So, It came time to buy a new car to replace my aged 2001 E39 BMW 530i M Sport, a beautiful car but tired none the less....
Living in Australia, the most hyper competitive automotive industry in the world; surely I'd find exactly what I want in a new car! I knew I wanted to maintain the luxury feel of the BMW and also the dynamic handling associated with the M sport, to feel planted, stable and composed. Yet with that said, I also wanted it to be an SUV, which reduced my potential options quite substantially. I knew I wanted it to be powerful, full of gadgets and have a high level of safety. Dependability, serviceability so on and so forth. So here's the list of contenders!
VOLVO XC60 R-Design
BMW X6 xDrive50i
AUDI Q5 TDI
PORSCHE CAYENNE S
RANGE ROVER Sport
This was a list and then test driving began. I started with Volvo and was extremely impressed, the XC60 was smooth, comfortable, solid and very well made; yet the sight of the booster seats fixed in place in the rear row and an awkwardly suggestive smile from my girlfriend of 3 years; combined to remind me that I am perhaps too young and without children to feel at home in a Volvo. I then proceeded to BMW with high hopes, yet after driving a full range of vehicles I continually drew comparisons to my E39 and thus the same conclusions; even after 13 years none of these cars are any better than my aged 530i and mine is arguably more attractive than their newer designs. Replacing my old girl with another BMW wouldn't be a new car at all but rather a marginally unimpressive upgrade. And Of course, I then recalled all of the problems and expense that the 530i had created over the years; and proceeded to exit dealership left... There shall be no BMW today I say to you sir!
Surely Mercedes will impress me! No, no they did not. Seriously, is the badge worth that much to people? Because if I was to compare the ML class to the XC60 the Volvo comes out ahead by a long shot, and for half the coin. The Merc's plastics felt cheap and the dynamic of the car was heavy, unbalanced and fuzzled with weight in all of the wrong places. An uninspired cabin too, simply an overly dull experience. Audi was much of the same, even at six digits I didn't feel like I was sitting in anything overly special. The Q5 TDI is mechanically impressive, that much can be said; clean interior, yet a boring and placid exterior. Competitively priced, powerful, fast, nimble, composed; yes. But, it just didn't feel interesting to me; no excitement, just a really 'nice' car. But I need an awesome car!
Porsche, surely you'll be the best but at what cost? A test drive with the Cayenne S made it clear the this was a benchmark in performance and handling, an incredible piece of engineering. But seriously, at around $200,000 AU with it's essential options there's simply no way for me to justify spending that amount to gain what is very little improvement from the Volvo's Comfort or the Audi's driving dynamic; both bargains. It's a badge, and I'm simply not going to find myself paying more for less. So good bye Porsche, hello Range Rover!
Well, actually not. Good bye Range Rover. Admittedly, I knew the Range Rover Sport would be amazing and I was aware of it's cost, and perhaps would have considered spending it. Upon entering the dealerships, a cloud of snobbery struck me. Elderly gentleman, with noses raised. Gold Diggers, hanging on empty arms. Suits, grinding smiles composed yet undignified. I picked up very quickly that I was not being taken seriously, mistaken for a 'tire kicker'. Hmm, patience depleted. I had confirmed in my own mind that whilst the car is surely amazing, albeit not much value to speak of, do I really want to be associated with the brand? Does is give me confidence? Does it give me an allure. No, the Range Rover badge does nothing at all for me, nor am i willing to pay for it.
This left only one......
It was 4pm in the afternoon and I was tired of what had been a very disappointing day. All of amazing pictures of these super SUV's have lied to me, only the Volvo deserved the tip of the hat. I proceeded to walk towards the southern end of the automotive mile where I saw Lexus, of which I had no interest in having driven my sisters RX430 months earlier and confusing it with a boat; a heavy, awkward, underpowered thing. No thanks, no thanks Volkswagen, no thanks Holden, no thanks Mazda, no thanks ford, no thanks Nissan.... There was nothing left, how very s*** indeed. I hated everything! Unexpected!
But then..... Infiniti. The clouds parted! A god ray descended, on a black FX50S. Having spent 4 years in the USA between 2005 and 2009 in remember seeing them everywhere and I knew they were a big deal everywhere else in the world except for in Australia; in fact I had no idea that Infiniti was in Australia. Built upon the 370Z chassis, cat like agility was expected. And massive power delivered from a sister block found in the current V8 supercars racing series. Nissan dependability, incredible interior, high quality materials, geek gadgets, boxes being ticked. A test drive rendered me speechless, I didn't really need to hear the price; I was sold. Take my money sir! Handling to rival the Porsche, Comfort to rival the Volvo, Technology to rival the BMW, and Range Rover performance. This is the winner.
Turned out, Infiniti is currently in branding mode having just entered into Australia a year earlier. Good news for me, a $116,000 AU 390HP 500NM Luxury sports crossover for $82,990 AU; SOLD!
So I'm now the owner of a 2012 FX50S, due to the recent Infiniti model designation changes; my car was re-badged with the QX70S designation and the 5.0 numbering on the side. As any man would do, I then began to drive the car meticulously, inspecting, listening, planning. There were changes to be made here..... Some things are just not right..... But they will be! This is my inspiration, a render I did of the Sebastian Vettel in black. Nice!
MODIFICATION ONE - THE EXHAUST
There stock exhaust system is in a single word, boring. There's an incredible engine in the FX50S with a stunning exhaust note that is currently hidden away, hiding valuable character, presence and power. Time to unleash the beast, but whilst maintaining comfort and class. The stock system was removed leaving only catalytic converters in place. This does away with both resonators, which typically would have equated to drone in the cabin. So an X pipe configuration was selected in order to improve flow and exhaust scavenging, where the resonators would have otherwise been. The cross pipes then lead to a set of X-Force Varex high flow performance mufflers, which are fitted with an electronic valve that allows for either unimpeded straight through flow or silenced to quieter than stock volume via 6 active dampening chambers. Nice high quality chrome tips finished the job nicely.
The result is a tremendous and loud beast with a strong signature tone, accompanied by the cars rev matching capability when downs shifting the exhaust gives a mature growl with a small crackle on the flare up. It's pretty loud, but well composed, not harsh to hear, no rasp, no hiss, just a nice solid symphony. Of Course, if i want to silence the beast all i need to do is push a button in the cabin and the butterfly valves close forcing the exhaust gases through a maze of deadening chambers; which completely silences the system for long highway drives and etc. Yet when open in sports mode, the exhaust had created a significant amount of drone in the cabin within the lower RPM range, combined with the already high level of road noise associated with this vehicle; it was time to start modification two!
MODIFICATION TWO - THE DEADENING!
The exhaust had given me a little performance boost and I'd shredded around 15KG, this will allow me to install a cornucopia of sound deadening into the car without altering performance by the weight gain. In total, I used 69KG of material. The aim was to completely block out road noise and the exhaust drone with Mass Loaded Vinyl installed as a formed barrier around the occupants, Closed Cell Foam was used as a gasket or baffle on both sides of the the MLV and also to filter high frequency sound. Thermal sheeting was used where possible to improve the cars thermal signature. To alter the car panel resonance and the overall acoustic profile of the vehicle Dynamat extreme was used in conjunction with Enduust Sound Guard, a rubberised sound deadening layer allied to the cars underbody. The engine noise was also decreased by adding as Dynamat hood-liner.
Layer Zero: Endrust Sound Guard (Rubberized external under-body sound damper)
Layer One: Dynamat Extreme (Reduces resonance, creates mass and thermal barrier)
Layer Two: Thermal Insulation (Second thermal barrier)
Layer Three: Closed Cell Acoustic Foam (Baffle and high range diffuser)
Layer Four: Mass Loaded Vinyl (Full range mass absorber)
Layer Five: Closed Cell Acoustic Foam (Baffle and remnant absorption)
Layer Six: Thermal Insulation (Third thermal barrier)
Layer Seven: Factory Carpet/fitments
- Rear wheel well mouldings, applied a 14 layer treatment to kill the road noise at it's source.
- Trunk Trim, applied 7 layer treatment to everything that is accessible; partial wheel well, under seats, inside trim pieces etc
- Rear seat back, applied a treatment to the removable seat backing plate.
- Rear seat cushion, underneath. Pictured, this absorbs lot's of road noise.
- Rear Doors, installed accordingly to also improve boss stereo's acoustic capabilities.
- Front Doors, installed accordingly to also improve boss stereo's acoustic capabilities.
- Rear seat kick plate
- Above exhaust, external heat shield now unused with removal of exhuast.
- Underneath front and rear foot mats, invisible additional shield of MLV.
- Bonnet, install acoustic hood-liner.
The entire trunk trim was removed which allowed me to apply the 'above' material layered to the entire bed all the way under the passenger seats, and also the wheel wells.
Sorry there aren't more photo's, installation was very intricate. With different sizes of sheeting installed fitting together like tetris. Together they absorb a very wide spectrum of sound.
This is the rear seat removed with the completed installation, looks awesome.
Now there is simply no road noise, no whine, now wind noise, just a distant ambient low frequency sound on the tires of the road. But it sounds far away, not right underneath you. With there being a complete bubble of sound deadening in place with exception to the roof and the glass, in the car there is now a very substantial feeling of safety and quality. Everything sounds solid and heavy, like a tank. Driving along it's awkward being able to whisper a conversation whilst doing 110KM on the highway, it's just awesome; quietest car I've ever been in.
When the windows are up and the exhaust is in sports mode you can hear the thunderous exhaust note, but again it sound distant, that the sound is clearly coming from behind you and not radiating through the floor or through the doors; as would normally be the case. When in sports mode, it's best to have the windows down, to let that exhaust note in. When the exhaust is on silent mode you simply can't hear it, when on the high-way, on cruise control, with the exhaust closed; you simply don't hear the engine or the exhaust, it's weird; you could mistake the car for electric...
The sound deadening had a crazy effect on the boss sound system, so much louder, less panel vibration, less sound escapes the car so if pumping bass at traffic lights the person next to me can't hear rattling or anything. Overall the sound deadening was a tremendous success, the car feels incredibly solid and the weight gain is negligible; and what weight was added is distributed evenly which in turn softens up the chassis's firm suspension. Still a 5.0 second car, timed 5.09 the other day on a flat road.
MODIFICATION THREE - THE DETAIL!
Even though I bought the car new, it had spent some time at the dealership so the black paint had the tell-tale signs of incorrect washing technique; swirl marks, faded untreated plastic, no leather protection. This car needed a full cut and polish! So I then washed it twice in two different solution to prepare the paint and hit it with a small clay bar. I then taped up the car and proceeded to perform a light cut, followed by several polishes. After settling in the last polish, I washed the car again and then buffed it down to a mirror glaze. The last step was to apply 3 layers of synthetic tech wax, which creates a dark black shine and protects the car from the elements.
That's it. Thanks for reading. Next I think I'm going to have all of the chrome and the wheels blacked-out, not sure about doing the Vettel bodykit. It's too Speed Racer for me. Definitely getting black licence plates too. Other than that, she's pretty much perfect for me.