BMW has made some wild concepts over the years, but few have been as interesting as the X5 Le Mans. Proving even an SUV can be thrilling, the M division crammed a twelve-cylinder engine borrowed from the V12 LMR into the E53. It happened back in 2000, a year after the endurance race car triumphed at Le Mans.
BMW Group Classic has the one-of-a-kind SUV temporarily on display in Slovakia at the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum. You can check out the high-performance SUV and its four bucket seats until Sunday, June 25.
One of the reasons why the X5 Le Mans was so special is because it outpunched the race car as the M division unlocked the V12’s full potential. The massive 6.1-liter unit had over 700 horsepower whereas in the V12 LMR, it was dialed down to approximately 580 hp since it had to abide by certain racing regulations. With a massive 720 Newton-meters (531 pound-feet) of torque, the unique E53 hit 62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.7 seconds.
Some 23 years later, it’s still one of the fastest SUVs in the world. Racing driver Hans-Joachim Stuck managed to reach 193 mph (311 km/h) with the X5 Le Mans concept in a lightweight two-seat configuration. It’s truly a sight to behold, not just for its mighty engine, but also thanks to the exclusive 20-inch BBS LM wheels with massive 315/35 front and rear tires. Despite the huge engine, it had a near-perfect weight distribution of 51% front and 49% rear. Oh, we mustn’t omit power was routed to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.
Even just by looking at the hood, you can’t tell this isn’t an ordinary first-generation X5. Made from laminated carbon fiber, the bonnet as the British say had a massive opening necessary to cool the engine. The M division also widened the speedy SUV and brought it closer to the road by 30 millimeters (1.18 inches) to improve handling and give it a meaner stance in the process.
In 2022, BMW waved goodbye to the V12 by killing the M760i as stricter emissions regulations are accelerating the downsizing process. Your only chance to get a V12 from the BMW Group is by stepping up to a Rolls-Royce, but even the ultra-luxury brand will retire the powerhouse by 2030 when it’ll go purely electric.