Alpine has done it again. Every year, Alpine rolls out a new, over-the-top custom car, truck, or SUV at its display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. These projects were designed and built at Alpine's headquarters in Torrance, California, by the company's in-house Advanced Application R&D team, which is currently: Steve Brown, Gary Bell, Brent Davison, and Glen Swackhamer from Alpine of Canada. The '06 show saw the unveiling of the team's Imprint RLS, a jaw-dropping customized Mercedes-Benz R500 SUV.

The purpose of the Imprint RLS was to showcase Alpine's Imprint sound processing technology, which was designed to bring out the original studio-quality sound of a musical recording and improve the staging and imaging of the music-regardless of the vehicle; which we discussed in "Trucktonics" in our Volume 33, Issue 7 magazine. This SUV had been modified to the same stratospheric levels as previous Alpine concepts, regardless of the product having been highlighted therein. So, let's talk about what was done.

The interior of the vehicle embraces the driver in waves of tan and brown that splash through the vehicle's cabin. Everything here is far, far from factory. Starting with the experience of getting into the vehicle, the R-class' four doors were replaced by a two-door configuration, with each door integrated with the seats so the doors rotate open, turning the seats outward, and then the combination rotates closed again. Alpine vehicles have long featured center-line cockpits, because it creates the opportunity to create visually stunning interiors that foster excellent audio acoustics for the driver. Nothing has changed in the case of the Imprint RLS, except for the fact that there are two seats instead of the usual one. Someone sitting in either seat can still operate the vehicle by using the driving controls on the center console. The big Mercedes-Benz emblem between the seats is actually an aluminum and leather steering wheel. In front of that, the transmission's shifter, and both the gas and brake pedals protrude from the floors of both footwells. At the front of the console is an audacious array of Auto Meter analog gauges that circle a clock bearing the Imprint logo.

Do you see the Mercedes-Benz emblem on the back of the vehicle? That's the amp rack. Well, part of it, anyway. In fact, it's the end cap for a motorized cylinder that extends outward 27 inches from the rear and rotates to reveal all of the amplifiers arrayed around it.

Heading up the sound system is a CDA-9887 AM/FM/CD unit set into the center console. An iPod with Apple Lossless-encoded music integrates into the head unit via a KCE-422i Full Speed Connection for an iPod cable. Also, a portable, plug-and-play Sirius Satellite Radio Sportster 4 connects to the head unit via a KCA-SC100 Sirius satellite radio interface. Monster Cable wiring connects all of the audio components together in the Imprint RLS, while Kinetik batteries keep the electrons locked and loaded.

The shape of the Imprint RLS body is reminiscent of the factory vehicle, but in reality, is made of fiberglass that was shaped by hand and uses only one piece from the original R500: the roof. The body is painted in the blended BASF R-M Carizzma Candy Cherry Cola Brown color, which complements the body's aerodynamic shape.

Others had a hand in the success of this project, as well. Roybal Designs rendered the original concept. Indie Beach Productions edited the video content that plays on the Imprint RLS monitors.

And the bean counters, no less, had to sign off on the undisclosed cost of such a labor, material, and time intensive project-it took 3-1/2 months to build-a significant contribution to be sure. Our hats are off to the guys at the front office and to the builders who brought us a custom Mercedes-Benz that made such a remarkable impression.

Once ensconced inside of the Imprint RLS, riders are surrounded by leather upholstery, airbrushed wood-grained panels, and an array of speakers and subs that are augmented by the Imprint sound processor's ability to raise and redefine the sound image. The high and middle frequencies for the front sound stage is driven by four 6-1/2-inch midwoofers taken from the Alpine SPX-17REF component set and two tweeters from the SPX-17REF speaker system. Meanwhile, the rear sound stage is handled by an SPX-17REF component set, and four SPX-1043D 10-inch subwoofers bust the bass out of the center in the dash. One 1,000-watt PDX-1.1000 mono-amplifier powers the subs, while two 150WX4 PDX-4.150 amplifiers power the front and rear speakers.

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