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ESOTERIC Edition BMW F85 X5M in Carbon Black.

bmw f85 x5m esoteric

No matter how many years I’ve been writing articles like this one, I continually struggle with the direction that I present to the readers. After all, the readers are ultimately the main focus here…not the vehicle, nor the work that we have done. But having said that, I as the author, and as the person behind the work itself, have an obligation to present a high level of automotive detailing to the world in such a manner so that everybody from the automotive / detailing enthusiast, all the way up to the seasoned detailing professional can gain insight, knowledge, and ultimately inspiration as it relates to both detailing and passion in automobiles.

So having said all of that, I’m back to the decision making process on how to present the ESOTERIC Edition BMW F85 X5M. Sure, there are plenty of “details” to cover on the vehicle itself, what it represents, and what all we’ve done to it. By highlighting all of our products and processes, I will undoubtedly provide insight to how and why we did the customization we did. Likewise, readers will walk away with a higher level of knowledge on what it takes to make a vehicle look so amazing. But by presenting a laundry list of products and services, did I actually inspire others to raise their game as it relates to automotive detailing. Or more importantly, did I accomplish the biggest goal, which is to share our passion (obsession?) in automobiles, or to ignite the automotive passion in the readers?


Google defines passion as: “strong and barely controllable emotion”. For us car guys and girls, that translates to a strong feeling of excitement and even an adrenaline rush when we see really special vehicles. All you have to do is walk around a car show and do a little people watching. You can see that passion in peoples’ facial expressions and in their body language when they see one of their favorite cars. Remember the first time you saw a Ferrari F40 in person? Yeah…it’s that exact same feeling that I am talking about here. That experience, and that feeling, is something that passionate automotive enthusiasts crave.

Now that we have defined automotive passion, let’s get some deeper insight on what’s behind it. In simple terms, it’s the visual stimulation we get from a particular vehicle. Before we know any details of a car (mechanics, specifications, engine, etc), we are drawn in first and foremost by how it looks. This visual stimulation is what causes the strong and barely controllable emotion! And when I talk about how the car looks, it isn’t just about the styling, or the form. Granted, the styling is a huge part of that passion. I don’t know a single person who would prefer the styling, shape, or form of a Kia Sorento for example, over a Ferrari F40. But…the styling isn’t everything. It’s the finishing (paint, contrasts, customization, etc) of a vehicle that pulls us in as well, and in many cases, it’s the leading contributor to that passion. Just go to a car event…be it a car show, your local Cars & Coffee, or whatever…and when you have a lot of nice cars with great styling, what separates the men from the boys so to speak? The finishing! Take our ESOTERIC Edition Z06 Corvette for instance. We had it on display at Cars on Fifth down in Naples, Florida (one of my favorite places, by the way!) along with 70+ other Corvettes. People were drawn to our car over everything else. They came up to us and said that no other Corvette there looked like ours. They wanted to know why it looked so different, and so much better than every other Corvette (and any other marque for that matter). It was the finishing that made the difference…

Okay, now I think I have been able to establish the basis for this article and project, and have proper direction to lead you in.

What ESOTERIC Edition represents is producing the best looking example of a vehicle through painstaking finishing processes, combined with tasteful customization and modifications.

ESOTERIC Edition BMW F85 X5M. Passion in Finishing…

When we built our Z06 Corvette in 2015, and started the ESOTERIC Edition division of bespoke, customized vehicles, our biggest goal was to focus on that visual passion in the finishing of our car. In short, we were out to build the best looking / finished Corvette in existence. And based on the reactions we received from people from all over the world, we easily accomplished that goal. It had everything you could want in a sports car…aggressive and beautiful styling, combined with classy and tasteful finishing touches. And for those of you who were fortunate enough to hear it, the aural stimulation of the Akrapovic exhaust system only added to the experience.

But as we moved on to our next project vehicle, or marketing face of the company so to speak, we decided that we wanted to go in a different direction. While may were expecting us to up the ante in terms of all-out sports car performance (new Acura NSX, or perhaps a Porsche GT3 RS), our focus remained with the finishing aspects of the vehicle, and not all-out track records.

What ESOTERIC Edition represents is producing the best looking example of a vehicle through painstaking finishing processes, combined with tasteful customization and modifications. Granted, we always strive to produce a turnkey solution for both show-car applications and track day performance, but the emphasis will always be with how much better we can make it look…the Finishing. Anybody can bolt on some wheels and an exhaust, but the difference is in how the paint looks, and how it all comes together in the end.

When researching the current market of potential project vehicles, we wanted something that had leading performance combined with practicality. Additionally, it had to be within a certain price range so that the vehicle and brand would resonate with a larger portion of the market. That criteria narrowed the field down pretty quickly, and after an impromptu staff meeting, we decided that the BMW F85 X5M ticked all of our boxes.

For those who might not be as familiar with BMW’s “M” moniker, it’s their performance division that produces higher spec’d vehicles than the standard offering. M models have higher horsepower, upgraded suspension, and nicer interiors…higher performing at all levels.

With the X5M in particular, it has a quite impressive list of features and performance figures. In stock form, the 4.4L twin-turbo produces a factory rated 567 (647 measured) horsepower and 553 (633 measured) pounds of torque. With this, it accelerates this big beast from 0-60mph in 4 seconds flat! That’s hauling ass…particularly with such a large vehicle. And to stop it, the X5M comes equipped with massive Brembo calipers. The X5M isn’t just about straight line speed either. As the editors at Road and Track found out, it will run with the M2 at the track…a HUGE accomplishment given the size of the X5M, and the track prowess of the M2.

Okay, so it runs like a bat out of hell on both the street and track, it’s extremely fun to drive, it’s as luxurious as you could ever want, and it’s a great looking SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle). Is there room for improvement in the paint, and can we add the type of Finishing touches to stimulate that Automotive Passion that we talked about? Read on…

The Gameplan for our BMW F85 X5M…

We placed our custom order for the X5M through our longtime friends at Kelly BMW here in Columbus, then we proceeded to plan out the build and customization. The team here at ESOTERIC is typically on the same page when it comes to styling and finishing options / creation, and the X5M project was no different. We spec’d everything out, placed our orders, and waited a short month for our new X5M to arrive from the factory.

The plan was pretty straightforward, and included the following:

  • Perform an insane amount of paint polishing and refinement
  • Wrap all critical areas of the car in SunTek paint protection film
  • Apply the latest protective coatings from KAMIKAZE COLLECTION
  • Install HRE wheels
  • Install KW Suspension coilovers
  • Install Akrapovic Exhaust System
  • Install Dinantronics Performance Tuner
  • Add carbon fiber pieces, tint windows, etc.

Now that our new F85 X5M arrived, it was time to get to work!

BMW F85 X5M in Carbon Black by Esoteric

Phase 1: Paint Polishing

I’ll start off with the big hitter first…paint polishing! Why do I call it the big hitter? Because nothing else makes as much of a difference in the Finishing of the car, or the passionate reaction to the visual aspect of it as does (proper) paint polishing. It’s not even worth arguing…it’s fact.

The looks of the paint, and the quality and clarity of the reflections is what separates a good looking vehicle from a great looking one. All things being equal, the car with the best looking paint wins. Period.

BMW makes amazing vehicles, there’s no arguing that. But when it comes to their paint, let’s just say that there’s plenty of room for improvement. This isn’t a knock against BMW, because most automotive manufacturers leave a lot on the table when it comes to the finished product with paint (ESOTERIC built itself around correcting and perfecting Ferrari paint…so there you go!).

When we take a close look at the paint on our BMW (and most cars), you will see that it has a lot of orange peel (waviness in the paint that looks like the surface of an orange) and fine texture. The reason this is bad is because it distorts and clouds the reflective images in the paint. The more of this that is present, the more “lifeless” the paint looks. But when the paint has been thoroughly and properly polished, it has a very high level of clarity and reflectivity, and the paint glows by comparison.

OEM paint:

OEM paint on BMW F85 x5m carbon black

bmw f85 x5m paint carbon black

With paint polishing, there are many levels that you can go with…from a light machine polish, to multi-stage paint correction, to texture removal, and all the way up to leveling to reduce or remove orange peel. Most vehicles that we (and other detailers) work on would fall into that light machine polish and multi-stage paint correction categories. When done properly, either of these will create the greatest looking paint most customers / enthusiasts have ever seen. And for most cars and people, there’s no need to go a higher level.

But when we’re talking about the most special vehicles, or the most passionate (obsessive) car owners, we have the ability to go even higher to extract the best look and finish that is possible. Our texture removal process (AKA our Crystal Series) is very popular with the Corvette crowd, and it is the highest level of paint correction and refinement that we “officially” offer. But for the ESOTERIC Edition cars that we build for customers and ourselves, we reserve one higher level that represents the best look in paint that you can achieve, all while preserving as much of the paint as we can (NO sanding involved!). We do not officially offer this service as a standalone option because quite frankly, it is very time consuming, and therefore very expensive.

Granted, one could simply sand down the finish to be flat, then take 3-4 polishing steps to refine it, but that process easily removes more material than is recommended over the life of the car. And with auto manufacturers painting their cars thinner and thinner all of the time, it makes that process even more dangerous and irresponsible.

Our X5M had pretty thin paint, which made for an even greater challenge. There’s a very fine line with removing enough material to reduce orange peel and texture, and simply going too far and risking future issues with the paint. Given this, it makes the process more time consuming and laborious. There’s no quick way or short-cut to proper paint refinement…just plan to invest an insane amount of time to get it looking right.

Armed with a lot of Rupes polishers, pads, compounds, and polishes, along with our precision measuring devices with the Rhopoint DOI (Distinctness Of Image) meter and the DeFelsko 200/B Advance paint thickness gauge, we proceeded to develop a system that would work best for the Carbon Black OEM paint on our X5M.

If you take a look at this first photo, it shows just how much orange peel and texture is in the finish. The overhead lights in our shop hardly have any clarity in the reflection. This shot was taken with a macro lens on a tripod, then the camera kept in the exact same position / settings for our “after shot”.

BMW F85 X5M orange peel

Now take a look at the photo of the exact same area after we did our polishing processes (4-5 polishing steps). The overhead light reflection has a tremendous amount of definition to it, the surface is much more level, and there’s far greater clarity in the colored metallic flake in the paint itself. Now imagine that level of definition and clarity increase over the entire vehicle and you can easily understand why this is touted as the best looking, customized BMW F85 X5M in existence!

bmw f85 x5m paint esoteric edition

The entire crew worked on the X5M for (many) days to fully refine the finish on our X5M…

BMW F85 X5M polished by ESOTERIC

BMW F85 X5M polished by ESOTERIC

And we even polished up all of the black trim on the X5M to bring out the highest clarity and gloss in preparation for our coating stage. Here Brian is using the RUPES Bigfoot Nano iBrid to get into the small spaces.

BMW F85 X5M polished by ESOTERIC

And when I say we were polishing for days, I mean exactly that! The first stage, which included paint polishing, paint protection film, and coating applications took 10 days for the 3 of us to complete. 10 days!

So after all of this polishing, I wanted to show you a few direct before and after photos so you can get a really good feel for just how much more clarity in reflection we got in the X5M. Be sure to click on the photos to bring up larger images…


BMW F85 X5M paint - before condition


BMW F85 X5M paint after polishing


BMW F85 X5M OEM paint


BMW F85 X5M after ESOTERIC polishing

I’m sure that by now, you get the point as to what we are trying to accomplish, and why I consider the paint polishing / quality to be the most important Finishing process of them all.

And while we are on the subject of “best looking”, let’s take a brief moment to talk about bias and subjectivity when it relates to visual appeal. A beautifully finished paint can definitely be a matter of subjectivity. What one person thinks is great, may be just “ok” to another. It’s all based on perception, emotion, and experience. So as a way for us to take the subjectivity out of the equation, we invested in a (very expensive) Rhopoint DOI meter to gauge just how much improvement we were getting. A finish may be subjective, but the mathematics do not lie (#meterverified). We use this tool to evaluate each step of the process to ensure that we are achieving the highest finish possible. With our eyes, we might not notice 3-4% difference when we are developing our process. But with the meter verifying that one process is better than the other, then we know unequivocally that are making improvements that add up to a stunning finish. For this area below, you can see that our gloss reading stayed about the same, but our Rspec (Specular Reflectance) increased by 46.8%, and our RIQ (Reflective Image Quality) increased by 33.8%. Not only are those massive improvements, but they are true, quantifiable results.

“Before” readings:

BMW F85 X5M, rhopoint iq doi meter

“After” readings:

BMW F85 X5M, rhopoint iq doi meter

So for detailers, or manufacturers of polishing machines, pads, polishes, etc…if you’re not using a DOI meter to verify your testing and development processes, then your bias and subjectivity are preventing you from finding and achieving the best results!

Phase 2: SunTek Paint Protection Film (PPF) Installation

What’s the point in having all of that beautifully polished paint, just to have it get beaten up by rock chips in the critical areas? We have a big investment here, both in the X5M itself, and the work we are doing to it, so PPF helps us maintain that investment so it holds value (and looks) into the future. Rock chips, and other pitting in the paint caused by hitting debris can make a vehicle look really bad in a short period of time. With most of our high end details, we add full front end PPF, along with rocker panels and rear wheel impact areas. This is where cars take the most beating, so it’s very important to protect them accordingly.

Just like highline detailing, PPF and installation jobs are not all the same. There’s a wide range of quality in film, and there’s an even wider range of skill sets of those installing it. Either a poor quality film, or a so-so install job can ruin the looks of a car, particularly one that has had a tremendous amount of paint polishing.

When we talk about “quality” of a PPF, we are usually referring to durability / strength, as well as clarity. With the main brands out there on the market, durability and strength are pretty much a wash. But it’s the clarity of the film that makes the biggest difference to us. If a customer of ours wants to invest thousands of dollars to make their paint look amazing, the last thing we want to do is to install a film that takes away from the looks. We continually test other brands on the market, or when something new comes out, and our testing and evaluation is based largely in part by how much clarity the film / adhesive has. And since we also use our Rhopoint IQ DOI meter to evaluate film, we know that we are drawing verified conclusions. To this date, we have still to test a film that out performs SunTek in terms of clarity…so that’s what we use in our shop, and it’s what we chose to use on our X5M.

PPF is installed after all of the polishing has been completed. Once that is done, we give the vehicle a bath to ensure that there are no contaminants that can get caught under the film.


As you can see, we have completely disassembled the bumper / front end of our X5M so that we can do a full custom PPF installation. This is not something we do for “every day” PPF installs, but when a customer is looking for the best, we can offer that as well to ensure that there are as few visible film seams as possible.

BMW F85 X5M Detailing by ESOTERIC

With it all apart and cleaned up, Dan can now proceed with the multi-day project of SunTek PPF installation. He did the full front end, rocker panels / lower doors, headlights, fender flares, rear wheel impact area, mirrors, and entire roof.

BMW F85 X5M SunTek PPF application

BMW F85 X5M SunTek PPF application

We removed the fender flares so that the PPF could be fully wrapped…this way you can’t even tell that there’s any film on them. For pieces like these, you need to be creative on how you wrap them. We zip-tied these to a wire rack to hold them in place!

BMW F85 X5M SunTek PPF application

Here Dan is installing a matte version of the PPF to the roof. We did this to customize the look a bit. The matte of the roof is a nice contrast to the high gloss of the rest of the vehicle. You’ll also notice our drone flying around the X5M as we do some recording for a video (yeah…we’re pretty geeked out that way!).

BMW F85 X5M SunTek PPF application

In addition to applying the matte film to the roof, we also applied it to the center, horizontal structure on the front bumper. It helps to create a different look on the front end, and it ties together with the matte roof. Here is a photo of when it was all put back together.

BMW F85 X5M SunTek matte PPF application

Wrapping the headlights in PPF:

BMW F85 X5M SunTek PPF application

Now that Dan has all of the SunTek PPF wrapped up, it’s time to apply protective coatings.

Phase 3: Applying protective coatings

For those of you who are new to protective coatings, I’ll take a few brief moments to tell you about what it is and what it does…as well as what it isn’t, and what it won’t do!

You’re familiar with waxes and sealants, right? They make your paint look good, and they protect the finish from the elements. They also last a very short period of time (one to 6 months at most), and can be washed off with a strong detergent. Coatings offer similar characteristics in that they make your paint look good and protect it from the elements, but they can last anywhere from a year to five years depending on the formulations you use and how you maintain them. They cannot however, be washed off like you can a wax or a sealant…they are far more durable as they are actually bonding to the surface instead of just sitting on top of it.

Coatings are made in a variety of formulas as well. There are some made to protect paint, some for wheels and calipers, some for glass, and even some for interiors. They provide for a very glossy finish, and they have self-cleaning characteristics to make maintenance much easier. Each coating manufacturer typically produces specific maintenance products for the coatings, and when the system is used as designed, the coating and finish will last a long time. You don’t wax over them, you don’t use quick detailers over them…just the occasional wash and use of applicable maintenance product is all you need.

Either because of wild marketing claims from some manufacturers, or just because of the lack of knowledge on the subject, there are some definite misconceptions on what coatings can and cannot do. For one, they will not protect your car forever! Coatings start to break down over a few years, and with the daily beating that a car takes, it will be ready for a re-polish and re-coating application in 2-3 years in most cases. They do not protect the car from flying debris and rock chips…only PPF does that. They are not a replacement or alternative to PPF. They still require regular maintenance…you cannot just apply the coating, neglect the car for 9 months, and expect it to look freshly coated once you finally wash it again! So if you’re reading a company’s marketing information, and the hype sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Also if “some guy on a forum” said that it will last forever, and he posts a lot, then it means it has to be true, right?!

Okay, off of the soapbox now…

For the X5M project, we decided to use the KAMIKAZE COLLECTION lineup of coatings. The coating industry was established in Japan back in the early 2000’s, and their formulations are top-notch. We have been working closely with KAMIKAZE for about 3 years now, and have always been impressed with their unmatched ease of use, along with their stunning good looks.

KAMIKAZE just released their new professional-only coating called ENREI. We have been helping with development of this coating for the past year, so it was a no-brainer for us to use this one on our X5M. It’s a 2-part formula (base coat, top coat), and is only available through a very select group of Certified Detailers around the world.

Since we wanted to ensure that we got complete coverage in our coating application, we decided to fully mask off all of the areas where we didn’t want coating, and then used a spray gun to apply 2 base coats of MIYABI COAT. This ensured that we got coating into every crack and crevice on our X5M.

BMW F85 X5M carbon black

Once the gun was loaded with MIYABI COAT, we were ready to go!

kamikaze miyabi coat bmw f85 x5m

We applied 2 layers of MIYABI to all surfaces, including on top of the PPF!

bmw f85 x5m kamikaze miyabi coat

bmw f85 x5m kamikaze miyabi coat

And since BMW trim is a bit “problematic”, we fully spray-coated both the trim, and the rubber seals around them. “Details…”

bmw f85 x5m kamikaze miyabi coat

After applying 2 coats of MIYABI, and allowing it to go through an initial curing cycle, we hand-applied the Base Coat and Top Coat of ENREI. We now have 4 layers of pure, Japanese glass coating to protect our X5M, and the looks that this combination provides is nothing short of stunning.

kamikaze collection enrei coat esoteric

kamikaze collection enrei coat

We also disassembled the front bumper so that we could coat all of the plastic components. By using the spray gun to apply KAMIKAZE ISM Coat (great for plastics!), we were able to get full coverage inside and out of the delicate honeycomb structures.

kamikaze ism coat

In addition to the aforementioned areas, we also coated our HRE Wheels in KAMIKAZE’S new STANCE Rim Coat, and the windshield in their soon to be released window coating.

Now that all of the coatings were applied, we used our IR Curing lamps to “bake” on the coatings. A good set of IR curing lamps like the one we use will set you back for a cool $5K. But the looks and performance of IR-cured coatings = Priceless!

bmw f85 x5m kamikaze coating

bmw f85 x5m kamikaze coating

Phase 4: HRE Wheels

When it comes to custom forged wheels, HRE is king. They have been around since 1978, and their design, development, and manufacturing is all done in their San Diego (Vista) headquarters. When you step into the realm of HRE, you’re getting a wheel that has gone through an extensive amount of engineering. Given their dedication to engineering the finest and safest wheels available, it’s no surprise that they meet the TUV Quality Verification. For those unfamiliar with this, the TUV Verified Quality Management System is the rarest and strictest quality and engineering status in the wheel industry. HRE is one of only very few wheel manufacturers worldwide to receive this quality verification.

And equally as important…they look absolutely amazing!

Since we have such a good relationship with the HRE crew, we decided to have some fun with this project by flying out to San Diego to visit them while our wheels were being made. All of the forged series HRE Wheels are custom made to order, which typically takes 4-6 weeks. So given that, we had to plan our trip accordingly to make it just in time.

For the BMW F85 X5M project, we wanted to go with something new and something different. Since the latest P2 Series was just released, we knew that it had to be one of those styles in particular. After speaking with Jurrian and Jorge at HRE, we found out that they had not yet made a set of P204’s for the X5M, so our decision was made! We were going to have the very first set of HRE P204 wheels in the world made for our project car.

Despite the fact that the P204’s on our BMW look exactly the same as the ones for a Ferrari 488 (as seen in their gallery page), they are actually quite different. Our X5M is heavy, it has gobs of horsepower and torque, and there are heavy braking loads put on the wheels as well. With this, different forgings need to be used along with revised engineering. You do not want to put wheels on a vehicle like this that are not engineered for the demands of this particular application!

Once we arrived in San Diego, we received a personalized tour and technical briefing from Patrick Moran, who is the Creative Director at HRE. As with the rest of the staff at HRE, Patrick is very passionate about the company and the products.

bmw f85 x5m hre

Our P204 in Brushed Dark Clear started out as a solid forging, then it was milled to this blank:

bmw f85 x5m hre p204

At this point, it gets loaded into the CNC machine where it will start to take shape as a finished P204 wheel:

bmw f85 x5m hre p204

Here’s after the first rough cut…very exciting to see it take shape!

bmw f85 x5m hre p204

After the machining stages were finished, the wheels go to the finishing department where they give it the optional brushed look, then off to the powder coating department for a dark clear finish. Watching the entire process from station to station was very informative, and you quickly get an appreciation why the HRE Wheels cost what they do!

And like magic, our P204 wheels in Brushed Dark Clear arrived safely at our shop a few weeks later:

bmw f85 x5m hre p204

While the OEM BMW wheels were big, we decided to go bigger! Our HRE’s are 22″ x 10.5″ on the front, and 22″ x 12″ on the rear, which translates into a 335 rear tire, and a 295 front tire. To put it into perspective, that’s the same width as on our Z06 Corvette. Another key feature with the HRE Wheels is that they design their applications with greater offset, so that even with the same size wheels as stock, they fill out the wheel wells better, thus providing a more aggressive stance.

Once the wheels were in, we applied 2 coats of KAMIKAZE’s new Stance Rim Coat for protection. German cars produce a lot of brake dust, so it just makes sense to protect the wheels (especially when they are this expensive) and make maintenance cleanup much easier. And with the new rim coating, we have never tested or applied an easier to use formula…game changer indeed.

Now throw on a brand new set of Pirelli tires and we’re all set to go!

bmw f85 x5m hre p204 brushed dark clear

bmw f85 x5m hre p204 brushed dark clear

Phase 5: KW Suspension V3 Coilovers

Our X5M was engineered with high performance for both the street and track, which means that the stock suspension is more than capable. But since we’re in the business of creating the best Finished cars in the market, it only made sense for us to upgrade the suspension courtesy of KW. Based out of Germany, KW Suspension is one of the largest aftermarket manufacturer of sports suspensions in the world.

Our suspension goals for our X5M was to increase handling performance for spirited street driving, and track days at our favorite track: Mid Ohio Sports Car Course just up the road from ESOTERIC. Our cars are always set up in such a way that they will win at  car shows, and perform quite well on the track as well. And for our corporate use, we don’t just sit back and look at our cars…we drive them the way they were intended to be driven.

So with the KW Suspension, we opted for the Variant 3 (V3) coilovers with adjustable rebound and compression damping. In addition to adjustability for street / track setup, they also provide you with a height range so that we could (safely) lower the X5M to give it a more aggressive stance. For our height adjustment, we initially set the suspension at a height above the max amount for lowering so that we could allow it to settle in after a while. After a few months of settling, we will go back and make any adjustments necessary to get the aggressive look that comes with the full drop. If you simply put the suspension at max drop out of the box, then it will most likely go beyond the max recommended level after everything settles. For our X5M, we can lower it a max of 1.9″ in the front, and .9″ in the rear.

bmw f85 x5m kw suspension

bmw f85 x5m kw suspension

bmw f85 x5m kw suspension

Phase 6: Akrapovic Exhaust System

Earlier I spoke of automotive passion as it relates to the visual aspect of the vehicle (styling and finishing). But one that also comes into play is the sound that it makes…it’s kind of the heart and soul of the vehicle. Just go to any car show and watch the faces of people when a Lamborghini fires up, or the sound of an old-school hot rod. People love to hear the rumble!

And fortunately for those of us who love to hear the sweet music that a car with an aftermarket exhaust system makes, there’s Akrapovic! Based out of Slovenia, Akrapovic designs and manufactures some of the best looking, best performing, and best sounding exhaust system in both the automotive and motorcycle industries. Those who have seen and heard the Akrapovic system on our Z06 Corvette know exactly what I am talking about…beautifully finished in Titanium and Carbon Fiber, with the most amazing sound.

What’s different about Akrapovic is that they actually have a full sound engineering team that works on each and every exhaust system that they develop. Not only do they set out to design a signature Akrapovic sound, but they also engineer the sound of an exhaust to go along with the personality of the vehicle. On our Z06 for instance, that is an in-your-face kind of car, therefore it calls for an obnoxious bark out of the exhaust system. But with our BMW, that same sound wouldn’t fit in. It’s more subtle and refined sounding, and it is also a bit quieter as well. But when you get into the throttle, it really comes to life and has a very distinct exhaust note to it.

Our Evolution Titanium system came with beautifully finished carbon fiber and Titanium exhaust tips, and weighed a whopping 33 lbs. less than the stock system. And since we also purchased the optional Akrapovic carbon fiber rear diffuser, the two pieces match up perfectly!

Here we are dropping the massive, 1-piece stock exhaust system in favor of the 3-piece Titanium Akrapovic system.

bmw f85 x5m akrapovic exhaust

Akrapovic Evolution exhaust system, and carbon fiber diffuser installed.

bmw f85 x5m akrapovic exhaust

Akrapovic carbon fiber diffuser compared to the OEM piece.

bmw f85 x5m akrapovic diffuser

Phase 7: Dinantronics Performance Tuner

When it comes to BMW, no name has been bigger when it comes to performance upgrades than Dinan. And given this, it was a no-brianer for us when deciding which route to go to extract more performance out of our BMW F85 X5M.

When the goal is to gain more performance in (most) cars, the main path is to present new new information to the systems electronically. And when going this route, you can dyno tune the ECU (electronic control unit) by reprogramming the data, or you can go the route of a piggyback unit like with our Dinantronics Performance Tuner that contains all of the upgraded parameters for the engine, turbos, intake, fuel, etc to operate with. There are pros and cons to each, but for our purposes, we wanted to go the Dinan route since they offer the best warranty in the aftermarket business with a factory matching 4 year, 50,000 mile new car warranty. High horsepower is great, but (expensive) broken engines and components are not.

For our install, we travelled down to Cincinnati to visit our long-time friends at Enthusiast Auto Group who are one of the top Dinan dealers in the country. Additionally, they know BMW’s, because that’s the only brand they carry!

While our Dinantronics Performance Tuner was being installed, we spent some time chatting with Eric and Mike at the shop and looking at their collection of BMW’s, and they were even nice enough to lend us one of their M3’s so we could go out and grab some lunch (thanks again, guys!).

A few hours later, and the job was done. Our Dinantronics Performance Tuner brought our F85 X5M from 647 horsepower (factory rated at 567) up to 702, and our torque increase went from 633 (factory rated at 553) to 682.

Now with our new go-fast components installed, it was back to Columbus to finish up with a few more mods before we could do the big reveal!

bmw f85 x5m dinan

Phase 8: Carbon Fiber bits, Window Tint, and Accessories

After all of our heavy modifications and customization, we had to take care of some smaller items that help to finish off the vehicle, and add the personal touches.

First up were the windows! We like the look of tinted windows all around, and they help to reduce heat and potential interior fading during those months we actually see sunshine here in the Midwest. We installed SunTek CXP 18% tint on all of the side and back windows, then applied 70% tint to the windshield. It added a really nice look to go along with the BMW Carbon Black paint.


Other items on the exterior of the car included switching the front kidney grills from chrome to black, and we did the same on the side grille set as well. Changing these over to black made for a much more aggressive look than did chrome.

And since we are dealers for IND Distribution, we added their body-color painted front reflectors, and their carbon fiber mirrors. Once again, small changes in looks and contrasts can make a big difference in the overall presentation of the vehicle.

Here are the OEM front reflectors compared to the IND body color painted models. Once installed, it provides for a much cleaner look to the front bumper.

bmw f85 x5m ind reflector

And here are the OEM mirror caps in Carbon Black, compared to the IND Carbon Fiber pieces.

bmw f85 x5m ind carbon fiber

On the inside of the vehicle, we opted for a few items out of the BMW M Performance catalog…their carbon fiber and alcantara steering wheel, and their carbon fiber shifter knob. Small touches that make a big difference!

bmw f85 x5m m performance


And since I am an audiophile / music junkie, just upgrading the system to the Bang & Olufsen upgrade from the factory wasn’t good enough. It’s an amazing stereo, and by far the best OEM system I have heard, but since our friends at Bavsound

make plug & play subwoofer upgrades for this, it wasn’t a tough decision to give the system just a little more performance on the bottom end. We are dealers for Bavsound, and they offer complete plug & play (NO modifications necessary!) audio upgrades for pretty much every BMW built since 2004.

Bavsound 8″ Ghost Underseat Woofer on the left, OEM BMW on the right.

bmw f85 x5m bavsound subwoofer

Final thoughts, and BMW F85 X5M image gallery!

This was a very long process, and a long article as well (thanks to those who read through the entire piece!).

As I stated at the beginning of this article, what drives our passion in vehicles are the styling and the finishing aspects of them. Take an already great looking vehicle, then add tasteful finishing touches, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to create an automobile that stimulates our visual senses and promotes that “strong and barely controllable emotion” that defines passion.

With our ESOTERIC Edition BMW F85 X5M, our goal was to create the best looking, customized version of it in existence…a vehicle that completely draws people in. It also needed to be much more than the cookie-cutter version of customized vehicles that are so common today (wheels, exhaust, tinted windows…done!).

With all of the efforts that we put into our X5M…the passion…there’s no doubt that we accomplished our goal of creating the best looking example that you will find. Anywhere!

ESOTERIC Edition BMW F85 X5M Image Gallery

All images are clickable for larger sizes…

esoteric edition bmw f85 x5m

esoteric edition bmw f85 x5m

esoteric edition bmw f85 x5m

esoteric edition bmw f85 x5m

esoteric edition bmw f85 x5m

esoteric edition bmw f85 x5m hre

esoteric edition bmw f85 x5m

esoteric edition bmw f85 x5m

bmw f85 x5m mugello red

bmw f85 x5m mugello red

esoteric edition bmw f85 x5m

esoteric edition bmw f85 x5m


bmw f85 x5m


Professional photography below by Ted Zombek

BMW F85 X5M interior in Mugello Red:

bmw f85 x5m mugello red interior

HRE P204 wheels in Brushed Dark Clear, with Carbon Fiber center caps.

bmw x5m hre p204 esoteric

bmw f85 x5m akrapovic esoteric

bmw f85 x5m hre esoteric

bmw f85 x5m esoteric

bmw f85 x5m esoteric


Presenting THE best looking, most highly detailed BMW F85 X5M in existence:

esoteric edition bmw f85 x5m


ESOTERIC – Fine Auto Finishing
9801 Karmar Ct.
New Albany, OH 43054