Bruises blotted the jaws of Vegas visitors in January, but it had nothing to do with one of the city's fabled boxing matches. Attendees of the Consumer Electronics show got sucker punched as they walked past Alpine's BMW X5 "Ultimate Listening Machine."
This isn't the first time an Alpine project vehicle has sparred with people's expectations and tangled their imaginations against the ropes. The company has developed a reputation for producing some of the most innovative and imaginative show vehicles for the mobile electronics scene. A glance at the X5 ULM and its predecessors might alone justify that distinction if it weren't for the fact that Alpine's vehicles are meant to do more than deliver a visual haymaker: They are engineered to meet well-specified criteria for sonic performance. In other words, they deliver a one-two, audible-visual combination that flies like a butterfly but stings like a bee.
Steve Brown and Mike Vu worked every weekday for six months on the BMW buildup. The pair comprise Alpine's Advanced Application Research and Development team. They built the X5 ULM to showcase the AlpineF#1Status DVD/Audio system and to flex their considerable skill.
From the outside, the vehicle looks slick. Its factory four-door configuration got melded into two doors that slide outward. The silver body is shaped by a custom widebody kit that includes backlit, laser-cut Alpine logos molded into the front bumper and similar AlpineF#1Status logos in the side sills. These latter logos are backlit by LCD monitors that display abstract graphic designs. Side-mounted exhaust tips also port from the side sills. The body's color scheme is dominated by likenesses of Tupac, Mick Jagger, Prince, Kurt Cobain, and other icons, each rendered in a sketchpad style as a tie-in to the vehicle's multichannel musical focus. Coast Airbrush supplied Virtus-brand clearcoat and primer for the paintjob.
KMC 26-inch wheels wrapped in low-profile tires fit just right on this ride, while a Brembo Gran Turismo brake kit puts the slowdown on this wheel and tire package. Race Technologies lent technical support for the braking system.