Between the late ’80s and early ’00s, BMW had some pretty crazy engineers with some pretty ambitious ideas. Some of those ideas ended up as production cars, such as the E28 BMW M5 and E30 BMW M3. However, some were left either on the cutting room floor or as one-offs locked away in a secret garage, such as the E31 BMW M8 Prototype and this — the BMW X5 LM.
The current BMW X6 M might seem like a monstrous, powerful SUV but it’s got nothing on the original E53-generation BMW X5 LM. The ‘LM’ in the name stands for ‘Le Mans’ and was given to the mutated X5 due to the fact that its traditional engine was replaced with a 6.0 liter naturally-aspirated V12 from a Le Mans-racing McLaren F1. That incredible V12 made 700 horsepower at an astonishing 8,000 rpm and the most incredible noise. In a BMW X5…
Routing all 700 horses to all four wheels was a six-speed manual gearbox with a racing-grade twin-plate clutch and an all-wheel drive system that split torque 62 percent to the rear and 38 percent to the front. Despite its racing-grade machinery under the hood, its suspension remained relatively stock. Only a slightly lowered ride height, bigger wheels, better brakes and stickier tires changed its handling dynamics. Also, it ditched ABS and hill-decent control.
Inside, its traditionally comfy seats were replaced with racing buckets. Even the rear bench seat was replaced with two buckets, making it a true, four-door, four-seat racing SUV. Imagine being those rear passengers?
On dry pavement and with slick tires, the BMW X5 LM was actually capable of lapping the Nurburgring in just over eight minutes. That would make it fast for an SUV even by today’s standards but the X5 LM did it back in 2001. At the time, the folks at BMW seemed like lunatics for developing such a car but the idea was to test the waters before jumping in with an actual production performance SUV. BMW wanted to see how customers and fans reacted to the X5 LM to see if they’d appreciate a real performance-oriented X5.
Obviously, BMW seems like a visionary brand now, as performance SUVs are extraordinarily popular now and made by every manufacturer. Still, the most bonkers of them all is the original BMW X5 LM, with its McLaren F1 engine and six-speed manual.