BMW’s classiest tuners work their thoughtful magic on the ultimate diesel X3
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Woah, that’s got a lot of wheels Yes, yes it does. Six of ‘em. Why does anyone need six wheels? Well, it’s a long-held TG philosophy that more wheels are better. It’s simple maths. More wheels equal more rubber, more traction and more social status. A theorem that finds purchase down in Texas, home of tuning outfit Hennessey Performance. Hennessey Performance has added an extra axle and pair of wheels to a ‘Ford Raptor’. And by ‘Ford Raptor’ we of course mean HP’s own rambunctious VelociRaptor. What’s a VelociRaptor? First, it’s just one of the best car names ever. Second, it’s the latest Ford F150 Raptor – with a 450bhp/510ft lb 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 as a base – turned up to either 500, 600 or 700bhp courtesy of Hennessey, depending on how many pennies you have in your piggy bank. For ease and reliability, this 6x6 version gets the 600bhp package with an increased 622lb ft of torque that sees of 60mph in under five seconds. Note the size of the vehicle. Note the number of wheels. Now marvel at the physics required in achieving this acceleration feat. The tuning comes via a new high-flow air induction system, Stage 1 Twin Turbo upgrade, bigger intercooler and a remapped ECU to tickle some more performance out of that blown six-pot. That’ll cost you $22,500. To get another 100 horsepower, you’ll need to exchange $49,500 for a Stage 2 turbo kit, stainless steel turbo manifolds and wastegates, even better intercooling, twin blow-off valves (which will please the kids), and even more ECU fiddling. While there’s sadly no V8 - he’s not a miracle worker - the 600bhp truck gains a new stainless steel cat-back exhaust system, so it sounds pleasantly fruity. So how has he added the other two wheels? With the help of an angle grinder and some Texan engineering. The middle axle is exactly where the rear wheels sit on a normal Raptor. John and his team have then grafted an extra two and a half feet further back by getting a custom made nine-inch axle from Florida, then inverted a hefty leaf spring that can accommodate both wheels on one pivoting hub without them clapping together like a Newton’s cradle. Drive is fed to the rear four wheels which are permanently locked (good for rock crawling) via the standard ten-speed-gearbox (yes ten) and a transfer case packed with magic. Are there any other modifications? Sure are. You also get new exhaust tweaks, an upgraded frfront-mountedir-to-air intercooler, and a flash of the ECU to give more grunt and goodness. Then there are the options: a Brembo front and rear brake upgrade (highly-recommended if you’re juicing up the power), larger wheels and tyres (beneficial if you have a large Instagram following), LED lighting upgrades (if you need to go to Specsavers), bespoke interiors (if you like animal patterns) and armoring systems (if, erm, you get shot at regularly). Then there’s upgraded Baja-spec Fox suspension, new 20-inch wheels, chunky off-road rubber, beefy get-the-hell-out-of-my-way front and rear bumpers, a new rollbar and blinding LED lights. What’s it like? Vast. Really vast. Even in the world’s capital of Brodozers, the six-wheeled Ford Raptor seems wonderfully over the top. Which is exactly what people who buy these kind of cars want; it’s a status car of the highest order and makes a standard VelociRaptor seem tiny. Especially when you’re seeing four wheels in your rear-view mirrors. It’s largely thanks to this coal-roller’s eight-inch lift kit and those extra two and a half feet on the back. It doesn’t sound like much, but considering the Raptor’s bed has now been swapped out for an eight-footer and then blistered with wider bodywork to fit the Raptor aesthetic, it screams presence. But what you gain in ride height and status you lose in agility. Adding a lengthy wheelbase and those two cumbersome wheels bumps up the mass at critical points which you can instantly feel behind the wheel. It corners more lethargically and with little feedback. But having the incredibly simplistic leaf-spring suspension setup has also increased the stiffness. A lot. Where the standard Raptor impresses with its massive languid water-bed-like Fox shocks (44 percent larger than the last ones which look like pipe cleaners by comparison) the 6x6 has the composure and compliance of an old Hilux at the rear end. Something that’s amplified with no weight in the back as your lower spine has to take the brunt of whatever you’re riding over, rather than the suspension itself. But you forgive it quite easily because it’s hilarious. Largely through its un-truck-like performance thanks to the two bigger turbos that’ve been bolted onto the 3.5-litre EcoBoost twin-turbo V6. With a dyno receipt that reads in excess of 600bhp it’s quite a jump over the standard 450bhp and you really feel it when it works with the brilliant ten-speed transmission. It also sounds quite angry thanks to an overzealous blow-off valve and drainpipe exhaust. Should I buy one? In no way is it as sophisticated or well-engineered as Mercedes’ six-wheeled G63 (twin suspension for each wheel assembly, portal axles and more diff locks than you can shake an input shaft at), but at £260,000 (no donor car needed), Hennessey’s Raptor is a lot cheaper than the £370,000 G63 6x6 yet gives off the same imperious ‘mine is bigger than yours’ effect. Which, to some people is all you need when you’re at an American football tailgate. And, with only 100 ever being built, you’re not likely to see many around. Especially if you don’t live in Texas.