the rear view mirror and inserting the LED display behind it, the information is visible at a glance.  Turning off the car lets the display disappear behind the mirror.

The best way to have a memorable subwoofer system always comes down to two things:  huge bass and personalization.  When the system is on, the bass has to be massive. 

To deliver that power to the subs a JL Audio HD1200/1 was installed.  The HD1200/1 is a perfect match to the set of JL Audio 10W6V2 subwoofers, as it delivers exactly the right amount of power to run them to their potential.  With 1200 watts of power being sent to just two 10” subs, it wasn’t a challenge to hear and feel the lows in all their glory.

To personalize the design, a custom box was made for the trunk with a plexiglass back to show off the subwoofers.  We then laser etched an M5 logo on the plexiglass, and lit the box internally with LED’s to highlight the etching.  Finally, we covered the subwoofer box and all the trunk panels in a custom suede to keep the color theme of the M5 consistent.

To get the most out of the new subwoofer system, an Audio Control Epicenter was added.  The Epicenter is designed to maximize bass in a car audio environment by recreating lost (or lowered) audio.  A bass knob comes with the processor, and was installed to allow the subwoofer to be controlled independently of the main audio system.  This allows the subwoofers to be blended perfectly with any style of music, without changing the factory sound system or drowning out the voices with too much bass.

The Result

The term many people use is a “sleeper” car.  A factory appearance is what the eye sees at first glance, but hidden inside is a completely new world of stealth, security and sound.

We all know that the difference between a good sound system and a great one will always lie in the eyes of the person sitting in the drivers seat.  Most would see the M logo and know – as nearly every car lover does – how much power lies under the hood.  Only people lucky enough to get into the passenger seat will feel how much thunder hides in the trunk.

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