Kahn Design X5 proves CUSTOM does not equal GAUDY
Venturing into the custom car world can be a lot like Pinocchio entering Pleasure Island. There are many temptations to do loud and boisterous things, and you risk ending up a Donkey. Mansory, TechArt, and Hamann, are all notable aftermarket houses. They are all experts in making the X5’s and Cayenne’s they customize stand out. Their products are quite different from the original, and will grab anyone’s attention on the street. Unfortunately, they do not always exude taste. The key to a proper (and respected!) custom job is to show a modicum of restraint, and fend off the temptation for the most extravagant, expensive modification in favor of a more refined approach. Thankfully, for the conspicuous consumer, Afzal Kahn understands what that approach is all about. His UK-based A. Kahn Design specializes in tasteful revisions to popular luxury vehicles, especially exotics and high-end SUVs. Though far more subdued than the aforementioned aftermarket companies, one will never mistake a Kahn product for stock. They have a unique, understated touch- much like a hand-tailored suit.
The latest Kahn project, the X5 S5 3.0D, is a shining example of just how tasteful a custom job can be. It has been constructed for a BMW owners club, and it is a “massaging” of the standard diesel-powered 2012 BMW X5.
The high-fashion family hauler is fitted with 20-inch Kahn RSL Silver Palladium-finished wheels, revised front and rear bumpers, slightly wider wheel arches (for the RSL’s), and liquid red brake calipers. It is an overall subdued visual experience that has a larger mass market appeal compared to the more, shall we say, flamboyant examples from other marques.
According to A. Kahn Design media honcho, Mohammed,(or Mo, for short) that is just the way they like it, “We know our customer," says Mohammed, "and we build to what we believe appeals to them most.”
It is said that character is what you do when no one else is there to see it. A parallel can be drawn to the Kahn X5, where the cabin is the true star- a treat only for those who ride in the bespoke vehicle. The bold quilted leather seats are complemented by carbon fiber inserts on the center console. The performance theme of the interior is further reinforced by the suede steering wheel, and red tachometer bezel.
Such a thoughtful choice of enhancements comes from years of understanding what gives a car a personal touch without overstatement. A little over two decades ago, Afzal Kahn began a small business making aftermarket alloy wheels. From there, the business grew to a line of wheels, including the highly popular RSR and RSS lines. Today Kahn builds as many as 80 custom cars a year, with stunning visual modifications, capped off, of course, with Kahn Design wheels. The range of personalized Aston Martins, Audis, and Range Rovers are indicative of the caliber of customer to which Kahn caters, “Our target demographic is the young professional,” says Mo, “we have a couple premier league footballers as customers and couple American ones as well.”
In addition to creating exquisite rides for the tasteful elite, Kahn continues to sell aftermarket wheels, as well as a recent foray into the Swiss watch market. Business is good for A. Kahn design. The firm has 800 employees, and Kahn owns a pair of Bugatti Veyron’s.
Let’s pause for a moment to repeat that- A PAIR.
No, owning two does not make them go any faster, but it is an unparalleled status symbol and an indicator of Kahn’s love for high-end motoring. According to Mo, Afzal Kahn has a special fondness to UK sports cars of decades gone-by,
“We try to embody a quintessential UK ethos.” Says Mo “Think back 25 or more years to when the UK had some amazing cars. [Kahn] gets inspiration from that time when the UK was top-dog for style.”
With projects like this X5 and artfully-modified Range Rovers, and Aston’s, you can see this desire to look back to the height of British sports cars and understand Kahn’s fascination with that era. It yields a comparatively metered approach when juxtaposed to the “Hamann’s” and “TechArts” of the world.
Mo was reluctant to bite at my thinly-veiled jabs at those brands, instead giving them praise, “Hamann is very popular, and there is a reason for that” he explains, “ there is a buyer that seeks out that style.”
Kahn has found success in a balanced approach, and Mo was cognizant of Kahn’s vision, “It is our view that even a modified car should be done in a tasteful way,” describes Mo, “there is a line that we will not cross as to ensure that we do not dilute the ‘Kahn’ brand.”
With projects like this X5, Kahn has shown that the restrained approach works. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, when it comes to aftermarket modifications, more eyes tend to land on the beauty of Kahn’s collection of refined automobiles.
Source: A. Kahn Design